Tightwad Travel Tip #1 – Pack for a Trip, Not a Lifetime

Taming the Suitcase Beast

Have you ever gone on a weekend trip and somehow managed to pack 2 suitcases? I've been there. Anyone who has travels has.

When I was 12, I visited my aunt and uncle in Colorado. This was my first solo trip! From that point on, I never looked back. My cousin (the girl below) joined me for a lot of these trips, but I tended to stay longer. I started visiting them for 2 weeks in the summer. That became 2 months. Slowly but surely, I was staying for 2 months in the summer, a week in winter, and several holidays. Travel was becoming a part of my life.

Unfortunately, not many pictures survive from those days, at least not on my computer. I had to wait until the days when I started carrying around a camera before coming back with photo evidence of my trip. 

Mary and Nikita
Danielle and Ron

Rough start

At the very beginning, I packed my suitcases like I was never coming back. I was packing to live, not to travel. Suitcases...s...plural. I had 2 full-size suitcases and a duffle bag to boot! I brought every pair of shoes I owned, summer and winter clothes (no matter the season), a battery-powered CD player (in case Denver didn't have electricity?),  and tons of other things I never touched at home (much less when traveling). That could only go on for so long.

The enthusiasm of packing for a trip was replaced with the dread of knowing what was to come: loading and unloading, dragging it through airports, check-in counters, lines, security, baggage carousels...oh, and no remaining useable space in my bedroom, where an explosive mess of utter disorganization strewn about the room gave the impression that I packed up a small Midwestern tornado to bring along with my 8th pair of shoes.

The solution

While not conscious of my thought process at the time, I was slowly realizing that the answer to my woes wasn't to be more organized during the trip, but before the trip. I slowly worked my way down from 3 large pieces of luggage to 1 small backpack. After finally reaching this apex of minimalist travel, I've never been able to stomach anything else!

So, by the time I was 16, I was already a pro at packing a backpack. I don't mean the detailed stuff like distributing items by weight for maximum spinal comfort on long hikes. I mean the simple things, like "there's a washing machine where I'm going," "I probably won't use that," and "if I end up needing that I'll just buy it there."

Packing for an upcoming trip

Tomorrow I'm heading to DC and NYC (for 5 days each). I wanted to show you a sample of what I pack. I pack for a week in much the same way I pack for 3 months. Be forewarned: it's not exciting. At all. There are no crazy feats of unimaginable packing wizardry or an intensely planned selection of essentials. Basically, my guiding ideology is simple: I need clothes, electronics, and some toiletries. And with that simple assumption, I make my travel selections.

packing a backpack gif

Total packing time: 18 minutes.

travel horror shockDon't fear the backpack

I can already hear the screams of people across the globe saying that this might work for me, but it could never work for them. And maybe they're right. It's all a matter of priorities and abilities. If you're not someone who has tons of expendable cash for travel and are not willing to make some sacrifices to see the world, then it might not work. And if you're fine with that, I'm fine with that. To each their own!

But for the others who would rather forego some small luxuries in order to reap the rewards of global travel, the only advice I can say to you is "give it a try!" You'll quickly find that you can live without all those things far more easily than you imagined. You won't be dejected about not bringing that thing when you're having the time of your life on a beach in Fiji or hiking up to Machu Picchu. It all just fades away...

Travel tips

  • Checking luggage costs money on many flights. You can save a TON by foregoing checked bags, especially if you're flying around Europe on budget airlines.
  • Checking luggage not only costs money, but also time.
    • You have to stand in the check-in line (can't use the kiosks).
    • You have to wait at the carousel when you arrive (instead of just walking out of the door).
    • You risk luggage getting lost, which comes with a whole host of problems.
    • The more you pack, the more you have to unpack to find what you're looking for, and when you're on the go constantly this becomes a real drain. 
  • I roll my clothes. I'm not sure if it really makes a difference in the end, but it does seem to make my clothes less wrinkly.
  • I usually pack black shirts for travel. They stain less easily and don't show my profuse sweating!
  • Buy shampoo and toothpaste wherever you go (if it's not provided for free). TSA only allows three containers (3 oz each) of liquid in your carry-on. Save it for something you don't want to buy again (read: expensive or hard-to-find products)!
  • If I end up needing to buy something I didn't pack, I just write it off as a normal part of the traveling experience.

Check back later for more great tips to save you money, energy, and stress. Happy travels!


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Posted in Tips, Travel.

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