Hitting the road for a long period of time is an exciting prospect- but can be a packing challenge! Having recently spent two months in Europe, and now packing for an extended trip – a winter getaway, I have learned a lot through trial and error. While I still find myself breaking my own rules, I have learned to make the experience a bit easier, while still being able to bring many of my creature comforts.
Every trip is different, so there is no definitive one size fits all solution. Packing possibilities come in all forms and sizes, so you need to experiment with options before each long trip.
A few considerations when packing for an extended trip:
- Will you be traversing different climates?
- What are your activities?
- Will you be settling in or living out of your suitcase?
Once you answer those questions, start organizing! First, how will you carry your items? Then, consider categories such as clothing, shoes, toiletries.
How to accommodate all your stuff can be the biggest challenge when packing for an extended trip. Much has been written about the joys of carry-on luggage, but sometimes that is just impractical for a long trip. However, if you will be traveling a lot throughout your trip, consider a few smaller pieces, perhaps a rolling suitcase and one that can be adapted to a backpack style. For our European excursion, my husband and I each had a mid-sized suitcase and an additional smaller rolling one for our cooler weather clothes.
When we traded Rome’s August heat for cooler temperatures in Germany later, we were glad to have the other clothes but could leave them neatly stowed away until then.
Packing cubes are a great invention. You can cram a lot into these, separate categories of items, and find things quickly. Our upcoming winter in Mexico will start with two weeks visiting family in Vancouver for Christmas. My wardrobe of leggings and long tops for that part of the trip is easily packed and then can rest in the bottom of the suitcase for the rest of the winter.
Also, consider fold-up totes (I love Longchamp bags!) which can be unraveled and become a carry-on item for overflow.
The type of holiday, climate and itinerary will determine what you pack. Color palettes are a good idea for mixing and matching, but I like to throw in a “rogue shade” so I don’t get tired of my chosen color theme. Start piles of clothing in advance and think about each item. I often exchange things in my pile or throw things aside at the last minute. I nearly always bring too much, but hey a girl’s got to have options…….
Ah. The biggest dilemma for a shoe addict! So many pairs to choose from…and so many options along the way. Again, when packing for an extended trip, consider the climate and what you will be doing. As lots of walking is often on the agenda, that has become a priority. The rule of three is a practical one…which I nearly always break! However, I try to start with that and if I do add on, I make sure they are smaller or lighter pairs. If you are in doubt about your needs, consider packing an older pair that you can bear to part with if you acquire others along the way.
For my European trip, I started with a pair of Birkenstocks, an old pair of flipflops, a dressy (but older) pair of wedge heels, an easy to pack pair of ballet flats, and a light pair of sneakers (which stayed in the aforementioned extra fall weather suitcase until needed). Along the way, I disposed of the flipflops, said goodbye to the wedge heels when I found new Italian sandals, and at the very end of the trip, acquired a pair of ankle boots I could wear on the plane.
So, you need more than small travel sizes when packing for an extended trip, but don’t want to carry your whole bathroom cabinet with you? Here are a few options. You might alternate between these depending on your favored or most used products:
- Bring a variety of small trial size/ “gift with purchase” items in a small baggie. Dispose as you go. I had a large number of serums in that size so used these rather than bringing a larger bottle.
- Consider buying items at your destination, especially if you are not tied to a certain brand. It’s also a good chance to try brands popular in your country of destination. You might find a new favorite that is also available back home. This is true of many French brands.
- Buy starter kits of your favorites. These are often a little bigger than the small travel sizes and will last a few months.
- Decant into travel size clear bottles. Again, these are often available in that “mid-range” size.
- Consider all in one products. I have just purchased a product which is a 3-in-1: day and night cream and eye cream. I figure it’s worth a try and saves a lot of space.
- You have permission to bring a full size if it’s a must-have that you will use every day; just try to keep these to a minimum. With luck, you might be able to dispose of it before the trip home, or decant your leftovers into a smaller bottle.
- About hair products – Will you really be doing your hair every day in the same way that you would at home? I know I will not be straightening my wavy hair in humid Mexico so will leave the hair dryer at home. However, I do find myself packing too many curl-enhancing products…as I said, there is never a simple solution!
I hope that these tips will make your preparation for an extended journey a little easier. As I prepare to leave in two days, I feel better already! Oh, wait1 My husband has asked me to pack his toiletries in my bag, too…uh-oh!