Monday, January 7, 2008

Packing light - I'm now a true believer.

Before I went away, all I read about was the importance of packing light. But until I went and saw how big of a pain it is to travel with a suitcase that is either too big and/or too heavy, I didn't REALLY get it. But now I definitely do, and I am a believer.

Let me preface this first by saying, if you're someone who flies and takes private transfers and taxis and rides first class on trains and all this stuff, or if you are the type of traveler who goes to one destination for a more extended period of time, it doesn't much matter. But if you move around a lot or take public transport or ride 2nd class in the trains, I think packing light is an absolute necessity. I managed for 6 weeks with a carry-on sized 21 inch rolling suitcase. I was lucky enough to be able to get a quality bag for free, but my bag was a little on the heavy side (about 12 pounds empty). The lighter the case you start with, the easier you can move around, even with a smaller bag. Of course, make sure you get a quality bag that can sustain flights and the like. I know for my next trip, I will invest in a lightweight rolling bag that I can hopefully keep for years - and many trips - to come. Other people like those big backpacks and other kinds of suitcases. Pick whichever you prefer. I happen to like the rolling ones and had no trouble on Europe's cobblestone streets.

I've talked to a few of my friends about this, and they are always like "no i can't live without all this stuff, blahblah, i'm can't possibly pack light" etc. - I mean of course, we are all different, we all have things that we consider "necessities." but come on. Anyone who says "I can't pack light" is just saying "I refuse to be without the luxuries I'm used to" or they're just being too lazy. For a few days or weeks, doesn't the convenience of packing light outweigh the things like lots of makeup or that flatiron or the really heavy bulky jeans? To me it does, to other people I guess it doesn't. And to me, nothing is worth risking my luggage potentially being stolen on a train (for example in Italy, if you have anything bigger than a carry-on sized suitcase, you have no choice but to put it at the end of the car on a rack that is unmanned.).

Anyway, here are some things I did/used to aid in packing light:
  • Took clothes that were lightweight and pretty fast-drying (aka not much 100% cotton and NO JEANS), about a week's worth, so that I could hand wash as necessary.
  • Took clothes that all went together for easy coordination
  • Repacked things in smaller containers to save space
  • Used Space Bags to compress clothes (also helped organization. Several other companies make similar products, too)
  • Made a Packing list to make sure I was not forgetting anything but also to make sure I wasn't bringing anything unnecessary
  • As I packed each thing, I asked myself if I would DEFINITELY use this. Anything that was just a mere maybe got left behind.
  • My suitcase was expandable, but before I left, I made sure I could close it comfortably WITHOUT expanding it. That way I knew I would have room for souvenirs and also since you can never pack as well when you're on the road as before you leave!
Here are a few resources to help in packing light:
Something else I feel I must comment on is this suggestion I see in a lot of discussions about taking clothes and throwing them out along the way. I have several reasons for opposing this. First, if it's something so nasty and gross that it needs to be thrown away, why would I wear it on vacation (or anywhere else for that matter!!?!)? I mean, if it's something I wouldn't want to wear at home, I wouldn't want to wear it away from home either. If it's just something I don't wear anymore, but is still in good enough condition, wouldn't it be better to give it away to someone who really needs it? I'm not a big tree-hugger, but that would just be wasteful to throw away perfectly good clothes. There are other ways to pack light - I did it and so do lots of other people every day - without being wasteful.

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