Packing is one of those things that stumps most people. Packing for two months? Even worse.
I feel like I’ve gotten things down to a science by this point—particularly when going on a long trip—though I will admit I didn’t properly anticipate the fluctuation in weather we’d have over an eight-week period in Europe. It started with rain and cold in Barcelona, then gave way to sun and heat in Italy and Portugal, then was downright freezing (around 40 degrees) and pouring in Benelux. But most of you going on cruises are not going to experience such extremes in weather, as I venture to guess you will be gone one week to two, tops (and likely in one of two locals: the Caribbean or Alaska). So let’s talk about packing for your typical cruise shall we?
I always start with the shoes, which take up the most room. I’m a big fan of neutral-toned sandals that can be worn by day if needed but that go with everything by night. On this trip, I took two pair (both made by Sam Edelman), but you only need one for a shorter vacation.
I also took a pair of running shoes, and as those can be bulky, I’m loving the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove that my sister gave me for Christmas. They fold up quite compactly in your bag if you don’t wear them on the plane (which I do). I also pack a pair of flip-flops (Havaianas) and a pair of TOMS, always.
Of course, taking closed-toed shoes means packing socks, so I stuff two pairs inside the shoes if packed (knowing that I can wash them in my sink if I wear them more that two or three times). My intimates all go folded up as small as possible in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag that is lain flat on top of everything else, that way I can find them immediately when I inevitably shower the second I get off that long plane ride and settled in my cabin. All of my toiletries are three ounces or less, packed in a see-through Ziploc and transported in my carry-on. That way, if my bag is lost by the airline (a common occurrence), at least I can brush my teeth.
But onto the good stuff: the clothing.
I’m a dress girl, as most of you know by now, so my suitcase is dominated by cotton frocks that fold up quite small, and once I have the majority of my necessities in the bag, I fill the excess space with a mix of short sundresses and maxi dresses. I recently interviewed celebrity stylist Petra Flannery—who styles Emma Stone, Mila Kunis and other starlets— for a Glamour feature, and she told me she hangs every outfit together on a hanger, wraps it in plastic then folds it over once in the bag to eliminate wrinkles. But most of us “normal” people don’t have the luxury of so much space, so I roll my clothes as tight as possible to save space and prevent wrinkles and then keep a small bottle of wrinkle release (which you can buy at Wal-Mart or Target) in my toiletries bag to fight wrinkles on-site. Works like a charm.
Prior to my departure, Before + Again asked if they could send me some clothes to try for my upcoming trip, I said “sure!” and so I had four new dresses to test out this trip.
I’d never heard of this company before they reached out to me, but it’s a cool concept: You pick the print you like and then you pick the style and fabric, and they make it for you. No two pieces are alike, which is pretty neat, no?
The best thing about these dresses is that they are lightweight and transition well from day to night. In other words, they’re casual enough to tool around port in but look nice enough to also go out to dinner.
I also pack a couple cardigans—usually one in a neutral tone and then go bold and pack something like yellow and cranberry that I can pretend match each ensemble—as it’s often cold at sea at night and even colder inside a cruise ship. On this cruise, I took a jean jacket and a hoodie, which you might not need in the Caribbean but which were crucial in late spring in Europe.
And though I loathe jeans, I pack a pair in the case of cold. And then, of course, a top or two to go with them. (This year, I’m loving Gap’s thin, colorful Tees that they offer in a rainbow of hues.)
This trip, too, I vowed to work out—something I never do on vacation—and I did: I made it to Zumba almost every day at sea. But don’t reserve too much space in your one suitcase for workout gear; one outfit will suffice, and you can re-wear it each time you hit the gym (you’re going to get sweaty anyway, right?).
Electronics are a whole other beast—for me, if checking a bag, then one carry-on is my camera bag, while the other is relegated to my laptop and Kindle—but everything I mentioned above should easily fit into a standard suitcase. I mean, I packed all of that and more in my Tumi to get me through eight weeks, and I hit the 50-pound weight limit exactly (try not to, though, if you can avoid it as you will be hauling that thing around for some time!). Personally, if I’m traveling for 10 days or less, I make it my mission to only take one rolling suitcase that is carry-on size to avoid checked bag fees and the possibility of the airline losing it.
Of course, my motto is always this: Leave something at home? Excuse to go shopping! And speaking of leaving things at home, forgo the heels, ladies, and also the excess accessories like handbags, scarves (aside from maybe one), etc. You think you’re going to use them, sure, but you’ll get on that ship and realize that less is more. You’re traveling; you’re not appearing in a fashion show!
