A to Z Challenge: Day Nine – “I”

‘I’ is for ‘Intentional Packing’

Richard and I are currently preparing for a six-night trip to Boston. This adventure addresses three items on our bucket list.

1. Watch the Boston Marathon live (better yet, watch our youngest son compete in the Boston Marathon)!
2. Visit our friends, Rena and Howard, who when we saw them last (in Beijing) said: “not if you come visit us in Boston….but when you come visit us in Boston”.
3. Experience a ball game in Fenway Park (albeit way up high in the bleacher…but still)!

I have reserved this morning for packing. Not just, ‘run-around-screaming-while-randomly-throwing-things-in-a-suitcase’ kind of packing but ‘intentional packing.’

For me, intentional packing means taking the time to plan what I will need and having a sharp editor’s eye to leave behind what I can do without. This starts by giving thought to what kind of luggage (backpack, duffle bag, wheeled carry-on….) will be right for this particular trip.

Here are my top ten suggestions for Intentional Packing:

1. Only pack what you need for the specific trip at hand. The exact way that you packed for your last trip, including type of luggage used, may not work for this one.
2. Take mix and match clothing that goes well together. Wear your bulkiest (comfortable ) outfit for traveling.
3. Be prepared to do a bit of laundry, even if just rinsing out a few light things in the sink at night. A couple of fabric sheets tucked in between clothing can also make a world of difference.
4. Minimize toiletries.
5. Beware of ‘just in case’ items. If you never wear a skirt, will you really wear one on vacation?
6. Avoid last minute packing.
7. Think multifunctionality.
8. Be cognizant of items that you can replace with your smartphone. (Camera/video recorder, watch/alarm clock, maps/guidebooks, novels, printed tickets/receipts/directions, address book, diary, newspaper, fitness tracker, games, pocket mirror,…..the list is endless.)
9. Leave extra space in your bag (I aim for at least 15%). This makes traveling with your suitcase easier. It means you will be able to unpack, repack and find things more quickly. Finally, it gives you a place to put your purchases (for the grandchildren, of course) and prevents you from ruining out to buy another bag!
10. Use a packing list. As nerdy as it sounds, it helps ensure that you do not leave a much-needed item behind (my computer charging cord is the thing that I tend to forget). Many free packing checklist templates are available online. One that I especially like can be found at:  travelerschecklist.com.

Do you consider yourself to be an ‘intentional packer’? If so, what tips would you add?

packing

A key secret to ‘intentional packing’ is to pack ahead of time…allowing yourself room to step away and come back later with ‘fresh eyes.’ If (for any unknown reason) you saw this post earlier today, you might have noticed that my ‘travel outfit’ contained a different coat. I had been resigned to ‘needing’ a heavier and longer winter coat. When looking at it a second time, I realized that a shorter, lighter (still waterproof) jacket would be fine as my sweater underneath will provide additional warmth. Editing is an essential part of being able to travel light. I did, however, stick with the Skechers, bringing only 1 pair of shoes.

Success! I was able to pack everything that I wanted for this trip….with room to spare. I was happy with the results.

64 Replies to “A to Z Challenge: Day Nine – “I””

    1. Hi, Kathy – You are a natural for ‘carry-on only.’ Once you try it, I doubt that you will ever return to larger check-in bag. Small, light weight luggage is so liberating….and much more doable than most people originally think!

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    1. Hi, Janet -I like the term ‘intentional’ as opposed to ‘light-weight.’ For me, this kind of packing is about thoughtfully (and often creatively) having just what you need – as opposed to using size or weight as your primary focus. For me, packing for international trips is similar to any other intentional packing, adding any necessary plug adaptors…as well as some maps and travel/language guides for my smartphone!

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  1. Have fun. Another great adventure.
    Several years ago my son bought me a small rolling Japanese suitcase and challenged me to fit what I needed into it so I wouldn’t have to check luggage. Many trips later I am happy to say I have been pretty successful in keeping to that one bag.

