My BEST 24+ Packing Ideas

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One of my favorite things about traveling is packing for it.  As I think about things I want to take, I start putting them into the bag weeks ahead of time.   I add and subtract a few times before I’m satisfied with what I have, and usually before I zip it up for the last time, I’ve pulled even more back out.

I recently returned from a 9-day cruise, only using one bag.   It really isn’t much bigger than a carry-on.  It weighed in on the airport scales at 36 lbs, so that’s an average of 4 lbs of necessities a day!    If I could travel with no toiletries, that would really reduce the weight.

This post is to share what I carried with me for the cruise, but it really applies to any trip that is to a warm climate.  I’m writing it to share, but also as a guide for me.  I want to remember exactly what I did so I won’t have to think so hard next time!

1.  Tops.  Usually I pack t-shirts, but last year I discovered these “fishing shirts” from Magellan and love the way they don’t wrinkle.  They are also easy to wash out in the sink and drip dry.  Definitely on my list for every trip.     Another great thing about these shirts is that they’re loose enough that they don’t really stick to you like a t-shirt does.  After wearing one all day, I gave it the sniff test to see if it had absorbed any odors, and it hadn’t.  I could have worn it another day if I’d wanted.

I wore a long sleeved shirt on the plane, just so I’d have one, but figured that if we did have some cool weather, one of my jackets (#8) would be just fine.

2.  Bottoms.  I wore jeans on the plane and brought four pair of capris and one pair of cotton pants.  The black capris on top are what I consider nicer pants that would look nice with any of the tops I brought.  The other three pair are neutral in color and all have cargo pockets.  They also have a drawstring waist so I didn’t need a belt.   It was so nice to have compartments for the camera and IDs so I didn’t need a purse, and my money and camera were easily accessible.

3.  Shoes.  I wore tennis shoes on the plane because they’re the bulkiest, but I needed shoes for the beach, for walking, for the dining room, and just daily wear.  These “Dawgs” neutral shoes on the left worked out great on the day it rained.  The Skechers “Go Walk” shoes were great for daytime ship or shore.  The neutral sandals worked as my dress shoes, and I sure was glad I packed the aqua shoes because one of the beaches was rocky.

4.  Dress Up.  There were two recommended formal nights on the ship.  I saw people who didn’t change into anything dressy, but some were dressed in formals.  I opted to take one black skirt and two different tops.  Under each shirt is a C32 thin thermal top.  One night I wore the teal jacket over a black one, and the other night wore this plum colored one under a knit shirt.  Knits are great packables.


5.  Undies.  I brought socks, sports bras and undies, and did wash out undies every night in the sink because I didn’t want to pack for 9 days.  I packed for four and it worked out great.

6.  Swim wear.  I quit wearing a typical woman’s bathing suit a few years ago.   I wear men’s swim trunks and a rash guard.  The swim trunks are so liberating because I don’t have to worry about exposing myself, and don’t need a cover up.  The rash guards are great because I don’t have to apply sunscreen.  My favorite is the long sleeved pink one shown here.  Another nice thing about wearing the trunks and shirt is that you can wear them and not have to change into a swimsuit when you get to the beach.

7.  Snorkeling gear.  Yes, I was even able to pack my own gear.

8.  Workout clothes.   I packed two sets of workout tops and capris.  In a pinch, I could have worn the pants with one of my Magellan shirts, or one of the tops with the cargo pants.

9.  Pajamas.  I took two pair.  The ones on the left are long sleeved and long pants.  The others are short sleeved and short pants.  I wore both, and I washed them out so they were always clean, but it was nice to have a pair to rotate because the cotton ones on the left took longer to dry.

10.  Outerwear.  I brought my blue windbreaker, the lime green knit jacket, a couple of hats, a bandana, and a thin backpack.   I was glad to have the camo hat with the cord to hold it on because one day it was really windy and people were losing their hats!  I wore the lime jacket a LOT on the ship because of the air conditioning.   The backpack was great for those day excursions.  I could put my purchases inside and keep my hands free.  The bandana is just awesome for lots of reasons. I use mine not only for a handkerchief, but for a headband, or to just tie things together.  The uses are endless.

 Note:  Be SURE to pack a rain poncho!  I packed cheapo rain ponchos and we ended up using them in Labadee, Haiti.  It rained all day and the poncho was better than a rain coat because it kept my backpack dry, too.    Lots of people didn’t get off the ship because they didn’t want to get soaked, or have their belongings soaked.  As we walked off the ship, lots of people asked us where we got the ponchos.  I was wishing I had more to share!