Before + Again wanted to give a reader a dress of their choice, pending my approval of the brand (which I love! I genuinely do!), so if you want to throw your name in the hat, tell me the following:
What’s the one thing you never leave home without when going on a vacation?
I’ll pick one randomly selected winner at 5pm PST on Friday, June 28.
Update: Contest closed.
I know I should say my kids, or my iPhone, but it really is my little travel sound machine/white noise maker. It is the secret to my success! It creates a sound that follows us across the globe and is the one continuity in our lives as we do it.
Aside from my kindle I always pack a pair of sweatpants. It doesn’t matter where I’m going- once I’m back in the hotel I want to lounge around and jeans just won’t cut it!
I haven’t been on a real VACATION in a long, long time but anytime I go anywhere outside of my normal routine these days, I take my little point-and-shoot digital camera (a Panasonic Lumix with Leica lens). It takes fantastic photos and fits in my pocket. (I don’t have a smart phone, and I think my camera takes better photos than any smartphone can!)
A lightweight cotton robe from Joe Fresh! It’s small enough to roll just like an article of clothing. I can get ready in it, lounge around in a hotel room, etc. And if you’re in a cabin or something with people you don’t know well you can be covered up when you walk from the bathroom to your room!
Never leave home without my Reef flip flops and swim suit.
Vacation? Ha! What is that? Just kidding. If I do go on vacation, I never leave without my makeup bag. It is not just my makeup, which I try to use sparingly, but it includes lip balm, hair tie, tooth brush and floss, and all of my essentials. I try to keep it the basics on vacation, because really, who needs to be lugging around a ton of stuff!
I always pack a couple of matchbox cars in my purse or carry-on for my two little boys, even if we’re just going out for a day. You never know when you’ll get stuck waiting in a long line or even just waiting for our food to come at a restaurant!
Multiple books (either hard copy or Kindle) so I don’t run out of things to read!
I always take Kashi Trail Mix bars…great for snacking if we cannot get to a restaurant on time
I never leave home without my blankie. Doesn’t matter how old I get, that old ratty handmade thing comes with me – in my carry on – without fail. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been when stuck on an airport floor overnight or shivering on a freezing cold plane that’s run out of dirty airplane blankets.
Love your packing posts! I was happy to read I have a few of your habits down by now – intimates in a ziploc, and only two pairs of socks and in shoes. Now to work on narrowing down the shoes. Since I’m leaving a comment any way, my one never leave item is jewelry – lots of big earrings, my trusty necklaces, and plenty of bracelets.
I never leave home without my Kindle!
Great packing posts! I never leave without my trusty “Tide To Go Pen.” I always seem to spill something and this pen works great.!
my camera, so i will never forget my trip!
My camera and a pashmina to use as a blanket on the plane!
My contact lenses!! Just about any other thing I can buy!
I never leave home without an eye mask + foam ear plugs. You never know when you’re going to need to catch up on Z’s during a flight or bus right!
A book (or several).
I always bring a moleskine journal and a few specific types of pens, one for writing, one for sketching and one for doodling.
I’d love one of these dresses, they’re great!
As the daughter of two medical professionals, I’ve been well-trained to be a traveling pharmacy. It’s definitely overkill, since you can almost always find a pharmacy wherever you are, but I travel with a bottle stocked with acetaminophen, ibuprofen, asprin, pepto, sleeping pills, sinus drugs, migraine meds, etc., etc. Unfortunately I did not have any Robitussin when I needed it on our honeymoon!
My camera! I have to take a bajillion pictures!
One essential I have to have while traveling is the American Apparel circle scarf. So versatile. Can be used in so many ways from a basic scarf, blanket for the airplane. shawl, top, etc. the list is endless.
I always have a baggie containing contact lens case, glasses, eye mask, ankle socks (for wearing in hotel room) and advil. If I forget anything else, I’ll just buy it.
Medication! As someone who gets migraines more often as I get older, my prescription medications are becoming more and more important to travel with.
Never leave home without my hand woven shawl. It doubles as a blanket on cold flights and dresses up any outfit.
I have to have a sweatshirt. I always seem to be cold in hotel rooms when I travel. And comfy pants to change in to once I get back from wherever I’ve been.
