Secrets Of A Frequent Packer

On Sunday night, I packed for a three-day business trip in ten minutes flat. Those are some good stats, my friends, and I didn't even forget anything crucial, like underwear or lipgloss. I've been traveling a lot this summer---mostly for work, but sometimes for fun---and I've managed to get the packing process down to a fine art. I could do it with my eyes closed. In fact, maybe next time I will. Oh, is that a challenge? Do I hear a challenge? Fine, next time I'll do it with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. In seven minutes, how about that. We'll make it a YouTube sensation.

If you're like me, you hate packing. I'd say that I hate packing more than anything in the world, but that would be untrue because there is something I hate more in the world than packing and that thing is unpacking. At least with packing there's a vague element of excitement to the whole affair: you're going somewhere! You're taking mini toothpaste! The air is filled with promise because maybe this time you'll actually use those gym clothes you're dragging halfway across the country (again), WHO KNOWS. When you're unpacking, however, there's none of that: all you have is a hotel laundry bag full of dirty underwear and a sense of heavy regret about that hotel gym.

Packing, at least, you can put some science behind. You can get nerdy with packing; you can make it a process. Here are some of the recent ways I've made that process a little more streamlined.

* Have a travel outfit. Now, I've said it before and I'll say it again: have a standard outfit that you fly in. My own involves a pair of gold ballet flats (and a supplementary pair of socks if I take them off on the plane), a pair of soft black pants, a black or white crewneck t-shirt, a pashmina, and some sort of loose and flowy cardigan (I recently bought a black one made of a very thin material; Calvin Klein from TJ Maxx, best thirty-five dollars I ever spent). Knowing what you're going to be wearing on the plane and setting it aside immediately, before you even start packing, will go a long way towards helping you feel organized. Shirt, pants, cardigan: boom, done. Pashmina on the top of the pile. Move on.

* Make your own travel-sized toiletries. More and more frequently, I travel with just a carry-on bag. This, of course, means adhering to the TSA's guidelines about liquids, and friends, I have become a pro at eyeballing a product and knowing whether it's three ounces or less. Lots of things are, of course, and still others come in special travel sizes. But some of the products I like to use---my face wash, my contact lens solution---don't come in ready-made, appropriately-sized versions, and so I keep a constant supply of these things in my own 3-oz containers.

Do this right now: go buy a couple of travel-sized bottles at the drugstore---better yet, snag a couple of hotel shampoos the next time you're traveling and empty them out---and fill them with the products you take with you when you travel. And then---this is the important part---keep them topped up. Every time you get back from a trip, fill them up again. You should always have a travel-sized version of your facewash (or moisturizer or whatever you need) in an easy-to-grab place. Don't be the person buying travel bottles at the all-night drugstore, and then frantically decanting your conditioner into them at 2am before your trip. Uh, not that that's happened to anyone I know, of course. Like me. Every single time I've gone anywhere.

* Have a travel shelf. I just started doing this over the last couple of months, when I found myself on a plane every week, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's changed my life. I dedicated a little corner of my bathroom closet---well, technically it's my hall closet, since my bathroom actually is the size of a closet---to toiletries I take when I travel. Anything wee or mini-sized or freakishly small and portable, I put there: little sample pots of moisturizer, tiny bottles of mouthwash, disposable razors, shampoos and conditioners I've taken from other hotels. I put all of this in this corner---along with my self-made 3oz containers, which are always topped up and ready to go---and then whenever I pack for a trip, I grab whatever I need from the travel shelf. It's all there. No hunting around for that tiny eye cream freebie I know I got a few months ago: it's on the travel shelf. And when I come back, I put everything back there again for the next time.

* Two words: travel toothbrush. This is the best thing I ever did: I bought a specific toothbrush for travel. It goes on the travel shelf, and I grab it when I'm packing. Internet, it's so simple and so beautiful: YOU WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR TOOTHBRUSH AGAIN. You'll never have to remind yourself to throw it in at the last minute after brushing your teeth that morning. Just brush away and forget it: the travel toothbrush is packed. You're covered.

* Collect conditioners. Yeahhhhh, it's not that I'm advocating stealing or anything, but lots of hotels don't give you conditioner. When you stay at one that does, swipe it and keep it on the travel shelf to take with you next time. Chances are, your next hotel won't have it. But you, my smooth-haired companion, will.

* Bring gold shoes. Gold shoes go with anything. On my most recent trip to New York, I brought three pairs of shoes, and all of them were gold: ballet flats, flip-flops, and strappy sandals. When you only bring gold shoes, you don't have to worry about anything else matching. Everything goes with gold shoes. You can't go wrong.

* Speaking of shoes, bring shoe bags. Sometimes when you buy fancy shoes, they come with a shoe bag. If this ever happens to you, KEEP THE SHOE BAG. Shoe bags make excellent underwear bags; I pack my unmentionables in a shoe bag every time. If you can swing it, bring two shoes bags: one for clean, one for dirty. Just make sure the bags look a little different is all. Wouldn't want to mix those two up when you were getting dressed.

