5 Packing Tips for the Over-Packer

My first trip of the year is coming up in exactly one week so you can bet I’ve been itching to pack for the last month! Unfortunately, I think there is such a thing as packing too early and have had to practice restraint. I made it until this past Thursday and couldn’t take it anymore – in a heart-racing frenzy I pulled out my summer clothes and the packing began!

If you’ve ever gone on a long trip or even a one week holiday, you’ll understand me when I say that packing is a skill that is best when practiced to perfection. While there is a huge difference in packing for a vacation and a six month backpacking trip through various climates, the following packing tips I’m about to share with you will be beneficial for either one:

12562914_10153341485671728_418580269_o

1. It all starts with LUGGAGE. You can’t begin to pack until you’ve decided on your luggage of choice. Backpack or suitcase? Hard case or soft? Wheels or no wheels? Dark, neutral colors are popular as they hide wear and tear and your case looking dirty – but have you ever been standing at the carousel watching dozens of the same black suitcase go ’round and ’round? It’s not fun. One trick from the trade is to purchase a unique color or pattern – especially if you’re going with a suitcase. If you just can’t let go of that black beauty you love, attach something bright to help you identify it when you need to.

2. COORDINATE your clothing. I can’t stress this enough! I never used to think up outfits prior to leaving and would just throw in random tops and bottoms. Sure, it’s faster, but more often than not you will end up with a bunch of clothes that never leave your suitcase. You end up wasting space and being upset that you can’t wear your favorite top because you haven’t any bottoms to match. Before tossing clothes in your luggage, create your outfits for your trip. Try them on and try to pick basics that can be worn with more than one item.

3. Roll, Baby, Roll. Rolling your clothes is the best way to create more space and helps reduce wrinkles. Lay your pieces flat and then roll ’em up nice and tight before placing them in your bag.

4. Bring the Basics. When it comes to toiletries, bring the basics. Solid shampoos and conditioners save a ton of space and weight in your bag, coconut oil can be multi-purpose lotion, makeup remover, cooking oil, etc., and you really don’t need your entire eye shadow collection. Embrace the minimalist look and stick to the necessities.

5. Like with Like. This can go two ways: you can either keep each type of clothing together (bottoms with bottoms, tops with tops, dresses with dresses, you get the idea) or you can pack according to outfit, keeping each outfit packed together. You can do this by laying out all the pants in one part of your bag, tops in another, or just by laying out each piece of an outfit together, then another, etc. OR you can opt for clothing organizers that will keep your things separated and allow you to grab what you need without your entire bag exploding in a heap of clothes.

Three Accessories to Travel in Style

Call it vanity, but sometimes you just feel better when you don’t arrive to a destination with red eyes, crazy hair and wrinkly clothes. It’s happened to me too many times because I always put off purchasing these three accessories, claiming I could never find any that I loved. Well, times have changed and I am now fully prepared to arrive looking at least a little better than I used to.

IMG_9467

The Sunglasses

Have you ever woken up and stumbled out of an airplane in the middle of the night, far earlier than any human should be awake with swollen, bloodshot eyes, eyelashes stuck together with mascara and ringed black after having your face smushed awkwardly against the airplane window? I have. Prevent this by not wearing mascara or hide the mess with a trusty set of massive sunglasses that hide not only your eyes and their dark bags but half your face as well! Be picky when finding the perfect frames to match your face shape, the perfect color to match your skin tone/that won’t go out of style (a classic black is usually my choice, but I found some dark brown ones that I love just as much). If you choose carefully, these might just stay in your wardrobe for years to come and travel with you all around the globe.

The Hat

It has taken me 23 years to find a hat. I found a cute little fedora once that was sadly distorted in the rain, never to be the same shape again. I finally found a hat that I think could become my travel staple. It’s black, wide rimmed, not too big or small and fits my head perfectly. With hair that reacts to humidity the same way Monica’s did in Friends, I am definitely going to need it.

The Poncho

This gem that I found recently is absolutely perfect for traveling. This baby is so functional I can use it as three different things: a poncho/sweater over a tank, a scarf, and a blanket for when it gets chilly on the plane. I’m pretty sure if worse comes to worse, I can also bunch it up and use it as a makeshift pillow.

So You’ve Got a Reaaallly Long Flight… Now What?!

“When you get into an airplane by yourself and take off,
you find yourself in this lovely, three-dimensional world
where you can go in any direction. There is no
feeling any more exciting than that,”
– Gene Roddenberry

The harsh reality of travel (for some) is that it can quite literally take days to arrive at your destination, even by plane. For those on a budget, this is even more of a reality in which you end up having to take a plane, bus, and donkey just to get from one city to another in order to save a couple dollars. Even without all of the transportation switch-ups, it can take a 24 hour flight to get from, say, Canada to Australia. So you’ve decided where you want to go and that no amount of distance can stop you. Congratulations! You won’t regret it, but there are a few things you can do to make the travel time a little better.

