Unpacking was "brutal" says Hilton
Paris Hilton just brought 19 suitcases with her for a month’s visit to Spain – providing yet more proof that she and I are not twins separated at birth.
Not only don’t I own enough clothing to fill 19 bags, I wouldn’t want to drag that much stuff around with me, even if I had a fawning entourage to do the heavy lifting. I like to travel light. Whatever I bring has to fit in one small, carry-on suitcase that’s just 54 x 34 x 19 cm (21 x 13 x 7.5 inches). But – and here’s where it gets tricky – I also like to be comfortable and, if possible, appear reasonably presentable in a wide variety of social settings and weather conditions. So as you can imagine (and regular readers of this blog know well) I’ve spent a fair amount of time considering exactly what I should pack for three months on the road.
If you’re ever packing for this kind of lengthy journey, let me offer you four pieces of advice.
Step 1. Lower your fashion standards. I’m willing to be seen in the same dress a dozen times in a month, pair the same sweater with every outfit, and wear nothing but practical, neutral-colored shoes. Those frilly silver sandals and my new hot pink sneakers are sitting it out in the closet.
Step 2. Be prepared to do laundry constantly. I’ll wash clothing in the sink a few times a week and clean individual garments (my one dress, for instance) as often as needed. When practical, I’ll send out clothes to the hotel’s laundry service or use a laundromat.
Step 3. Take only stuff you’re prepared to part with. By journey’s end, chances are some garments will have been lost, stolen, left behind, ruined by the hotel laundress, given away in a moment of tipsy bonhomie, and/or self-destructed under the strain of constant use. You’ll be heartily sick of them all, so you won’t miss them a bit. (Another good reason I’m not taking my favorite filly silver sandals.)
Step 4. Buying anything means throwing something else away. And that’s OK. (See Step 3.)
So what am I bringing? I just finished my test pack, and I was thrilled (and a bit relieved) that everything fit, including my chunky Joya walking shoes. The total weight is 10.3 kilos (22.7 pounds). I put in all of the following, minus the slacks, shirt, vest, and shoes I’m wearing on the train. Here’s my packing list:
2 pairs of slacks
2 pairs of light pants for yoga, beach
2 tank tops
1 long-sleeved t-shirt
2 collared shirts (one long- and one short-sleeved)
Socks & underwear for 5 days
Rain jacket, reversible (leopard & black)
Waterproof flip-flops for shower, beach
Flats for dressier moments
Cheap, fake wedding ring
Health & Grooming
Toiletries & personal care items
Spare glasses, reading glasses
Hard drive for backups
I’m pleased I managed to squash it all in, and have already earmarked a few items to throw under the bus if I spot a must-have t-shirt or scarf along the way.
Of course, when it comes to paring down to essentials, I still have a long way to go. Ryanair, the economy airline we often take between Seville and London en route to California, recently announced it’s thinking about charging for carry-on bags. Rich rather likes the idea, as he has long dreamed of going on a trip with nothing but a toothbrush and a passport, and he thinks this could be his chance. But I’m holding firm on the need for a suitcase. Because once you start classifying luggage as a billable travel extra, it’s just a short step to charging air passengers for wearing clothing on board. And if there’s one thing I’m definitely opposed to, it’s nude flying. It just doesn’t bare thinking about.
8/2/2013 01:52:47 pm
Well done for getting all that in there! It must be a bit of a tardis inside. Why the fake wedding ring? Do you leave your own at home? I only ask because I assume it's because you don't want to lose it. Does Rich leave his? Personal questions, I hope it's OK. I'm just curious.
8/3/2013 05:23:50 am
I usually wear a fake wedding ring as it seems tactless (and a security risk) to wear diamonds in some parts of the world. However, I can't seem to find my fake ring, so I'm thinking of not wearing one this trip. Rich, who never wears jewelry, pointed out that at our age, people are unlikely to be too scandalized about whether or not we're married. If they are, it's all grist for the blog...
8/5/2013 12:31:37 am
I hadn't thought about diamonds, my wedding ring is a plain band. Good point. Also, wedding rings help fend off potential "admirers", I hear. Good luck on the trip, can't wait to read how it's going.
8/2/2013 02:04:54 pm
Bravo for getting it all into such a small bag. Now, imagine that's ALL you have, all the time. Now, you're us! :)
8/3/2013 05:28:44 am
I was thinking about you guys when I was packing and admiring your ability to live out of a suitcase all the time. I keep looking at stuff I'll be missing – my slippers, my comfy bed, etc. – and am comforted to know that (with any luck) it will all be waiting for me when we return. In the meantime, adventure awaits!
