Thursday, April 2, 2015

3 Days to Spain~ or Paris~ or Wherever

The travel question of the day comes from my good friend, Sabrina S in California:

"OK my traveling buddy ~ I need your expertise ~ I'm going to Paris and London in May ~  First of all, freaking out about the long flight because I can barely make it to Hawaii.  Second:  How to pack / What to pack / Travel needs.   Third:  Must-see and do's while I'm there."

OK, Sabrina, here you go, Part 1: (What to see in Paris is Part II)

Packing day.  Better description is Pre-Packing Day.  When I know that I'm going to be gone from my closet for 30 days or so, I start really early on packing for that trip.  I "Stack before I pack" and it looks like this.  

Yeah, admittedly, it looks like a mess.  But it works for me.  I pull out everything I think might work, whenever I find the time or have the thought in the weeks preceding the trip, and then I trim it down later. 

Then, and again, it's just what works for me,  I try everything on, and everything must work with everything else in the suitcase.

Cause here's the deal.  When I have sights to see, and elephants to meet, and concerts to go to, and castles to explore, and little local bistros to discover, and Eiffel Towers to photograph, and cooking classes to attend......I do not want to waste any valuable time picking out what to wear that day!

Most of you who know me know that I am not a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.  But neither can you pack for 30 days in one small suitcase and pack individual outfits, with matching shoes, and a variety of jackets that match each outfit, and all your hair care and cosmetics and vitamins and medication and special creams and lotions and matching jewelry.........That's a "special weekend away" kinda' pack.  This is a month in a foreign country.  Different animal entirely. 

So.  My solution to that is, that I spend a couple of hours packing so while I'm abroad it's a snap to get ready.   We have already checked out the weather in each location, so we know what we'll need, and I have pulled out an inventory that meets the criteria ahead of time.   Then I try everything on.  With everything.  You would be hard pressed to find anything in my suitcase that does not go with everything else in my suitcase. There are (3) pre-packing stacks: "Yes", "No", and "Maybe".  If you do this early, then you have time to go fill in the gaps.  It turns out looking something like this.

'Cause really.  What if you are counting on those slacks that "used to fit".  Or you forgot that favorite top is now missing an important button.  Or the sweater that you were going to wear is too short, or the top is too long. (Guys, you can roll your eyes anytime.  I know.)  My Mr. C has a much easier time.  He just decides what's going to go with his shoes and belt (black or brown), and he's done.  But my point is, since you are only surviving on what you take with you, you want to double check to make sure it all works.  With just the one (maybe two at the most) pairs of shoes.  Yeah, that's the big one.  Shoes take up the most space and are the most poundage.  So it's one excellent pair of walking shoes, and maybe a pair of flip-flops or sandals.   Period.  Cause this is not a model shoot (well, unless you're the Londoner).  You are equipping yourself to spend time immersing yourself in a foreign culture.  A whole different animal.

If I have room, I try to take one dress or dressy outfit.  I try to take a pair of strappy sandals if that's the case ~ again, something I can wear multiple times.  Black slacks with a dressy blouse and a shawl works, too.  
Then I start to fold and condense it into "sets" (by color), which looks  like this. I usually travel (for long-term) with two color sets.  Often it's black and tan, or tan and blue.  

The next step, (I've learned from experience) is to stow all these "sets" in those jumbo zip lock bags.  The gigantic 2 or 2.5 gallon ones.  Yeah, I think the travel stores have some fancy "cubes", but I'm too cheap to pay for something I can find in my pantry. 

And after you sit on them to expel all the air out, they become very condensed units to pack in your suitcase.   This is 5 complete outfits, pants & tops, sweater included.

Otherwise, here's the deal.  That perfectly packed suitcase on Day 1 is a mess after 3 stops by Day 10.   And you still  have 20 days to go.  I have found that if things are grouped by sets, I can always grab a bag and know that it's pre-determined that everything in that bag works together.  'Cause my Mr. C is out the door in a flash, and I need to be, too.  I don't want to miss out on a thing!

This is what the "reject" pile looks like. 

So while packing day is sort of a pain, and takes some time, I know that a couple of hours spent here means that my next 30 days is painless.

In addition to this, one light jacket or sweater gets packed for each color (usually one tan & one blue or black); And I always wear or take (too bulky to pack) one trench coat, in tan or black, depending. It should double as a raincoat.  If it's Eiffel Tower day, you don't want to be soaked and miserable.

And this is what my carry-on looks like.  
In addition to my laptop and camera, it includes:
  • Makeup bag.  Take your makeup with you.  You can never replace your make-up in a foreign country if it's lost in your luggage.  And you're gonna' need every bit of it after traveling 24 hours or more....
  • All prescription meds, and other pills you might need, go on the plane with you ~ never ever put them in checked baggage.  You're asking for disaster if you bag doesn't show up.
  • All chargers and adapters go on the plane with you.  It's a huge hassle to try to track down a phone or camera charger in a foreign country (and remember, their connectors are all different than ours).  What a waste of valuable travel time that would be!
  • Reading glasses and sunglasses
  • Headsets for those "survival movies".  Not the fancy Bose ones that you'll have to worry about when you're overseas.  Just a nice set of (condensed) corded headsets.  Or you can sacrifice and just use the disposable plane headsets.  Your call. 
  • Snacks for the plane and for those intermediate travel days on trains & subways and buses.  I take granola bars, cashews or  peanuts, beef jerky, cheese & crackers, and Chex Mix is also good, 'cause that can even be breakfast if need be.  Believe me, it beats the dried fish and salted seaweed "snacks" in a country such as Japan.
  • Travel size deodorant, disposable toothbrush & toothpaste (I love those disposable brushes that have toothpaste built in);  wet wipes, make-up bag !, and (not shown here) a pair of clean underwear.  This is my "surviving 36 hours of travel" kit.  A few minutes spent freshening up in the airport bathroom while waiting for checked luggage to arrive, and you will feel like a million bucks.  Well, at least you will feel less rumpled and smelly.  When you've not been to bed in 36 hours, little things mean allot.
  • A tiny travel flashlight. (Unless you have one on your phone). You never know when you'll need one. 
  • Travel socks.  This enables you to take off your shoes for all those flying hours; and a little comfort goes a looooong ways on those looooong flights.
  • And last, but unbelievably valuable, I always take a scarf of some kind.  This becomes a blanket, a pillow, or a wrap on the plane; it's a neck scarf under the trench coat in the cold @ your destination; and, it's a smart way to doll up that otherwise plain black outfit when going out to a fancy dinner.   
Now, you can see, if for some reason you get separated from you bag, you can easily survive on the above list, with the help of a little plastic card to fill in for lil' extras like clothes.

So this is what works for me.  But if you're all about jeans and t-shirts, well then ~ 
I'm just jealous.  


  1. I have never been on a 30 day trip but it is on my bucket list. This article is amazing as now I know I can do it without taking half of my closet with me. A big THANK YOU for sharing this with us.

    1. It's a different mindset, for sure, Carol C. Packing like this is about equipping yourself to do justice for your destination, where ever that might be. And you're welcome! That's what blogging is all about, to share ideas and concepts and hints and travel tips.....


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