Travel Essentials


I’m an overpacker. Always have been. When we went yurt camping last year, M derided me for insisting on bringing a rice cooker, but we totally used it, and I won’t apologize for my over-preparedness. Of course, I managed to not pack blankets or pillows, but only because the yurt website said that bedding was included (they were not. We had to make a jaunt to Walmart in the middle of our yurt trip so we wouldn’t freeze our buns off – glamping was never less glamorous).

We’re heading out to the Midwest this Saturday, so I’m starting to gather the necessities, and the urge to stuff our suitcases beyond capacity is niggling at me. As costs of air travel rise and amenities lessen, though, I’ve been reevaluating the way I pack. Normally, I would include several extra outfits, just in case. I’ve been known to haul seven pairs of shoes for a week-long vacay. Ditto for K. M tends to manage with very little.

I’m trying something new this time and paring down to the bare bones essentials. We’ll have access to a washing machine and dryer and in a pinch, strip malls and Target are only a stone’s throw away. As long as I have my extra eyewear, enough underwear, my non-negotiable gadgets (ipad, laptop, camera), a few key pieces of clothing and comfy shoes, I’m good to go. Oh, and a good book is critical.

What about you? Are you an expert packer? Any good tips on traveling light would be much appreciated!

31 thoughts on “Travel Essentials

  1. packing is so hard! i always either overpack or underpack. everytime i stand in front of my empty suitcase i grumble something about finally understanding the point of a capsule wardrobe…

    1. Yes! I need a capsule wardrobe. That will have to be my new year’s resolution next year…thanks Joelle!

  2. Hi Sanae,
    some years ago i started to pack full outfits to go with. In the past i only pack by number, means : 3 pair of Pants, 5 Shirts, 6 sweatshirts or pullover, you name it.
    Now i lay out five or more outfits: that white shirt with those chinos, and that scarf and that shoes. Then i remove the shirt and combine and mix the chinos with other items from my closet. Same for jeans. in this manner i choose 5 or more outfits for different events or places to go. last i choose jackets and a bag that goes with most items. And Voila!
    The result is a lighter bag PLUS a wider variety of things to wear on vacation instead of only wearing items together that were still clean but don’t pair really well.
    Sending you greetings

    1. Thank you, Marit – mix’n’match is definitely the way to go. I have a lot of neutrals so I should focus on those more. Excellent!

  3. I don’t know, man! Just make a pile of stuff you need and then put half of it back? I used to be quite good at packing, like one courier bag for three weeks in Cuba, or one carry on for 8 weeks in Italy, but now i have two daughters and we need to bring a whole library, rabbit, Emu, Mog, muzzies and stuff like that.

    1. Haha, that strategy would work too! It’s true, I’m pretty sure I can get pretty minimal with my own stuff, but K is a whole nuther can of worms…

  4. I just went to the beach with my parents. I had to ride with them so it was not an option to overpack like I normally do. I paired it down to just basics- including baby stuff, which was hard!! You know what? I didn’t need anything else all week. I’ve got overpacking tendencies, too. It’s made me rethink the way I normally pack.

    1. Such a good point, Liza Jane. We really need so little when we get right down to it, right? And no one’s going to care that I’ve worn a top three times in one week!

  5. Having just returned from being gone 12 days, I was dismayed by the amount of packed clothing I didn’t wear. So I guess my only piece of advice is to take less than you think you *might* need. It’s hard to plan for different kinds of weather: cool nights, hot days. But did I really need THREE hoodies/sweatshirts? Access to laundry really helps, as does a willingness to wear the same thing multiple times. And if all else fails, as you said, you aren’t far from Target!
    Hope you have a wonderful trip, Sanae!

    1. We’re pretty much guaranteed hot weather in Indy, so I think it’s safe to pack only one cardi. But you’re right, it’s that I “might” need it mentality that gets me every time. And yes, Target will always save the day in a crisis πŸ˜‰

      1. Oh, that’s a great link, thank you Adri and Ute! Neutrals can really shine in travel situations so I think I’ll rethink my clothing choices. Hmmmmm….

  6. This is a gorgeous list. Very inspiring. I think that a headlamp is a must plus an insulated klean canteen. I picked one of these up before I went to the woods this spring and it was awesome. Perfect for a hot drink in the morning and it kept a cocktail cold at night, water in between. And obviously you have already thought of this but – bug dope. We are suffering from major bugs in the midwest right now… Finally, I finished Katherine Boo’s book this week and yammered on a bit about it on the blog (inarticulately) – in case you want to read about what I thought – in case you’re thinking of bringing that book with. Longest comment ever… Have fun, Sanae!

