Here it is, I’m an over-planner. Not everyday and not with everything but more often than I’d like.
My husband and I are headed to Scotland soon, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for decades and I’m completely paralyzed by the planning of the whole thing. I don’t want to miss out on things but at the same time I don’t want to have an itinerary that is so tight that we can’t embrace our adventurous side. We’ve been at this travel thing together for the better part of 20 years (a side effect of meeting and marrying so young). For the first 6 or 7 years we flew by the seats of our pants. Young, childless, and optimistic we rarely had hotel reservations, we carried maps because we frequently got lost when we went “adventuring”, and many times we didn’t know exactly what day we were leaving or when we were returning. Things either worked out, we figured it out, or we learned a lesson. We are both perfectly capable human beings and can manage ourselves fairly well in nearly any circumstance. So we did.
Enter our beloved kiddo and my inner planner instincts became very handy. I can plan an itinerary with the best of them. I’ve got maps, names, addresses, costs down to the penny, rest stops, hotels, Airbnbs, and everyone has exactly what they need exactly when they need it. I’m a pro. If I could get paid for this, I’d never work another job again.
This time though, since we are traveling childless (she has school and grandparents to oversee all that needs to go on), I’d like to fly by the seat of my pants again. It is way harder than I expected! I’ve always enjoyed our trips and can’t wait to go anywhere, anytime but I’ve missed the flexibility. So WHY is it so hard to be flexible? Perhaps I’m just out of practice. Perhaps it is because my professional life has consisted of putting out fires all over the place for the last decade or so and now that I have 3 seconds to think, I feel like I have to control something else. Who knows?
What I do know is this, I’ll either figure it out or I’ll drink a fair amount of Scotch to chill me out. Let’s see shall we?
There are lots of theories on packing for a trip, this is mine.
Plan very carefully, pack only what you need and then you can fly with just a carry-on anywhere you go. When you fly carry-on only you get to skip the ticket counter and the quibbles and problems of other people trying to check items in line ahead of you, you get to skip the baggage fees, you get to skip baggage claim, the airline can’t lose your luggage and once you reach your destination you move with ease through transit. All of this leaves you with more money, more time, more flexibility and less stress. Yay!
Despite every single person I know telling me I was crazy, last October my family of 3 traveled for 11 days in Europe with just 3 carry-on sized backpacks. This made our lives so much easier. We had no trouble getting our luggage in our tiny rental car while we had it, we had lots of floor/table space in our friend’s home and hotel rooms, we moved with ease through Tube, train and Metro stations not to mention the streets of London and Paris. The friend who took us to the airport even commented, “It looks like I’m taking 3 kids to school not a family to the airport for a European vacation.”
How did we do it?
- We used 2 carry-on size convertible backpacks and 1 smaller one for our daughter. We also rolled our clothes and used packing cubes.
- We packed small toiletries and shared the space in our 3 allowed (1 per person) 3-1-1 bags.
- We used technology to our advantage with phones, iPods and eReaders serving as our entertainment.
- We made sure everything we brought could be used at least 2 ways.
- Each person packed a limited amount of color coordinated clothes;
- 4 long sleeve shirts
- 3 short sleeve shirts
- 2 sweaters or hoodies
- 3 pairs of pants
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 semi-formal outfit for the wedding (did I mention we attended a wedding too?)
- 1 warm jacket
- 5 pairs of socks
- 5 sets of undergarments
- No more than 3 accessories (my daughter and I took scarves and my husband chose not to take anything).
- 1 pair of small gloves
- 1 warm hat
- 1 small umbrella (we were headed to England after all)
Some simple math would indicate that we didn’t have 11 of anything. My friends, laundry is YOUR friend on a trip like this. We stayed with a friend the first 2 nights and made use of her washer before we left her home. From there on out, we did laundry as needed at the hotel either in machines or in our room. I do a lot of hand-wash laundry at home managing my daughter’s dance clothes so it took no time at all. (To be perfectly honest, we pack this same way regardless of where we are flying not just on international trips.)
If you end up doing laundry in your room, I have two suggestions;
- Do it as soon as you arrive, it will have a much longer time to dry,
- Consider bringing a clothesline to string in the shower, though the lovely European heated towel racks will do in a pinch and are actually much faster what with being heated and all. As a rule hotels don’t love you doing your laundry in the room because they worry you will string it up everywhere or leave it draped over all of the furniture and ruin the finishes. If you keep it in the bathroom, especially in the shower, you will have no problems at all.
Trust me on this, 20 minutes of managing your laundry will certainly be worth the aggravation and space you save.
When picking out clothes, choose 1 color palette so all of your clothes will go together. Be sure to bring pieces that layer well so that you will be warm enough if it gets colder than you are expecting. We only had one day that was really cold, of course it was the day we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and later experience the tail of a hurricane sliding through Europe. Nevertheless we had fun and got some great pictures.
*Note: I have no affiliation with eBags, I just happen to like their stuff and have had good luck with everything have I purchased thus far.