Packing

Travel Gear I (Actually) Love

Last week I told you that there’s a lot of gear marketed to travelers that you just don’t need, and will be happier replacing with items you already use and love.  However, there’s an exception to every rule! I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you a few specific things I’ve found that really make trips run more smoothly. And even better, I use some of them when I’m not traveling!

This jacket has gone with me everywhere, from the Arctic to Estonia.

This jacket has gone with me everywhere, from the Arctic to Estonia.

1) A high quality packable Gore-Tex rain jacket

I don’t care where you’re going in the world, there’s always a chance it will rain, and you’ll be totally miserable if you’re unprepared. I love the Patagonia Torrentshell jacket because it packs down to almost nothing and looks pretty cute - and Patagonia stands behind their products to the extent that they will repair or replace any issues due to normal wear and tear at no cost. And a jacket like this isn't just great for active trips - I’ll throw it on for rainy days running around San Francisco, too!

I carry this  Cuyana  pouch with me every single day.

I carry this Cuyana pouch with me every single day.

2) A stash of Kleenex pocket packs and hand wipe packets

I don’t care where you’re going in the world, you cannot count on the availability of TP and handwashing facilities.  This is as true close to home as it is across the globe!

I love pink and I'm 100% ok with that.

I love pink and I'm 100% ok with that.

3) Appropriate luggage for the destination and length of trip

Luggage is frustrating to store, but if you love to travel, you just have to do it.  I keep what I believe to be the essentials: a hard sided carry on and checked bag, a day pack, and bags for skis and ski boots. While you’ll see from my previous post that I use regular purses when I travel, I do also have a couple of soft sided carry ons that I don’t strictly need but adore and use regularly because they’re so cute - I didn’t say I was perfect!

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4) Travel wash bag and individually packaged laundry detergent

I’ve talked about this product before and I am here to tell you that it has Changed My Packing Game like nothing else.  I can pack so much lighter knowing that I can have unlimited clean, non-crunchy undies and knits to keep every outfit feeling fresh from the inside out.

Don't leave home without it!

Don't leave home without it!

5) Power converter

Hotels are increasingly supplying a variety of outlets, but it’s always good to have one converter on hand. I like the multi-port interchangeable power converter from Tumi because it packs all the plugs in the smallest footprint I’ve seen.

Just the necessities, please!

Just the necessities, please!

4) Travel size toiletries, makeup, and brushes

Carrying on makes a trip so much smoother - no lost luggage, no baggage check lines, no lugging giant suitcases through airports and train stations. In order to do so, I’ve sourced mini versions of all my favorite products, from moisturizer and eye cream to blush/bronzer/highlighter and makeup brushes.  Yes, I do have to spend some time and energy keeping stock on hand and storing these products, but that’s a trade off I personally am willing to make.

What are the travel products that you truly can’t live without?

LMW

Don't Buy Travel Products!

When you start a project, what’s one of the first things you do? Like most humans, I bet you start buying the stuff you think you’ll need to complete the project. Marketers know this, which is why you can easily find a “must-have” list for every activity under the sun.

This impulse is totally normal, but I’d advise you to resist it!  Why? It’s not just a matter of expense, although that’s certainly relevant. More importantly, your time and energy are precious, and it’s going to take more than you might realize to purchase, organize, and store the items you buy.

Let me give you an example: travel.

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Travel is a big deal. It takes a lot of resources (money, vacation days, planning, stress) and there’s always an element of the unknown involved. As humans, we like control, and this combination of high cost and high risk makes us nervous. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we just buy all the right stuff, a trip will go well.

However, I encourage you to treat travel is just like the rest of your life: use things you love that serve you well, and organize them in a way that works for you. Here are a couple broad categories of travel specific products that are relentlessly marketed and commonly purchased - but that I believe you can substitute with things you already have, love, and use.

The Longchamp Le Pliage is a travel classic for a reason: it's lightweight, zips closed, and...

The Longchamp Le Pliage is a travel classic for a reason: it's lightweight, zips closed, and...

...and look how tiny it folds!

...and look how tiny it folds!

1) Slash-proof or concealed travel bag or wallet

There are surprisingly few places where you truly need to take extraordinary measures to protect your valuables on your person. Remember: almost anywhere you travel, people go about ordinary lives, so follow their lead! I generally carry a lightweight tote bag that zips or a small leather crossbody bag when exploring cities all over the world, and I have never been pickpocketed or mugged. I simply take common sense measures like staying aware of my surroundings and appropriately calibrating the amount of jewelry and type of clothing I wear.

