Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Packing with a purpose: 9 things to think about before you leave

When it comes to packing, I have it down pat; My mama taught me well. Think you can't pack for 10 months with two bags? It can be done! When we came to Leuven in July, I managed to pack an entire year's worth of clothes into one checked suitcase, one carry on, and my purse and they were all under the 50 lb weight limit! Needless to say, many people came with more than one checked suitcase. Anyway, I consider myself a packing mastermind of sorts. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be in Italy and beyond for two weeks and I am (only) taking a carry on and a personal item, which in this case is a backpack. Not the most stylish, but insanely practical. Since being in Leuven, I have gotten many questions from my fellow travelers and friends about how to pack so lightly for a long time. I have now decided to share my wisdom with all of you!

1. If you are going somewhere for a long time (semester/ year abroad, more than a few weeks), bring clothes that you will leave there.
I know, I know no one wants to leave their clothes behind but hear me out. Bring things that will wear out during the time you will be there, like gym shoes or basics that can be tossed after a while like tank tops or older tee shirts. Especially if you;re coming to Europe where walking is part of the game, your shoes will be destroyed by the end, even new ones, so brings ones you wouldn't mind messing up. At the end of your time, you'll have fewer things to take back and more room for all of your souvenirs! To Leuven, I brought pajamas, tennis shoes, and basic tees and tanks that I know I won't bring home and then I am not upset if i have to leave them somewhere when I travel if I run out of room. This could also be applied to shorter trips if you want to leave crummy clothes behind, but it seems more realistic for a longer span of time abroad.

2. Be realistic.
Really look at the clothes you want to bring. If you didn't wear that dress in the last year, you probably won't wear it while traveling. Only bring the clothes you actually want to wear or are practical. Sky high heels? Don't need them. 7 pairs of flats? You can manage with three or less.

3. Pack multipurpose clothing
When it comes to travel, less is more. When you have to lug your suitcase up a cobblestone paved hill, you'll wish you had less too. Instead of packing 14 separate outfits for a 14 day trip, pack pieces that can be worn again and again in different ways. Dresses are great for this because they can be worn on their own, or layer with tops and sweaters to create different looks.

4. Bring fewer but versatile bottoms that can be worn with EVERY SINGLE TOP YOU BRING. Pants, skirts, and shorts can take up a ton of room and no one ever looks at your legs. Bring one or two pairs of pants than can be worn with every thing else you bring. If your pants match all of your tops, you can create so many outfits with limited pieces.

5. Do laundry while you travel.
This shouldn't be a chore; you're on vacation after all, but doing laundry can save time and space during your travels! This could mean going to the laundromat or having your hotel do it for you. For me, it means bringing a bit of washing powder and lathering my clothes up in the sink or shower. It takes up little space or weight in your suitcase and can be great for emergency stain removal or if you want to wear an outfit again. I do not recommend washing pants in the sink or shower unless absolutely necessary; they take way to long to dry. Tops, undies, and thin clothing dries quickly overnight and will be ready in the morning. If I hand wash my clothes, which I do right before bed or while I;m taking a shower, I can wear them again and again, meaning I can bring less clothing overall.

6. Pare down pairs of shoes
I love shoes as much as the next girl, but come on ladies! We don't need to bring so many pairs with us! To Europe for the entire year, I have two pairs of boots, two pairs of tennis shoes, and four pairs of flats, plus shower shoes and slippers. While it was hard to decide, I rarely miss my shoes at home. I picked neutral, comfortable shoes that ca be worn in many seasons. For the love of baguettes and puppies, do not ever bring rain boots or plastic flip flops to Europe. No one wears them and neither will you and they take up too much space. For a short trip, even two weeks, three pairs is more than enough pairs to get you through your travels.

7. If you forgot something, remember that you can always replace it or have it sent to you.
After paring off some clothes, you might realize you forgot something you need or realize that you want is still at home. Don't fret! There are stores in Europe and you can replace a few things once you get here. Obviously, this can get expensive, so do not rely on this, but remember that it is an option!

8. Look at the weather and customs of the places you will be visiting.
While this might seem like an obvious hint, many of my fellow travelers came a bit ill prepared for Belgium because they didn't look at the weather. Check the weather throughout the time you are packing, to keep yourself up to date on the weather and also look at the average temperatures of the time you will be traveling to get a more accurate picture. Once I see what the weather will be like, I plan my packing accordingly. However, I always bring a few pieces that can be worn is the weather is warmer or cooler than I expected so that I can be prepared. For example, even on a beach vacation I bring a sweater or light jacket in case of a cooler day. If you look at the weather, you can plan to be prepared with the proper clothing and accessories for any situation you might be thrown into!

9. Check luggage sizes and weight allowances of the airlines you will be traveling.
Do this to avoid heavy luggage fees. It is not fun to go to the airport only to learn your bag is too heavy or large and has to be checked, meaning you have to shell out 50 euros for your bag. This also means you should weigh your baggage BEFORE you leave. This will save headaches and money.

I hope this has helped you, my fellow world explorers, to start to begin packing with a purpose! Stay tuned for more installments of "Packing with a purpose" very soon!--C

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