8/2/2013 03:09:50 pm
brava, i try each year and still bring too much....always bring throw away clothes, and if they are decent shall leave them in the charity box.
8/2/2013 03:13:49 pm
in May Virgin airlines weighed my carry on and measured it...think it was maybe 12 kilos? had to put stuff in my BIG purse
8/3/2013 05:40:40 am
Yes, I've heard about Jack Reacher's approach (and saw the movie). It's perfect for his lifestyle (it's so hard getting out all those bloodstains anyway) but for me, dressing exclusively in disposable clothes from big box chain stores might get old after a while. And in the end, possibly more expensive. I agree, the best is something in between, where you keep good basics around and replace less essential items. When on the road, especially in summer, I can't stick to all black; sometimes I need a jolt of color in my travel wardrobe. There's no perfect formula, we're all just experimenting.
8/2/2013 03:50:29 pm
So you don't take a laptop? Or does that travel in your "purse"?
8/3/2013 05:43:57 am
Rich is carrying the laptop, the iPad, the first aid kit and a few other common items. He travels with far fewer clothes than I do, so he has a bit more room. However, he's packing as I write this, and some stuff may suddenly shift back to my bag. Keeping fingers crossed he fits it all in! This time around, I'm trying to avoid a purse by wearing my 17-pocket vest. I'll let you know how that works out.
8/2/2013 05:37:30 pm
I'm going to have to study that list. I admire you and your restraint. I was born with the Girl Scout gene: Be Prepared! It is both my sin and my virtue. Kudos! You may have just changed my life ... I'll let you know later if it's for the good or not!
8/3/2013 05:47:05 am
Hope any change is for the good, Nancy! The trick is to know when you've prepared enough. As Rich and I keep reminding ourselves, we are not going to a remote jungle village, we're traveling around Europe, where we can easily buy fresh supplies of just about everything, from Lush soap to face cream to clothes. Makes it easier to avoid the temptation to overpack!
8/2/2013 05:58:31 pm
I'm really glad you posted this - its great information for me personally as I am leaving the USA for 9 to 12 months and am planning on taking one suitcase and a backpack, unless I change my mind. I'm curious to see that you can get THREE pairs of shoes into your case - I've never managed to do that. Do a video for us would you, so we can see how you pack ;-)
8/3/2013 05:54:59 am
I'm not sure I'll have time to do a video, but here's how I organized it: I put all the clothing folded flat on the left side. I put the flip flops in the shoe pockets in the top of the suitcase. I stuffed the socks into the toes of my shoes and put them in individual plastic shopping bags. Those went into the right side, along with the hair dryer and my toiletries kit. Underwear got tucked in any gaps at the edges. Eyeglasses and miscellaneous stuff went in the outer pockets. And voila!
8/3/2013 05:56:54 am
Rich is carrying the computer and the iPad. It's SO much easier to carry all this stuff when you can divide it between two suitcases. And luckily for me, Rich brings far less clothing than I do, so he usually has extra room.
One of the most liberating things is to lose all the baggage and travel light. I used to take one of everything for every day but since travelling on my bike, you simply cannot take that much. In the end I was down to 2 t shirts, 2 knickers, 2 pairs socks, 2 pairs trousers and that's all. So nice to simplify life, never have to make decisions since I usually only had one clean anything at one time. Best thing ever.
8/3/2013 05:59:21 am
Well done, Steven. Two of everything, and doing lots of laundry – it's about as light as you can go. Not sure I'll ever pack quite that simply, but you are an inspiration!
8/3/2013 09:22:07 am
Glad you are finally on your way! You pack as we do. . .glad to know there is someone else out there (most of our friends shudder at the thought of so few outfits and choices). Looks like we'll be flying EasyJet if Ryan starts charging for carryons (of course probably won't be long for EJ either!)
8/7/2013 02:54:55 am
I'm beginning to suspect the idea of charging for carry ons is just Ryanair's way of garnering free publicity. Rich reminded me there was a similar scare a year or so ago about them changing to use the toilet. Suddenly they were all over the news. Let's hope this is just a publicity stunt!
8/3/2013 12:35:04 pm
Love the sound of your 17 pocket vest! Where did you get it? Can you post a picture? Have a great trip. Look forward to reading all about it :)
8/7/2013 02:59:56 am
Thanks for your good wishes, Lucy!
2/26/2014 12:53:31 pm
Amazing! I never get my packing down to so few items. Not even for a week's holiday!
2/28/2014 10:33:19 am
It's all a question of motivation. Having to haul a suitcase on and off trains, often where there's no platform so you're leaping up onto steps that are two feet off the ground, makes you really re-think whether you need those sandals that only coordinate with one blouse...
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