* Corral your cords. Whenever I travel, I put all my cords and chargers and adaptors and plugs into a giant freezer-size Ziploc bag. They're all there, they're all together, and you can see them at a glance. You will never lose your phone charger at the bottom of your suitcase again. Plus, you're less likely to forget something in a hotel room if you look at the Ziploc bag and see that something's missing.

* Actually, pack everything in Ziplocs. I use a Ziploc for my jewelry too, and another for important documents, like trip itineraries or visas. I swear to god, I don't work for Ziploc. It's just....the bags are clear! Genius!

* Write yourself a note. Once you're all packed up, chances are you've still got a few things you need to throw in at the last minute---particularly if you're packing at night and leaving first thing in the morning. For me, these things are always my phone, my pajamas, and my glasses. Grab a piece of paper and write them down now, then put the piece of paper on your nightstand. I know you'll feel stupid, but do it: just writing them down will reinforce them in your brain, then you'll have a ready-made checklist to cross-reference in the morning.

So there you go: a few little strategies I've found that make packing and preparing for a trip a little smoother. As for the great folding versus rolling debate, I've tried to convert to rolling my clothes recently---I've heard it takes up far less space in your suitcase---but I often just find myself folding them because it's quicker. Any particularly strong thoughts on the subject? Any other packing tips you'd like to add to the list?

Sep 01, 2010

I find myself traveling a lot these days too (next 30 days: 4 continents... if I survive!). Top things I've learned:

1. Pack on paper. Now I have a tendency to do everything first on paper (well, not everything). But seriously, packing=overwhelming. Putting things on a list into a bag=not at all overwhelming. Plus you can do it way early when actually packing would be unfeasible.

2. Don't unpack! I don't unpack my toiletries bag anymore and like your toiletries shelf, it has changed my life. Why unpack? Travel toothbrush (not travel-sized, just travel-specific), travel hairbrush, travel q-tips, travel shampoo, travel shower poof, extra contacts for each eye, an emery board, etc. None of it ever leaves my travel bag. I grab the makeup du jour and I'm all set.

3. The Pink Bag. My husband now asks... Do you have the pink bag?! The pink bag is a little fabric zip topped bag that my great aunt gave me for Christmas one year, I think. It has shout wipes, bandaids, a tube of chap stick, some cough drops, a tampon or two, and some Tylenol PM, Benadryl, and a happy-stomach option. Never unpack. Carry on every flight. The end.

Sep 01, 2010

I've been looking for a pair of great gold ballet flats--what pair do you have?

Sep 01, 2010

I actually this summer started having a travel toiletry bag (with toothbrush, you're right it changes everything) packed and ready to go all the time (a bit like the travel shelf i guess) and it's made all those weekends away and business trips so much easier. I also bought a spare charger for my phone, because that's the thing I always forget.
Unpacking is my least favourite job, pretty much ever. You practically have to blindfold me and tie my hands behind my back to get me to do it at all.

Sep 01, 2010

I travel quite a bit and NOTHING makes me feel more organised than my dedicated travel outfit. Word, sister.

Sep 01, 2010

I pack breakables or sunglasses inside socks, inside a pair of shoes. That way they don't get crushed.

I also have a separate toiletry case filled with 3oz bottles or less.

Sep 01, 2010

I too have a supply of 100ml bottles that are kept full for travelling. Makes everything easier.

Sep 01, 2010

I'm a life-long roller, I've been doing it since camping as a wee child and it really does make it easier to pack. I always carry-on and my friends are amazed at how many outfits I show up with and never check a bag. I use shoe bags but actually to pack my shoes so that they don't dirty my clothes. Most suit cases have zippered pouches inside for shoes, I use one side for clean undies and the other for dirty. I use ziploc bags for medications so I can easily see what I have and so can the TSA in case my bag is subject to any check. I pack my purse in my "personal item" carry-on so that there is room for my camera bag, ziploc with my liquids and a book, that way I just grab out the bag of liquids and put it into the bin and send the bag through the x-ray machine and no holding up the line behind me.

Sep 01, 2010

i have a packing list on my iphone (using one of those to-do list apps) which has all the items i need to pack. i tick them off as i go along. but what slows me down is deciding what clothes to bring to cover all the events on the trip that range from meetings to fancy schmancy dinners to interviewing celebs.

as for gold ballet flats: i've been on a lifelong hunt for the perfect pair! where are yours from?

Sep 01, 2010

Great list, Holly! I will definitely be using these tips for future travel.

Sep 01, 2010

I used to be a folder, but my husband has turned me into a dedicated roller. And that is not a euphemism.

Sep 01, 2010

I'm with Sarah, I would love a recommendation for your gold ballet flats. I'm always looking for a comfy pair.

Sep 01, 2010

I actually write my note on a Post-It and stick it to the door that I'm going to walk through when I'm leaving so it's the last thing I see before I leave the house.