    1. Oh, I will definitely check out your post on Boo’s book, Brienne! I’m hoping to do some serious blog catching up when I’m in Indianapolis since K will be happily occupied with the cousins and my mother-in-law is amazing about taking care of us so I can get away with doing very little (SO nice). Thank you!

  7. I always pack too much… And I have sworn to myself, to only take essentials with me to Greece! The heat makes it easier to pack: a bikini, a few dresses, a beach cover up, done! I have started to write down what I did not need or wear after a vacation, that can be helpful for future trips. Have a great time!

    1. Your Greek island getaway sounds fabulous and dreamy, Ute! I long to vacation in a place where all I need are a bikini, a few dresses and a beach cover up. I’d say that’s a perfect place to be!

  8. I am also a pretty sparse packer (especially now that my kids are well past diapers). Extra crap annoys me, we travel by (very small) car a ton, if you don’t absolutely NEED it leave it at home. That said, a well stocked knitting bag is my one essential. I might travel naked before giving up my bag of knitting.

    1. Oh, that made me laugh, Kristi! If I could get away with it, I would totally bring my sewing machine since I have so many projects I’m supposed to be working on, but alas, that won’t be happening. K is bargaining hard to take her skateboard though…we’ll have to see about that one πŸ˜‰

  9. Can I speak with a very weak voice and say that I’m really glad you will pack iPad, laptop and camera. The on-time daily post will carry on? Just joking. Enjoy the trip.

    1. You’re so awesome, Jing, thank you! It’s nice to know that someone looks forward to my posts πŸ™‚ I have ambitious plans for posting next week but as with most of my ambitious plans, it looks like I might have to scale back. Fingers crossed that I get all the “must-do” items done first!

  10. When we go on summer vacation the problem for me are not the clothes but all the “toys” – surfboards, windsurf gear, canoes, bicycles, sewing machine… – we want to bring with us.
    We have an huge car (for European standards) and I always manage to fill it up to the roof.
    So I guess I am not the perfect person to give you a good advice…
    Sanae, I loved the illustration, as always. I hope you have a great vacation!

    1. You’re my kind of woman, Marta! I’m so in awe that you take your sewing machine with you, that’s so cool. And yes, it does seem to be all the other extra stuff that accumulates for us too, though we don’t travel by car very much and all those extra charges to check in luggage motivates me to keep it simple. πŸ™‚

  11. I always pack too much, I like to cater for every eventuality, but have learned to cut back over the years. I start by taking out everything I’d like to take, realise it’s way too much, then reduce it to a reasonable amount (but I always pack twice as many undies as I think I’ll need!).
    For my daughters, I select complete outfits, from knickers to cardigans, reduce by at least a third by mixing and matching. I also always pack their clothes in mini laundry /drawstrings bags (something else to whip up for your holiday πŸ™‚ ). That way the suitcases stay tidy, clothes less creased and it helps finding each child’s clothes once you’re at your destination.
    Have a fab holiday!

    1. I love that idea of a mini laundry bag! I think I might be able to squeeze a few of those out before we leave. Thanks, Rhoda!!

  12. roll up your clothes to save space – surprisingly it works and i now do it for all my trips. insert socks into shoes. i also travel with exofficio underwear so i don’t have to take as much. and definitely bring a mini laundry bag. i usually snag the free bags from hotels but some hotels don’t have them (like the one i’m currently in now). and pack neutral bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts) and just vary the tops. sorry for all the randomness but hope it helps!

  13. we just got back from a midwest trip… the only direct flight we could get was on spirit and they charge you for everything. luckily we stayed out the same hotel year after year and they have free laundry. so we packed super light. which is a challenge but between myself, my husband and our toddler we had 1 rolling suitcase, 1 small back pack and 1 large back pack. i did a load of laundry pretty much each night. i’m up for the challenge of packing even lighter next time. you can do it! good luck.

  14. folding and rolling your clothes helps leave room to pack more and also non iron items are always helpful.

    1. I totally rolled my clothes and that made such a big difference! And yes, ironing while traveling is the pits, so I ended up packing a lot of knits. Thanks, Sarah!

  15. I hate carrying heavy luggage so I always pack super light – I pack in 3s – 3 bottoms, 3 tops, 3 layers, if I am going for a week I take enough underwear for everyday, any longer I pack laundry detergent as I don’t want to be carrying around piles of dirty laundry.

    1. Good strategy, Louize! The ability to mix and match to create an assortment of outfits is definitely key. I’ve made it to Indiana with far less than I usually pack, and I’m feeling pretty proud πŸ™‚

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