August 31, 2012

Screw checking a bag

There aren’t many things in life I truly hate.  They pretty much boil down to spiders, shopping for yogurt in Alabama, and checking a bag on an airplane.  I will over-analyze my packing strategy for days and send my blood pressure up to epic levels in order to keep from having to check a bag.  I’ve traveled for weeks at a time with nothing but a carry-on sized suitcase or backpack and a purse. Carrying a bunch of crap around is so, so, SO overrated.  

Now, given the fact that I’m a girl and I’m rather partial to things like funky shoes, jewelry, and my hair dryer, my packing list is probably a bit more involved than most dudes’ packing lists.  But I still manage to fit all I need into the overhead bin and under the seat in front of me.  Here’s my basic list for any trip:

  • 3 outfits for regular daily wear.  That’s it.  Three shirts and three pairs of pants or shorts/skirts/kilts/whatever is plenty.  Trust me.

  • 2-3 pairs.  And 3 pairs is pushing it. I have huge feet, and my shoes take up a lot of room.

  • 1 rain jacket.  If you don’t bring this, you know it will rain - a lot.  Even if you’re going to the Atacama Desert, it will rain.
  • One sweatshirt/long-sleeve t-shirt/coat/parka

  • 1 scarf.  It will dress up your dirty hiking pants in a pinch.  Seriously.  Also, it can keep your neck warm.  Who knew?
  • 1-2 pairs of cheap earrings.  I lose single earrings at the rate that most dryers eat single socks.  If I lose cheap jewelry, I won’t throw an epic fit.
  • 1-2 cheap necklaces.  I don’t lose necklaces nearly as easily as earrings, but I still don’t want to lose or break something valuable.  If I leave my $6 necklace from Forever 21 in a hostel bathroom, I’ll be ok.

  • Laundry detergent, and plenty of it.  It takes up much less room than another pair of jeans.  Also, even if you’re going somewhere for just a couple of days, it will come in handy when you spill something on your clothes.  Because if you don’t pack the detergent, you know this will totally happen.
  • A swimsuit.  You never know when you’ll come across a hot tub. 
  • My funky sunscreen - because I’m white (I recommend wearing sunglasses if you look directly at me) and I’m allergic to most over-the-counter sunscreens.  Let me tell you, that combination is a whole barrel of fun.

That’s it.  Of course, filling out the rest of the list depends on the destination and the climate.  But the list above is where I start, and I stick to it.  No matter where I’m going - a quick weekend trip or a multi-week backpacking trip across another continent - using this basic list keeps me from having to pay stupid airline baggage fees, worrying about whether or not my bags will actually make it to my destination, and waiting for my bags for ages at baggage claim.  

If you want to go pseudo-minimalist on your next trip, I hope the information above is helpful.  Happy packing!


  1. so my version of "Carrying a bunch of crap around is so, so, SO overrated" = CHECK ALL OF THE THINGS.

    there is nothing I hate more than getting to the airport 2 hours early and having to drag a bag around with me through security, to the gate, to the bathroom, to Hudson News, back to the gate... CHECK ALL OF THE THINGS. even if the things are carry-on sized.

  2. Haha! Girl, in my (previous) line of work, I saw how those checked bags get treated - especially when they're lost. It's not pretty. I'll happily make an effort to carry as little as possible and lug it all around myself. CARRY ALL OF THE THINGS!!

  3. I can't do the checked bag only thing, not with required toiletries. Even if I'm traveling light (like when I went to Thailand), I still need shampoo, conditioner, face soap, face moisturizer, deodorant, sunscreen, and lotion. All of those things do not fit into the required ziplock bag and when I'm traveling for more than just a few days, I need more than that tiny bottle of lotion (seriously, I really use a lot of lotion, dry skin). So essentially no matter where I'm going I'm checking a bag. I don't mind though, for me having my preferred toiletries with me -- as opposed to searching for some foreign equivalent -- is worth the headache of checking luggage. =)