Yes, I did go ahead and customize through  Nike I.D.  with a rose gold swoosh. No regrets.

Yes, I did go ahead and customize through Nike I.D. with a rose gold swoosh. No regrets.

2) Walking shoe

Walking shoes marketed for travel may be extremely comfortable, but they’re also heavy, bulky, and ugly. These shoes take up valuable space in your luggage (and in your closet, because you likely won’t wear them at home) and, like it or not, mark you as a tourist. Instead, pack the shoes you wear when you’re going to be on your feet a lot in your normal life!  I’ll often bring my Nike Flyknit sneakers, which pack flat, add a streetwear vibe to variety of outfits, and can double as gym shoes. 

Much of this photo came as a sample or point perk from  Sephora .

Much of this photo came as a sample or point perk from Sephora.

3) Travel size toiletry containers

These sets are so cute, right?  A set of tiny bottles all ready for your lotions and potions, and TSA approved to boot!  In practice, when I come across travel bottles in clients’ homes, they are usually goopy and unidentifiable.  These sets only work if you are willing to be diligent about labeling bottles, repurchasing the same products and decanting them before every trip, and cleaning up after each trip. And if you’re not, that’s ok! I keep a small stash of all the products I need in travel sizes so that I’m always ready to pack without having to fuss around with containers.

My workout clothes served me as well climbing The Peak in Hong Kong as they do in the gym at home!

My workout clothes served me as well climbing The Peak in Hong Kong as they do in the gym at home!

4) Travel clothing marketed as sun protective, wrinkle free, and/or multifunctional

You know what I mean: those lightweight, drab button down shirts and pants with zip-off legs that companies insist you need for of travel. Instead of thinking of “travel” as your activity, however, I suggest you think about the activities you’re planning for your trip and pack the clothes you’d wear for similar activities in your normal life. For example, for a sightseeing trip to a European city in the spring, I’d pack outfits I’d wear for a day of shopping or museum-going at home in San Francisco: a mix and match assortment of jeans, silk pieces, and lightweight sweaters. For a week long hiking trip, I’d include various pieces from my workout and outdoor wardrobe including Lululemon pants and Patagonia layers.  I always feel prepared for my trip while at the same time feeling totally comfortable and like myself - which makes travel a lot more fun!

As you might have gathered, my philosophy on travel is that the best strategy to maximize both your personal safety and your enjoyment of the trip is to blend in, rather than mark yourself as a tourist. To me, travel is about expanding my perspective through authentic experience of people and places, and I can’t do that if I’m visually separating myself from my surroundings.

How about your favorite hobbies and activities: what things are we told we absolutely need but you know we can easily live without?

LMW

What I'm Organizing - Don't Leave Home Without It

We just landed this morning from an amazing trip to Asia, and I have never been more pleased about the medication stash we bring on every trip. 

You see, the final 24 hours were something else.  While my mother taught me to never have a drink with ice, eat a salad, or consume a fruit you have not peeled yourself when traveling in places with less reliable water sources than you’re used to, on this trip we were staying developed areas.  So, I did not have my usual guard up. 

No details are necessary, but let’s just say that the meds made the difference between a rather unpleasant day during which I was nonetheless able to travel, and what could have been an abject disaster.

I should mention that I generally don’t take a ton of medication.  The occasional Alleve for pain.  Perhaps some Sudafed on the worst day of a cold.  Cough medicine if it’s bad enough that I’ll keep my husband up at night.  That sort of thing. It’s not a moral philosophy or anything, but I wanted to put our travel stash in context!

So what do we bring?  In general, it's the stuff that will get us through in case of the things that immediately impact our ability to travel: pain and upset stomach.  

  1. NSAIDs
  2. Immodium
  3. Alka-Seltzer for the plane – my husband insists that we both down it before takeoff to ward against pulmonary embolism.  A friend of ours actually had this happen to him, he’s ok now, but yikes.
  4. Advil with codeine – this is available over the counter internationally and I highly recommend you pick some up if you can.  It’s a game changer when it comes to food poisoning – the codeine picks up where the Immodium leaves off, and it also takes away that nonspecific “I’m gonna dieeeee” feeling.