1. Stay hydrated!
It can be easy to forget to drink when you’re on a flight because you’re not particularly exerting yourself. Take advantage of those little cups of water that come around every so often, but also try to bring a larger amount of water for yourself. We should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day and it makes all the difference. Once you land, your skin won’t appear so dull and tired as it might feel.

Also, carry facial wipes to wipe your face on the flight. This will remove excess dirt and oil from the day and it’s just better for your skin to breath without makeup blocking up your pores.

2. Dress for comfort.
I’m always one to dress for comfort on planes. Leggings, a comfy top, a sweater in case it gets chilly (and it always does!). A scarf makes for an excellent accessory to use as a cushion for your head or blanket to keep warm.

Wear clothes that allow your body to sit comfortably, to fall asleep in without snagging, squeezing, or being generally annoying.

Pick shoes that are easy to slip on and off. If you’re on a long flight, slipping off your shoes is wonderful.

If you can dress for comfort and style at the same time, then do it! It will help you look and feel a little more put together after sitting around for 10+ hours, in and out of sleep.

3. Move around.

Try not to stay seated the entire time. This can lead to sore muscles, stiff joints, and a numb butt. Stand up, walk around, do a few simple stretched to get your limbs loose and your blood flowing.

4. Entertainment

There is nothing worse than being stuck on a 10 hour flight with no form of entertainment. Not all aircrafts come with TVs on the seats (you may want to check for this when booking a flight). Other forms of entertainment include books, ipads/tablets, games on your phone, music, pen and paper if you like to draw or write, and of course the tried and true… CARDS! Pull out a deck of cards and be friendly, chat with the person sitting next to you (as long as they’re not trying to sleep).

5. Make your meal requests beforehand.

If you have specific dietary concerns (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergies, etc.), its important to mention this before the flight. Usually you are able to do this during the booking process and thankfully most airlines are accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions or preferences.

6. Opt for food that is light and healthy prior to boarding.

You don’t want to be stuck in close proximity to a bunch of other passengers with your stomach feeling like it’s been loaded full of rocks.

7. Try to sleep.

If I will be arriving to my destination during the evening, then I usually do my best to stay awake for as much of the flight as I can. This helps me pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow at my accommodation.

If you’re arriving during the day, it’s important to try and sleep during your flight. Both of these suggestions help to reduce jet lag. To help get you to sleep, I highly recommend investing in an eye mask and some ear plugs. These are incredibly useful on the flight and if you are staying in shared accommodations like hostels.

What I wouldn’t suggest bringing is a blow up pillow that wraps around your neck. They really aren’t that great and it’s just an added thing to have to carry around with you afterwards.

Some travelers opt for sleeping pills to help them nod off. Melatonin is a more natural sleeping aide that has helped me in the past. I’ve also used Ambien on my flight home from Thailand, which was a little miracle. However, I probably wouldn’t take any type of sleeping aides on my first long-haul flight unless I knew how my body reacted to them already.

8. Handle Turbulence and Nausea.

Not only does turbulence make some folks jittery, it can also cause nausea. Again, refrain from eating fatty foods before the flight. Excess fat plus turbulence can lead to stomach troubles. Same goes for carbonated and alcoholic drinks.

Picking a seat in the middle of the plane, by the wing, will result in feeling less turbulence than sitting in the far back or front.

Ginger pills are a natural option for preventing nausea. Take them before take-off and landing.

Practicing some deep breathing exercises can also help clear your mind and calm your body.

9. Relax :)

You can’t change the circumstances of your flight. Accept this, sit back and relax. Don’t forget, there is bottle service for those who like to have an alcoholic beverage or two. Try not to drink too much though, as you can end up feeling even more exhausted after a flight thanks to the alcohol dehydrating your body. There is always a journey to be had before arriving to your destination so you might as well try and enjoy it.

Do you have any other helpful ways to make a long flight better?

Packing with Mesh Bags/Clothing Organizers, Yes or No?

Packing a backpack is an art. It takes skill and practice before you figure out how you like your stuff. As it is a backpack that you’re lugging around on your back, packing light is essential. Ditch the cardigan that has been sitting in the back of your closet for a year. Bring only the essential jewelry for a night out, maybe a nice pair of earrings. And honestly, you don’t need six pairs of shoes.

Distributing the weight inside your backpack is important. A lot of people think that heavy things should be at the bottom, but that can wreak havoc on your back. For regular, every-day use of your pack, keep the heavier stuff higher up in your backpack, aiming for it to be in-between your shoulder blade area. If you plan to do some intense hiking, heavier things at the bottom can help root you to the ground.

On more than one occasion my bag has somehow exploded into a frenzy of clothes, gadgets and toiletries everywhere.

three girls with exploding backpacks.

 It’s like a bomb goes off inside my backpack. I found that when packing with mesh bags, the chances of this happening were much less. With mesh bags you can tightly roll up all of your tops in one bag, your pants in another, undergarments in another. You don’t have to go digging through a mess of clothes that, though you rolled them tightly in the beginning, have loosened and unraveled on the journey.