11.  Toiletry bag.   This black bag works great because it has pockets inside and a hanger at the top.  By hanging it on a towel rod or a hook, it saves counter space.  That little purple bag is a few of my favorite essential oils.  One of the animal print bags inside is my makeup and the other is manicure tools.  I live out of this bag at home, too, so I know exactly where everything is.

In the top clear section, I have OTC medicines – allergy pills, aspirin, melatonin, cortizone cream, antibacterial cream, etc.  The middle section has my jewelry, dental floss, breath spray, etc.

In the pocket on the left, I keep my brush and comb.  In the zippered pocket on the front (left picture) I have a stash of antibacterial wipes.

Below and behind the zippered bags is my toothpaste, toothbrush, face cream, deodorant, shampoo, body wash, and a razor.  (I use a binder clip to cover the blade part so I don’t cut myself when I grab it.)  Generally I squirt enough face cream into a smaller bottle to get me through the trip.  Sometimes just using the compartments in my hubby’s contact lens cases works GREAT.

 12.  The “you never know” stuff.  This includes carries sunscreen, laundry detergent, softener, safety pins, a small sewing kit, flashlight, antibiotics, clips, and athletic tape.  The tape is so much more useful than a band aid for blisters.   It also has the charger for our electric toothbrushes.   (Actually, I didn’t need the laundry detergent or the softener.  I used what the cruise ship had in the room for either soap or shampoo and it worked fine.)    I like to put all of this inside one of those zippered plastic bags that come with curtains, pillowcases, or other products.  They’re just too good to throw away!  They’re also great for carrying a book that you don’t want to get tattered in your backpack.

This “sewing kit” is actually an empty mint container.  I took a few needles, two sewing machine bobbins – one white and one black, and some buttons.  I ended up having to use it because my hubby’s dress shirt had a busted button, thanks to the cleaners.  Sure was nice to be able to fix it.

13.  Jewelry.  I carry earrings in a pill organizer and necklaces and bracelets in this cute little cotton Brighton bag.   This time I took more than I needed and while it didn’t take up any extra space, it seemed like a waste to have it with me.   I don’t take the good stuff, but I have lots of Brighton earrings and others that are just as pretty and actually a lot more fun to wear.

14.  Glasses.  Fortunately, I don’t need glasses all the time, but I do wear them when I’m doing a lot of reading.  I brought a pair with clip on sunglasses, as well as a pair of sunglasses.

15.  Document holders.   The bigger one was useful for my passport and keeping a stash of money.  I took an extra car key and put it on this lanyard just in case my hubby lost or couldn’t find his car keys when we got back to the airport.  The other lanyards or holders are great to have on the ship because you have to have your sea pass for everything.

16.  Office.  The idea of going 9 days without internet or phone seemed just crazy, but I ended up appreciating being disconnected.  I brought my Kindle with the keyboard, a set of binoculars, a real camera with charger and extra batteries, and chargers for the electronics.  I did bring my phone, but I left it locked up in the safe the entire time.   I bought this composition notebook at the dollar store and used it to document the trip.  I knew that when I got home I would be blogging about it and inserting pictures, so this was really just a great place to keep notes.  Worked out just like I intended!

17.  Security.  On the topic of phones and cameras, I want to mention that before we went off shore, I took a picture of our sea passes and our photo IDs with the phone and then left the phone in the safe.  I lost my purse one time on vacation and it was a huge inconvenience to have to file a police report to just be able to get back on the plane.   With copies of the driver’s licenses and passports secure on my phone in the safe, I knew I at least had backup.

Also, before I left home, I put what I needed into a small purse that includes a section so you don’t need a wallet.  I took out everything I wouldn’t need, like my membership cards.  You don’t need more than the basics, and why carry something you’re not going to use.

18.  Snacks!  There is plenty of food on a ship, but I wanted snacks for our shore excursions.  These packs of nuts are a great protein source.  I also packed gum and vitamins.

19.  Water bottle.  I drink water all day long and being on a trip is no exception.  I have an empty bottle when I get to the airport and then fill it at the water fountain after I get through security.   That saves me about $4 because I don’t have to buy the pricey airport water.   It was nice to have it at the gym when we worked out, and also in the ports.  You can’t always trust the water in the places you visit, so I always filled up on the ship.   This one is made by Contigo, and it has a couple of features I like.  The “handle” opens to hook on my backpack, it’s very “carry friendly,”  and the “mouth” of the bottle won’t open until you push a button with your finger.  I have a sleeve on this one to help keep it cool, but also to catch the sweating.