We also bring a couple prescriptions when applicable to the trip:

  1. Cipro for trips where we will be far from proper medical care – this is an all-purpose powerful antibiotic, and it literally saved my life in Africa in 1995.
  2. Ambien for trips more than a couple of time zones away – it helps me get a few solid nights of sleep at the beginning of the trip so I can actually enjoy the destination.

Fortunately for me, there was a happy ending to this particular episode: I woke up yesterday (this?) morning in Hong Kong feeling about 95%, and enjoyed a perfectly normal flight home.  Thank you, modern medicine, for letting me flit somewhat irresponsibly around the globe and come out none the worse for wear at the end of it all!

LMW

Weekly Peek - Trip of a Lifetime Part 1

Sometime's life's best experiences take you by surprise.  It's why I've made it my personal policy to always say yes to unique opportunities.  So, when my mom emailed me the link to a Stanford Travel Study trip to an eco lodge well north of the Arctic Circle and told me my dad couldn't go, I just said, "let's do it!"

By saying yes to adventures, you also often encounter an amazing amount of serendipity.  The best way to get to Arctic Canada from the west coast of the US is to fly through Calgary, and our dates perfectly aligned so that we would be there for the final weekend of Stampede - one of the biggest rodeo events on the planet.  Obviously, we took this as a sign and extended our trip!

I can't do justice to this trip in one short blog post, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of parts.  Today: our adventure at the Calgary Stampede and exploration of Yellowknife, the jumping-off point for our Arctic expedition.

Calgary

My limited knowledge of Calgary came from stories I've heard about Stampede from horsey people (I briefly learned to ride gymkhana races in another life) and the Disney classic film Cool Runnings about the 1988 Winter Olympics.  As it turns out, Calgary reminds me of a hybrid of Denver and Houston: a modern city built on oil money in the middle of the plains featuring a high rise downtown and significant suburban sprawl.  There's clearly a lot going on there as evidence by the modern indicators of prosperity: a burgeoning food scene, a million condo buildings going up, and plentiful Ubers.

We had a great dinner at Rouge (fresh, local ingredients prepared expertly on the pretty patio of a historic home in the beautiful Inglewood neighborhood) the first night, followed by the heroic portions and epic kimchi hollandaise of brunch at Anju the next morning.  Appropriately fortified, it was on to the Stampede!

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

The Stampede Spectacular

The Stampede Spectacular

Calgary Stampede is basically a combination of a huge rodeo and a massive state fair.  All the fried foods you could ever wish for are on site, plus tons of agricultural exhibits and acres of livestock barns.  My mom did her research ahead of time and got us tickets in the stands to the actual rodeo events in the afternoon, which were so worth it: I had never actually seen bronco or bull riding in person, and it was so thrilling I watched most of it through my fingers.  We each picked a decadent fair food for dinner (spicy custom mac and cheese for me, poutine for my mom in honor of our Canadian hosts) and followed it up with fried cookie dough to share which was EVERYTHING wrong and delicious in this life!  We rounded out the evening by watching the Stampede Spectacular, which was basically a mini version of closing ceremonies at the Olympics.  We were both impressed by the theme of the show - "We Are Better Together" featuring many of the cultures that make up modern Canada and enthusiastically supported by the crowd - and wistful that such a progressive theme would never be featured at a similarly rural/conservative leaning event at home in the US.

If you go to the Calgary Stampede:

  • Book your hotel early.  We booked months ahead and the boutique hotel my mom wanted was already full so we ended up at the Fairmont.  It is perfectly fine, but overpriced for a relatively under-remodeled old hotel (good bathrooms though!).
  • Dress for the heat and potential thunderstorms.  We both wore light cotton sundresses and flat shoes and carried rain shells and although we wilted slightly we were happy campers!  If I had tried to cowgirl it up in jeans and boots I would have been sweltering, and I felt for the riders in their heavy leather chaps.
  • Once you're at the Stampede grounds, plan to stay until you go home for the day.  The lines to enter only increase as the day goes on.
  • Fly Air Canada if you are a United customer with status - Star Alliance gold gets you into priority check-in and security lanes as well as the Maple Leaf Lounge.  Bonus: Global Entry also works for immigration in Canada, both arriving and leaving! 

