“What are you doing with all those books anyway?” Ron asked.
“Just trying to decide which ones to take with us,” said Hermione. “When we’re looking for the Horcruxes.”
“Oh, of course,” said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.”
― J.K. Rowling,
If there’s one thing I normally feel pretty good at, it’s packing. My family went up to Washington and Oregon at least twice a year to visit family, and almost always had a personal vacation too. In my younger years we used to camp regularly too, so throughout the years I have become quite proficient at the art of stuffing necessary clothing and supplies into bags.
Unfortunately, no manner of packing experience could quite prepare me for this adventure.
The only other time I’ve had to pack for this length of time was in college, and I always had a car to fill rather than a few bags. I also had the knowledge I’d be back by Christmas at the latest, giving me time to grab more winter supplies if need be. This year, I won’t be coming back to the states until May. One of those times I wish I was Hermione and could just shove all my books and clothes into a tiny yet impossibly spacious bag.
Though this is certainly a challenge, I’m still trying to make use of the pieces of knowledge I’ve garnered throughout the years. And I decided I might as well share the few bits of information that I’m using to muddle through this colossal task.
- Versatility is everything! My policy with a clothing item is that if it cannot be used in more than one combination, it should be jettisoned. In other words, if I have one dress that cannot go with the shoes I’ve already picked, then it shouldn’t come along. Outfits should be able to be changed up. I love layers and accessories to help create new outfits out of a limited selection. Scarves and cardigans become my best friends because they can create new combos.
- It’s important to be prepared! While saving space in your suitcase can be nice, I also think it’s good to err on the side of needing a different type of clothes. After a Fourth of July in Washington where I decided not to bring pants and nearly froze at the fireworks, I have learned that sometimes it’s good to have a backup for poor weather. Again, layers are your friends. Bring short sleeve shirts, but be sure to bring jackets or sweaters you can put over them. Better to not be miserable if the weather changes suddenly.
- But don’t overpack! Easy to get too excited and bring too much of everything. If it’s a short trip, look at how many days you’re going and count out an outfit for each day. If you’re planning on doing laundry, divide the trip into how many times you’ll wash clothes. 3 week vacation- 3 washes, is 7 pairs of clothes… perhaps less if you’re willing to wear something more than once (I usually pack fewer pants knowing they don’t get as dirty and can be worn more than once without too much trouble, but always pack enough underwear). Remember that hotel sinks can be good for quick washes, especially of small and lightweight items like socks and undergarments.
- Leave the entertainment at home. If you’re traveling for pleasure, it’s likely you’ll want to spend most of your time out and about exploring or finding other fun activities. While plane rides or long drives can be dull, don’t get overly excited about bringing books or electronics. Pick one or two things to keep you occupied. If you can afford to leave your laptop for a few days, do so! It will give you a chance to disconnect and enjoy your experience, make your pack lighter, and also be less of a hazard for potential theft or damage. E-books are my best friends on trips as they take very little space but give me something to do while in transit.
- Pack light clothes. I have been attached to cozy sweaters and wool coats too, but when it comes to space in your suitcase, taking much lighter and less thick clothes will benefit you. Again, layering makes it easy to stay warm while giving you more options in clothing.
- Roll your clothing! For whatever reason I find this seems to save space. It can also keep those nasty creases from appearing in your clothes, so I prefer it for my travels! Also, don’t be afraid to stuff things. I often stick shirts, socks, scarves, or other smaller items into shoes to save space! Every spare inch counts!
- You might be able to buy it there. So as I’ve mentioned, my travels have been largely to Europe and around the States, so if you’re heading to Africa or somewhere that might be a little more impoverished or culturally very different, this might be less possible. However, for those of you headed to Europe or traveling to somewhere in the states, remember that it’s usually not that hard to purchase supplies if you should forget something. This does remove some of the pressure in knowing it won’t be the end of the world. Still, it is nice to save money and can be better to plan ahead.
- Bring what can be tossed. So, while a full suitcase can be fine on the way to your destination, it often becomes a burden once you pick up a few things you might want to bring home. My advice for that? Take the older clothing you have that you’re getting ready to part with anyways. Sure, a few nice clothes are good for photos, but if you have a few things you can part with at the end of the journey, it gives you more space in your bag on the way back! (Although I will say I think photos probably make the best souvenirs!).
- Pack lists are your friends. I never pack without one. I always need it to organize, remind myself what I need, and to see how much I’m actually taking. I have a suggested one for any who’d like it. It may be overly feminine, but you can tweak it if you don’t want to wear skirts or makeup etc. There’s room to add your own things and edit as needed. Hope it helps some of you!