So I travel a lot (though obviously, I don’t blog about it). For year’s I’ve absolutely loved the website One Bag. It does just what it says it’s going to do: teach you how to pack for a trip using one bag. I repeat one of the author’s catchphrases at every chance I get: “Checked luggage is lost luggage.” In fact, the idea of just using one bag came to me more than a decade ago when (big surprise) my luggage would get lost en route to China. After being forced to live out of one bag for the third trip, I resolved to save the time and the hassle, and just one bag it.
The only problem with the One Bag site is that it’s heavily geared toward men. I’m not complaining – the author is a man, and as far as I know, his packing tips for men are spot on. Given my proud XX chromosomal status, I’ve never been able to follow his packing tips completely, and over the years, my packing habits have diverged quite a bit.
I’m nowhere near consistent enough to write an entire website dedicated to OneBagging it for women (though I’d consider developing a crowd-sourced site if anyone is interested in writing articles/packing lists). So I’m just dedicating a page here on my blog.
- These packing tips regard trips lasting approx. 8-14 days. If you’re going longer than that, expect to do laundry once.
- I’m pretty feminine, though I do prefer a more natural (ie, lazy!) look.
- I’m a plus-size chica (the XX up there wasn’t just for my chromosomes!).
- I like to look as “local” as possible. Before traveling, I like to do some preliminary research via fashion blogs, Instagram, and Pinterest, etc.<–I guess that’s a tip. But also kind of a disclaimer. 🙂
- I’m assuming you’re not camping. I’m assuming you’re staying in a hostel, hotel, airBnB, or couch surfing. I’m assuming you’re not mud wrestling or gardening, or being an archeologist.
- I’ve only traveled in: East Asia, India, South America, North America, and west Africa. I don’t know if these tips will work for other areas, but I kinda think they will!
- Girly clothes! Believe it or not, it’s easy to pack lightly when wearing girly clothes. And if you think about it, this makes some sense. Girly clothes tend to be thinner and sparser than boyly clothes.
- Choose stretch pants over jeans. Unless you’re going to a rodeo, or unless you’re going to a place where jeans are the standard, bring stretch pants. Big box stores like WalMart, Target, and Costco have good selections and good prices. I find that when packing, I can fit two to three pairs of stretch pants in the same space it would take to fit a pair of jeans.
- You’re allowed two carry-ons, but use them wisely! Don’t try to overstuff your bags – it’s usually not necessary, and it’s almost always more trouble than it’s worth.
- Ballet flats! Buy a pair of cheap ballet flats (anywhere from $5-$15USD) and wear the hell out of them. I’ve done everything in ballet flats, from long urban jaunts to getting water at a village watering hole. Regards packing, you can smoosh them down to a tiny size, stick them in a plastic bag, and shove them in your bag when you’re done/not using them. You should definitely wear socks with them, but luckily, the small foot socks meant for ballet flats are MUCH smaller than regular socks!
- Make sure the soles have a decent tread, and if there might be rain, then get shoes with non-cloth uppers.
- Get a pattern that’s not going to look dirty or stand out too much. That way, you can wear them with casual or dressy looks.
- Don’t try to save them – they’re intended to be wrecked. They can be left behind when you head home (more room for memorabilia!).
- Wear the bulky stuff to the airport. If you’re going to bring tennis shoes or hiking boots, wear them to the airport. Same goes with jeans, sweatshirt, and coat. This isn’t the most comfortable option, I realize, but if you’re traveling for a long period of time, you’ll be able to fit more clothing in your carry-ons if you wear the bulky stuff.
- Carry pair of socks in your purse. Even if you’re going somewhere with hot weather. Socks come in handy at the weirdest times (mittens! garbage sack! cell phone holder!), and few things are worse than wet feet.
- Carry a purse. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. Most places I’ve been, women do carry purses instead of backpacks. Some places I’ve been, locals have warned me that carrying a backpack can bring unwanted/unsafe “gullible tourist” interactions (I’ve also experienced this firsthand). Carrying a purse, for me at least, helps me fit in a little better, and experience a little more daily life.
- Get a purse with a zipper. And velcro, preferably. You don’t want your purse easy to get into, and you certainly don’t want everything to spill out on the floor of a bumpy jeep because you don’t have a zipper!
- Pro $$$ tip! Keep your passport and an emergency bank card in your bra, near your armpit. Keep some large bills in your bra, on the side of your breast. Trust me, vendors will still accept sweaty cash, and the ink on the passport won’t run. Literally, ladies, this is one of my best tips! I never worry about where my valuables are.
- Carry Vitamin C lozenges. I usually carry two or three for each day (enough to share – people love this). I wrote a blog post about this earlier, but the gist was that Vitamin C will help ward off travel bugs, and that lozenges double as tasty candy.
- Preload your camera/phone with a few pictures of where you are from, your favorite people, your dog, etc. One thing I find when I travel is that people are interested in where I’m from, and that they’re always happier to take me under their wing when they know more about me.