Yellowknife

The official Stanford Travel/Study trip began in Yellowknife, Northern Territories, because it has Canada's northernmost airport served by major commercial airlines.  We really didn't know what to expect here, to be perfectly honest.  It's a bigger city than we imagined, about 25,000 people, and has a definite frontier town feel.  It's built for the harsh winter weather: buildings are square, sturdy, and no-nonsense.  The biggest industry in the area remains mining, so there's cash on hand - as we saw in our exploration of a very high end grocery and homewares store - but the legacy of mistreatment of First Nations and Inuit peoples is also pretty obvious in the form of substance abuse issues and social stratification.  Food and alcohol are expensive, since everything must be trucked in over vast distances: a head of organic broccoli was on sale for $7.95 CDN!

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

View across Frame Lake to downtown

View across Frame Lake to downtown

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Yellowknife is less a tourist destination than a jumping off point for adventure excursions, but we had a day and a half there and had a great time!  Our first day, we walked into the historic old town and poked around - and were somewhat gobsmacked to realize that Yellowknife's pioneer heyday was pretty recent as in the 1930's and 1940's!  The second day, we did the hike around Frame Lake, a very pretty and well marked trail that borders the newer downtown, and visited the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre which has really high quality exhibits.  That evening, we met our travel group, got fitted for boots (more on those later), picked up our expedition parkas, and then headed out for dinner at Bullocks' Bistro.  This is one of those places with extreme amounts of local character, and also the best fish and chips I have ever had in my life - and I have spent more time than the average bear in the UK including sampling of various types of fish and chips!  On the way home, it felt so early - at was probably 8:30 p.m. and fully sunny - that we stopped off for a beer at Northwest Territories Brewing Company.  A great spot (we ended up coming back for dinner on our way back through Yellowknife at the end of the trip), and I recommend the Amber!

That would be PM.

That would be PM.

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

This was where we realized that the long northern days were going to be weirder than we thought.  In Yellowknife, the sun does set at midsummer, but it only really ever gets dusky.  As a trip host told us, she hadn't seen stars since early May!  So, we easily lost track of time and found ourselves rushing back to the hotel after 10p.m. to make sure to get some shut-eye before our early-ish departure the next morning!

If you go to Yellowknife:

  • There's no need to dress up.  I felt overdressed at the hotel restaurant in jeans with a nice top, and we bummed around during the day in workout clothes and our finest Patagonia outerwear and fit in just fine.
  • If you want to sleep properly, close your curtains!  It may feel at 11pm like it's about to get dark... but it won't.
  • If you're patient, everything is walkable.  Taxis exist, but we were perfectly happy walking everywhere.  Nothing you want to see or need to do is more than a mile away.
  • Lodging options are limited.  We stayed at the Explorer Hotel, which is supposedly the best in town.  Facilities are what you would expect from a big city Holiday Inn or similar, rooms are less recently remodeled but perfectly fine with comfortable beds.

To see even more photos from this epic trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram.  I'll be back with more on our Arctic adventure next week!

LMW

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Makeup On The Go, Round 2

My husband and I are lucky enough to be able to travel a lot, anywhere from a quick weekend getaway to a major 2 week trip.  I am a chronic overpacker from way back, and so the process of learning to pack light has been rather arduous for me (him, not so much - he packed for a week in NYC including workout gear in a small roll-aboard suitcase this week with no sweat!).

Part of this process has been learning to distill my makeup needs down to their essence.  This is especially key now, because while the products from my daily skincare regimen are all under 3oz and can come with me on the plane, they take up almost all the room in my TSA-approved clear toiletry bag for liquids.

As I mentioned here, I used to have a Lancôme travel palette from a duty free shop.  In the end, I realized that although everything you’d need to construct a variety of looks was theoretically included, the color scheme didn’t work well for me.  There were too many eyeshadows, and about half of them I’d never wear because they’re too warm-toned; the blush was really more of a highlighter and barely showed up on my skin; the eyeliner pencils were so tiny I couldn’t sharpen them; and the concealer colors were both too dark if we’re really being honest about just how pale I am.  I gave the Lancôme palette the good old college try, toting it as my singular makeup solution on pretty much every trip I took in 2015 and 2016, but after seeing myself in mirrors and photos I had to call it quits.  Life is too short to look a bit off!

