Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vacation Packing Part Two: Choosing a Bag, Organizing Yourself, and Rolling Things Up

In my previous post Vacation Packing Part One: Figuring Out What to Pack I talked about how to figure out what you need to take along on your trip and suggested ditching your roller bag for a bag that you carry. This post will cover choosing a travel bag/suitcase, pre-trip organization, and rolling your clothes to maximize space in  your bag as well as to organize your outfits.

Choosing a bag can be complicated.

I am a big believer in being able to schlep around your own bags. If you need help, you've probably got too much stuff and/or too much suitcase.

Have you ever tried to:
• drag a roller bag up several flights of stairs in an old hotel or bed and breakfast where there's no elevator,
• drag a roller bag down several flights of stairs to a hotel on the side of a cliff with a stunning view such as in Santorini,
• drag a roller bag or along 5 blocks of cobblestones in an old European city or village such as London or York,
• fit a roller bag into an overhead bin that was already full because everyone who boarded ahead of you took up all the space?

Believe me, a shoulder bag or backpack makes life simpler and easier. A bag with no wheel frame can weigh less, be easier to carry, and will often fit in the small slender spaces left between the roller bags in the overhead bin.

 When choosing a bag, make sure the one you choose will fit in the official airport carry-on bag sizer when fully packed.
• Recently it seems that they are being used to weed out the over-packers and those who like to bend the rules to suit themselves. Whoohoo!!!
• The general size rules have changed, so be sure and check for every flight and every airline you plan on using. Some are more strict than even the general rules and you may have to check your bag even if you're a light packer. So be prepared for that ahead of time.
• Just because you've been okay using the same bag for years, or had no trouble with it getting to your destination doesn't mean they will let it pass the next time. I've seen people have to check bags they'd been using as carry on for years because airline staff decided to check the actual size of the bag with the bag sizer.

Some of the bags out there that don't have wheels are still rather heavy. So, if you have to purchase a new bag, take a travel scale with you to weigh the prospects. Some bags are built so robust that they can weigh 2 or more pounds and that takes away from how much weight you can pack into it. Personally, I can deal with a total of about 12 pounds on my shoulder and up to 17 pounds if its a backpack. You might be able to handle more with no problems, but figure that out before you buy your bag.

Take your time to find one that is well made and as light as you can get it without compromising on quality. If you travel a lot or are going on long trips where you move constantly from place to place you'll need a more robust bag than if you are taking short trips and remain unpacked the whole time you're there.

Lots of pockets can help organize, but sometimes they just get in the way. So think carefully about what you need organized and what you don't. The main compartment probably doesn't need separations. You might want an outside pocket for your 3-1-1 bag, your electronics, your reading material, your glasses...anything you need to access quickly and easily while traveling.

Watch out for bags that get wider at the base when fully packed. That could disqualify the bag from being a carry on if the airline decides to get picky.

Organizing yourself before the trip.

A couple of things that I do in anticipation of a trip is a to do list, a packing list, and a gathering box.
The to do list is to help you remember to do those things that a successful trip depends on. For example: purchase something you need and don't have, stop the mail, arrange a pet sitter... It seems obvious, but you'd really be upset if you found yourself frantically calling a friend from the airport and asking them to break into your house in order to feed the cat.
The packing list is to help you plan ahead so you only take what you need. If you wait and just start to plan your packing when you are packing the night before you'll take too much or discover you're missing something important. I have found a list app for my iPhone called Paperless. It lets you create check lists that you can keep. I have created one for international travel and one for domestic travel where I have entered all the things I have taken on those kinds of trips in the past. When I'm ready to prepare for a new trip, I can go through and select the things I'll need on my upcoming trip. As I learn more about my destination and plans I can refine it and so, when I'm packing the night before my flight, I just pull up my list and check things off as I go. It's made creating a packing list so much easier since I'm not starting from scratch every time.
The gathering box is for all the guidebooks, printed reservation information, special travel items, passports, visas, plug adaptors...that stuff that needs a place to live until your trip. I've found I do best with a box and it lives someplace easily accessed. It's usually a shoe box or a 9"x12"x5" box with a lid.

Rolling things up to organize your clothes and maximize space.

Organize your clothes by rolling up everything for one day together. I have found that when done neatly, this method can minimize wrinkles.

1. Lay out a shirt with everything alined properly. Fold it neatly in half longways so there are no wrinkles or bunching. Fold over the sleeves in straight line with the edge of the shirt. If you have long sleeves, fold them over one more time.

2. Lay out your underthings and socks neatly and flat in the upper half near the sleeves. Starting at the neck, roll up your shirt around your underthings making sure everything stays neat and flat. Now you have everything you need for one day, except your bottoms, in one neat package. An option is to place the added things near the middle of the shirt, fold the shirt in half and roll from the fold.

3. Roll pants/skirts up separately. You'll have fewer of these and will probably wear them with more than one shirt.

• Don't forget that you can put things inside your shoes. Jewelry, converters, cords, and any other small loose thing.
• Less is more. Unless you're working while you're traveling you probably don't need a computer. I usually don't even take a tablet since it's extra weight . I'm a voracious reader, but when I'm on vacation I try to spend more time talking to people and experiencing things rather than reading. For those times I want to read I take a paper back. It weighs less and when I'm done I can leave it wherever I'm at. If I need another one it's usually very easy to purchase something locally.

In the next post I'll talk more specifically about how and what I pack for my trips. Although I'll focus on what I pack as a woman, I'll add any tips I can for the men as well since my husband has a few to share.