It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a packing post; but much of that has to do because most of my latest flights have required me to check in baggage, which is no fun for a packing post.
As some of you may know, I was set to travel to Toronto for #teamharpy business but the trip got cancelled at the last minute so I decided to take a mini-break for a few days. Yes, I’m not revealing where.
With that in mind, it was optimal to pack carry on rather than check baggage, so behold gentlemen!
In addition to my solid shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion, I’ve also purchased a LUSH solid face cleanser and I’m packing solid coconut oil for my face as well. No matter where I travel in the EST, it is cold and super dry, hence the need for solid coconut oil.
I also swapped out my beloved charging brick for a Jackery one as the old brick kept dying every few charges. So far the new one has held up for almost a year (compared to a few months with the old brand).
On this trip I’m not packing toothpaste or a loofah as I will be using the ones where I’m staying. But I do have travel toothpaste ready if I require another trip! While I’m bringing one of my favorite clutches to act as a wallet, I’m also bringing one of my Coach bags that is crossbody nylon to use for everyday out and abootness. That is packed flat in the bottom of my bag. Additionally, I shoved socks into my dress boots and as par usual, everything is rolled tight.
LUSH solid shampoo
LUSH solid body soap
LUSH solid lotion
LUSH solid face cleanser
Rickshaw Medium Zero Messenger bag in Performance Tweed
As much as I love my pencil bag, I’ve noticed I don’t use all the pens, pencils, etc that is in it so I purchased a Space Invaders pen bandolier to go around my journal and this has been one of the best purchases ever.
I always seem to get hungry when I travel and spend gobs of money at airports on cashews, so I decided to pack my own.
I will be at place that has laundry available, but without the need for laundry, I can go seven days on the current list and closer to two weeks if I just wash my underwear, bras, and socks. Not too shabby for not being in the game for awhile.
It’s been a crazy lately, and that’s putting it mildly. Tomorrow morning I head to my third trip in a month and I feel like I’m becoming such an old pro at this packing thing that is getting slightly ridiculous.
I must catch you up on where I’ve been!
In late March, I went to the Code4Lib conference in Raleigh, NC which was turned out to be pretty awesome. The conference itself was intense and I learned a lot AND met a lot of great people. I’m so enamoured of the community! I was co-running an all day pre-conference, which meant I had a lot more stuff, namely swag for 30 people, to haul in addition just my self and toiletries.
I was in RDU for five days/four nights with sketchy weather. The day before I flew in, it was 76 degrees and sunny. My entire stay, it was mid-50s and rainy.
Behold my packing prowess:
Since I’ve been fine tuning the packing process in the last few years, I thought it might be helpful to see what gear / gadgets / geegaws I’ve been using to help with the minimalist packing aesthetic: Gear / Gadgets / Geegaws
Rickshaw Medium Zero Messenger bag in Performance Tweed
The big AHA moment is realising that by converting as much of my toiletries to solids, such as shampoo/body soap/lotion, it does NOT need to go into ye olde quart bag, which is brilliant. Also, the Travel Smart Travel Bottle Set was a great investment because it allows me to take my favorite products such as hair manipulator, face lotions, and other products in travel sizes. It may have been a bit pricey, but we do not have a Container Store near me and I was having a hard time finding the jars and bottles in the sizes I wanted individually.
The New Trent iCarrier 12000mAh Portable Dual USB Port External Battery Charger/Power Pack has also been great investment since it will charge my iDevices simultaneously, which is a boon for long flights. I’ve been so in love with this product, I’ve bought it as gifts for friends and family.
In addition to the above, I also packed with me:
Tom Bihn bag:
30 brown bags (for swag)
Nearly full gallon bag of pens/stickers/etc (swag)
Since I’m recreating this a month later, I’m sure I’m missing a few things, but this is the gist of the packing. And the best part? I could have made my clothes last for longer than a week AND since I was carrying of swag that I was going to hand out to people, my bag was going to be emptier coming back. SCORE!