Every supposed solution that doesn’t work is a learning experience, though.  I realized that I really do want to have bronzer, highlighter, and blush available when I travel, and so I spent months looking at every makeup palette out there (seriously, makeup ads are following me all over the internet). I finally settled on this limited edition but fortunately not yet sold out NARSissist Blush, Contour, and Lip Palette.  It contains NARS’ famous Laguna bronzer and Albatross highlighter, plus three blushes (including the now discontinued Roman Holiday), and a mini lip gloss.  I’m especially happy with the blush colors, all three work well on my skin and give a wide range of options.  I prefer a cooler toned bronzer and highlighter, but there’s a reason these two are some of NARS’ best sellers, they’re neutral and look pretty good anyway!  And really, one can’t go wrong with a light pink sheer lip gloss.

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I also realized that I missed the experience of using high quality brushes to apply my makeup while traveling.  However, I am not willing to squish my gorgeous Tom Ford brushes into my suitcase, those suckers were expensive!  Fortunately, the right solution appeared during the holiday season: a set of travel brushes from Marc Jacobs Beauty, one of the rare sets that includes all the brush types I normally use.  The brushes are synthetic and sturdy while still applying makeup easily and evenly, but I am going to have to get a brush roll and stop traveling with the metallic zipper case - it’s a serious waste of luggage space! 

On my most recent trips, I’ve packed the NARSissist palette, a Chanel eyeshadow quad, a travel sized mascara (trying to use this one up but I must say I do not love it, the applicator is so scratchy!), a lightweight foundation sample, my Guerlain Metéorites Compact, an additional mini lipstick or two, and the Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes.  That is 100% enough for me feel polished while traveling, with enough options to glam it up a bit if I want to and neutral enough products that I can just throw on some mascara and blush and go.

You might notice I’m missing 3 major things from a typical beauty routine: concealer, eyeliner, and eyebrow product.  I just ordered the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla in the travel size to test out, and if it works that will start coming with me as well.  It has more oomph than my beloved daily standby YSL Touche Éclat, but really, travel is the time to have a sturdier concealer on hand since jet lag, pollution, and varying climates can wreak havoc on my skin.  I rarely wear eyeliner, and am only just dipping a toe into the world of brow products, so I’m comfortable leaving both of those out of my suitcase.

The travel collection...

The travel collection...

...and the same number of products from my full size collection.

...and the same number of products from my full size collection.

You will very rarely see me recommend travel specific products - I’ll get into the details of that in a future post!  But a combined face palette, mini products, and travel sized makeup brushes save so much room in my suitcase compared to those same products at full size that I’m willing to use up the bathroom drawer space to store them in between trips!

LMW

Organizing for Travel Part 4: The Carry On

I always travel with one suitcase and one tote bag, that’s it.  I find managing more pieces, even if they’re small, leaves me feeling uncoordinated and harried.  Travel is already discombobulating, no need to make things worse!

I’m actually better about packing my carry on than my suitcase.  I only bring what I need, even going so far as to downsize into a smaller wallet since on most trips I’m unlikely to need my Costco card, my ski pass, etc. etc.  Most things I carry in my purse every day: wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses, pen, small pouch with grooming necessities, business cards (hey, you never know!), and travel umbrella (I picked this particular habit up in London and it’s saved my butt a couple of times since).  For a trip, I add my passport, headphones, jewelry pouch if I’m bringing any, iPad and Kindle, assorted chargers/converters, my latest needlepoint project, and a small cross body bag to use at my destination.

I do carry on in a regular tote – the small Goyard is a great size, quite lightweight, goes with everything, and I like that I can used the attached pouch to keep my phone within easy reach.  I don’t see the point of keeping travel-specific totes that would just take up storage space at home (remind me to rant another time about the ludicrousness of travel-specific stuff in general!) and I prefer not to call attention to myself as a tourist via use of recognizable travel prducts.  All that said, carrying a decent amount of stuff on one shoulder throughout a long travel day does get old.

My husband swears by using a backpack as a carry-on for comfort and functionality.  For him, it’s easier to stay organized if he has a small pocket for each object rather than a potential black hole of stuff.  However, he’s a dude, and it’s a brave new world full of techie dudes who carry backpacks instead of briefcases daily: he doesn’t necessarily look like a tourist! 

I must admit, the carry-on bag is one of those places where I sacrifice a little function for form.  It’s not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last!

