The Art of Packing

I consider myself a packing specialist. As you know, I like to travel... Anything from a weekend car trip to teach workshops in Germany to a 2,5 vacation in Hawai'i (and wherever we spend some days during the stop over).

Over the years my main goal has been to reduce the amount of stuff that I bring with me. This means less heavy suitcases and more place for shopping ;-)

I remember a two weeks trip to Mykonos when I was 21. After I had unpacked at the hotel, there was a line of about 12 pairs of shoes that I had brought with me... I also used to have a beauty case in my hand luggage. This is simply no longer possible because of airline restrictions. Some of the creams, nail polish remover etc. wouldn't even make it through security!

Now I have arrived at a point where a trip to Istanbul starts like this:

Everything I needed for a one week vacation was stuffed into a small suitcase which then went into the big suitcase. No hand luggage. Because I knew that I would go SHOPPING!
One week later the big suitcase was full and I took the small one (with the new dance costumes in it) as a carry on luggage...

Since I am preparing for my trip to Fuerteventura I thought I'd share with you some of my packing techniques.

How to reduce the amount of beauty products
If I am going to a "cheap" country, I don't even bother bringing shampoo and a manicure set.
I get my hair washed at a salon every few days and get my mani-pedi done as well. Sometimes all at the same time. A little pampering is good for the soul, a great way to relax (especially when you are walking around a lot) and you support the local economy. Everybody wins!

My other products get  filled into little travel containers if possible.
If I am going to stay at a "nice" hotel there will be shower gel and shampoo, no need to pack my own.
When creams in tubes are used up to about the last quarter, that's when I put them in my toiletry bag. Better than a new, full tube which just adds weight and uses space.

Update: I worked further on this and dedicated a separate blog entry to this subject.


Ask yourself: Do you REALLY need 20 different eye shadows and 10 lipsticks on this trip? Probably not.
Actually I already keep my make-up to the minimum since I also have to carry my make-up bag with me to my dance gigs.
If I didn't plan for a photo shoot in the sand dunes I would actually pack even less.
If in doubt: FREITAG :-) The model Cheyenne is a little costly but the perfect size for all of the items you see in the picture above. And it's lightweight but sturdy.
Update: Again, over time I managed to pack my make-up even more efficiently, you can read about it here.

How to reduce the amount of clothes, shoes and accessories
I am the queen of color coordination. As such I have long ago begun to only pack ONE color (plus white/grey/black). I make sure that everything matches and that I have many possibilities to mix and match the various garments.
This way I only need to pack one color of shoes (plus some in neutral shades) and accessories.

Since I have chosen green as my main color this time and I don't have any matching shoes (shocking!!!) I'm only packing neutral shades. And I don't expect any fancy outings, so one pair of heels is sufficient. I am planning different activities, from hiking to sightseeing to beach, so there's a wider variety of shoes than I would have on a trip that focuses on one thing, like a city trip.


There's no shame in using a list
I used to think: "I don't need a list to pack my suitcase! I can do it by heart!" - and then I would always forget something.
One day a friend of mine gave me a travel diary that had a packing check list for every trip.

I found it really helpful but wanted to modify it a bit. So now there's an excel list that I use (and adjust according to the nature of the trip) for longer trips.
The list also includes things to do before you leave: take out the trash, inform the cleaning woman, pay the bills, find somebody to water the plants etc.

I found out that I actually can pack faster when I just go through the list because this way I don't have to stop and think about what's missing.

I love bags
Not only do I want to pack as little as possible - I also want my luggage to be neat and organized.
This is where my little bags come in. Not just my Turkish bags, but also a bunch of others, like one for hair accessories, underwear, socks etc. I also make my own bags if I can't find one that fits.
Shoe bags keep shoes together and the rest of the luggage clean. You might even save some space by stuffing several shoes tightly together in one bag.
When I bring a costume with me for a photo shoot, it take in the bag that it's always stored in anyway.

So these are all the things I am bringing with me on this trip. On the left you can see my light duffle bag that will most probably serve as hand luggage on the way back. Because if you don't bring home more stuff than you left with, it's not a successful vacation!
There is more than I would normally bring on a vacation because I am also bringing two dance costumes for a photo shoot somewhere outdoors. Which also means that I have to bring more make-up, jewellery and a hair piece.

Give yourself enough time
Of course you can start packing 2 hours before you have to leave for the airport and get all stressed out. But why should you do this to yourself?
I sometimes begin the process an entire week before I leave. That way I can make sure all the clothes I want to bring with me are actually clean. Also, I have a tendency to misplace things - and I don't want to start searching for something important that I need to bring with me when I am already short on time!

While packing this time, I realised that because I hadn't travelled in a while some of my creams in the little travel containers had begun to dry out. So I had to clean out the containers and refill them. No way I could have done that if I was in a hurry.
Plus I got a little sidetracked when searching for a lotion and ended up cleaning out and re-arranging the entire bathroom closet!

So I'd rather do my packing in shorter intervals over several days than in a hurry at the last minute.

Final check
After I have put all my stuff together, I unpack everything, lay it out and try to eliminate at least 2 pieces of clothing and possibly a pair of shoes. Because I usually pack too much anyway.

So here we go, everything fit into the suitcase except the book. It's a total of 22,3 kg, right under the limit of 23 kg - perfect!


The giant "hand" bag

I usually prefer small handbags, but when I fly, I bring a big bag so that I don't need additional hand luggage. It takes the iPad, book, snacks, flight kit and "bag-in-bag" that I move between my handbags.
As you might have noticed, I also have a color scheme for travel items - I prefer them in red!

And I also confirm my own little travel joke:
"How can you easily find the terminal where the flight to Zurich leaves in every airport? Just follow the people with the FREITAG bags!" :-)
Ready for take-off!