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    1. Hi, Louise – Thank you for reading and commenting! There is often debate among those who consider themselves to be experts on light-weight travel. Some swear by roller-bags, others believe that a non-roller bag is better motivation not to over pack. The first time I ever used a roller-bag it was like Heaven! Unless backpacking, I definitely bring a roller-bag.

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  2. Hi Donna, I have a post scheduled for Sunday on this same topic, but for a long term trip. I have no choice but to be an intentional packer when traveling for 30 days. Every ounce of space counts! All of your recommendations are great, especially the “plan to do laundry” suggestion. I would add to use packing cubes or 2 1/2 gallon zip lock baggies for organizing things like tee shirts, socks and under garments. Fill them full and then squeeze all the air out for maximum benefit. Have fun in Boston!

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    1. Hi, Suzanne – I look forward to reading your post on Sunday. Hopefully it won’t have me smacking my head (too much) with something that I wish I had done (or packed) differently! I always use plastic bags and baggies in my packing (and should have included that in my original post)! The carry-on that I am using for this trip includes three built-in packing cubes which work wonderfully. I have been experimenting with other packing cubes but haven’t yet found one that suits me perfectly.

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  3. Hi Donna – Excellent tips! I’m an intentional packer and have travelled with one bag no matter how long the trip. Safe travels and have a fun-filled time in Boston! The energy from the marathon is going to be incredible. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.

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    1. Hi, Natalie – I’m totally with you on the goose bumps thing. Long before my son was a marathon runner, I found watching long-distance running competition and Iron Mans to be incredibly emotional. Interesting because unless there’s a fire, you will never see me running myself!

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  4. I brought the plastic bags you get in the vegetable section of the grocery store and elastics, just in case it rained. It did, so I put the bags over my socks and secured them with elastics. My feet stayed dry, although my shoes didn’t. Best part. The bags/ elastics take up no space and can be tossed after used.

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    1. Hi, Shelley – That’s a brilliant idea!! I always use plastic bags and elastic bands in my packing, but have never thought of using this combo to keep my feet dry. I will definitely check this out if it rains (or snows) in Boston!

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  5. Donna, Have a great trip!

    I’m a list maker so I always have a packing list. I also put all undies into a ziplock bag. Makes them not get lost in suitcase and gives you a small laundry bag if needed. (And if you’re pulled over for a more in-depth screening, no one is going through your undies… but that’s international more than domestic travel!)

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    1. Hi, Pat – I love your multi-functional approach to having a packing/laundry/privacy bag for your personal items. I have currently stashed my socks and undies in my built-in packing cube. I also have a light plastic grocery bag with me that can be used as a laundry bag. As for packing lists, I always regret when I decide to go without it! 🙂

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      1. Hi, Janis – I agree that baggies are perfect – and don’t take up any extra space. I am very happy that I published this post ahead of time. It allows me time to scoop up news ideas, and make any adjustments before we leave!

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  6. I sure am an intentional packer. 🙂 Things are made easier for us, because we only have one carry-on bag. So, for trips up to a month or so, we take this carry-on, two backpacks and one laptop bag between the two of us. It should get easier whenever we don’t need to take as many electronics (usually one full backpack) for work!

    We ALWAYS wear our heaviest, warmest and bulkiest cloths on the planes including our hiking boots. The other pair of shoes we’d take are flip flops. Mark and I share one toilet bag. We really don’t need much, and I like it that way.

    Too bad you’re in Boston this month and not in July. We would have loved seeing you and Richard again. Have fun in the city!!

