Pack Light and Travel Happy

05/07/2010

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No matter where I go, or however long I go for, I can usually fit all my things in either

1)  a carry-on with a purse and/or a small back pack; or

2) a 60L pack

I like to bring the carry-on with me for ease of accessing my things, especially if I am staying at the same location (i.e., hotel or hostel) for a few days.  Even if all my stuff could fit in a back pack, I would hate to pack and re-pack all my things.  I find that my stuff magically expands throughout my trip, and they never fit as snuggly as when I first packed them.

If I will be back packing or moving around constantly, I prefer to bring my 60L pack for ease of mobility.  I often feel like a snail (with my home on my back, literally).  I did this when I was traveling around Germany and Egypt.  It was a bit of a pain to pack and re-pack so much, but it would have been a bigger pain wheeling around a carry on through the desert, or the streets of Cairo.

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This is what my carry-on usually consist of (now):

Clothes:

  • 2 – 3 tops with 3 – 4 tank tops to mix and match
  • 1 – 2 cardigans (usually I wear one on the plane)
  • 1 – 2 bathing suits (usually a one piece and two piece)
  • 1 scarf/wrap
  • 1 dress (or other fancy outfit )
  • 1 pair of jeans (usually I wear this onto the plane)
  • 1 belt (usually I wear this with jeans onto the plane)
  • 1 pair of leggings and/or tights
  • 1 pair of shorts and/or skirt
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 3 – 4 pairs of socks
  • 7 pairs of panties and 3 bras
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair of sunglasses

Shoes:

  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of sneakers (usually I wear this on the plane)
  • 1 pair of quasi dressy shoes (sandals or heels)

I have these Clarks Artisans sandals in black and they are very comfy.  I can walk all day in them (8 to 10km) on the cobblestone streets of Paris and still be comfy 🙂

Toiletries:

  • quick dry, travel towel
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • sunscreen
  • moisturizer
  • lip balm
  • acne medications
  • contact lens and solution
  • make up remover
  • cleanser
  • tooth brush and tooth paste
  • make up bag: primer, powder, blush, eye shadow and eye liner

Even though I  know most places carry shampoo and conditioner, I am a little picky when it comes to this, so I pack my own in 50mL containers and sealed in a ziploc bag.  I don’t really care about soap, so I just use whatever is there, or buy something there.

Technology:

  • cellphone and charger
  • digital camera, charger and extra memory card(s)
  • flashlight
  • plug converter adapter thingy (if required)

That’s my camera.  My trusty little Canon point-and-shoot.  I love how I can just slip it in my pocket and hit the road.  It also takes pretty decent pictures 🙂

Identification:

  • passport
  • driver’s licence
  • VISA card
  • debit card
  • itinerary and boarding info
  • some cash

I usually keep this stuff on me at all times in a waist wallet that I stuff in my pants.

Miscellaneous:

  • a reading book (usually one is enough)
  • the travel book for our destination and sometimes a phrase book
  • a moleskin notebook for my thoughts
  • a few plastic bags/ziploc bags

This wasn’t always the case

I admit, I was not always a light packer.  In fact, when I first started traveling, I was a very heavy packer.  Take my exchange term to Singapore, for example.  I packed 2 large checked baggage (we’re talking 1970’s heavy luggage that parents brought from Hong Kong to Canada), 1 carry-on and a back pack.  I was staying for four months.  Yikes.

The taxi cab driver asked me if I was moving to the country.  When I explained I was here for school for only four months, he exclaimed, “What is such a little girl like you need with four big bags?!”

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He was right.  I brought way too much crap.

Things that I should have known not to bring:

  • my wool winter jacket
  • three pairs of jeans
  • too many sweaters
  • too many shoes
  • too many clothes in general
  • shampoo and toiletries
  • my old textbooks and notes

Someone once told me to bring half of what I pack and twice the amount I budget.  Although not ideal, this piece of advice was pretty close to the truth, sometimes.

Why I like to pack less

I like to go to a new place and enjoy it.  I like to soak in the culture and pretend to be one of the locals.  I want to eat where the locals eat.  I want to enjoy the city the way a local does.  I want to learn the nooks and crannies of a new place.

Even though I like seeing sites, mostly I enjoy walking around the city.  I like taking public transportations as opposed to hailing cabs.  I like reading in local parks and enjoying street food.  I enjoy people watching and seeing how they interact.  I enjoy a day out on the beach, eating local foods from the markets.

When BF and I were in Paris, we would buy brie and fresh baguette and sit along the Siene river watching all the “tourists” in their big boats, as we dozed between reading breaks.  It was so blissful.  After we got tired of sitting, we’d walk to Notre Dame or the Arc de Triumph or catch the subway to Sacre Coeur.  We’d walk for probably 8 to 10 km a day, sometimes 🙂

We could just pick up our stuff, get on the subway and go to the airport.  It’s a lot easier traveling and moving around with less stuff.

What I am adding to my list of stuff to bring:

Even though I have stayed in countless hostels and hotels that were not quite up to par in terms of cleanliness (I was a student! 🙂 ), I have never encountered the wrath of bed bugs — until Paris.

BF and I were bitten badly – all along one side of each our bodies!  It wasn’t even at a sketchy hotel (trust me, I’ve stayed in some sketchy places!).  It was awful, and I am just so glad that I didn’t bring it back home with me to Canada.

How do you like to pack?  What are your pointers on packing lightly or traveling happily :)?  Did I miss anything?

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15 Responses to “Pack Light and Travel Happy”

  1. Miss Guimba Says:

    I didn’t even know about traveling light until I read minimalism blogs. Now I wonder why I didn’t even think of traveling without a suitcase. It would have made things easier for me to move around especially since I’m so tiny. I’ll be traveling in July and it’s the first time I’m not going to check in any luggage, so this post’s helpful. Eeww on the bed bugs!

  2. buttonjar Says:

    I’m still working on travelling lightly. I think I get all of these romantic images of jetting around in different outfits and then end up taking waaayyy too many things (clothes and shoes especially). I’ll have a look at your list next time – maybe it’ll help narrow things down!

  3. Jeff Says:

    I have just become aware of your blog and mention of our product. I am very proud of the quality of Allersac and nothing makes me happier than seeing seasoned travelers using it. I have been a minimalist packer for as long as I have been traveling. Unfortunately my better half and offspring are the opposite, so arguments ensue at family packing time. The one tip I can offer for families that travel together is to consolidate commonly used products and items like hair products, cosmetics and gadgets like ipods and phones.


  4. @Miss Guimba:
    I never thought about travelling light before I realized that I didn’t need most of my stuff/crap :). I’m also fairly tiny, and lugging around luggage that’s the size of me is no fun!

    I also prefer not to check bags just in case they get lost, though it hasn’t happened to me, yet.

    @Buttonjar:
    It is quite romantic to travel, and even when I travel, I still want to wear a bit of make-up and look put together :). I still bring too many things but it’s a work in progress.

    @Jeff:
    Great point! When I travel with friends and family, we try to consolidate on common items, as well. Little things like charger, moisturizers, contact lens solutions, etc, add up, and take up more room than we think 🙂

  5. maloyo Says:

    For some reason, bed bugs seem to be a growing problem, especially in cities that draw a lot of tourists.

    Here is something to add to your carry on: a tiny flashlight. When you get to your room, drop your bag in the bathtub, then strip the bed and use the flashlight to peer between the end of the mattress and headboard, behind the headboard, in the crevices where the top and bottom of the mattress join the sides. Really look around. Yes, it’s a hassle, and you have to remake the bed. But it’s the only way to be certain no bugs are lurking. Probably better than being bitten, or worse, bringing bed bugs home. They are apparently difficult and expensive to get rid of.

    Really enjoy your blog!
    maloyo


    • Thanks for stopping by, Maloyo.

      I usually do carry a flashlight, but I haven’t been looking for bedbugs, ever. I will definitely take a look next time I’m out.

      I also heard horror stories of bed bugs being brought home. One friend told me that her roommate ended up having to toss her mattress and even her couch.

  6. Jeff Says:

    At the risk of exhibiting the blog equivalent of verbal diarrhea,here goes.
    As a health hazard, bed bugs are only dangerous to people who are allergic to their bites, and only because of the infections which can come with the scratching associated with the extreme itching accompanied by the swelling. As far as science knows, bed bugs do not pass on diseases, a least that we know of. Financially bed bugs are a catastrophe as they are very hard to eradicate costing thousands in most cases.The primary vector for transportation of bed bugs is travel, you go to a hotel, you come back with bed bugs. Bed bugs are not a function of hygiene so it doesn’t matter if you stay at a 2,3,4 or 5 star hotel, they are all susceptible.
    With that said, as a traveler, parent, and Owner of Allersac, I can tell you that bed bugs are a pain and a nuisance but are preventable, it’s scabies that scare the sh*t out of me because you can’t check for them.
    Our blog has lots of great info http://allersac.blogspot.com/ but Aspiring Minimalist feel free to edit out the link if it isn’t allowed. Nuff said, thanx


    • Thanks, Jeff.

      I never realized that traveling could be so dangerous until my brush with bed bugs. Yikes, that was an eye opener for me.

      I checked out your link, as well as the YouTube video. I can’t believe the practices of cleaning in hotels that I thought were reputable (like the Sheraton). It just goes to show you that no matter where you are, you gotta look out for yourself first.


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  8. Jersey Mom Says:

    I like traveling light as well ~ especially a carry-on. But after kids… let’s just say we now bring 2 large luggage whenever we travel as a family of 4.


  9. Great post! I’ve always been a big believer of packing light. This mostly started out because I am weak and can’t really carry or lift anything (the dreaded overhead bins…eek) and now it’s become the norm for me. Most of my friends are members of overpackers anonymous and bring an outfit for every occasion and think it’s gross when I wear the same jeans 3x a week.

    I love those sandals and am really surprised they are from clarks. The last time I set foot in a Clarks a few months back there was nothing that caught my eye…mostly loafers and slip ons.


    • Thanks for stopping by, PAG.

      I was fairly surprised when I read the tag of those sandals. I found them at Soft Moc but they were full price $120, so I waited a bit and The Bayhad them for 30% off so I snatched them up (even though I preferred the brown coloured ones).

      It’s so hard to find chic and comfy shoes.


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