I hopscotched my way from Monterey back to Grand Rapids more smoothly than a baby’s bottom, which surprised and delighted me as my past experiences with United have been awful. They have totally picked up their customer service, planning, and execution of getting people on their way which now puts them back in the front for airlines when I go looking for flights.
After TheHusband picked me up late Thursday afternoon, we had an early dinner and then went right home. Not long after I had unpacked and gotten settled from the trip, I slept for nearly 14 hour straight with no breaks even to pee. I was that fucking tired. Some of the people I met at IL were coming down with various and sundry colds and sniffles, so I’m hoping I shook enough of that nastiness out while sleeping, drinking Vitamin C to help (and also helps with potential cases of scurvy), and congratulating myself for having the foresight to take the day after I came home off from work.
For this trip, I was smart enough to grab pictures of my bags once I got to the hotel, before unpacking, and what the bomb explosion looked like after I had unzipped. Exhibits below:
Tom Bihn bag:
(1) dress boots
1 (2) scarf
(1) leather jacket
1 pair of leggings
1 pair of Jammie bottoms
1 jean jacket
1 ice bag
1 pair of sunglasses
1 pair of glasses
1 brick for Mac Air
2 (3) bras
2 tank tops
2 (3) pairs of pants
3 pairs of tights
6 (7) pairs of socks
7 (8) pairs of underwater
8 (9) tshirts
(Not seen.) Rickshaw bag:
BBC History magazine
The Whale Road (book)
Clutch with money
Portable recharger brick
Quart bag with toiletries
Pouch with miscellany
And I’m sure after all is said and done, I’m missing a few items.
There is a couple of key things when packing minimally: Roll everything, bring items that can be worn multiple times, pack as many solid toiletries as possible, and bring as much neutrals as you can stomach.
I was in Monterey for 6 days/5 nights, but ended up with enough clothes for over a week AND I had at least two clean outfits left when I came home. There were a couple of things I didn’t think about when I packed, such as while wearing my dress boots to Monterey, there may be a chance I didn’t want to wear them coming home, which ate into my luggage space. Packing a leather jacket, a jean jacket, a hoodie, and several cardigans seems like overkill, and also eats space, which could be consolidated by getting one neutral jacket that will work for just about all weather types. I also packed more layers with the outwear because not one weather site was consistent with the constant changes of weather happening while I was going to be there.
Could I have done better? Always can do better. The brilliancy of bringing solid shampoos, body lotions, and body soaps opened up ton of space in my quart bag. Plus I wasn’t feeling cheated out of my toiletries. My clothing choices could have been streamlined more by quite a bit and if I didn’t have this burning desire to dress like a Lifesavers roll every day, it would be a lot easier.
But considering a similar trip taken 18 months ago to a similar place with similar weather had me lugging around a 50lb+ checked bag with all of MUST HAVES, this is bloody brilliant.
I’ve been remiss in keeping up with my packing lists for various travels this summer and for that, I apologize. As I’m flying to a conference in California this week, it seemed like a good idea to get you updated on how my minimalist packing project is going. I’m pretty pleased on my accomplishment so far as I can make it work for a weeks worth of clothes solo in the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. The goal is to get it to two weeks.
In April, I went to Indianapolis by car and Chicago by train, both for conferences. In June I was back in Chicago for another conference (travel by train) and earlier this month, TheHusband and I went away for a long weekend to Chicago (also by train). Whether alone or packing for two, my Tom Bihn Aeronaut has been a damned champ! While we had splurged for the extra duty cross body strap, I found that I really liked the backpack straps when I’m flying about stations and terminals. I keep the cross body strap inside the bag just in case.
The one change I did make was swapping out the Tom Bihn Imago with a Rickshaw Medium Zero messenger bag. I needed something slightly bigger and with inside pockets. Luckily for me, Rickshaw had a 50% off flash sale on the Zero so I splurged on getting the coveted bag along with two modular zipper pockets. I was also able to get, at no extra cost, a longer cross body strap (I need something roughly 50″ or longer due to my tallness; most cross body bags run between 42-46″). I love this bag to pieces!
