Monday, March 10

Packing Part 1

So! I haven't gone anywhere lately, and that's totally fine with me. School has been really intense as I finish up the last bit of my Social Work coursework and prepare to start internships next semester alongside the upper level psychology courses I still lack- needless to say, I've been too busy to even think about going anywhere. I've even decided to turn down two trip offers for spring break- one to Colorado and one to Austin in order to just recharge and get my ducks in a row. But just because I haven't gone anywhere doesn't mean I haven't had any fun! A friend and I explored some local Abilene treasures and went hiking at Abilene Lake, which in my opinion is more of a murky, thick, pond at this point. I've also done some shopping (always an adventure) and bought some basics for traveling and business interviews- yay internships! No pressure at all right? And then of course I've booked some things for Europe including the resort (Thanks Liz!) that my friend's mom is letting us use her time share to rent, our flights from Greece back to London, and our round-trip flight to London to get us there and back home to Texas! As you can see, I've been a busy bee. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, we accidentally dyed a cat pink- so there's that.

Anyways, as I near my next big trip to Europe I've been working a lot on packing efficiently and after putting my experience together with the plethora of blogs on packing light- I've decided to do a little 3-part series on packing. First (obviously, this one) is just some general packing tips as well as products that I've found to be crucial to traveling- light or otherwise. Second is going to be a specific packing post for my 32 days in Europe, which I'm packing entirely into a (large) backpack. Last, is going to be kind of a reflection once I get back from Europe on things I could have gone without and things I wish I had taken with me. All of this is in hopes that it will help someone further on down the road. Find out more about my packing essentials after the jump!

Ok, so I tried to photograph everything that's essential for me, but a few things are left out- but not to worry, I'll talk about them at the end! First up is what I pack in! If it's a trip where space is unlimited (ie- a weeklong trip to my parents house), I have a giant floral duffel bag that I got in England at Primark (Why does this place not exist in the US?) for about $30, and it's got wheels and a handle, really it's magical. Other than that, I have two hiking backpacks I like to pack in.

The first one, the larger one, is the Deuter Transit 50. You can buy it from several retailers, but after some online coupons and things that I found (just Google coupons for "store", you'll find plenty), Tahoe Mountain Sports had the best price. It's got a detachable duffel bag strap, as well as having a pocket for the backpack straps to zip up into. It's also got a removable day pack and a separate zippered space at the bottom- which were the two things I was looking for in this new backpack- the day pack for obvious reasons and the bottom pouch for shoes- to keep the smell and mud away from my clothing. The second backpack is an REI Traverse 30- which is obviously REI's personal brand. As you can see, the design has changed a bit since I bought mine three years ago- but I would still recommend it for a smaller pack if you want one for weekenders or are just a fantastically light packer. A lot of people might be thinking that $180 (which I paid much less than that for both of these) is a ridiculous amount to spend on a backpack- but it really isn't if you're planning on packing for five months in this thing, and then carrying it yourself all around various cities. Getting the right backpack is crucial to not only maximizing space, but your health. Carying a cheap backpack can really injure your back if it's too heavy, and both of these backpacks have waist straps that help take part of the load off my shoulders, as well as adequately padded straps. You can click over to where I bought each of them for full specs. Wow- obviously I could write an entire blog about the backpacks- it's just really important to find the one that's right for you- do a LOT of research, and don't just order stuff online. Go to REI and try on backpacks, find out what is comfortable for you. They even have weights to put in the backpack to help you really imagine what it's going to be like lugging these things around all the time.