I never leave home without my camera! I would rather have that with me then a change of clothes, my phone, fresh socks or anything. It’s essential in capturing all the wonderful memories I’m making so I can remember them forever. (:
Purell!!! I never leave home without it. I have a teeny tiny one that I am always refilling and keep in my purse. I am vigilant about using it. The worst thing is getting sick while on a trip.
Of course, I never leave without my iphone, my undergarments “vacuum sealed” into a ziploc bag, and my merrell clogs (perfect for taking off and putting on quickly when going through airport security).
I’m super near sighted, so I always bring my glasses, contact case and solution, and a few extra pairs of lenses. 🙂 And a toothbrush!
My chacos. Seriously, they may not be the prettiest shoe, but I can walk around in them for hours and hours (and hours, and hours) and not get sour feet and the work with pants, skirts, and dresses.
I went on vacation a couple of years ago and the strap of my chacos ripped completely off the sole, I cried.
My kindle. I will go crazy if I don’t have something to read.
Moisturizer and lip balm! Treat your skin kindly and enjoy the envious glances of people who think you are much younger than your years Oh…. and don’t forget to have fun as if you are younger than your years!
Moisturizer and lip balm! Treat your skin kindly and enjoy the envious glances of people who think you are much younger than your years Oh…. and don’t forget to have fun as if you are younger than your years!
I always carry Vera Bradley bags as carry-ons – they are so lightweight with tons of pockets so you can pack a lot in without too much shoulder stress. In addition, I throw 2 or 3 different sizes of Veras in my checked luggage so when I just need a small bag for a night out, I have it. Or a medium bag for a few extras . . . . What can I say, I’m a bag girl! Since they are so lightweight, they add basically nothing to my poundage PLUS I can pack stuff inside of them and keep it organized.
My sunglasses for sure! To help deflect the glare of water and white sand beaches, as well as to deflect the glare of vendors and hawkers(but so I can still look at the merchandise!)
I always take earplugs when traveling. I have a hard time getting to sleep if there’s any noise and often hostels/cheap hotels get quite loud.
On my way home from a month- long road trip and I have worn my trusty Rainbow sandals almost every day! I try to be a minimalist when packing and I love your packing posts 🙂
My journal! Absolute must 🙂
I never leave home without my kindle. No matter where I go, it is the one thing that I constantly need. I can’t go more then 2 days without a good reading session! The rest of my stuff I can lose and get over it, but when I broke my kindle last year, I spent 2 days mourning prior to realizing I could just buy another one and 1-day ship it to me. I was happy again after that. So Kindle is my never leave home without item.
Great tips, Kristin! Even though you suggest leaving the scarf at home, I don’t leave home without one!
Have you ever tried the vacuum-sealed packing bags? I got some for my husband for Christmas and decided to give them a try. I couldn’t believe how much extra space they gave me! Plus they were really cheap!
Cute dresses! I can’t travel without earplugs. I packed them but couldn’t find them until my last night at Bonnaroo! So glad I read your post!
Well, if I am going on an airplane I always take a pair of socks as my feet always get freezing! I also don’t leave home without snacks. 🙂
I never leave home without a positive attitude! It will solve all travel-related issues, packing mishaps included. That being said, I always travel with a cardigan. It’s good for the plane, the hotel room, dressing up an outfit, and keeping me warm in unexpected over-airconditioned places. Love this post. Nicely done! Thanks for the insights- I hadn’t heard of Before & Again but will definitely check them out.
Without my glasses, I have the eyesight of a legally blind person! Never forget a spare pare and definitely throw some sunglasses in the mix too!
Without a doubt the one thing I must bring is my phone…much lighter than my big camera if I don’t want the added weight.
Agreed. I only use my phone for a camera on a lot of my trips these days!
I never vacation without my beloved Kindle, some cute sundresses and my Havianas! It just wouldn’t be a true vacation without those 3 things!
We would travel well together, as that’s all I need to survive! Well, all that and my iPhone 😉
My super soft old down pillow. Most pillows in hotel rooms are too hard for me and I wake up with a sprained neck. Also, individually packaged alcohol swabs to sanitize phones, remotes, door knobs, etc. Getting sick away from home is the worst!
I never leave home without my travel size tempur-pedic pillow. I have learned the hard way that leaving (or forgetting) the pillow will inevitably lead to a stiff neck and trying to find an on-call chiropractor….which is a little scary when they try and twist your neck off in one jerk.
Yay for dresses!! Next time I get made fun of for never owning pants, my answer is going to be a huffy “well, they pack well.”