20.  Backpack.  I always travel with a backpack so I can carry my Kindle, my water, gum, mints, and snacks.   Sometimes I even include a change of clothes with my toothbrush and toothpaste.  That way, if bags are delayed, I can get by.  Leaving the Kindle in the room, that same backpack is useful for day trips.

21.  Travel Book.   Something else I put in my backpack is the travel book.  It’s just a 3-prong report cover with page protectors.  Inside, I slip the flight information, car rental reservation (if applicable), hotel or cruise reservation, parking lot membership card, and anything else pertinent to the trip.  It is SO NICE to have it right there.   I also have a few extra page protectors so I can save receipts as we go along.  When I get home, I pull the paperwork out and leave the book in my suitcase for the next trip.

22.  Parking Lot Space.  You know how they give you a receipt that shows where you park your car?  Sometimes it’s hard to remember where you put it after you’ve relaxed and been pampered for an entire week.  It occurred to me this time that taking a picture of it with my phone as soon as I get on the park and ride bus would be a great idea.

23.  Bag Identification.   It’s a good idea to have something inside the suitcase that has your contact information, in addition to the luggage tag.  My hubby’s tag got ripped off of the garment bag and we had to go to a different area of the terminal to find it.  Also, if your bag looks similar to millions of other ones, do something to mark it so you can easily identify it.  It can be a strip of duck tape or a piece of colored yarn tied on the handle or zipper pull.  It also helps others realize it is not their bag.

24.  Get Rid of the Weight.  After I’ve been walking around the airport with my backpack, it starts to get heavy.   I usually put the straps around my suitcase handle when I’m walking to the car so I can get it off my shoulders.  The lower the backpack will hang, the better it is on your arm.  If you just place it on top of the suitcase, you’ll feel the weight more than if it’s down toward the bottom.  If your straps don’t quite work, that bandana will come in handy.  Hope you have it in your backpack!

Why pack light?  I can think of at least 7 reasons.

1.  I want to be able to handle my own luggage and not depend on someone else to help.

2.  At $25 per bag, I don’t want to have to check more than one.

3.  It takes very little time to unpack.

4.  You don’t require much space to hold your clothes.

5.  It  takes very little time to repack!

6.  Saves time, especially on a cruise, because you can be in the first group off the ship if you can carry your own bags off.   That also means you don’t have to search for your bags in the terminal.

7.  Mentally, it helps me not go crazy with the shopping, because I know I don’t have much extra room to bring anything home.  That’s when it helps to have the backpack, or a folded bag in your suitcase that you can fill if you have to.

On this trip I met someone who traveled Asia for 3 1/2 months with
nothing more than a duffel bag.  It made me realize that when packing,
it doesn’t matter how long I’m going to be gone.  I really only
need to pack for about 3-4 days IF I either (a) have the ability to
wash clothes along the way, or (b) don’t mind wearing things
more than once.   I did wear my pants more than one day, but sometimes
we were in swimsuits most of the day and I only wore the pants for a few
hours.  I always wore a clean shirt.

Everyone seems to have their own method of packing, and I’ve tried them all.  My husband will stack everything on the bed and then just place it in his bag.  He uses a lot more space than he needs to, but I have a better chance of helping you change your packing habits than I do with him!   On this trip, he had a bigger bag than mine, and it weighed in at 52 pounds.  He also carried a garment bag with his suit and dress shoes and who knows what else.  It was a real pain for him to haul that garment bag around in the airport and I was glad I didn’t have to deal with it.

How to get all of that into one bag:

After I’ve chosen tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched, I start folding and rolling.  For pants, I fold them in half or in thirds and lay them in different directions.  Same for the shirts.  I fit the toiletry bag in the top end before I go too far because it is the bulkiest and the heaviest thing in the bag.  The swimwear, undies, and workout clothes can be rolled or even just stuffed in empty air pockets in the suitcase.  You’d be surprised how much space is hidden and wasted.  I line my shoes up around the side, and then put one pair on top before I zip it up.  I feel like the shoes help add some stability to the bag and that is especially helpful when there are breakables inside.  Don’t forget to put socks or something else inside your shoes.  Every bit of space is valuable.

My gauge for how well I packed is that I come home without any clean clothes.  If I come back with extras, then I know I packed too much.  This time, I felt like I took too much swim wear.  I had to rinse it out every night anyway, so why not just wear it again tomorrow?  Next time I’ll take just one or two bottoms and tops.

I’d say this was one of my most successful packing jobs yet.   What tips or ideas do you use that I haven’t covered?

All They’ll Need To Know

All They'll Need To Know


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