Packing: How Do You Get Organized for Travel?

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 This what plane travel usually looks like for me. Red bag in the overhead bin, purple bag with me.

This what plane travel usually looks like for me. Red bag in the overhead bin, purple bag with me.

Currently, I don’t travel as much as I did in college, although I do still spend a fair amount of time away from my home base. When I was in college, traveling almost every weekend, I always had a bag packed and ready to go. I was a big believer in the rules of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  Always bring a towel and DON’T PANIC!

My travel bag these days is a bit bigger and doubles as a bike pannier. It’s about 15 inches wide and 20 – 24 inches tall (depending on how much I put in it). I was pleased to discover it fits easily in the over head compartment on a plane as long as it isn’t stuffed to the gills.

One other feature I love about this bag is that the main compartment is removable as well as waterproof. This is the bag I’ve use on Ragbrai and for camping trips, and the waterproof feature has come in handy on more than one occasion. I bought his bag through Nashbar several years ago. Unfortunately it appears they no longer sell this model.

For trips when I have access to a washer and dryer I pack light:  3-4 short sleeved shirts, 1-2 long sleeved shirts, one light sweatshirt, PJs, 3-4 pairs of underwear and socks, one pair of jeans, soft pants, and my toiletry bag. I wear my soft pants, shirt and another heavier sweatshirt and rain or heavy coat on travel days (depending on the weather). All the clothes I bring coordinate with my base color:  brown or navy, so I can mix and match no matter what – this is absolutely the key to traveling light.

I don’t usually bring a towel with me for trips anymore since the people I’m staying with these days aren’t college students who only own one towel. 😉 I do always pack one for Ragbrai and camping though. If I need to save space, I pack a microfiber one, like the ones Aquis makes.

Packing doesn’t have to be difficult and you don’t have to be burdened by your luggage when you travel. I meet a lot of people who think they need to bring everything they might possibly need on a trip. The truth is, unless you’re going to a remote wilderness area, you can probably buy whatever you may have forgotten or overlooked when you get there. And all that stuff you think you need – you probably won’t end up needing it anyway! I drug around heavy suitcases on many trips years ago, and traveling light is so much easier – I’m willing to take the gamble.

How about you? Is giving up the heavy luggage worth the chance to you?


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  • I don’t fly much, but I love the idea of being able to keep everything with me instead of checking it. Travel hiccups are stressful enough, but so much worse if you get separated from your belongings! One time, my flight was overbooked and they offered anyone a free flight if they’d stay overnight (at their expense) and fly the next day, but I declined, because all my stuff was already on its way home.

  • TracyKPierce

    I’ve had my luggage lost couple times and it really put a damper on the day. My husband and I had a family medical emergency happen once while we were waiting to catch a plane, and because we were only had carry-ons, we were able to leave our gate, catch a cab, and get to the hospital without any luggage delays. More on that here:

  • Thanks for sharing that – it reinforces your point so well. I am hoping there will be air travel in my not-too-distant future, and I will definitely keep this in mind.