Sep 01, 2010

I've tried rolling and, honestly, unless I'm trying to fill in a particularly deserted-looking corner, it just doesn't seem to make a difference to me.

I, too, have a travel toothbrush. Best thing ever.

And I'm totally going to make use of your Ziploc suggestions. I do this to some extent, but I haven't done this with my cords and chargers and I definitely think I should. So, thanks! Great advice all around!

Sep 01, 2010

I'm going to second the question about where you've found the best gold flats from. I've been searching with no luck.

Also, do you have any advice for packing for longer trips? My husband and I have to go to Lesotho early next year for two weeks and I'm overwhelmed at the thought of packing enough for the trip with the limits on airlines, especially since we have to pack for the two little boys we're adopting as well. Any advice?

Sep 01, 2010

Fantastic list! Those are all excellent suggestions. I pack many things in Ziploc bags too - it makes it so easy to find. I'm definitely a roller - I used to pack things in just a random way, but ever since I heard about rolling your clothes, I've never done it any other way. I always unpack my clothes right away when I arrive, so even if they might get a little wrinkled in transit, they're usually fine by the time I need them. I also write up a list of whatever I need to bring a few days before I leave, and check it off as I go. That way I'm guaranteed to never forget anything. Lists may be dorky, but they're fun and a definite life saver.

Sep 01, 2010

I've been using the clear plastic zip bags that bed linens come in to group like items! They are slightly more sturdy and structured than ziplok bags and are perfect for grouping together electronic cords, documents, bathing suits/cover ups, workout clothes, jewelry and get the drift. Fabulous!

Sep 01, 2010

Holly - what are your black go-to travel pants like? Zip waist or pull on? I'm searching for the perfect pair. Thanks!

Sep 01, 2010

i am a packing cube convert. i used to think those were incredibly nerdy and very rick steves, BUT that is the one travel accessory i now use the most. helps wrangle all the smaller ziploc bags and types of items together. and target makes them in fun girlie colors.

i also rest my charging phone on my carry-on before i leave. its not a fool proof way to remember the charger, but its been more successful then not.

Sep 01, 2010

Thanks for the tips!

This is a simple one but I always bring an empty water bottle and fill it up once I get through security. I just have an aversion to buying things at the airport and the teensy, weensy bit of water they give you on the plane never seems to be enough. Fyi, those bpa-free guys are on sale at Old Navy for $0.97!

amber, theAmberShow
Sep 01, 2010

Sarah of comment number one, check Zappos. You can sort their entire collection by type, and then further by color.

Sep 01, 2010

I always wrestle with what shoes to wear on the plane. I love your idea of stylish comfy flats, but, when you go through security, do you go through barefoot?? I know its only like 3 minutes, but something about those skeevy carpets makes me nervous...maybe I'm the only one?

Sep 01, 2010

I second the idea of the ready-made travel-size toiletries. Instead of a shelf, I just throw all of my travel stuff back into my travel bag so it's pretty much always packed. It's one less thing I need to deal with, and gives me a sad, bizarre sense of accomplishment and control when I start the process.

Sep 01, 2010

I have a "travel shoebox" that holds all my back up travel toiletries and I, too, do not unpack my ziploc tolietry bag or regular toiletry bag (brush, deodorant, toothbrush, dry makeup, etc) from trip to trip. I also travel enough that I just got a second phone charger that I leave packed in my suitcase - this way I never forget it and no need to unplug (which is behind the dresser and a major nuisance to get to). Fun tip, most hotels will have your phone charger in their lost and found should you ever wind up somewhere without it.

My latest best travel tip though is to use a hotel shower cap for shoes to keep them from getting dirt on your clothes. They fit perfect and the shower cap is so slight that it doesn't take up any extra room. I now collect hotel shower caps for this purpose.

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 01, 2010

About the gold flats: This isn't going to help anyone at all, but I bought mine at Payless a couple of years ago. YES. PAYLESS. I KNOW. They were maybe $15 tops and they're the comfiest pair of flats I've ever owned. I wear them everywhere and they're still going strong. Payless doesn't seem to make them anymore, but I check the site every once in a while in the offchance that they bring them back.

About the black pants: My favorites are from a slightly embarrassing English shop called Dorothy Perkins. They have a button and a zip and they're made of some kind of insanely soft cotton. They're loose and flowy and look good with ballet flats, flipflops, and low heels. When I'm going on longer trips, I wear a pair of black yoga pants that don't look like yoga pants. They're structured with a slight flare at the bottom so they look like regular black pants.

Meagan, genius idea about the shower caps for shoes!

Sep 01, 2010

You make packing sound like so much fun that now I want to go somewhere.

On a totally unrelated note, I threw a bridal shower for a friend a couple of weeks ago and used your Salted Caramels as the party favor. They were wonderful. Really, really, delicious. They will now be part of my holiday cooking. Thanks for the idea!


