In a few days I’ll be flying up to Seattle, Washington for a week. I will pack one very small carry on bag that fits under the seat in front of me. I will have enough clothes and shoes to cover any occasion. I might even have a bit of room left over. How can this be? I’ve finally learned how to pack minimally yet still get maximum enjoyment from my travels.
I used to cart around a ginormous suitcase that I loved. It had seven separate compartments that I filled to capacity. I even used those Space Bags for travel to flatten out all of my clothes in order to take along even more. I felt pretty proud of myself. Except that I was always afraid that my suitcase would weigh more than the baggage allowance. Depending on the airline that might be 40 pounds, 45 pounds, or 50 pounds.
I probably would still be using my giant suitcase if the airlines hadn’t started charging for checked bags. I don’t know about you, but tacking on an additional $25-40 (depending on the airline) EACH WAY to an already expensive ticket really began to bother the newly frugal me. So I downsized my suitcase to a smaller one that I could carry on and fit in the overhead compartment. Except that now some airlines are charging for carry on bags! Are you kidding me? I already have to purchase any food I eat (blech! I don’t miss airline food) and in many cases any beverage I drink. Not even water is free on several airlines. I do not want to pay to put a bag above my head. Ridiculous!
I found a great suitcase that fits under the seat in front of me that has wheels and a long telescope handle! There are plenty of compartments for all of my things, plus my tiny netbook computer and a paperback or two. I love it so much I went out and bought two more; one for my husband and one to give as a gift. I bought these at Costco for about $30. It’s a CIAO Under The Seat Travel Case, if you’re interested.
In a strange way I am grateful to the airlines for charging a baggage fee (not totally grateful, just a tiny bit). It forced me to confront my need to over pack. It forced me to realize that I don’t actually need any of the just in case items that I would throw in at the last minute.
Here are my new rules for traveling light:
1. Wear my bulkiest items on the plane, including boots and coat. This presents a slight hassle going through security, but I always wear boots that zip. My Doc Martens stay home!
2. Choose one base color; brown or black – not both! This eliminates the need for duplicate items; one belt, one purse, one pair boots, etc.
3. Replace some blouses with camisoles and cardigans. Cardi’s and cami’s can be mixed and matched and worn with jeans, slacks, skirts, and dresses changing up the look. Plus, they don’t get wrinkled, which is a huge bonus.
4. In addition to the jeans I wear on the plane, I pack either one other pair of jeans or slacks, and perhaps a dress (lightweight for summer, medium weight with leggings for cooler weather) or skirt. Of course everything depends on the climate (a trip to Hawaii would mean shorts, sundresses, and skirts rather than jeans).
5. One set of workout wear; usually yoga pants and sweat wicking t-shirt. I’d probably add a thin hoodie as well. Sweaty gear can be washed and hung to dry each day.
6. One pair of black flats, workout shoes, flat or heeled sandals (only if they go with more than one outfit!)
7. Tiny bottles (3 oz or less) of personal care products, one hairbrush, one small flat iron. No bulky hair dryer (most hotels have one in the room, all friends and family members have one that I can borrow).
8. Light undergarments that can be easily washed out in a hotel bathroom, one pair lightweight PJs, two pairs workout socks (these take longer to dry so I’d have an extra pair in case I workout first thing in the morning), one pair very thin knee-high socks (wear on plane with boots – make sure there are no holes in the toes!).
9. Accessories would include: A couple of pairs of fun earrings in addition to the ones I wear on the plane, a colorful scarf that complements my coat and various cardigans, and a couple of colorful necklaces. Necklaces can entirely change the look of an outfit and take up less room than clothing. I can wear the same black blouse or cami/cardi with different earrings and necklace and the whole outfit looks different.
10. Phone charger and any electronics I might really use. (On this particular trip I’ll bring along my tiny netbook to write some blog posts for Standing Stone, along with the charger.) No camera since my phone has an outstanding camera that is better than my digital!
11. Remember, you don’t need to buy all new clothes for your trip. Your old clothes are new to everyone you’ll meet in your travels. Think mix and match. If a blouse or cardigan can’t be worn 2-3 times then don’t pack it! Use accessories to change up the look.
All of these items can fit easily into the above-mentioned under seat suitcase. Don’t believe me? Here is the before picture:
Now here is the after picture. As you can see, everything fit except my little computer. I’ll probably just slip that into my purse.
Here is the list of everything I’ll bring along for my week-long trip:
Wear on airplane: Skinny jeans, black blouse with black cami, black boots. Carry teal trench coat.
Pack: (You’ll notice a black/white/polka dot theme here!)
1 pair gray jeans
1 fitted long sleeve black blouse
1 long sleeve white polka dot blouse
1 long sleeve solid white blouse
1 black ruffled t-shirt
1 white/black polka dot cardigan
1 gray cardigan
1 pair PJs
1 pair black yoga pants
1 gray workout t-shirt
1 gray hoodie
6 pair underwear/ black bra & white bra/sports bra/socks/white cami
black slip ons
knitted teal/green scarf and hat
2 pair earrings/2 necklaces (in addition to what I will wear on the plane)
Ziploc bag with shampoo, conditioner, lotion, razor, oil face wash, deodorant
Ziploc bag with makeup items (8 items total)
Brush, flat iron, small bottle anti-frizz hair product (I am going to RAIN country!)
Netbook computer and charger
I’ve checked the weather report and it will be raining most of the days that I am traveling. I won’t be taking a dress on this trip, too cold for that! Instead I’m limiting myself to tops and jeans, alternating boots and flats depending on the activities of the day.
There you have it! Do you think you could pack everything you need for one week in a tiny bag that fits under the seat in front of you? Oh, come on! Give it a try. You just might get hooked on a minimal travel wardrobe for life. I double-dog-dare you!