I was never a Girl Scout. And yet I always want to Be Prepared. This can be a big problem when it comes to packing for vacation. The Girl Scout in me fights with the Minimalist in me. To cope, I’ve been spending a tonne of time on a neat website called Her Packing List. It’s basically just a bunch of pragmatic packing lists and tips from smart traveling women. The clarity and practicality really speaks to me! Especially a couple of the articles, the ones about traveling for 3 weeks with just a small daypack, or wearing the same dress for one entire trip and only bringing along a purse.
Let’s be clear — I will NEVER do those things.
But I very much WANT TO.
Instead, I strive to do the next best thing: pretend I’m only bringing a daypack… but then really also bring a suitcase.
Actually half a suitcase. Andrew and I share one medium-sized suitcase, and that’s it. We’ve always done it this way. The bigger the suitcase, the bigger a mess your hotel room will be. The less stuff you bring, the less stuff you’ll have strewn around the place, frantically packing when you oversleep and your taxi is waiting to take you to the airport.
So! Here’s why I want to pretend I’m only bringing a daypack: because I do not entirely trust that our suitcase will arrive. Like most travellers, I’ve been burned before… staring at the emptying luggage carousel with ever-increasing despair, only to eventually discover that my suitcase took an unexpected journey to a different city. So, I want everything I need to be with me on the plane… just in case that ends up being all I have for the duration of the trip.
So I have studied the packing lists from several minimalist travellers, and noted the good ideas and the similar items everyone seems to agree upon, and then added my own. (Note, I have not yet attempted to actually pack any of this.)
passport & drivers license
travel journal & pen
reading material (on tablet)
sunglasses & sunglasses case
earplanes (these help for people whose ears don’t pop like they should on planes)
painkillers (these also help for the above issue)
floss, toothbrush, toothpaste
glasses, glasses case, glasses cleaning cloth
nail clippers, nail file
laundry detergent & universal sink-plug
lightweight (but puffy) winter jacket
Bogs ankle boots
bathing suit (one-piece retro style, in black)
black sweater dress
stretchy black sleeveless dress
black swimsuit cover-up/dress
button-up shirt (for sun protection)
squishable sun hat
my favourite hat (also squishable, I wear it every day and I’m wearing it in most photos)
cardigan (long, dark grey)
cardigan (short, pale grey)
smattering of other items I haven’t quite decided upon yet…
I’ve noticed that I mostly tend to wear the same thing every day, so I figure that’s what I should go with on the trip: leggings paired with short dresses/tunics. Kinda covers most situations… or so I like to think. So, because my outfits are kinda bland, I will include costume jewelry. Not much, just some dramatic (cheap, lightweight) pieces. And probably my jackets will cover up what I’m wearing anyway.
I’m not sure where I stand on the issue of scarves and pashminas. I realize every other traveler out there lists these as an essential… but I’m not so sure. I’m toying with the idea of bringing a stretchy pencil skirt to double up as my infinity scarf. I’m dead serious.
Note: some items are just exceptionally heavy. If it’s obvious that a particular garment, jacket, or shoe is very heavy, it does not get to come along. On the other hand, if an item is exceptionally light, it definitely gets to come along! This is why Crocs are awesome: they weigh pretty much nothing. Also both my jackets weigh virtually zero. Some things are just weirdly light. And that is fantastic for packing!
Next I have to figure out what kind of day pack to bring. Until I started writing this all out, I was unable to decide between backpack and cross-body bag. But I typed out all my angst… then subsequently deleted it all, once I had reached this conclusion: backpack! And then pack my lightweight 50-cent cross-body purse to use for running around in cities. Done!
There was a time that I insisted on also bringing a compass… but those days are behind me. I will be forever scarred from the time that I accidentally de-magnetized the compass, didn’t realize it, and we walked too far in the wrong direction… with luggage. No more compasses for me. I can’t trust them!
You’ll notice I’ve included a universal sink-plug. As a relatively light packer, I do need to do a fair bit of sink-laundry. Last year I decided the universal plug was unnecessary… and I regretted leaving it behind. Many hotels do not have any way to plug the sink. I needed that universal plug! This year it comes with me.
Another odd choice: head lamp. We first bought these for our trip to the Amazon, when we were staying in a lodge that had spotty power from a generator… so for sure everyone there had to have a head lamp. Last year I brought it along on a whim… and it came in very handy when we suddenly found ourselves exploring caves on Easter Island. So now it will always come with me.
One more thing. This year I’m trying out packing cubes. I’ve noticed the women on Her Packing List raving about them for quite awhile, and finally one day I bit the bullet and purchased some packing cubes of my own. Eagle Creek Compression packing cubes, no less. So the idea is, I can use them to squish down my clothes. This will come in handy for the clothes I bring with me on the plane. (I’m not as concerned about the ones in the suitcase.) I’m probably more excited than I really should be about something as inane as compression packing cubes… but this is the life I am living I guess. 🙂
So. There are my thoughts on packing. Now to go experiment with putting it all together!
Edit: I thought of some more things!
tennis ball (to massage knots in my back… seriously amazing, and so lightweight and small to carry along! this goes in the suitcase)
cornstarch (in a little plastic saltshaker, the kind people take camping — because I’ve gone grey very early, I can use this as very cheap, very amazing dry shampoo — this discovery kind of changed my life — also, this goes in the suitcase because anything that’s just a white powder looks a little sketchy)
(Feature photo: Me in Ireland, with THE BIGGEST cross-body bag ever. It was too heavy with all the stuff I carried around in there, AND pulled my back and hips out of joint. Never again. No more giant cross-body bags for me!)