How to avoid packing the kitchen sink: 15 tips for RAWR-free travel

Flying and traveling is in my blood. Ever since my dad was a 7 year old little boy flown on his first plane ride in a rickety, gut-lifting bug smasher- he was hooked. He ever so kindly passed along the love of gut-lifting excitement to his eldest, me. There’s nothing quite like that moment when your intestines rise in defiance of gravity and your body exudes adrenaline and your mouth utters an unstoppable “WHEEE!!!!!”. At least for me it’s a positive feeling (unlike poor Raul who is NOT a fan of gut-lift). However, that feeling doesn’t always come to me in positive moments of pure blissful excitement. I also get that feeling anytime I’m about to start packing.
High Flying Marie
There is something about delineating my daily needs into a finite space that must travel with me for X days that is gut-liftingly terrifying. The thought of picking only ONE black sweater and only TWO pairs of shoes and maybe just the RIGHT dress leaves my heart racing and a panic attack around the corner.

Usually a two or three day jaunt only takes me a few hours to whittle my possessions down. The worst was when I did a study abroad and was going to be in Europe for a month. Beyond buying the biggest suitcase I could find (tip: Bigger is not always better, especially when you need to carry that big ass bag across Roman-era cobblestones!), I spent close to a week picking out clothes only to put them back. I stayed up ALL NIGHT the night before my flight, obsessing over all the little things I could or should bring. I consulted all the travel guides I could afford. I was going for that sleek world-traveler look and ended up over packing what I didn’t need and under packing what I could have used (um, Europeans wear jeans. Somehow I didn’t think that was possible and did not pack a single pair. Wearing khakis and dresses left me standing out more than if I’d brought that saggy pair of GAP jeans! How was that NOT in my guide books?!?)!
Flight Tracker
Having been packing up my belongings and moving or embarking on road trips or plane hops since I was just a wee fat baby, I’ve learned a few things in my traveling years. This is my attempt to help you avoid an angry RAWR and experience easier traveling days ahead…

1. Have one sturdy, medium-large checkable suitcase. Hard sides help protecting your stuff but can also be restrictive in what you can pack. Plan to use this suitcase for any trip lasting longer than a week to a destination requiring anything more than skimpy swimsuits.

2. Have one light carry-on suitcase that fits the maximum carry-on dimensions for the airlines you fly. Make sure it has wheels and a long handle. It’s even better if the wheels are ultra flexible and can move in more than two directions (back and forth only sucks, aim for multi-directional).

3. Have one lighter bag that is larger than a purse but still fits the required dimensions for carry-on. A computer bag is a good example- you can really max out a good computer bag. Also make sure it has a good strap. Few things suck more than getting a hickey and a fat bruise on your shoulder because you’re running for gate 19 with a bag that has a poorly designed strap.

4. You really can fit more everyday clothes in a bag if you roll them. But know they get wrinkly so pick a place with an iron, a steamy bathroom or hosts who don’t care. Before stuffing your life’s possessions into a carrier, be sure to place suits and nice dresses carefully and flatly along the bottom of the suitcase.

5. Always bring extra socks and undies, but you don’t need to roll them. 😉

6. Pack one outfit for a cold day and one for a hot day (relative to where you’re headed). Then pack layers to get you between the two. For instance, a tank top, camisole or undershirt, a short sleeved shirt and a long sleeved shirt can easily get you a few days of wear.

7. Pack only one nice outfit, but two nice shirts. If you find yourself surprised with a dressy event, you won’t have to re-wear your only nice outfit but won’t have to lug two full outfits with you.

8. If you’ll be gone for less than a week, you shouldn’t check a bag. I’m serious. Suck it up and pare it down. Even with all the 20 minute bag delivery promises, do you really want some creepy TSA guy searching through your chonies for explosives that didn’t originate from you?

9. If you do have to check a bag, leave some dirty chonies on top. No one wants to touch your dirty undies. I know it sounds pretty disgusting but even creepy TSA guys get grossed out by dirty chonies. (Just not the really really creepy ones, but let’s hope the TSA has been good at weeding them out or keeping them away from our chonies.) Ever since I started doing this packing arrangement for checked luggage, even the times my bag is “Searched” it’s not really searched. I know because they don’t set off the boobie traps, they just leave the flyer that your bag has been searched.

10. Pack extra ziploc bags (sandwich and larger for a flexible variety) and include some plastic grocery bags. Use the grocery bags to keep your shoes’ cooties off your goods. The other bags will be self-evident the moment you need them.

11. Leave the jewelry at home. Seriously. Don’t hold up the security line because you have 10 pieces of jewelry to strip out of. Don’t go to a country more impoverished than the one you came from with all your precious family jewels around your neck or on your fingers. You’re just asking for trouble.

12. Getting through security quickly can be a breeze: Pick shoes that slip on and off. I personally love wearing my Costco-sourced slippers because they’re comfy and if they get gross, I won’t feel bad about tossing them. Pick an outfit to wear while traveling that is comfy and easily washed while traveling. Please, leave the bedazzled jean jacket at home. No one likes the person holding up the security line because they didn’t think about what they were going to wear to the airport. Remember to empty your pockets before you hand over your ID and boarding pass, even that cell phone that has grown into one of your appendages should be tucked away in a bag.

13. Go to your favorite department store’s make-up counter the week before your flight and schmooze a nice sales lady into giving you a couple free samples. Usually a face wash or mask will last more than one use and you won’t need to lug a huge bottle or buy new at your destination. If you feel bad about schmoozing, buy just one thing then you won’t feel so bad. But the idea is to get little sample packets that pack nicely.

14. Still wondering how NOT to pack the kitchen sink… here’s my method for a trip lasting 3 days to a week:
Bare Essentials
-1 pair of undies and socks for EVERY day you’re gone
-1 casual outfit (jeans or khakis and a t-shirt or comfortable clothes suitable for being in public)
-1 nice outfit (slacks and nice top with sweater or suit)
-1 crazy comfy outfit (pi’s, ounge wear, sweatpants and non-public-worthy clothing is good)
-1 medium weight jacket or sweater (even airplanes are cold on the way to Cabo)
-1 nice pair of shoes and 1 casual pair of shoes you can walk for more than an hour in
– If your destination climate is cold, pack 1 pair of long johns
– If your destination climate is hot, remember your swim suit. Unless you’re going to a nude beach, no one wants to see your junk.
– Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, face soap, moisturizer and sunblock, a comb, make-up (if you wear it!).

15. Backups:
How much quantity you bring depends on the number of days traveling. If you’ll be gone for more than a week, multiply quantities by two for each extra week of travel up to four weeks.
– 1 or two casual tops- to be layered or mixed with casual pants
– 1 ‘Sunday best’ shirt or top to be worn with Nice outfit
– Ladies can substitute a skirt or dress for any outfit above
– work out clothes and shoes
– scarves, sweaters and accessories- aim for ones that coordinate with multiple outfits to save space

I’m sure there’s more and may need to write a sequel because I know I’m forgetting some very important tips… but enough about me.

What are some of your best traveling tips?


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