LMW

Organizing for Travel Part 3: Packing

I’m fortunate enough to have lots of opportunities to travel, so you would think that I’d be a pro by now.  However, I’m constantly battling a chronic case over over-pack-itis, and I only seem to be able to control the quantity by pre-selecting the size of the bag.

To give myself some credit, however, my packing process is straightforward and probably takes under an hour start to finish.  I frequently pack day-of, even for long trips, and rarely feel like I don’t have what I need while I’m away.  Also, since I first started sharing my packing struggles here, I’ve been increasingly able to pack for longer trips in a carry on suitcase.  This is less a point of pride than it is a relief when I’m schlepping through airports and train stations!  So, here’s how I do it.

I start by checking the exact forecast for my destination.  You’d be surprised how few people do this, and just rely on overall weather trends.  This is how you can end up freezing in a late blizzard in the mountains or broiling in an early heat wave in NYC.

I then choose a base color – I picked black for this trip to Italy since it feels more fashion-y to me than my usual favorite navy blue.  This helps me narrow the items I can choose from and helps ensure that every piece goes with everything else. 

Next, I go through each section of my closet and drawer one by one, pulling items as I go.  Same order, every time, so I don’t forget anything.

I then lay everything out together on my bed, sorted by category.  At this point, it’s easy to see the kind of quantity I’m dealing with and which items are superfluous.  I (try to) edit ruthlessly.  The final packing list for a (hopefully) fashion forward late September trip to northern Italy: leather jacket, cardigan, v-neck sweater, jersey cocktail dress, ponte dress, cotton day dress, t-shirt dress, cotton midi dress, pair of jeans, silk joggers, lace pencil skirt, cotton midi skirt, short jean skirt, off the shoulder blouse, long sleeved silk blouse, silk t-shirt, 3 silk tanks, 3 cotton t-shirts, 2 silk scarves, ballet flats, flat sandals, wedge sandals, high heeled sandals, and leather sneakers (plus undergarments, toiletries, and carry on bag which I'll detail in an upcoming post).

The only thing that didn’t make the final edit from this shot was the denim jacket – it’s bulky and doesn’t actually go with every bottom I packed.   I could probably have lost the cotton day dress, the t-shirt dress, a t-shirt, and the nude strappy wedges and still have been fine, but it all fit without having to sit on top of the suitcase so in they went.  And as it turned out, I wore everything multiple times except for a navy and white striped silk tank – go figure, since it didn’t fit the color scheme!

I then pick my outfit for the plane, which always incorporates the bulkiest shoe and jacket I’m bringing along.

My Tumi Vapor Series carry on (which I LOVE – it’s super light, fits a surprising amount of stuff, and the four wheeled spinner style is everything) splits down the middle.  I roll the clothes in categories and put them in the zipper half to keep them away from the toiletries and shoes, which go in the other side, and stuff small items in the empty spaces between shoes. Anything that didn’t fit in the zipper side gets laid on top.

A somewhat shameful admission: you guys, this trip I forgot my pajamas.  MY PAJAMAS.  I’m a matching set nightly kinda girl, I never forget those!  Oh well, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a t-shirt to bed and calling it good.

LMW

What I'm Organizing

As I type, I'm stalling on packing to come home from Italy. As ever, more things are coming home with me than arrived in my suitcase, but there should be enough space for everything. I have a longer post with pics planned on exactly what I packed, but for now I'll say that I'm very pleased with what I brought!

As promised, I wanted to a quick update on the Scrubba travel wash bag.  If you, like me, refuse to pay the usurious rates hotels charge to send out laundry, and don't feel like spending hours of your precious trip holed up in a laundromat, I can heartily recommend the Scrubba as an excellent solution. It really does work exactly as described, when used as we did with individual travel pouches of Woolite detergent. Our clothes got fully clean in one wash, and they felt and smelled exactly like machine washed clothes.

Directions are printed on the side, so throw away the instruction booklet! 

Directions are printed on the side, so throw away the instruction booklet! 

A couple of tips, from us to you:

  1. There is a certain amount of physical effort required to scrub for 3 minutes straight! So, perhaps do your washing before you shower.
  2. The bag is rather small (I'd say the largest load we did involved a couple pairs of each of our underwear and a couple of t-shirts), so we recommend doing one small load every day or two instead of letting things pile up. 
  3. The more diligent you are about rinsing, the better the results. I throughly swirled each load in a full sink of clean water at least 3 times.
  4. Wring each item thoroughly and then shake out and position carefully to hang dry to avoid wrinkles or stiffness (we found the fabric strips of a standard folding luggage rack work really well for hang drying underwear and socks!).