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    1. Hi, Liesbet – I would have loved to catch-up with you and Mark in Boston. That’s another reason that you will need to come to VI this summer! I hear you about all of the electronics needed for work. I did heaps of airplane travel during my career. It is significantly easier to travel light in retirement vs for work! 🙂

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      1. Were you pulled over at security every time as well? Needing to unpack all your bags and losing about 20-30’ every time? We are now calculating this event into our “expected” airport time. 🙂

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  7. Enjoy the Fenway experience for sure. I made the trek there over 20 years ago when I was convinced it would be torn down to make room for another stadium. That never happened obviously, but I’m still grateful I made the effort. It and Wrigley Field are really the only two left of the old parks.

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    1. Hi, Marty – Richard is totally pumped about our upcoming Fenway experience. By the time we purchased tickets, our seats were a bit far out….but we will still be able to say that we’ve watched a game there. Stay tuned for ‘Day M”!

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  8. I always have a list for packing but things are pretty disorganised right now – flight tomorrow morning fairly early, and while I do pack very light (a take on board bag) and am intentional in my packing, right now, not so … wondering whether to leave lap top behind and just take ipad ..

    Have fun Donna – take all the appropriate plugs, which I put into a ziplog bag.

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    1. Hi, Susan – You make an excellent point. We can be a very experienced traveler, and have it together most of the time…until that one time that we don’t. I’m a bad one to ask about traveling with a laptop vs an Ipad. I treat my MacAir like a tablet, so would tend to go with my laptop…for me that is one item that is worth the extra weight. Good luck with your decision making on this, and your trip!

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  9. I’m definitely an intentional packer. I can do two weeks anywhere with just a very small LUG carry-on. It certainly is important to have room to bring stuff back so I always take some things, like underwear or socks or t-shirts that are near the end of their life. I discard as I go and then have room to replace that space with new of the same or fun different things.

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  10. With a month in Alaska/North America coming up plus stop overs in Hawaii we will have to pack for all weather. I try to keep my suitcase around 15 kg as I need to be able to carry it on and off trains. I also have a backpack for the plane but only put a change of clothes and electrical gadgets in there. Individual bags for different types of clothing are useful and a checklist is essential.

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  11. I’ve learned to be an intentional packer. For our five-week trip to Oaxaca last year, we both got by with a small carry-on (of course it helps when you are traveling to a warm climate). We will be traveling similarly this year and intend to do the same. The best thing that I have learned to do is have a color capsule wardrobe. Mine is navy, grey, and raspberry. Everything goes together and it isn’t necessary to take a ton of shoes. Funny though, when I look at travel photos of me over the years, I’m often wearing the same thing! It may be boring, but it works!

    Another thing I take is a small zippered pouch that has things like rubber bands, sticky notes, pens, highlighters, paper clips, etc. I can tell you how many times that has come in handy.

    I haven’t tried packing cubes but I know people who swear by them. My hesitation is the thought that my clothes would come out all wrinkled.

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    1. Hi, Janis – My understanding of packing cubes is that the clothing stays tight together and does not move around in the suitcase. I believe that the moving around is what causes most of the wrinkles.
      I love your travel colours, especially the raspberry accent! I also liked your advice about having a small pouch of pens, etc. You can tell that you are a writer!

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  12. Great tips Donna – I travelled to Europe with my mum for 4wks a few years ago – the woman took EVERYTHING she owned! An enormous suitcase packed to the gills with dozens of outfits. She was very well turned out, but nobody cared and the hassle of repacking that darn case each time we moved drove me crazy!

    Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
    J for Just Do It!

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  13. I try to be an intentional packer Donna but I always seem to be packing and then re-packing about three times before we leave! I loved Boston when we visited and I would have loved to have run in the Boston marathon. How exciting for your son to be running! Thanks for the packing tips which I will use in October as we have planned a cruise around Japan for two weeks! Enjoy your break! xx Perhaps your ‘M’ might be for Marathon 🙂

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    1. Hi, Sue – Unfortunately the Boston Marathon takes place on an “N” day…but I will come up with something! I don’t unpack and repack before a trip, but I do try to heavily ‘edit.’ In the middle of the night, I thought of two more small items that I really won’t need. I woke up and immediately snatched them both out of my carry-on before I could talk myself out of it. I find that a current packing list (always kept on top of my case with a pen attached) keeps me organized and current on what’s in (and not in) my bag. Good luck in preparing for your October Cruise. It sounds wonderful!

