First up, I have to let you all know that the "3 dress" packing experiment worked out beautifully! I felt comfortable and well-dress everywhere we went... I'm going to explore the idea of packing this way quite a bit more in a separate blog post or two, but if you're interested in giving it a whirl, I have 2 important pieces of advice.
- Check the weather maniacally up until the very last minute before you leave, and be certain that you're packing the most appropriate dresses possible for the weather you anticipate. Dresses make layering a little bit harder, and nothing could be more miserable than the wrong dress on a beautiful day. (think of wearing a beautiful sweater dress on a day when the temperature gets up in to the 70's...)
- Footwear! You have to be absolutely, positively sure that your shoes are going to be good for whatever your plans may be. If you don't have a ton of walking on your agenda, you have more latitude. But if you're planning on a lot of sight-seeing on foot, your choice of shoes might be the difference between a great day and a day that gets cut short because of pain and blisters.
But I have some other ideas, as always, about how I keep my suitcase light and powerful...
First up, consolidating toiletries. Personal care products can be the bulkiest and heaviest things that I pack, and they're certainly the items most likely to do hideous damage if they open and spill! So I whittle down to the absolute bare minimum, and have recently managed to get all of my liquids quite neatly into this gizmo:
|Clear 1-quart bag - Flight 001|
It's quite sturdy, and shows no signs of tearing, as so many of these kinds of bags do...
But HOW to whittle down? I use the "toiletries test-drive", which works like this:
- Pack your toiletries bag as normal for the next trip you're taking (or dreaming of taking!)
- Starting on an easy to remember date (I like to start on the 1st of the month), start using ONLY the items in your toiletries bag. Absolutely, positively, no cheating! But definitely make note of the things that you forgot, or that you wish you had included.
- At the end of your designated time, take a look at how much STUFF is still in your bag. That stuff is the extra bulk and weight that you would have been carrying on the upcoming (or mythical) trip in question!
- It does make sense to have just a drop of two of items remaining - overnight delays DO happen...
- Re-do your bag, with your newfound knowledge firmly in hand, and test-drive again.
- Repeat until you're delighted with your results!
|samples - Paula's Choice|
Of course, I don't pack a ton of clothing, but I try to pack the things that do go on my trips in the most efficient way possible. Packing cubes are the most essential items in my suitcase "toolkit." I bought a set from Eagle Creek 18 years ago, and they show no signs of wear...
What I like most about these is that I can fold clothes with meticulous care, place them into these cubes, and then SQUASH the daylights out of them, without any creasing or wrinkling! You can get 5 or 6 pieces into one of these cubes easily - and they take up noticeable less space than they would if left floating around you suitcase untethered...
|packing cubes - Eagle Creek|
The only thing that I would do differently? My cubes are black, and I wish that I had purchased a bright color. Having things like this in bright colors makes it easier to spot them on that last day when you're re-packing...
I'm also using a cube set from Standard Luggage, for my "small" garments. (ahem...) These were given to me by the guys at Standard, but I think I would have purchased them anyway. They don't zip all the way around, like a clam shell, the way the Eagle Creek cubes do, but they attach to each other with Velcro, and can be hung in a wardrobe like this:
|hanging cubes - Standard Luggage|
This is pretty genius: top cube for B's "smalls,", middle cubes for mine, and bottom cube for the bits that need to be laundered! And they're all hanging in the closet, out of the way...
Back to the shoe question; in addition to finding comfortable shoes, I've begun to try to find shoes that will pack down into minimal space, with minimal weight.
The top pair is very similar to one of my 2 pair of flats from Thierry Rabotin. Yes, they're madly expensive, but I've had both pair of mine resoled repeatedly, and thus I'm at the point where I feel that I'm really getting my money's worth from them. But your experience many differ; you just have to try a variety of "comfort" shoes, (WHY are there shoes that AREN'T comfortable?) to find those that suit you best. I've also had great luck with Munro, so give them a look.
And even my athletic shoes pack down small! Nike makes shoes with an all-knit top, which can be crushed flat with no harm done to the shoes... very convenient, and super-comfortable. I even wore mine (which are all black) one day with a dress, in Paris, and fit right in!
|ballet flats - Thierry Rabotin; athletic shoes - Nike|
Because I don't pack a lot of clothing, I DO like to take quite a bit of jewelry with me, as well as a few headbands. (growing out my hair is an interesting challenge!). Years ago, I bought a padded fabric bag from a dealer on Etsy, and it's been perfect. In addition to carrying all of my little pretty bits, it can substitute as a clutch bag, if I'm every so inclined!
Just make sure, on Etsy, that you're buying things from a real crafts person, and not from some thinly-veiled sweatshop. Etsy has dropped their standards for selling on their site to an abysmally low level, and it's a crying shame...
|bag - HoneyHiveFive|
Normally, I don't wear a lot of makeup - a gallon or 2 of sunscreen, and some lipstick, and I'm generally good to do. But I DO like to have a few things with me, in case the urge strikes to get all gussied up! And here's where the fun starts...
|makeup - the Everyday Ease group from Stowaway Cosmetics|
This is nice makeup, simply packaged in sizes that are actually SMALL ENOUGH TO USE BEFORE THEY EXPIRE! How wasteful is it to buy cosmetics that can't be finished before they're... uh... uh... so full of bacteria and general ickiness that they need to leave the premises, pronto?
And it's fun to be able to hold all of your makeup for the day in 1 hand! (or fit it all into the smallest of handbags...) Maybe my favorite benefit of all is that you can send your empty containers back to the company (on their dime), and get a discount on a future purchase. How civilized is that?
When the lovely women at Stowaway found out that I have so many Internet friends, they offered me the 4 items shown above as a gift for one of you! (It's a small company, and they're really very lovely - I've been corresponding directly with their President, which doesn't happen every day!)
So leave me a comment about packing, or anything else that you have to share, before Saturday morning April 30th, and I'll choose 1 of you (using my random number magic) to win this charming little assortment of prettiness. This offer is NOT limited to people in the United States; don't let the fact that there's an ocean between us keep you from jumping in and joining the conversation!