When TheHusband and I went to Chicago a few weeks ago, we were gone for four days/three nights. I packed the Aeronaut for both of us, and I also brought my Rickshaw bag to hold electronics, books, etc as well as a purse for me.
Here’s what I was able to get into the Aeronaut (this does not include what we we were wearing on our person):
Three pairs of jeans (two for me, one for TheHusband)
Two hoodies (one for me, one for TheHusband)
Four pairs of underwear each
2 pairs of socks (me)
One pair of shoes (me)
Pajama bottoms (me)
Button down (me)
Eight t-shirts (roughly half for each)
When all was said and done, we had enough clothes between the two of us to mix/match for five or six days and with toiletries to boot. Back when I had long hair, the number of actual toiletries to bring was significantly less than what I carry with me now, which of course makes packing problematic when flying. For my trip to California, I bought solid shampoo, body soap, and lotion to open up some space in my quart bag. It never dawned on me to go solids for a lot of my beauty care, which is actually pretty brilliant since they do not count towards the 3-1-1 rule.
My biggest problem with toiletries is getting the right bottles/jars for the job as sometimes the products marked for travel are too bulky. For example, my regular sized bottle of make-up remover is 2 liquid oz while not technically travel sized is under the 3 oz rule, but I’ll use maybe 1/4 of an oz during the course of one week, so why drag the entire, ill shaped bottle with me? Same with body lotions and other goops. As we don’t have a Container Store in my vicinity, I searched through dollar stores, Target, and other like stores for purchasing various sized travel bottles and jars in small quantity for my trips. As I couldn’t find anything under 3 liquid ozs or at least a variety of sizes under 3 ozs, I went to the internets and found this: a travel bottle and jar set. As I require a lot of goops, creams, and potions to maintain the lifestyle I’m currently living, getting this set will allow me to get more bang out of my space. Experiments with using only one type of lotion for everything or going without something has proven I don’t do well when missing beloved items.
In the accouterments area, I took my Air and my iPad on my most recent trip to Chicago, along with my 3DS, phone, journal, pen case, and a paper book. I also carried a purse with me which proved to be more hindrance than useful, and resorted to using a favorite clutch everywhere we went. The Air was overkill as I had thought I would be getting some work done at the hotel or on the train, but circumstances were not in my favor that weekend. While as a to-go machine, my iPad (along with its leather keyboard case) is pretty durable for doing some work but there are some things that do not translate well and that mainly has to do with how a lot of cloud services and websites handle rendering for a mobile device, even if it has a 10″ screen. But again, as I’ve done for other trips, I tend to over pack in this area with the thought I’ll do X,Y,Z and either do not make time for it or forget to do it or something else.
I’ll be doing a run through pack before my trip on Saturday, and I’ll report back on how that goes.
When I wrote up my packing list for my trip to MSP, I was surprised to find many others were also into minimalist packing. In 2014, either TheHusband and I or myself and a few girlfriends, are planning a trip to UK/EU for a few weeks. These packing run throughs are perfect practice to prep for those trip(s) as I never ever want to have a 67lb bag snapping at my ankles again. Notes from MSP
When I flew to MSP on the morning of March 19th, Grand Rapids was being kissed by a blizzard. This changed my shoe options as originally I was going to go with a pair of wellies and pack my Docs in the carry on. Instead, I busted out the winter boots I had just bought for next year and wore those instead. The catch with the winter boots is they require me to sit down and untie several rows to slip off whereas I could just slip the wellies off while standing with little trouble. I walked around in my socks quite a bit for this trips.
