Monday, September 14, 2009

Travel Studies: What's in Your Suitcase?

Dee in a train station.

The phone is rings. It's your husband (mother/sister/boss) who says, "We just won tickets for a trip to Quebec, leaving in three hours. We'll be gone for four days. Your mom's on her way to pick up the kids—all you have to do is pack." What would you do first? Could you get ready that fast? What would you take?

This is my fantasy—to fly off on some exotic dream vacation without any warning. And I'm prepared.


The first thing I'd do is google the location and find out the weather. Then I'd get out my suitcase (which is always semi-packed) toss all my kits on the bed and decide which ones I'll need.

I've assembled kits (using ziplocks and the make-up bags that come with free gifts) so I can unpack and pack quickly, without thinking. I restock them as soon as I get home, while I still remember what I ran out of, so they are ready for the next trip. All the kits are stashed inside my suitcase so that when I'm packing for a particular trip, I can choose the ones that are applicable.

Nightstand kit
: little flashlight, tissues, lotion, nail file, chapstick.
Secretary kit: Calculator, pen, envelope for receipts, elastics, paper clips, tiny stapler, tape.
Recharge kit: Camera and phone chargers, extra batteries and memory card.
Toiletries, Make-up: the usual for the bathroom.

Laundry kit
: Cloth laundry bag, tiny mending kit, hanger type clothespins, tube of liquid detergent, and several 2-gallon ziplock bags folded inside each other. (I put a little detergent and some water in a ziplock along with whatever needs washing, zip it closed and squeeze it several times for a little washing machine action. Rinse and hang. Cinchy.)

First-Aid kit: Neosporin, Band-Aids, o-t-c heart-burn, pain and nausea meds, plus a list of our prescriptions with the phone numbers of our doctors and pharmacies.

Map kit: Unique for each trip—marked up maps, pages torn out of guide books and stapled together, hotel and confirmation numbers, etc. I use a plastic school folder for this kit that slides in a side pocket of my suitcase. It's handy to throw into the glove compartment or my purse when we arrive.

Carry On: large black microfiber LeSac bag with book, neck pillow, pashmina, black socks, and a ziplock for the airplane pocket (chap-stick, lotion, kleenex, iPod, advil, gum, pen, pad of paper.)

In just a couple of minutes I'm almost packed. An extras list reminds me to add: wallet, passport, phone, iPod, camera, current book, tickets and travel info, glasses and sunglasses, and Rx enough for the trip. I keep that list with my packing list (clothing items) inside the suitcase with the kits, so there's no remembering involved.

Packing List
Three pair pants (two of them black)
-or two pants, one skirt-
Four silky T-shirts (black, red, white, green.)
Two slinky-type tank tops (black, white)
Lightweight black Cardigan
Appropriate weight coat or jacket
Denim jacket
Silver jewelry
Long (fake) pearl necklace and earrings
Cream colored long silk opera scarf
Three scarves for jacket (black, green, red)
Two pairs comfy black shoes (NEVER take new shoes on a trip!)
Four sets underwear

Everything (except the jackets) can be hand-washed. I take lightweight fabrics that will dry overnight. In hot weather I take a gauzy black skirt and blouse, wear sandals, and leave one pair of shoes and a jacket home.

This is all I ever take, even on three-week trips, and what I wear on the plane comes from this list. The only down side to my packing system is that I stick to the same color combinations, and although the actual clothes change over the seasons and years, I look the same in all my vacation photos. Dee always takes disposables. A shirt or shoes that are almost worn out take their final trip and get left behind to make space for souvenirs.

I use a packing cube for my clothes, with hard plastic pieces for the top and bottom to keep things neat. I take a fabric laundry sack, and an extra Le Sac bag that folds into it's own pouch. If I need to, I can stuff the Le Sac with my laundry bag, check it for the flight home, and have room for souvenirs.

I take two jackets because I'm always wearing one, and I get less bored with my photos.
A scarf adds variety, too, and can be used for a pillow, blanket or hat.

And I squeeze in two umbrellas to tweak my look. One is always clipped to my purse, so it's a colorful accessory, even when it isn't raining.

It never looks like it will all fit.

Push it all down, and voila!

I practice carrying my bag up a flight of stairs and lifting it over my head when it's full, while I'm wearing a jacket, and holding my purse. If I can't do it, I take a few things out.

Hint: We stop at the post office before we leave a city, and mail any purchases home, so we don't get overloaded. (They have boxes and tape there.) Dee takes a mailing tube in his suitcase to send or carry home posters, paintings or maps, and leaves the mailing tube in his suitcase until the next trip.


