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Un(Solved) Mysteries: What to Pack

Pack smarter for a stress free trip!
"What should I pack?"

I get asked this question all the time, and I mean ALL the time. It's a valid question, there is so much to consider when packing for vacation. How long are you gone? What's the weather like? What type of activities will you be doing? How many bags are you allowed to bring? Or better yet, how many bags are you willing to pay for?

Packing for a trip is truly an art. And for someone like me who was terrible at Tetris as a kid, packing was something that used to cause me so much stress. "How will I ever fit everything?",I would yell at my open suitcase. But luckily with time, and mostly from learning the hard way, I slowly mastered this art and fortunately for you, i'm here to share what I've learned!

1. If it fits (in a carry-on), it ships

I can already sense some of you panicking. "A carry-on?! It's impossible to pack for 10 days in a carry on bag!" I used to think so too, but hear me out. This is one that I had to learn the hard way.

I used to bring the biggest bag I could find, pack it full, and then struggle for 10 days to drag it around whatever country I was in. Frequently this meant dragging it up and back down multiple flights of stairs since often times the hotels didn't have an elevator. In my experience, the concept of not having an elevator is a foreign one to most travelers, especially those of us from the United States where most everything is "new" by European standards and built to accommodate elevators. I'm always traveling on a budget, as are most of my clients, and usually that means we're not staying in 4 star hotels which basically ensures that you'll have to navigate some stairs. If you have a carry-on its much easier to do this.

There is also the added benefit of not risking your luggage getting lost. There is nothing worse then traveling to a foreign country only to land and discover your bag is nowhere to be found. If you've got a carry-on you don't have to worry about this. Sure, you may be required to check your carry-on at the gate if the plane is too full BUT in this case the bag is already AT the plane and there is a good chance you'll be reunited at baggage claim.

And finally, a carry-on will save you money. On most big airlines (or at least international flights) a carry-on bag is still included in the price of your ticket. Even if you are required to pay for your carry-on bag, it'll be cheaper then a checked bag.

2. Mix and match and relax

Alright so you've committed to the carry-on. Now how do you pack enough clothes for your trip? This is honestly the hardest part of packing and it's one that everyone needs to work out for themselves. It's way easier for the guys to figure this out so ladies, this section is for you.

Mix and match. Once you've determined the weather and the type of clothes you'll need, the next step is figuring out what you have that can be worn together. The goal here is to create as many interchangeable outfits as possible with as few items of clothing as possible. Some people are better at this than others-I am not one of them. It took me a long time to figure out how this worked. I read tons of articles, blogs, spent hours on Pinterest, talked to other experienced travelers and finally, with some trial and error, worked it out. Some of the best advice I was given was from an experienced traveler and successful travel agent who told me she picks a color pallet for each trip and builds off that. It seemed like such a simple, obvious idea but it really changed the way I approached my choices!

Once you've got your color pallet chosen,you'll want to focus on clothing that is made of material that isn't bulky. Mainly what I mean is that you don't need to bring every pair of jeans you own. I try to bring 1 pair, MAYBE 2 but no more then that. If you're worried about them stretching out too much, I recommend not wearing them on the plane to give yourself an extra day of "good fit". If you're going to a climate that is cold you'll have a harder time fitting everything in a carry-on but if you utilize space bags you'll be shocked how much you can fit when the air is squeezed out. If you're going to a warm climate, my best advice is learn to love the maxi dress. I'm not usually a big dress person but learning to embrace the maxi dress literally changed my travel life. You can easily fit multiple maxi dresses (or skirts) in a carry-on and changing out a jacket, scarf, or cardigan can give you tons of different looks.

Don't worry about lighter fabrics being prone to wrinkles! Most hotels will have an iron but if your doesn't, fear not. I recommend hanging your clothes in the bathroom while you shower to let the steam work out the wrinkles and also packing a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser...seriously, the stuff is literal magic in a bottle AND it comes in travel size.

Finally, try to limit the number of shoes you bring. I know every woman loves her shoes but they can really take up a lot of space. Aim for bringing no more then 2 pairs and always wear your bulkiest pair on the plane if possible.

3. The "Personal Item"

This is my favorite trick for eeking out additional space. The "free" personal item is perhaps the most underappreciated gift in all of travel. Most women consider their personal item their purse but if you check your airlines size requirement for this item, you will usually find it allows for something much bigger then the average purse. I recommend using a smaller purse for traveling anyways (for anti-theft/pick pocketing reasons mainly but also to save space)so I always bring a larger personal item and pack my empty purse in my carry-on. Using a backpack, even a small one, or a tote bag as your personal item will provide you with tons of extra space. If you're traveling with a group, check ahead of time to see if everyone intends to bring a personal item...if not, you may be able to get away with two items if your friend, or husband, or relative agrees to carry yours on as theirs.

I hope that helps take some of the stress out of packing for your next trip! And remember, if you're a Pathfinder Travel Planning client you will get a complete "What To Pack" list with suggestions built around the itinerary and exact climate prior to your trip!


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