And now, to pack.

LMW

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

My husband and I were extremely fortunate to be able to get away to the Caribbean for the first two weeks of January with my parents.  We took a great Windstar cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico with stops throughout the northern part of the region, and then spent a few days at the St. Regis Bahia Beach.  We came back relaxed, refreshed, ready to take on 2016… and not even a little bit sunburned!  And of course, I overpacked.  Sigh. 

Point for my packing: I did manage to fit everything into my rolling carry on.  My parents always travel in roll-aboard suitcases, even for multi-week trips to cold climates, and they (rightfully) shamed me into reducing so that they wouldn’t have to wait for me at baggage claim.

Point against my packing: this was accomplished largely because I filled my large Goyard tote to the brim.  Lugging that sucker through airports was no joke.

I think I had two downfalls when packing this trip.  First: I knew we would only have to unpack and repack twice in a two week trip, once on the boat and once at the hotel, so I wasn’t overly worried about getting into multiple fights with an overstuffed suitcase.  Second: I must confess that I am a rather sweaty individual, and I’m always concerned when I travel to warm places that I have enough clothes to be able to switch out so that I look fresh. 

Graphic courtesy of A Pair & A Spare

I’ve been saving this article to share for awhile because it really only deals with warm weather travel: How to Pack: The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Guide by fashion blogger A Pair & A Spare.  You guys… it is spot on.  If I had packed like this (with the addition of workout clothes and perhaps a couple of t-shirts), I would have been set.  I’m even further ashamed to admit that laundry on cruises is cheap if not free, and that makes a small packing list even easier. As it was, I had to actually work to wear every piece I brought with me so that I wouldn’t feel so guilty for overpacking!

I’ll definitely come back to this packing list next time we go somewhere warm.

LMW

Rating My Packing Prowess

Ah packing, my constant task and old nemesis.  As I’ve shared before, I’m pretty good at getting into a small carry-on tote for a weekend trip, but when it comes to longer vacations the wheels come off and I end up overpacking.

I’ve been saving any article I can find about how to pack better and more efficiently while still looking stylish (I refuse to give up fashion while traveling, and take perhaps a liiiittle too much pride in blending in enough that I’m spoken to in the native language on trips).  This particular one seemed easy to follow and straightforward: How to Prevent Overpacking.

I’m pretty good at limiting toiletries.  I hoard mini shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, and other fun stuff from nice hotels to bring with me when there aren’t going to be any products available, and buy all my favorites in travel sizes.  I also have a pretty comprehensive makeup palette from Lancome (exclusive to Duty Free stores) that streamlines the beauty situation.

I let myself use a large suitcase for trips longer than a week and/or wintertime trips that require bulkier clothes.  I suppose forcing myself to carry on would be an interesting challenge…

I’ve been getting better at packing versatile clothing.  It’s been particularly helpful to pick one neutral color and then build my whole wardrobe around it – for me, usually either navy or black.  Then it’s easier to ensure that every pair of shoes and piece of outerwear goes with everything else.  I used to bring 6+ pairs of shoes on every trip, and now I can generally keep it to about 4: a sneaker, a ballet flat, a pair of heels, and either a pair of boots or a pair of sandals depending on the weather.

I tend to pack shoes, clothes, and accessories about a day ahead of time, and then put my toiletry bag together at the last minute.  This tip is right on though: the times I’ve left packing until the last minute have been the times I’ve arrived at my destination thoroughly confused about what exactly I’m supposed to wear.

I’ve actually never used a packing cube.  I’m pretty good at folding and playing packing tetris, and you know my thoughts on acquiring extra stuff, so I’m somewhat skeptical that this would improve my packing.  I would love to hear from anyone who has been converted to packing cube use!

My most frequent travel companion is my husband, and we do coordinate as much as possible, but that does tend to start and stop with toiletries.

Overall, I’d give myself about a B on this particular article’s packing strategy.  There’s room for improvement, for sure, but I’m still not entirely sure of the root cause of my overpacking disease.

LMW