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  14. Have a great trip Donna! I’m not nearly that organized. I love travelling by car the best because you can bring just about anything. I can’t pack more than a day ahead because I will forget what’s there and invariably leave something important behind. But kudos to you!

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    1. Hi, Karen – I love traveling by car too….but I still try to keep my packing to a minimal. For packing ahead of time, my nerdy check-list keeps me organized. I always have it on top of the inside of my suitcase and keep it updated. Without that list I would never remember what I put in or took out! 🙂

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  15. This is a subject close to my heart Donna. I am constantly thinking of what I’ll need but it always seems to include too many just in case options. As we’re going travelling for 3 months soon, this is a very timely post. I think I’ll look at the packing list just to keep me on track.

    Thanks for helping me out!! Have a great time away and all the best to your son for the marathon.

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    1. Hi, Debbie – It is the ‘just in case’ items that are the main culprit of over-packing. The reason to leave these items behind are numerous:
      1) You cannot possibly pack for every single contingency.
      2) Most destinations have places where we can buy needed items IF we need them.
      3) It is amazing (and liberating) to discover what we truly can do without.
      4) If you pack for your trip and then remove only the ‘just in case’ items, you could very likely switch to a smaller bag.
      Good luck with your packing for your upcoming travels!

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  16. I strive to be an intentional packer. My son would often advise me – whatever you’ve got packed, take half of it out! I’m not opposed to wearing outfits on more than one day and every destination has a laundromat. Being a bigger person, it doesn’t take much for the jeans & size 9 shoes to fill a suitcase. I like to wear the heaviest/bulkiest clothing & shoes on the plane. I don’t tend to pack more than 1-2 days before a trip but I do start a list well in advance as I think of items that need to be packed in anticipation of the trip’s activities. I keep toiletries & jewellery to a minimum. I intend to challenge myself by arriving at the airport with just a backpack one day.

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    1. Hi, Mona – Sounds like you are well on your way to your goal of fitting everything into just one backpack. When I first lived overseas, I overpacked whenever I traveled. That quickly became a burden. Once I finally switched to carry-on only, regardless of the length of my trip, I never looked back. Like you, I have visited some very interesting laundromats in some very exotic destinations!

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  17. Enjoy Boston! In my top 5 favorite US cities (NY, Chicago, Boston, Austin, San Francisco). Cheering your son on in the Marathon.

    My number one packing tip is ‘layers’ and number two packing tip is ‘pack half of what you think you need’. Works for me.

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  18. My intention is always to pack light Donna, but I often don’t manage to quite get there. I’m notorious for adding things after I think I’m done, because I “just might need it”. Obviously it depends on the length of the trip and the location. When my family spent 7 weeks overseas in a northern winter, we took only one warm coat each. Great in theory, but in practice it meant that in all our photos, we pretty much just looked the same, same, same, every single day!
    It’s a goal of mine though, to one day travel with only a carry-on bag. The thought scares me, but I’m determined to do it, even if only once in my life, lol.

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    1. Hi, Sue – Thank you so much for stopping by. I agree that those last minute ‘just in case’ items can add up, and drag us down. If traveling to cold weather we usually only bring one coat as well, and plan to layer. When not raining, we sometimes take off our coats just for the photo op….and then quickly put them back on afterwards! 🙂

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  19. Great list!! I’m usually so excited to be going somewhere I end up perusing my option about 2 weeks ahead of time. Picking up toiletries, washing clothing that may have been in the drawer or closet too long. I always pack a bathing suit. You never know when you’re going to need one. If it’s cold and you can’t warm up the hotel jacuzzi works wonders for warming up.

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