However, getting through TSA was awesome! Flying through GRR has the big advantage of short TSA lines and easy drop off/pick up. Even with the swapping of wellies to snow boots, I merely used five bins to unpack my laptop, iPad, boots, belt, coat, and bags to push through the scanner. From drop off to gate was completed in under 10 minutes. The bag fit perfectly in the overhead compartment and the messenger slide with ease under the seat before takeoff and could be easily reachable after.
Upon arrival to MSP, not having to pick up luggage at the luggage carousel when we landed was startling at first because this is what I was so used to doing. After getting over myself in a few seconds, I was out of the airport and into a cab in short order.
Here are additional thoughts on the process:
The 3D Organizer Cube was not quite big enough to host all the items that fit into a quart plastic bag. TheHusband kept insisting that as the cube is wider and has more depth (plus it was designed with TSA in mind for the 3-1-1 purpose), it should hold the exact same amount as the quart plastic bag I grabbed from our kitchen and measured. He was wrong. I opted then to use the 3D Organizer Cube to hold random toiletries such as tissue, wipes, and eyebrow scissors and kept the quart bag for the pure liquids, such as shampoo, body soap, conditioner and etc.
Make up bag was carried in my messenger bag, such as it was my purse for the trip and there was no qualms either in MSP or GRR going through TSA. But I’ve heard make up is hit or miss depending on what airport and TSA agent you get. Your mileage may vary.
What to put in the quart bag became the question of the ages and didn’t leave me with a lot of options for mixing, primarily with the fact I use three separate lotions (face, hand, body) and could only take one. I opted for body, which didn’t work well for my face. I need to reconfigure this bag.
Pete unrecommended the often told recommendation of scouting out local places to go to buy toiletries when you arrive rather than packing them up. And I have to say, I agree. In the US, hotels typically have shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and lotion in the rooms easily available.
The Packing Cube Shoulder Bag was a great idea to use as a smaller purse, while doubling as a packing cube, but I never got around to using it as a bag. I did like the idea of using it for unmentionables for packing which then the cube could be re-used to store dirty laundry.
I left my wallet behind and put my cards and cash in the teal clutch, which worked great and was less bulky (and streamlined two items into one). This was also helpful when going out in the evening, I only had to grab the clutch and go. I also left behind the sunglasses, since it was not going to be particularly sunny in MSP and this saved space as well.
I packed two journals (one for personal, one for work) and my pencil-case. I <3 my pencil-case but I only needed a few pens, pencils, and my good fountain pen and sharpie or two and a flash drive. Leaving the case behind would free up more space. I could also leave one of the journals behind.
I like the messenger bag quite a bit and some of the smaller pockets on the outside were perfect for packing up small cords, ear buds, and other small items. For some reason, I really miss the fact there is a giant zipped inside pocket. Now granted, this area would be where I would put the smaller things just mentioned but I like having a large zipped pocket to keep things safe(r).
Should have brought a paper book with me, which I’ll do next time. While the flight is short, much of the time was spent with no electronics in effect for take off and landing, and I should have brought a book with me. I picked one up at MSP airport on my way out-of-town and now will be packing a book with me with all travel.
It took a single flight for me to fall in love with the new to me concept of traveling minimally. Overall, I feel this was super successful experiment.
I am a notorious over packer. (And I blame this on having been a Girl Scout – I am prepared for EVERYTHING.)
For our honeymoon in 2010, TheHusband and I travelled to Europe for nearly three weeks. After researching and planning, we purchased a lime green clamshell three piece luggage set with intent to take the two largest pieces with us. In addition, we each had our own messenger bag and I had a purse. We did laundry in the bathtub of our hotel room in Brussels half way through our trip as we had planned. We hardly bought any souvenirs. I think a Swatch, a few tshirts, a hat.
At Amsterdam airport, we were charged $150 USD for having overweight luggage. “Can you pack some things somewhere else?”, the airline person said helpfully. No. No, we couldn’t. Our messenger bags were bulging, our luggage was bulging. What in the sweet name of Satan happened?
In the spring of 2012, I flew to England, solo, for a few weeks to visit friends and see some concerts. In an attempt to not repeat the honeymoon incident, I tried to pack as sparingly as possible. I was bringing over items for friends, which I anticipated was going to be weighty, but I didn’t anticipate coming back with even half the number of items that filled that space.
Weight of my suitcase going TO England: 67lbs. Weight coming BACK from England: 71lbs.
This does not include my purse OR my tote bag filled with enough electronic gadgets and gewgaws to entertain a small nation.
Once arriving in England, I had to schlep my shit on the Tube from Heathrow to center of London, then to the south east of London where Karen lived (and so to apparently do dragons). When it was time to leave for Alice and Jon’s, I schlepped all my shit solo again to King’s Cross to catch the train up to Biggleswade, except a wheel had broken on the bag. When they met me at the train station, poor Jon almost killed himself carrying my crap to their car. No matter how much I thought I was paring down, I could never get my luggage light enough with only useable content.
Overweight surcharge when I left England for those 71lbs? £125 or about $190 USD.
And it wasn’t just plane trips, but any kind of trip. A train trip to Chicago in 2012 for two conferences I was attending that were right after the other, almost had me in tears at the Amtrak station. My duffle bag was over 60lbs, plus my tote bag, plus my purse. I had bought so much shit at the second conference, I almost bought a second duffle to drag all my treasures home but my clever repacking saved me.
While trains do not have weight limits or luggage limits, travelling solo with a 60lb duffle bag, plus a jammed tote bag, and a purse is just as frustrating. Even more so when the luggage areas in the train are filled with other people’s possessions or you’re blocking traffic getting up to the second floor because you can’t physically carry everything at once and you’re relying on the kindness of strangers to help you. (Thank you kind strangers.)
After my final trip last year, I decided I had enough. I was no longer going to pay outrageous luggage surcharge fees, or find myself in a situation where I couldn’t handle my own bags because they were so heavy.
While I was laid up last summer, I became obsessed with the idea of traveling with less. And found a sub-culture based on the idea of packing less and creating packing lists that catered to just about anyone.
While the curation of a list varies from person to person, there seems to be agreement on two things:
The gear should be light weight and multifunctional
Items should have multiple purposes
I decided I had a new goal: Next time an opportunity arose where I needed to travel, regardless of by plane/train/automobile, I was going to do it with a carry on and a messenger bag. That was it. No excuses.
Towards the end of 2012, early 2013, my conference dance card was beginning to fill up. Starting March 1 and ending July 2, I would be attending seven conferences and speaking at four of them. Some of them were one day affairs or held locally, so there would be no need to pack, but the remainder would require travel either by plane/train/automobile.
This was perfect.
I asked around on the social sphere what did people use for travel? The number one response was: Tom Bihn. After spending hours of reading packing lists on the Tom Bihn site and the internets, I knew I found my bag.
Since all but one of our combined luggage pieces (purchased together and what we had before we got married) had fallen apart or were in the process of falling apart, TheHusband and I were in the market for new luggage. He was intrigued by my research and reviews, so for Valentine’s Day he bought me the Aeronaut in Aubergine/Wasabi with the Absolute Shoulder Strap. The idea being if the bag was as impressive in person as on the site, we’d pick up accessories and pieces as needed later on.
The bag was incredibly impressive in person. The Absolute Shoulder Strap worked with TheHusband’s 6’6 frame comfortably, the backpack straps also were comfortable over his 52″ chest and shoulders and could be adjusted to fit my measly 5’11” frame. There was a lot of thought to the organization of the bag, such as the generous central area bookend by two external, fairly large pockets. Overall, it is very well constructed and designed.
A few weeks later, I bought the Imago in Plum/Olive, 3D Clear Organizer Cube in Azalea, large Packing Cube, and the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in Wasabi.