Unpacking is just as easy. After refilling the shampoo bottles and jotting down a list of needed items for re-stocking, I throw all the kits back into the suitcase along with the packing cubes and a dryer sheet to freshen things up, and put it all away. I wipe off my shoes, dump my laundry in the washer, and start planning my next trip.

So, why doesn't somebody call me with tickets for Quebec?
I'm ready to go!

Homework assignment:

~Get a baggie and go to your make-up drawer. Using extras, pack a make-up kit you can keep in your suitcase. Have a toiletry bag ready to go: Put baby wipes in a baggie (if they dry out, just dampen them) to wash your face, and refill or buy some travel-size toiletries.

~Make a packing list of comfortable, washable travel clothes to keep in your suitcase. (The list, not the clothes.)

~Blog about something you never leave home without. Prompt: "I never go anywhere without double-stick tape. I use it for _________.

Bon Voyage!

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


soybeanlover said...

Sorry I keep forgetting to link back, but I did it this time! I like the idea of separate bags to throw in!

Have a great night. my essential item

crissy said...

Adding detergent, water and a garment to a large zip-loc? Genius! I will remember that always.

As for my homework, I obsessively keep one item with me at all times.

Christie said...

This is pure genius. I should print this out and store it in MY suitcase. I love it.

P.S. Got your message last night - feel free to do whatever!

Tiffany said...

GENIUS! My socks are knocked off. You deserve a trip to Quebec!

Miranda said...

I love it! This is like the BEST packing advice I've ever gotten.

kelly said...

i always love your advice! i'm starring this post for my next whirl-wind adventure, whenever that may be.

dalene said...



brooke said...

Your ideas are brilliant. You really just changed my life with packing. I'll never travel the same way again.

sue-donym said...

Here's my homework for today.

gab said...

Can't wait for you to pack up and visit us soon!

Allison said...

Great tips as usual! Internet issues prevented me from posting yesterday, so here are my links from today and Monday:



Jen Anderson said...

Can't wait to do my homework! How do I link back to you? Marta is one lucky girl to have you for a mom, you've got all the tricks figured out.

KJ said...

Diane L said...

Great tips! Here's today's assignment.

wk 3 assign 2

kenju said...

I never go anywhere without scissors!!

The next time I'm going on a trip, I want you to pack for me. Could you be any more organized???

diane said...

Oooh I love Quebec. I served my mission there. We went to Montreal last summer. This would be the perfect time of year to go.

I wish I could learn to pack light. I got a kindle for my birthday so that will help lighten my load.

Sarah N said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
audrey said...

There were some great things in here. My favorite idea is having the tube to put items in that need protection. I have been at a loss for this on many of my trips and ended up with smashed artwork when I got home. You would think I would learn.


the wrath of khandrea said...

i cannot even wrap my mind around this.

and yet...

i'm a teeny bit turned on by it all.

Mrs. Organic said...

I really enjoyed this post and the tips are just the sort I need. Here's my interpretation.

I'll get caught up tonight.

Beck said...

Is it cheating if I already have a toiletries bag that is packed and ready to go? I make adjustments to the contents according to the type of trip (camping or hotel). I also have a hair/makeup bag that I can be adjusted as well.

I will however, be making a laundry kit- Genius!

CupHolderGuy said...


I came across your blog via Google alert for travel accessories. I was curious if you'd be interested in a blogroll link exchange. My blog is at .


CMN said...

Thanks for another great lesson day! I just adore hearing about other people's packing ideas!

LOVE the idea to pack a mailing tube! As much as we expect major museums to have tubes or boxes for packing posters, there's always that small little spot that doesn't... Like the vintage poster I couldn't resist in London and then toted around the English countryside for a week. It made it home safely, but still -- what a pain! So, BRILLIANT idea. I'm adding that one to my bag!

What I never travel without? My Office Kit (scissors! tape! rubber bands!) and battery-free flashlight. Hmmm... and a Stationary pouch with Thank You cards, note cards, postage stamps, family addresses, 1 1/2" x 2" zip lock craft bags for saving odd bits, etc....

~j. said...

I'm so glad you acceptlate work.

Ginger said...

I'm a light organized packer too. But you've given me some great ideas. We traveled this year for five months, returning home for a day here and there in the middle. All I can say now is that I like short vacations. I like to stay home. But since my husband is the serendipitous type, I know we'll have more long, unexpected vacations. I'm going out today to get my bag ready to go. Great ideas.

Katie H said...

I did this one too!

G Sauce said...

Oh my gosh that is unbelievable! I thought I was pretty organized and ready to go on a trip but you are far more advanced than me. I am going to try some of this out. Thanks for the tips!!

La Yen said...

Better late than never!
My post

La Yen said...

Better late than never!
My post