Sep 01, 2010

If you don't carry your bag on, I like to bring a big tote on the plane with snacks, magazines, a laptop sometimes, even, but then inside that big tote bag I put a small clutch purse with my wallet, phone, etc. So when I'm in need of my ID or a $20, I don't have to search through the big bag for it and I also only have to carry one thing -- not a carry-on AND a purse.

This seems sort of ridiculous as I type it out, but I swear, it's genuinely helped me when I travel.

Sep 01, 2010

My optician has been happy to give me free trial bottles of contact lens solution, which are small enough to pack in hand luggage - very handy, as I have no idea how I'd hygienically decant it otherwise.

Sep 01, 2010

Love this! I do a lot of these things already (the "write yourself a note" has saved me many times) but the travel shelf is genius and I plan to incorporate it immediately.

Also, I wear my gym clothes on the plane. They're uber comfortable and I choose the cute pieces (as opposed to, say, a t-shirt from middle school soccer). Doubling my gym outfit as my travel outfit lessens the guilt if I never actually make it to the hotel gym...

Sep 01, 2010

This might help anyone looking for some classier yoga pants. Probably also the reason GAP doesn't carry them much anymore is that they partner with Athleta now which kind of specializes in women's sportswear. Here's a link.
I can't personally recommend any but they do offer free exchanges!

Sep 01, 2010

Omg, the shower caps on shoes is truly brilliant - I'm implementing that one ASAP!

I'm a huge fan of the list sitting atop the handbag thing (or on the door or steering wheel or whatever). There are some things that just cannot be packed ahead of time!

The things I love most for travel are:

(1) taking a flat-packable, small backpack along (Eddie Bauer makes a super light and thin one) just in case I'm in an area where a nicer handbag would garner unwanted attention or if it's crowded and I want my hands free. or for shopping, because DUH.

(2) splurge on one of those semi-ridiculous vinyl/cloth/canvas zipper envelopes at the Container Store, and then use that as a giant envelope of all the important stuff - passports, itineraries, tickets, etc. every time i'm overseas and need to refer to something, my BF and I know exactly where to go - the big blue envelope. mine is going on 5 years now, with nary a rip or scratch.

(3) keep a luggage lock on/in each bag, and an extra in your day bag. they're relatively cheap, and not that large. you never know when TSA will forget to replace yours after a check, or if you'll need to proof your rucksack against pickpockets, etc. especially if you use a backpack, and cannot easily see/feel your 2-way zipper.

love these tips, keep 'em comin'!

Diana B.
Sep 01, 2010

I've been waiting for a post like this! I always make a list, but the travel shelf is genius.

Sep 01, 2010

My favorite yoga pants are here:

I have them in multiple colors and wear a pair on the plane every time I travel - they don't wrinkle, have a hidden pocket, and manage to look pretty classy during travel.

I love the shower cap idea for shoes! I'm trying that next time.

Sep 01, 2010

My packing tip is to use one colour palette when you pack. then use accessories to change things up. For me that tends to be black and grey. An easy way to do this is to lay all the bottoms and all the tops you're planning to bring on the bed. Do the individual pieces make multiple outfits? Take out anything that only works one way.

Sep 01, 2010

A while back I made an Excel document called "Trip pack List" for my husband and me. It includes anything we would ever need to go on a trip, divided into categories--Clothes, Toiletries, Misc, Summer, Winter, etc. I have a hard copy saved on my computer and whenever we are going to travel, I bold what we'll need to pack and print it out as my list.

I also made one for my kids, since they have a lot of crap.

It keeps me really organized and I can always hand write forgotten items on the list. The night before we leave, I usually circle or highlight items that need to be packed in the morning--cell, meds, etc.

Sounds kind of involved but it is a lifesaver. Took a bit of time up front but once it's done, no worries.

Sep 01, 2010

Everything you said plus make a packing list (pack on paper, as someone said above). I start with a Word doc that has all the standard stuff I need (toothbrush, contact lens solution, hair stuff,sanitizer gel, ibuprofen, phone charger, ...). I open it up, put the dates I'll be away and the weather forecast for the destination city. I also list events by day (Monday - business meeting, Tuesday - client breakfast and seminiar, Wednesday - fancy dinner, etc.) Then I figure out how many outfits, list the pieces, including special underwear - added that one after I spent an hour in an London deparment store looking for a slip to go under a knit dress - and jewelry. The day before the trip, I pull everything, checking each one off the list as I go. Morning off, I do a quick scan to see what's left - glasses, book, phone, and I'm off. It's rare that I forget stuff anymore. Now my only problem is leaving things in hotel rooms. I'm *still* bummed about the sandals I left that time in Chicago years ago!

Sep 01, 2010

Here's my biggest issue when trying to fly carry-on only - there isn't enough room in that small quart-sized ziploc for all the 3 oz. stuff. I jam it full and usually one thing doesn't make it. Have you tried using a bigger bag? Do they notice? Tell me, expert traveler!