Here was my thought: The Aeronaut would be the one piece of luggage, with clothing organized by the large Packing Cube. The 3D Clear Organizer would act as the container for TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. Instead of carrying a purse and a messenger bag, I would use the Imago as the messenger bag and use the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as a packing cube until I got to my destination. Then I would use the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as a daytime bag since I can dump all my smaller items from the messenger bag into it. For night time events, I have a clutch, that is very thin and flat, I always bring with me so I was covered for purse needs.
On Tuesday I fly to Minneapolis for Library Technology Conference and return home on Thursday night. I need to sort out clothes for Tuesday as the travel day, plus the two days for the conference, and maybe an extra outfit. Plus pajama jams and other clothing accouterments, then add in toiletries and sundries.
Below is the Aeronaut and the Imago, fully packed for Tuesday’s trip. Weight of the Aeronaut: 15.2lbs. Weight of the Imago: 9.7lbs. (Weight of the pug: 20lbs, but she’s not coming.)
Now the fun part! Let’s unpack the Aeronaut and see what’s inside!
Packing cube with two pairs of pants, a tunic, leggings
Bra (I’ll be wearing one and bringing one.)
Doc Martens, which are my dressy shoe (One of the few pairs I can fit into post-surgery)
Two t-shirts, pair of yoga pants, and a long sleeve t-shirt
Belt, glasses in case, curling iron
Drugs, toothbrush in case, prescription receipts for said drugs
3D Clear Organizer filled with non-liquid toiletry sundries (According the site, the 3D Clear Organizer was built specifically for 3-1-1 but I could not get the same amount of items from a quart bag into the Organizer.)
Loofah in a plastic bag, lady time essentials in the drawstring bag
Plaid pencil case, teal clutch, assorted Air adaptors
Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, that will hold four pairs of panties, three pairs of socks, a scarf, and a tank (and the aforementioned belt)
Over to the Imago:
Macbook Air in case
iPad 2 in case
Business card holder, Epipen, plus “What to do if Lisa has an allergic reaction to LONG LIST OF ALLERGENS” from my allergist.
Quart bag of liquids! All your usual sundries here.
Makeup bag and bag of Lactaid/benadryl. The TSA’s stance on the website about makeup is vague, so instead of using precious quart bag space, it’s in its own bag as it always is. I only use mascara, gloss, and liquid eyeliner so it’s not like there is a lot. The makeup bag also has Tylenol, glass cleaner, and few other sundries.
iPhone/Pad USB cable with wall wart, ear buds, work ID badge
Two pens, two liquid pencils, stylus for the iItems, ratty nail file, even rattier hair pick
Pug making her move.
Total weight of both pieces: Roughly 30lbs.
And I still have room for another complete outfit or two in the Aeronaut.
Missing from pictures: Phone (used to take said pictures), strap for the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, charger for my Air, coat (I’ll be wearing it on the airplane), hat/gloves (see coat), boots (see coat). Granola bars. Small jewelry bag (I leave off all my rings/earrings/necklaces until after I get through security).
On Tuesday, I’m wearing a tunic, tank, leggings, and a cardigan that goes with all my other outfits. I have a pants outfit and a tunic outfit planned for Wednesday and Thursday. I also packed an extra pair of pants and two t-shirts so if I’m not feeling something, I’ve got options.
I had planned on wearing dress boots that went with everything and only bringing that one pair of footwear, but I can’t fit into them post-surgery. As snow is on the horizon, I’m wearing my green Hunters on the plane and packed my Docs as the dress shoe since they have foot traction. The Hunters work with both tunic outfits and pants outfits.
As much as I love my plaid pencil case, I’ll probably leave it home and only take the few pens/pencils. I’ll probably also leave behind my sunglass case.
I’m bringing the Air and the iPad as the conference is requiring us to bring our own equipment for presentation (the Air). The iPad is going to be the reading/gaming/entertainment machine with better battery life.
My goal is to do a packing list entry for every trip to see what changes from trip to trip. But if I can pull this off, you have no idea how pleased as punch I will with myself.