I never leave without my camera. It’s my life. I am one of those lunatics that takes a bajillion photos on their trips. Thanks so much for sharing you tips as I am going on vacation soon 🙂
Space in the suitcase to bring things home. I’m learning to pack less clothes, but always a dress and leggins. Before and After made some good looking dresses for you.
My credit card! I’ll need to for all those purchases I’m bringing home with me.
I never travel without hand sanitizer and a pocket sized pack of tissues. Whether it’s a questionable bathroom, a case of the sniffles, a scratch or scrape, or a restaurant with no place to wash your hands, with those two things I can be prepared for anything.
I always travel with a scarf. I have a yellow/gold one that goes with everything and its incredible how useful it is. It can be a pillow, a shawl, a blanket, and at times, a head covering. Never know when you might want to pop into a mosque or another place where more conservative clothing is more appropriate.
Also ear plugs are a must for hostel stays and I 100% agree that I take all my toiletries with me on the plane. For longer trips, shampoo usually isn’t that expensive to buy locally if I need more. It’s always less than paying for a checked bag.
I always have a cardigan… even in the warmest climates, I find myself shivering inside when businesses and restaurants have turned on the a/c full blast.
If I’m flying – xanax 🙂 Otherwise I’m with you, Toms are the magic traveling shoe.
Well the one thing I usually travel with is my passport, otherwise I won’t get far 😉
But I also always have my Kindle, a pashmina/coverup and a pair of flipflops just in case!
I absolutely cannot travel without my noise-canceling headphones.
My eye mask! I can never sleep on the plane unless it’s completely dark. Although now I have a kid I will probably never sleep on a plane again anyway. 🙂
I ALWAYS take a pashmina wrap! It’s such a versatile item, used as a wrap, scarf, blanket, beach towel or pillow. I think of it as my travel security blanket 🙂
always, always, always for me are workout clothes and my runners. most time I can get out for a couple runs, and even when I think I won’t be able too – usually I can find a way to squeeze one in. That being said, running is my very favorite way to explore a place.
My flat iron! It’s mini but keeps my hair in check. 🙂
My camera of course I want to record all those memories and relive them later on 🙂
Earplugs. Can’t leave home without them because I won’t be able to sleep if I do! Clothes wise I never leave behind my fave pashima. So many uses and sooo comfortable.
I always throw a pashmina in my bag on the way out the door. It’s great as a blanket for the airplane where I’m always freezing, can double as a head/shoulder cover in conservative locales, and gets use as a scarf or to just dress up a plain outfit. For taking up very little space, it does a lot of work.
This is a tough one! I never leave home without a list of ideas of what to check out to my destination. I try to research a few ‘off the beaten path’ places, either by asking people who have visited or googling terms for the place.
And a (non-iphone) camera.
I cannot leave home with out my emergency survival kit. It’s smaller than my iphone but has more supplies than your average full size diaper bag. This little pouch includes basic first aid (medicines, bandaids, alcohol pads and neosporin), hair ties, bobby pins, safety pins, super glue, stain remover, makeup remover, lip balm, lotion, nail polish remover, nail file, clear nail polish, a deodorant towelette, hand sanitizer and hand soap, earring backs and a small sewing kit. Most of those are in single use packs that can be reordered or picked up at your local drug store but I have added and doctored the kit to fit the disasters I have faced while traveling.
1) Earplugs. I use them on the plane, and I am a backpacker, so they are frequently used in hostels. So small but are something that if I forget them I always regret it.
2) a pareo (brightly colored patterned wrap). Doubles as a scarf, a bathing suit cover up, a towel, a blanket.
I have to have my hair straightener. I have bangs and my naturally curly hair means my bangs NEED to be straightened daily. And while most hotels have a hair dryer, I’ve never seen one with a hair straightener.
My iPhone because I have everything in there. My flight info, hotel and even a camera that I can just take a quick picture of where we are.
I never leave home without a swim suit (yeah, yeah, and all the obvious stuff: underwear, phone, shoes, etc.). It’s the one thing that can be easily forgotten, but you never know when there might be a swimming opportunity (even in winter, sometime there’s a hot tub!). Plus, it packs up really small. Plus, a bikini can double as an emergency set of underwear if you run out and haven’t washed any.