Sep 01, 2010

i have a travel brush (b/c i lost it and had to buy another one - hence the extra)
I have travel candles in tins
i have 3oz containers of all my favorite stuff and I always keep everything designated for travel in my suitcase. Those items just dont leave except for topping off. That has just made packing so much easier for me. It started w/ me always forgetting q-tips and not all places have them, so I shoved a ton in my non carry on and gradually started leaving other things in there as i found out how wonderful they were to travel with

Sep 01, 2010

I follow a lot of these. I actually even keep my travel-size toiletries in a quart-size ziploc bag under my sink so I really just grab and go. And I MUST have my packing list on the counter by the door with last-minute things to pack circled (or a post-it for a shorter trip) or it is just bad news.

Whenever I'm going on a longer trip (i.e., honeymoon, week-long vacation), I start making a Google doc of everything to pack and adding to it as I think of things a couple weeks out, and then print it out before I start packing and checking things off.

For camping, I actually have a standard grocery shopping and packing list I use that I change some of the food items based on our menus. It keeps us from doing things like leaving all the rods for the tent at home. Not that I've ever done that and then had to spend 3 hours on a Friday night driving around a rural area looking for a store selling tents so we didn't have to sleep under the stars (and late night storm).

Sarah B.
Sep 01, 2010

I've followed most of your tips for a while, but have the following notes and tips:
Pink bag: brilliant.
Shower caps: brilliant.
Ziploc for cables: ditto.

*I use a modified version of the One Bag packing list (link below), an Excel spreadsheet.

*I choose black or brown for the theme color for my clothes and pack accordingly.

My airplane kit includes:
-noise-cancelling headphones
-earplugs (sometimes you need both)
-gum (chew during take off and landing)
-saline for nasal moisturizing on long flights to prevent colds
-eye drops for ditto
-tissues (see eye drops)
sometimes i even bring that Evian spray water

This is a great site on how to pack in one bag:

Maggie from MightyGirl has a series of posts on how she packed light for some trips that are great (see her Travel section) and her is a direct link to her own toiletries kit post:

FOUND AWESOME FLATS: Me Too "Linda" --comes in gold, silver, and BRONZE, which I must say is harder to find, but even more versatile in the right shade than gold or silver.

6pm also has a gold Geox flat that looks super comfy, but a little boxy.

I own these Kenneth Cole Reaction flats in pewter and it's a perfectly neutral shade that sometimes looks goldish, but there is no arch support and I wouldn't wear them for long walks. I must say I like pewter more than silver.

For airport security (and my home airport doesn't even have carpet--it's cold tile), I bring a pair of those cheap cloth slippers that look like Mary Janes, but have a soft slipper-sock type sole and role up/squash into a small ziploc I keep in the outside pocket of my bag. Can't find link, but near socks in almost any store.

ROLL YOUR CLOTHES! I save all of my plastic garment bags from shopping and the dry cleaners and put all my suits or dresses or fancy things in these before I pack them.

Technique: Put garment in bag, on the hanger, fold hanger down over top of garment and roll garment around it. Almost nothing wrinkles, hanger or not, when you roll it in plastic or tissue paper.

Even if you don't use the plastic/tissue to roll, fold clothes in half and then roll very tightly. People who don't like rolling may not be doing it right. Roll tighter! :)

Awesome post with great tips!

Sep 01, 2010

Hello! Thanks for your advice on packing. I'm getting ready to travel in two weeks and will for sure incorporate some of this (or all of it!) for when I pack.

I wanted to chime in about the gold flats because I happen to be wearing mine right now and I love them. They're from Target and are actually bronze (but I consider them gold) and they're my absolute favorite and go with everything -- and are really comfortable, too! I also have them in black and am usually wearing one of the pairs every day they're so great. Here's the link:

Sep 01, 2010

excellent tips, Holly, as a frequent biz traveler I found myself nodding at nearly all of them. wanted to chime in with a big YES in favor of rolling... swear that it changed my life! also helps minimize wrinkly clothes.

other tips I swear by... I always swipe the little laundry bag in the hotel room closets to use as a shoe bag or dirty clothes bag. I also have a tiny pouch of in-flight items I can't live without... eyedrops (my contacts always dry out), lip gloss, a small hand lotion, maybe hand sanitizer if I'm going somewhere gross. what else? I usually pack a wardrobe of fairly neutral clothes and then pack a colorful pashima and 1-2 fun jewelry options to brighten things up. makes it easier to mix and match. my cords (laptop, iPhone, etc.) live in one of those free-gift cosmetic bags and is always packed and ready to go.

happy trails!

Sep 01, 2010

I have a generic packing list typed up on my laptop, which I can cross-reference quickly to check I haven't forgotten those random things like saline and tights. Invaluable. I don't have a "travel shelf" yet though, Holly. Woah.

Sep 01, 2010

@Kristabella they do notice, so don't try anything but quart. I use "zip top" bags, the kid that use the slidey-thing, rather than ziploc, because you lose that 1/2 inch of space with the regular ziploc seal.

Try to buy slim containers. Also, some things you only need a teeny tiny bit of - like say, anti frizz serum, so you put it in a super tiny container, not a 3oz one. Some of them are pot-shaped, instead of tall bottle shaped. Not everything needs to be in 3oz.

Also, don't pack liquid hand sanitizer, pack wet wipes or sani hands wipes. Don't pack bodywash, pack hotel sized soap (or use hotel-sized soap when you get there). If you don't have allergies, don't pack a body moisturizer, just use the hotel's. Ditto shaving cream. If you have thin hair, you can get away with shampoo+conditioner combo. I have an excellent recommendation for sunscreen/moisturizer combo product: Aveeno Positively Radiant spf30. It doesn't have titanium dioxide, so it won't cast a white sheen on you. It's under 3oz, and you should be wearing spf30 every day anyways!

ALSO very important: deodorant doesn't count as a liquid, so put it in a separate ziploc with, say, bandaids and tylenol, coughdrops, etc. You get the picture - be creative.

As a last resort, if you pack your boyfriend or spouse's quart-sized bag for him, chances are good he needs just toothpaste, shaving cream, and shampoo+conditioner hybrid, so you can use his extra space for your stuff!

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 01, 2010

Kristabella -- good advice from Tanya up there! Also, this is terrible to admit, but I have taken TWO Ziploc bags of stuff a couple of times. I just put them in different bins when they go through security and no-one's ever noticed.

Sep 01, 2010

Kristabella, I do the stealthy two-bag trick as well. I have my ziploc of travel toiletries that I keep ready to go in my travel cosmetics bag. I also generally carry a big leather tote as my purse, so I keep all of my glosses, hand sanitizer, lotion, etc., in another ziploc -- really helpful for general purse organization, since I never have to dig around at the bottom of the bag for my favorite lipstick. When I'm traveling, I don't have to transfer regular purse things to a carry-on bag; I just pull out the paper junk that tends to accumulate, throw in my kindle, and go.

Sep 01, 2010

I despise packing too. Maybe I need to get a pashmina. I will need to google pashmina - but it's basically a fancy large scarf, right? Don't judge me. ;)
I have a toiletries travel bag that folds up into a tri fold type thing. I have travel toiletries that just stay in there - toothbrush, deoderant, hair ties, shampoo/conditioner, etc...

Sep 01, 2010

I travel to Ireland at least once every two months (long distance relationship! packing headache!) and I pack everything--and I mean everything--in a carry-on bag. I have yet to check a bag, and this has been true for two years, people! I've managed this for trips that range in length from a week up to a month. Rolling my clothes has SAVED MY LIFE. Okay, maybe not saved my life, but my fashion life?? Definitely!
The top trick I've found is to lay out all the clothes you think you'll need...and then immediately slash that in half. No, you really don't need the same cardigan in four different colors.
Take as many layering pieces as you can. Many times you can re-wear something as long as it's clean just by putting something ELSE over it. Men especially never catch on to this little deception and the boyfriend is (as a lovely result) constantly amazed that I manage to pack a month of stuff in a tiny carry-on. Meanwhile, when he travels stateside, he comes with a mammoth bag that threatens to take over my entire apartment. Has this made me a smug, I-pack-lighter-than-my-boyfriend sort of woman? Oh, yes. Yes it has.
I too use the shower caps on my shoes to avoid dirt, and DEFINITELY follow Holly's suggestion for shoes--neutral and metallic shoes are the best to travel with, since they work with everything! I personally stick more with silver tones in the shoes, and have never gone wrong yet!

Sep 01, 2010

Re: the gold flats. I completely agree, and can say that the Me Too Linda pair that someone else referenced are very comfortable, as are Gap's city flats. The Gap pair is designed to fold into a small bag, which comes with them, for traveling or wearing to walk to work before switching into heels. Both the Me Toos and the Gap flats have lots of padding, so the soles of the feet don't get tired with lots of walking -- my biggest pet peeve with flats.

Sep 01, 2010

Love the tips!!

I also wonder if anyone out there has suggestions for me. For Christmas, I am flying to England to visit my boyfriend for close to 2 weeks. I am allowed 44 lbs (20 kg). My suitcase weighs 10, so that leaves me 34 lbs to pack clothes, shoes AND presents for him and his parents.

Oh and Im flying Thomas Cook on the way there so unfortunately I can only take one carry on (cant do a purse AND a laptop). Any ideas?

Sep 01, 2010

Like you, I have found my system as well.. and like I hate unpacking, case in point, I been back from our summer vacation (3 days ago) and I have not unpack (no dirty clothes, since we did laundry before we left) but the suitcase in the middle of our bedroom is starting to talk to me "unpack me" "unpack me".

And the best thing ever? You know your travel shelf? Well I have a travel bag, that has everything in my bathroom duplicated... so I always have everything I need right there. When I come back, I check to make sure I don't need to replace (or top) anything and then in it goes inside the suitcase.

Next time.. Open suitcase, and out comes the toilette bag all ready and set to go.

Now if I can only bring myself to unpack the bag just as easily, we all be sent.

Sep 02, 2010

@Amanda, for your problem with only one carry on bag for the flight, generally speaking a carry on for a trans-Atlantic flight can be a bit bigger than for an domestic flight.

If I need to take my laptop, I usually take a large tote bag, like those reusable canvas shopping bags most places have now, put my laptop case and smaller purse inside it for check-in then once I'm on-board I stick the purse under the seat in front and the laptop on my tray table.

I've never once been stopped or asked to take a bag out. Plus I usually squash my scarf/pashmina into the top of the bag and hey presto, nobody knows I've really got 3 pieces of hand luggage all in one!
I hope that helps!

Sep 02, 2010

This was a great post, very informative and helpful. Chargers and cords in a ziploc bag: Brilliant Idea! I'm totally going to do that on my next trip.

Since my family lives in South America, I have to get on an airplane (with one or two and sometimes even three connection flights!)at least once a year. I've started to hate airports -especially MIA- but I've mastered the art of packing. And I agree with the above commenters who favor rolling. All your clothes arrive almost without a single wrinkle and once you've gained practice, it is even faster than folding. It also saves a lot of space which is particularly helpful if you're also packing presents for your whole family, like I do!

The only thing that I never get right is my traveling outfit. I always end up looking either too dressed-up or too informal. I'm going to take your advice on the gold ballet flats. Any suggestions on which brand/style is the most comfortable?

Sep 02, 2010

I love all of your tips Holly as well as all of the reader tips! Now I just need to figure out how to keep our daughter entertained on the airplane.

Sep 02, 2010

Vicki - Ive made an all in one bag for too - but I do like your hint to bag stuff seperatly.

This is my carry on allowance 43cm x 28cm x 23cm and 5kg in weight. I am horrible at judging that in my mind. I am ok to just throw my purse in my check in and just keep some stuff in my lap top bag (money, gum, lip gloss). Im more worried about the carry on weight. LOL as much as I hate packing I guess I will need to do a trial run to see how Im doing

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 02, 2010

Amanda -- buy some digital packing scales so you don't get hit with a horrible surprise (and a hefty fee!) at the airport. My friend Kristin gave me a set for my birthday and they've changed my life -- you can weigh your case before you leave for the airport and see how far over you are, then take things out accordingly.

Sep 02, 2010

@Amanda Also if you don't want to buy anything new, simply step on your regular scale, weigh yourself, then hold your suitcase in your arms (not off to the side, but wrap it in a bear hug) and subtract. It won't be exact, but it'll be within 1-2 pounds.

@Holly, I cannot believe the two ziploc thing. It is brilliant. I'd be smart and put "cheap" stuff in one and pricier stuff in the other. Eg, shaving cream/toothpaste in one, shampoo/conditioner/et al in the other.

Sep 02, 2010

Thanks for the tips. I guess its time I truly learn to pack light.

And I SWEAR this is my last post but Holly they were talking about this on the radio today and I had to share it with you

Sep 02, 2010

My best tip--which was reinforced after I had a kid--is that it's really okay to start thinking about packing (if not also ACTUALLY packing) days and days and days before a trip. I start by making a gigantic master list and then dump things into my suitcase when I have a chance. This means that the night before the trip all I have to do is arrange and fold (or ROLL) everything and put it in place, and this puts my mind at ease because it gives me a chance to double-(triple-)check everything at the last minute.

Sep 03, 2010

I *always* leave a note for myself - written in bold, black marker in big letters - especially when I'm taking very early morning flights and I know my brain will not be fully functioning until I've been in the air for 40 minutes.

I include things I know I'll forget - phone charger, hair brush - plus a time map for myself, working backwards from the time my plane leaves: departs at 6:30am; get to airport 5am; call cab at 3:45am, etc. Again, I just cannot trust my brain to work in the wee morning hours.

Sep 03, 2010

Also, I put cognac in a 3oz travel bottle and bring it with me on the plane. I'm not sure if this is allowed technically? But no one has ever stopped me.

Sep 03, 2010

I travel a lot and do a lot of these things. (although am stealing the travel shelf idea) I realize most of you don't have kids, but here's a tip for traveling with kids. You pack them full outfits more than you do yourself, cuz they are dirtier than you are. Pack each outfit in a huge ziploc bag and just toss bags in suitcase. I got this from someone else, but it is brilliant. Helps so much with organization on trip.

Sep 04, 2010

For a change of pace, I have an unpacking tip. Bring at least two plastic garbage bags with you on a trip, (kitchen size or grocery sized) and each night, put dirty whites in one bag and colors in the other. When you're packing to go home, sort the rest of the clothes you didn't wear into the bags, too (because seriously, aren't they all wrinkly and sandy and they are sharing suitcase space with dirty clothes.) When we get home, the first thing we do is roll suitcases right to the washing machine, take out a garbage bag and start a load of clothes. Continue laundry until you're done and suitcases are empty and ready to go to the attic. You unpack the suitcases at the same time as replenishing your closet with clean clothes.

Sep 05, 2010

Thanks for the great travel tips. Last time I traveled I didn't pack conditioner - thinking I'd just use the hotel stuff. Well, I was one sad, frizzy-haired lady when I saw that the hotel didn't provide any conditioner. Lesson learned, always bring your own supplies.

Sep 09, 2010

I have two sets of travel toiletries: one is the stuff in tiny bottles that I can cram into my carry-on bag (I hate having to check a bag unless I really have to do it), the other is in what my husband so creatively has named The Box.

The Box contains a combination of travel sized and full sized stuff, as well as this sturdy canvas shower tote (fabric so you can smush it but firm enough that it can stand up on its own) with tons of pockets.

The Box is a USPS priority flat rate box which is mailed ahead of time to places like my parents' house before I visit for Christmas (hey, if I'm going to travel somewhere longer than five days, I need a lot more than three ounces of lotion).

When I arrive, The Box is waiting for me, full of full sized lotion bottles. I take out the shower tote (I think it was $10 at Linens & Things/Bed, Bath, & Beyond), fill all the pockets with my various toiletries, and then carry it to the bathroom, just like summer camp or living in the freshman dorm.

The other beauty of the box is that because it's a flat rate, I know exactly how much it will cost so I buy two stamps and put one inside the box so that when I am ready to mail it home, I just slap the postage on and don't have to stand in line.

I leave everything in The Box between trips so that I don't have to repack or refill (or, even worse, have to run to the store the night before my flight to get more of anything).

Sep 09, 2010

I'm a ziploc bag junkie too. I think I caught it from my mom who puts EVERYTHING in ziploc bags. My freshman year in college, I ended up taking French again so I asked my boyfriend to stop by my parents' house to pick up my old French dictionary. When he arrived, he looked vaguely offended as he handed me the book sealed in a ziploc bag. He asked if my mom thought his car was so dirty that she had to put my dictionary in a containment unit.

I put all my chargers in a gallon ziploc bag too! I also bought this awesome roll of self sticking velcro so that I can roll/fold the cords to keep them from getting all tangled up. Free twist ties from the produce department of the grocery store work too, but I always end up twisting them down to the metal and stabbing myself so velcro is better for me.

Even when I mail The Box, I have separate ziploc bags for everything just in case something leaks. It only takes one time for a bottle of toner or shampoo to explode all over the inside of your luggage!

Another good substitute for those shoe bags are the free cloth gift bags that Sephora sends with online orders.

I also pack a large Lululemon shopping bag (folds up flat but has a flat bottom so it stands up on its own) and I stash my laundry in there so it's separate from the clean clothes.

Making lists always helps me. I have a regular packing list that I saved on my computer and then I usually make a last minute oh crap list of things not to forget in the morning (usually my pajamas, my hairbrush/comb, and the water bottle I have in the fridge).

If my flight is longer than an hour, I bring my insulated Klean Kanteen bottle. Once I get through security, I find a restaurant with fountain drinks and ask if I can buy a cup of ice. They are usually nice and let me take ice for free. Then I add water and it stays cool for the rest of the trip.

Travel candles are awesome. You never know when your hotel room is going to smell like smoke, B.O., or something else. Blech!

Sep 09, 2010

I feel like such a nerd to admit that I LOVE packing, and I love unpacking even more. Put everything away! In its place! That's like your hotel room bedroom, Holly!

Sep 10, 2010

another frequent traveler here (two successive trips to the opposite coast coming up in the next two weeks when I only returned on Monday!). I use several of your tips and have a couple of my own I've picked up. First, I highly endorse the travel outfit. Mine is very similar to yours but adjusted a bit since I often have to leave straight from the office in business casual attire. But the big slouchy cardigan is a definite must as are a versital pair of flats. My current faves are patent leather cream, they also go with everything. As for new ideas, I stole this one from someone else and I find it genius - use contact lens cases for liquids you only need a little bit of - such as moisterizer and liquid foundation (what I keep in mine). I always have loads of contact cases around so this is a really easy one and I use a brand for my moisterizer stuff that is different from the brand/color I use for my actual contacts. In terms of chargers, I purchase an extra one and keep it permanently in my suitcase so it is never left behind. Finally, while it is a bit bulkier, I have several of those eagle creek organizer cube things. I don't use them all the time but when I pack running clothes I use one where I can toss in my shoes/clothes/knee brace, everything I need for running and then all those sweaty clothes can be tossed right back in there without contaminating everything else.
The one thing I'm working on - especially for big vacationy type trips - is to let go of the compulsion to pack PERFECTLY! I need to learn to be satisfied with being over or under packed and not stress over finding the absolute perfect balance! because really, that is the only reason I can't pack for anything in 10 minutes.

cheap bags
Sep 15, 2010

Thanks for the great travel tips. Last time I traveled I didn't pack conditioner - thinking I'd just use the hotel stuff.

Dec 27, 2010

I just wanted you to know that I took your advice and bought a pair of Me Too gold flats. They changed my life. Thank you.

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