A statement made often when I travel by everyone from my hosts, to cab drivers, to airport security, to fellow travelers. People can never believe how I manage to only bring a few items with me whether it be a trip for 2 days or 2 weeks. I bring my purse, and my weekender bag (or in more recent times, a carry-on roller). That is all. Because everyone asks how I do it, I shall now share. They say packing is an art, I think it is a talent passed down to people genetically — or so I’ve heard.
I began packing light and doing carry-on only back when I was a kid, maybe 10 or so. My luggage was stolen in Moscow and all the valuable and sentimental things had been stolen. 3 days later it appeared back at the airport after thieves took just about everything — even my socks and underwear (which being that it was still the Soviet Union, things like that were coveted and expensive to come by). After that I vowed NEVER to check luggage again! And so, I learned to pack light, or rather, pack smart.
When people tell me “oh, gee I just tend to over pack” I say “No! You are a hoarder and a pack rat, poor at planning, and are what is wrong with society today! Stop.” I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, maybe it’s just that this is a skill not taught, or people always assume they need more than they really do.
This is my weekender bag. It is about the size of a bowling bag, from Ben Sherman, and because it looks sporty no one would ever try to steal it from you. I have managed to fit 3 pairs of shoes (always pack them into the corners), as well as my clothes, underwear, hairbrush, toiletries, and so forth in this thing — even a large kimono once! I always pick out clothes I can roll tightly, and stuff them in while making rows on top of one another; kind of like building a pyramid, but in any order will do. Anything big or bulky I make sure to actually wear when traveling: boots and coats being key. At some point when traveling, I always come across a plastic bag from shopping, and I used that as my dirty laundry bag from the return journey…
Last year for the first time, I had to travel by myself with my gimpy leg. Oh sure, the airport has those beep-beep cars and sometimes people will help when they see me carrying crap and hobbling around on a cane. Sometimes. In general, the TSA and flight crew could give a flying fuck if you are mildly handicapped, partly because so many people were faking it to cut in lines at TSA checkpoints, that they now just assume everyone is faking it. The only plus side is I always get an aisle seat. After attempting to carry my weekender by myself + purse + a cane, I said, “screw it, I’m getting the dreaded wheel luggage”. But hey, I got a pretty cute one that fits in overheard compartments, and is loud enough that no one could mistake it for theirs. I have to tell you, I just packed for a 6 day trip to NYC, including clothing and shoes enough for two fancy events, and back-up options if I change my mind, birthday gifts for a friend, and more: I only filled HALF of this thing…
This is my train case, or sometimes called a vanity case. I used to bring this puppy everywhere until 9/11. As you can see, it looks like something you would carry plutonium or chemical weapons in. Can you guess my lock combination? Anyways, I stopped carrying this after driving back from Canada; the border patrol was FREAKED OUT by this thing sitting on my lap, “What is that, why is it in your lap?” “Um, it’s a vanity case, and I keep my passport in here”. When I went to unlock it, the patrol guys nearly drew their guns and told me to open it slowly….
So, now I have downsized to a little zipper clutch for my make-up. As you can see it is much smaller. I’ve been using this red ostrich clutch for 10 years now and yes it fits all my brushes…
They key is bringing only what you’ll need and go minimalist if you can: one lipstick, one eye shadow compact, eyeliner, mascara (I have a mini travel size one) and dual powder/foundation with a brush built into the case, like this. I also have travel size hair products, and most importantly, dry shampoo! One big comb and one small is all I ever bring with me, thin and takes up little room. I always get trial sizes of Garnier Fructis or Aveda because it seems to not suck as bad as some of the other brands for haircare. On occasion I bring real hairbrush, and always feel guilty even though it fits just fine.
Getting travel or sample sizes of things like toothpaste is easy, but perfume, mascara and so forth are key; Sephora always has samples you can get when you order online, because who the hell wants to pack a huge thing of perfume? What, you don’t travel with perfume on hand?
For men and women, hair conditioner works as a great alternative to shave cream — better in fact — as even trial sizes of shaving cream is pretty darn bulky and can get sticky in no time. You can also buy a shave cream stick, which my husband loves.
I pack generic face wipes instead of my fancy cleansers from home, the thin package saves room. I buy trial sizes of Dermalogica products, and those last through many, many trips as well as at home! Oh, and something else quite handy? A travel sized lint roller! I’m always so thankful when I have one with me.
In closing, I can’t really tell you what to pack when it comes to clothing, that’s up to you; personally I’m in the habit of washing t-shirts and things in the sink, so I pack very few of those no matter how long the trip. I also have a silk scarf obsession, I always forget to wear them , but I pack them anyways.
Really all I can tell you, is do the opposite of what she does here.
Do this instead, if you can.
Just be sure to remember socks and underwear for how many days you’ll be gone. The one time my husband didn’t have me help him pack, he went on a trip and realized he was stuck without either!