- Take a picture of your lost and found info! Make it in your native language, the local language, and some lingua franca (usually English works). Also, make sure you have an email, a local phone number, and a name. You can write something like, “If found, please return to XXX for a small reward and lots of karma points.” Having lost phones and found phones, I can tell you that people will look at your pictures. So make use of it!
- Input contact info for local emergency services (911, etc), embassy/consulate, and info for one or two taxi services in your phone before you leave.
- Take a picture of your luggage. If for whatever reason your stuff gets lost or stolen, it’s much easier to show the airlines/authorities a picture than it is to describe the items. Plus, it shows they’re yours.
- Make sure you save contacts to your phone, and not your SIM card! You really don’t want to lose them if you switch to a local SIM.
- Granola/protein bars! I bring 8-10 of these wherever I go. If my blood sugar is wonky, or if someone else needs a snack, it comes in handy. If it’s a long trip, 8-10 days should be enough to assess the local food and snack situation.
- Baby wipes! I can’t stress this enough. Baby wipes! Get a pack of baby wipes and cut them in half (literally cut them in half – if you take the whole wipe a lot of it will be wasted). Then, split the baby wipes in a roughly 4 to 1 ratio and put them in two ziplock bags. Put the smaller bag in your purse, and the larger bag in your carry-on. Thank me later.
- Dental floss: Have I mentioned this before? I’ve tied clotheslines, hung mosquito nets, and of course, flossed my teeth.
- Athletic tape! YOU NEED THIS! Bring a roll of athletic tape, if you bring nothing else. It is tape (which is always fantastic), and it sticks to your body. I’ve left messages for people, taped up tarps, covered blisters, and even made a strapless bra out of the stuff (I looked bae btw).
- Hairbands, meet electronics. I actually put hairbands around all my electronics – because I won’t lose the electronics OR the hairbands that way!
- Update – I can’t stress enough how important it is to bring extra hairbands. On my most recent trip, I brought a 30-pack of hairbands, which I had braided together into a clothesline (<- I’m still not sure if this works, as I didn’t need to hang any laundry). When I arrived, I found that my bed had a mosquito net, but nothing to fasten it to the bed-posts. Hairbands to the rescue! I tied a hairband onto each loop of the net, and then tied it to the bed-posts. Since hairbands stick nicely and come undone nicely, I was able to re-hang the mosquito net every night as usual.
- What goes in that one-quart plastic baggie? A little perfume (see below), a stain remover pen, self-cleaner (you can get away with only shampoo, since it definitely doubles as bodywash!), and hair prods. For extra hardcore one-bag points, get a bar of something like Dr. Bronners. You can use it for every party of your body (teeth included, it just tastes gross).
- Hair time: Barrettes and/or bobby pins are a must. Solid toiletries like shea butter are much better than their liquid counterparts. Actually, just read A.V. Perkins‘ post on travel essentials. She has looking good wrapped up in 10 items or less.
- Tiny perfume: I squirt some of my own perfume in a little pump spray bottle (a one oz bottle is fine). It doubles as Fabreeze, perfume, etc. Call it “smell-betterz”.
- Dog poo bags! These come in a roll, and they’re biodegradable, and they are great for anything from dirty laundry to leftover food.
- Zip lock bags. Get some of each size. They pack down really small, and they are going to be helpful when you least expect it. Keep at least one in your purse. I usually separate my electronics, etc, into different ziplock bags, and then use them up as needed.
- Cloth bag with zipper. Years ago I happened to receive a fantastic cloth shoulder bag with a zipper-top. It has been with me ever since, and has lived many lives – a purse, a dirty clothes bag, a seat cover, and even a pillow! Funny I didn’t realize it until now. It’s just always been with me, so I never thought much about it.
- Local fashion abroad? I would love to buy clothes abroad, but let’s face it – many places in the world to NOT cater to plus-sized fashionistas. Instead, I’ve found that it’s best to buy scarves, shawls, and jewelry. In addition, if there is a chance for affordable tailoring, GET SOME! Take the opportunity to have something made for you, and know what shapes, cuts, etc, flatter you most. You will NOT regret it. Oh, and pro tip – if you chance upon a tailor while abroad, have them tailor something you’ve brought with you that may not quite fit right, has torn, etc.Blister prevention…sort of. Listen, if you’re doing a lot of walking (which you should be, it’s a great way to see AllTheThings) then you’re going to get blisters. BUT, they don’t have to be as bad as you think. I used to use blister pads, band-aids, etc, after the fact, but I’ve recently discovered a new(to me) trick: use athletic tape (I think I’ve talked about athletic tape before) to tape up the spots where you think you might get blisters. The tape helps with the rubbing, and (I think) keeps the blisters from getting as big as they would otherwise.
Well, that’s all for the moment. I’ll add to this page, or turn it into a series of blog posts if/when I can pull myself away from other real life things. 🙂