I personally love mesh bags. They are soft, which means they can be squished down by your toiletries. They are compact, so they don’t take up much space. They are very light, adding very little extra weight to your bag. Four of these little guys worked perfectly for me. I know some people who do the same thing with extra large zip-lock bags, which kind of works the same way. I like the mesh clothing organizers more because they are less disruptive for your roommates if you are staying in a hostel. The only thing I do usually keep in a large zip-lock bag is my explosive-prone toiletries like shampoo. More than once I’ve had my clothes covered in shampoo because I didn’t conceal it in a plastic bag. Check out a previous post about solid shampoos/conditioners if your liquid shampoos have exploded on you too!

Mesh Bags!

These colorful mesh bags helped to keep me organized and it was quick and efficient to find what I needed each day. They can be found at most outdoors/travel stores like Camper’s Village, REI, Mountain Equipment Co-op, etc. So, what’s your verdict? Have you used mesh bags or other clothing organizers before? Are they something that you would try?

Packing for Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by
demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat,
worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if
we try and understand each other,
we may even become friends.”
– Maya Angelou

Well, today is the day! In eleven hours I will be stepping on a plane that will take me away to Thailand, alongside a friend that I met last year at the beginning of my first year of university. The weeks leading up to travel are some of my favorite weeks. They are rushed, stressful, and exciting. Paperwork is being done, photocopies are being made, banks are being called and a week before the trip I finally make a list of everything that I need, what I have already and what I still need to buy. Right now, I still need to go buy some bobby pins for my hair and have to quickly go to the doctor to check out my throat. I have the tiniest fear that I might be getting strep throat and, as I’ve mentioned, I leave in nine hours. Great timing. This tends to happen every time I go on a trip. My first one, to Europe, I sprained my ankle the night before I left, leaving me with crutches. Last year, I was sick the entire flight and this time, I may have strep throat. Or just a bad sore throat. No big deal, because nothing can put a damper on my spirits today!

Packing is always a big ordeal. If I’m going away for the weekend, with a suitcase, it’s not too hard. But when you’re living out of a backpack for an extended period of time, things get a little trickier. Once I had all of my clothing options spread out on my bed, it looked something like this:

And that wasn’t even the half of it. The floor was a maze of toiletries, hair product, lotion, sunscreen, bug spray, towels, you name it. It was overwhelming. Three days later, I had made a good dent in the packing process. Clothes sorted out, this is what I was left with:

Only four little bags: shorts, bathing suits, tank tops, dresses. Some are new, bought for my trip.. because I can’t deny myself the added opportunity to shop. It’s a horrible addiction. But most of them are old, worn, and I have it in my mind that if I buy more while I’m away, those old clothes will be left behind. Despite my efforts at packing light, my backpack is still pretty full, which shouldn’t surprise me since it happens the same way every year. Some people have asked me what my packing list looks like, so here it is:

MICHELLE’S TRAVEL CHECK LIST

Random

-Prescription meds
– Advil and Gravol
– Cotton Balls
– Q Tips
– Band-Aids
– Travel Towel
– Adapter
– Hand held mirror
– Wallet with VISA, debit card, ID, travel insurance card
– Passport
– Notebook and 2 pens
– Copies of all of my documents
– Camera, camera case, memory card, battery, battery charger
– Ipod, Ipod charger
– Sunglasses (2)
– Sunscreen
– Bug spray
– Eye mask
– Elephant Nature Park confirmation
-Chiang Mai hostel confirmation
-Flight tickets

Clothes

Underwear
– Bra (1)
– Bikini tops (3)
– Bandeau (1)
– Bathing suit
– Tank tops (4, except I pushed it to five.. woops)
– Shorts (3, except I pushed it to four.. woops)
– Dresses (3, except I pushed it to four.. woops)
– Flip Flops (2)
– Capri leggings (1)
– Scarf (1, to use as a blanket/cover up in temples/sarong, so handy!)

Hair

– 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner
– leave in conditioner (because my hair is fried)
– hairpsray
– scrunching gel
-bobby pins
– elastics
*I know, sounds ridiculous. But I’m not bringing any styling tools and I am not blessed with hair that magically looks good wash and go, so I need some hairspray and gel to keep things under control*

Makeup

– Waterproof mascara
– Bronzer
– Lip chap
– Foundation
*Even though in Thailand, it sweats off in about ten minutes*

Other Toiletries

– Soap
– Shower cap
– Razor
– Deodorant
– Face wash and wipes
– Moisturizer (mini, tester bottle)
– Toothbrush and toothpaste
– Lotion

It’s a pretty extensive list, I know. And I am fully aware that I probably won’t use some of it/don’t absolutely need it, but hey. I can always leave stuff behind and I never said I was good at packing light! As for the trip itself, I don’t have much of a plan for when I arrive. All I know is that we want to do Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. I have so much energy and excitement, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning!