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Packing 101: Why You Don’t Need to Pack 7 Pairs of Shoes for a 5 Day Trip

Getting everything ready for my tripMy husband and I recently went on a trip to New York City. We flew in on a Tuesday night and flew back home on Sunday. I took three bags. Yes, you read that right … three. My husband, he took one bag (which I might have crammed a few things into). Why three bags?

One bag was my purse, complete with travel treats and my beloved iPad.

One bag for my laptop, Kindle, camera, notebooks and other “work” items.

My last (oversized, checked) bag held my clothes and seven pairs of shoes. Yes, you read that right … seven … one pair for every ‘outfit’ I planned to wear. (Speaking of outfits … I think I packed nine … for a 5-day trip.) Why I needed to take seven pairs of shoes to New York is beyond me. But I did (even though my husband said not to).

In the airport, having a few bags wasn’t a big deal. We checked one, so I just had two bags to carry with me. It wasn’t until we switched hotels mid-trip and had to walk 19 blocks with our bags that I was cursing and wishing I had left five pairs of shoes and that second coat at home.

One of the biggest mistakes new travelers make is taking too much. You’d think I’d never travelled before with the way I packed. If you try to be prepared for every possible scenario you will encounter on your trip, you’ll wind up taking the whole house.

To help you get started packing, and to make sure you avoid packing mistakes like I made, here is a list of some of the essential items you’ll want to take with you.

  • Backpack or suitcase – obviously.
  • Clothes – don’t forget the socks and undies.
  • Camera – your heart will be very sad if you forget your camera.
  • Money – don’t bring traveler’s checks or a ton of cash. Most places accept credit cards. Bring some cash, but not hundreds of dollars … you don’t want to be a target.
  • Tickets – airplane, hotel reservations, excursions/tours, plays or concerts … make sure you have your tickets with you. I like to put all my tickets, itineraries and hotel reservations in a manila envelope to carry with me at (almost) all times.
  • Children – you don’t want to have a ‘Home Alone’ incident … don’t forget your kids at home (or let them get on the wrong plane).
  • Chargers – camera, phone, laptop, iPad, etc.

One thing I hate about packing is wrinkled clothes. Who knew clothes could get so wrinkly after just 24 hours in a suit case? To help avoid wrinkled clothing, try to unpack as soon as you arrive at your hotel. I like to pack a small spray bottle. When I hang my clothes up in the hotel, I’ll lightly spritz water onto them and the wrinkles fall out.

I tend to be a heavy packer. Even when I try really hard to not over pack, I end up taking way too much. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve found helps me get the most bang for my buck (in terms of suitcase space).

  • Place heavy items in the bottom of the suitcase. I like to start by putting my shoes and toiletries (only the ones that I won’t need in the morning before we head out) at the bottom of my bag.
  • Roll clothes. I’ll take all my shirts and roll them up and set them at the bottom of my bag (next to my shoes and toiletries). Rolled items take up a lot less space.
  • Use plastic bags to organize. I like to roll my underwear up and place them into large plastic bags. I’ll fill up the bag and then roll it (to get the air out) and seal it. The bag doesn’t take up much space and will keep your items together. I also like it because in my mind that means the security people aren’t touching my underwear. I’ll also put socks, swim suits or even shirts in plastic bags.
  • I like to throw in my pants and any collared shirts on the top. Try to spread them out as flat as possible. Hang them up as soon as you can to prevent wrinkles.

The best advice I can give you for packing is first – don’t pack your travel documents. Make sure you don’t put your airplane tickets, passport, rental car information or hotel confirmations in the bag you are checking. Keep travel documents, prescription medication, car keys, jewelry and any valuables with you at all times.

Second – keep it simple and keep it light. You’re going to be the one hauling your bags through airports and 19 blocks in the city. If you don’t want to haul it, don’t pack it. The more you pack, the more it will cost you (if not in money, in aching muscles).

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