Is this you packing before a trip? Here are some simple tips on how to pack light.
Before I left home on my long road trip my sister, Pat, and I spent an evening reminiscing about family vacations when we were kids. My parents loved to travel and even 9 children did not slow them down. (Yes, I come from a large Catholic family.) From my parents, I got a life-long love of travel and some valuable packing skills.
It must have taken extraordinary planning on my parents’ part to move a small army like that every vacation. I don’t ever really remember a time from any of those trips that we needed something that didn’t get packed. I also don’t remember exactly how I learned to pack, but I do remember family vacations as a child.
In the summer my parents would load all of us into an old, blue VW bus and off we would go a road trip from California to Minnesota to visit our grandparents. Everything from diapers and mayonnaise jars filled with spending money, to kids and all the luggage needed for 11 people for 2 weeks at Gramma’s house would fit in that VW. It wasn’t always the grandparents’ house. Sometimes it was camping trips to national parks, the mountains or the ocean as well as countless trips to Disneyland even out of the country to Mexico and Canada. And it wasn’t always a VW bus. We traveled by train and plane and over the years, lots of other vehicles of various sizes. Thru it all there are a few constants when it comes to packing skills.
Here are a few of the things I learned from my parents on the art of packing light:
Do the Laundry and Pack Early
Packing early also means doing the laundry early. Make smart choices early on about what clothes to bring and make sure everything is clean and ready to go in advance. This will allow you to make smart choices on your wardrobe—like pairing different shirts with just a couple of pairs of jeans. The later you wait to pack will raise the chances of over-packing. Packing at the last minute means you’ll throw a bunch of clothes in your suitcase and end up with more than you need.
“You don’t need this! Or this! Or that!” This needs to become your mantra. Repeat it to yourself constantly as you pack. The fear of the unknown makes us want to surround ourselves with familiar items but the ‘what if’ game will get you in trouble. On the off-chance, you find you do need it, more than likely you can buy or borrow it.
Getting your packing out of the way early reduces stress. You’ll have time to grab a new toothbrush or new travel-sized deodorant if needed. You’ll also have time to check medicines to be sure you have enough for the trip and get refills if necessary.
Live by the Law of Threes
Three pairs of socks. Three pairs of underwear. Three shirts. Wear one, wash one, and dry one. You can get more miles out of legwear, so two pairs of pants and one a pair of shorts or a skirt. Choose light, flowing, quick-dry cotton-poly blends in matching colors that handle wrinkles well.
Repeat this to yourself constantly as you pack. The unknown of traveling makes us want to surround ourselves with familiar items but the ‘what if’ game will get you in trouble. On the off-chance you find you do need it, you can buy or borrow it.
Laundry facilities are one of my favorite parts about staying in timeshares or with family and most family-friendly hotels have laundry facilities, too. So you’re golden. You can wash and wear just a handful of outfits for the duration of even very long trips.
One of my mother’s tricks for days in the car with a big family was the wear-and-throw technique. She would pack all of our oldest underwear and socks. Each day we would get a clean pair and the old pair would go in the trash. This way we weren’t traveling with stinky laundry for 11 people for days on a cross-country road trip. When we reached our destination a quick shopping trip replaced the underwear with all new for the trip home.
My sister confessed to me she has a special place where she puts underwear, bras, and socks that are on their last legs. Those are the first things that get packed for her next vacation. One last use and then they are ready to toss out. (Which sister you ask? All of them.)
Roll with It
It really is the way you pack that makes the difference. Utilize your space smartly like stuffing things in your footwear and rolling your clothes. This frees up space and you will be able to get the same amount of things into a standard carry-on as in a checked bag.
My parents managed to shoe-horn 11 people and all their luggage into a VW bus for a 2-week vacation several summers running. That was no small feat.
How do you pack? Do you bring everything but the kitchen sink? Or are you a consolidated traveler?