Next are a few things that I consider to be for international travel only, though I suppose if you were flying or staying in a hostel in the United States, these things would be helpful then too.
1. ID tag for your luggage. I got mine from Target and it's a special ID tag that has a QR Code- which to me is a universal language (this may or may not be ethnocentric of me). It makes me feel a bit better knowing that even if they can't read what's written on the tag, they could scan the QR code and translate the information on your phone.
2. Locks. I have two different kinds here, one from REI (which is no longer available that I can find) that uses a card with holes to open it and another from Target or somewhere that's a combo lock. Both locks are TSA acceptable- which is really important, because if TSA can't open your bag, they're going to be upset with you. TSA acceptable basically means it has a keyhole that TSA will have a key for- I guess it's like a universal thing, that every agent has the same key.
3. Inflatable neck pillow. Neck pillows are really important for long car rides or flights, but especially if you're packing light, you don't want to be stuck lugging it around forever. This way, you can deflate it and put it at the bottom of your bag and forget about it till the next flight!
4. Map. This may seem silly with technology now, but when traveling internationally, it's REALLY expensive to use maps on your phone, and while many coffee shops have wifi, to me it's easier to have a map of the city I'm in with me at all times. Most tourist shops will have free paper maps, and if they're not free, they're generally super cheap- they're not mean.

Next is stuff to keep you organized. For me, traveling is insane, I'm dropping my bag in a locker, locking it, and setting off to explore the city. I don't want to spend 30 minutes looking for the right jacket or untangling my jewelry in order to get the one that I want.
1. Eagle Creek Specter Cubes. I have the compression set and the packing set- both I've found to be super useful! They are a bit pricey, so if you're thinking about investing, make sure you shop around to see who's having a sale.
2. Straws. As odd as this sounds- straws are really useful for packing necklaces! I saw this on Pinterest a while back and I'm so glad I did because it's kept my necklaces from getting tangled, a true time saver.
3. Jewelry organizer. Honestly, this is one of those plastic nails boxes from back when I was in junior high and thought that stuff was awesome, but if that seems odd to you, I'm sure amazon has a variety of cute organizers to choose from.
 4. Lined Toiletries Bag. Mine is from Soap and Glory and came in a set of 3- works great and is cute to boot. This is really important- because if you're packing liquids of any kind, if you change altitude, your bag gets squished, things open, whatever, your clothes are all getting messy- it's a nightmare. The Specter Cubes aren't waterproof like most toiletries bags, so if you pack liquids in them, they'll just leak out.
5. Other bags. Ok, so this is for those that don't feel like dropping coin on the Specter cubes- and these things work just as well. What's underneath the jewelry organizer and toiletries bag is a cloth bag that a sheet set came in. I use this for shoes, to keep mud or whatever else from getting on other things- but you can just as easily use this to organize your clothes if you have a few of them.

Next up- my beauty products. This is important for some people. For others- they just throw whatever they grab first in to a bag and that's a-ok, you do you. For me, this is close to what I use on a daily basis, but I know for some girls this is an insanely small amount of beauty products.
 1. Eyeshadow Palettes. I have a couple Wet & Wild shimmery pallets that I like to use because they're cheap and swatch similar to a few of my fave colors from the naked 1, 2, & 3, all of which were way out of my price range. ELF also has some great travel size palletes, not to mention a hundred different brands offer things that are more customize-able. Also pictured is Naked Basics, which I never leave home without.
2. LUSH. Let's just get all these products out in one fell swoop. Happiness- which is what I use as a liquid gold (or according to them bronze) eyeliner. Then there's the shampoo bar- and I honestly don't remember which one is pictured, but Jumping Juniper and Soak and Float (which was introduced to me as Smoke & Whiskey, which smells accurate) are both fantastic as well. Then there's Jungle Bar, a solid conditioner, which works for pinched travel, but honestly I'd rather have my regular deep conditioner. Next is No Drought, their dry shampoo, which is great and not in an aerosol can, which can't be taken on an airplane. Toothy tabs in various flavors- these things are awesome, and grab them while you can! The sales rep at Dallas Galleria said they're rumored to be discontinued soon. A scalp bar and soap sample- the scalp bar I can't find anywhere and might be a UK item since various countries have their own stuff- I got it in Oxford and haven't seen them since. Each Peach lotion- lotion bars are a must when my skin is being put through various climates, sunny days, and lots of other harsh conditions. Buffy- exfoliating, moisturizing, and magnifique. Last but not least is Mint Julips- a lip scrub that I can't live without. OK! I promise I wasn't paid for that LUSH plug, their stuff is just all solid and fantastic for traveling especially since they sell tins in the store that fit their products perfectly. (However, if a LUSH rep were to see this and want to thank me for promoting their products with some free swag, I would definitely never turn it down.) With LUSH products I don't have to worry about hitting liquid limits, which I'm always concerned about.
3. Basic Makeup- for me this is mineral powder and tinted moisturizer (both Mary Kay). Brown eyeliner in a felt tip pen form (ELF) and black eyeliner (Mary Kay). Mascara- whatever I happened to have picked up from CVS at the time. Urban Decay Lid Primer. Burt's Bees Lip Balm. Lipstick Queen Sinner (by Poppy) in Red and Pink, as well as matching lip liners from Walmart.
4. Body Spray- I always carry a small one from Bath & Body works, always something citrus. I've heard solid perfumes are great, but I've yet to find one that comes highly enough recommended from friends to spend the money on them. I'll probably end up trying to make my own with some shea, soy, and essential oils before the big trip comes around.
5. Deodorant. I almost always wear a man's deodorant, for several reasons. One, it works better- let's be honest, if I'm walking around with a giant backpack and the sun beating down, I'm going to need something that works. Secondly, generally if I smell like men's cologne and I'm traveling alone (and this is advice I'd received from someone else originally), I don't get hassled as much because they're always thinking about a man that's with me that's probably right around the corner. I wish the world weren't this way, but it is, and a feminist rant is now that this post needs right now. (:
6. Makeup Remover- this is just whatever brand I happen to pick up, but Mary Kay has dry makeup remover sheets that are "just add water" kinds of things, so that's one less thing to force into that quart-sized ziplock!
7. Hair ties and bobby pins, in a small ziplock. I don't use the fabric hair ties when I travel- just the small black rubber ones- they work just as fine for me.
8. Ok, last thing in this picture is a small tin, up on the top, that's moisturizer. I use Nivea soft, but use whatever you use- it's just nice to have it in a smaller travel sized container (this was originally packaging for earrings from Target).

Last are my miscellaneous items that I travel with- all of which are important.
1. Water bottle. This one is a Camelback and has the filter straw on it, because you can never be too safe!
2. Flashlight- because I've gotten caught in pitch black parts of town too many times to be comfortable.
3. Eyedrops and contacts.
4. Hair Clip.
5. Travel makeup mirror. This is from Mary Kay and stands up so that I can adjust the angle.
6. Eco Tools travel brush kit. This one is really great and even has a mini-kabuki!
7. Vitamins. Especially when traveling, you're wearing your body down by exposing it to new germs that it's not used to, not to mention you generally push yourself past what you do on a daily basis. Staying healthy while traveling is important, and be sure to take with you the types of things recommended for the region.
8. Travel Hair Tool. This one is really cool. I generally let my hair do whatever, but sometimes I like to dress up, especially when I'm having fun in a new place while traveling. This one is special because there's a switch that changes it from a straightener to a curling wand, it's miniature, and it's meant to handle dual voltages- International travelers rejoice! It's seriously the best purchase I've ever made.

Last couple things not pictured are Burt's Bee's cuticle cream, which I never leave home without. A nude, a bright and a Sparkly nailpolish (generally OPI Taupe, Revlon Apricot, and Sephora Gold), and Sea Salt Spray, currently using Got 2b's.

I feel like this post might say more about my beauty routine than how I pack.. but oh well. Hope something I said sparks an idea or helps you plan for your next excursion! Stay tuned later this week for a LONG OVERDUE post about my weekend in Paris last December.