Also, I’d like to say that my husband and I just traveled the world for 6 months, and we each packed everything in a carry-on sized backpack and a smaller day pack. Yes, for 6 months! And our climate was as varied as 100 deg heat in SE Asia to below freezing and snow in Patagonia and Nepal. It’s amazing how little you really need, and I now never pack in anything bigger than a carry-on.
I never leave home for vacation without my sleepmask!! It is a lifesaver on long flights, or if I land somewhere in the morning and want to powernap before hitting the streets later in the day .
need my sunscreen!
I never go anywhere without an eye mask and a pair of ear plugs. They are indispensable on red-eye flights, and in noisy hotels. Or even when your husband is throwing a party at your own house and you have to get up early the next morning! 😉
Hi, Kris! Congratulations–Random.org picked you! I’ll email you with how to collect your dress =)
There are only two things that are always with me – sunscreen and a video camera!! I burn in about 4 seconds of sun and I’m always making little movies of different places and things.
I’d have to say my phone, as it can do double duty as my Kindle, camera and iPod. If it’s a long trip (a week or more) I’ll bring my big Kindle, but otherwise it’s my trusty phone, even if I’m international and it doesn’t actually work as a, you know, communication device. And I’ve never been on a cruise, but I have to say that I usually load up on accessories so I can pack basic clothing and dress it up with different scarves, jewelry, etc. Of course, I’m the girl that always has on earrings, even on my yearly multi-day canoe trip with my mom, so different strokes, etc.
I never leave home without … a pen and paper. I used to be really great at maintaining a journal while traveling, my favorite treasure from each trip. Lately, however, I haven’t been as diligent about recording my experiences. At least with a basic pen and paper, I can jot down notes about the highlights whenever I have a spare moment.
Outside of my passport and credit card…my camera(s).
I never leave my camera behind. My photographs are my most important souvenir from my travels 🙂
My passport… Unless I’m going somewhere I don’t need it, then I’d say my phone (with chargers!)
I’ve been meaning to do a packing post like this… then I remember that I am the worst overpacker on planet earth and I’d be humiliated for the world to see the extent of it 🙂
ONE thing? In that case a credit card.
Lip balm! And if I forget it, I buy it. Great tips, thank you!
can’t leave without my spandex leggings for working out and walking around
I never travel without my hiking shoes. ever.
A notebook (and pen)! The days go by so fast, that if I don’t write down at least a few things, it’s hard to remember all the adventures.
My ipod with a carefully selected playlist. The idea is that months after I come home from my trip, I’ll listen to a certain song and it’ll remind me of my trip.
My sneakers! I’m a girl who likes to go anywhere and not stop and think about having the right footwear on.
My kindle! And thank heavens for the Kindle. Before I had it I’d stuff about 3 or 4 books in my suitcase because I never knew what I’d feel like reading! Now they’re all in one, handy-dandy place. Whew!
Aside from Kindle and camera, which are like extensions of my body, my top pack has to be my sarong – it can be a dressing gown, skirt, towel, headscalf, shoulder wrap, picnic mat, pillow cover… and it takes up virtually no space (and it’s bring and colourful and reminds me of Uganda, where I bought it!)
Why didn’t we sleep with our beds that close together in the cabin, sister???
I always pack a sweater. No matter where I’m going, I don’t want to be cold, especially if I’m going on a plane. Also, I have those same Merrells, and I’m digging them. They’re a fun color and so light!
How do you loathe jeans?! I live in them!
They are SO uncomfortable! With dresses, you can eat as much as you want and they don’t get too tight. Plus, pack one dress, have a whole outfit. Simplifies things so much.
My camera! and I always pack a pair of jeans.
yoga pants…even if just for sleeping in
My kindle! And comfy shoes!
I always bring Midol and Tampons… just in case!
I never forget my iPod and camera..
You can’t have a perfect packing system. You will find yourself in circumstances where everything you need will not fit underneath the seat in front of you. For example, you may move across the country and prefer to take a few items on the plane rather than ship them. You also may not want everything in the seat in front of you because you’d rather put your feet there. The goal of this guide isn’t to force as much crap underneath someone else’s seat as possible, but rather to provide the option. If you want to avoid checking bags, this is a surefire approach. When you can put a bag in the overhead bin, you should. If you find yourself in a situation where you must pack more, you should do that as well. When you can pack efficiently, however, you’ll make your trips much easier. Good preparation makes for better travel.
What a great list! I ALWAYS bring my camera and a hat for those “bad hair days” on the road.
Nice tip! Couldn’t leave without my iPad and my DSLR!