Monday, August 23, 2010

Travel Tips: Packing Light

First rule of frugal travel: pack light. Luggage fees are a ridiculous waste of money, and there is no need to bring more on a trip than you can carry comfortably. I'm not advocating bringing one outfit and wearing it every day, but by just using a little sense and limiting yourself to one bag, you'll be amazed how little you miss all the extra stuff. Travel is about experience not stuff. Rick Steves also has some excellent videos about packing light, but he's a guy and I'm a girl, Girls have needs.

First rule: You do not need a bunch of travel-sized items.
Unless you 're using a coupon and getting them for free, these things just aren't worth it, and they are a waste of plastic. Invest in reuseable containers and put what you need in there. I bought two three-ounce containers at Target filled one with shampoo and one with conditioner

Pretty sexy, eh? Decorated with the finest sharpie. They are exactly 3 ounces, so I can bring them in my carry-on, I won't need to make that frantic trip to the store the night before my flight ever again. Plus, the containers were $1.19 each (slightly more than one travel-sized shampoo), and the shampoo and conditioner probably cost about $.25. Less wasted plastic, less wasted money.

Do the same thing with body wash, face wash, hair goo--everything. The only travel-sized item I do buy is contact solution. I don't have a dishwasher, and I don't want to take a change with a reuseable container holding something that goes into my eyes. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but there's also almost always a $1 off coupon for contact solution floating around the internet, so I'm not paying for it anyway.

Other ways to cut back on toiletries in both size and money:
  1. If you're staying at a hotel, use what they give you--and take it home. If you're staying at a nice hotel, and even some not-so-nice ones, they will give you soap, shampoo, conditioner, a shower cap, probably a sewing kit. Take it all. Leah Ingram, one of my frugality gurus even takes hotel soaps and grates them for use in home-made clothes detergent.
  2. Free samples. Free Sample Freak has the lowdown on where to get free samples for just about everything, but there's a drawback to certain gratis items. Sometimes, you have to buy something to get something, or remember to cancel a membership in three months--it can be more work than its worth. That said, I always take advantage of free samples for shampoo and conditioner, and the brands that I use most often, often give out samples regularly. Stockpile these items, bring them along, and you can usually get two uses out of each. Whenever I travel, even if I'm not buying anything, it seems like my luggage keeps getting heavier--it's nice to throw away something, even if it's just a shampoo sample.
  3. Those little extras. You know how sometimes you buy shampoo, facewash, bodywash and they come with an extra small bottle of the same thing or another product by the same company? Save those and use them for traveling. Usually, that little extra bottle is what gets me to pick that particular bodywash, and if I have coupons, I may get more than one.

Second rule: Don't bring that many clothes.
You probably don't need them all anyway. This is all dependent on the type of vacation you're taking. If you're going somewhere cold, you need more bulky items, tropical, not so much, but you can use the same type of thinking in all circumstances.
  1. Plan to wash clothes. If your vacation is that long, do laundry. If you're staying at hostels, there is usually laundry on site, if you're staying at hotels, ask about a wash and dry place in the neighborhood, if you can't find one of those, go to a laundromat or wash your clothes in your bathroom. Failing that, just don't wash your clothes every time you wear them. Hang them up to air out over night instead of crumpled in a ball, and they should be just as good. Unless you're sweating constantly or have body odor issues, wear your clothes more than once.
  2. Bring only one pair of shoes--two at most. Yes, I really said that. Shoes take up so much room in your luggage, and they're heavy and awkward. Just don't bring that many. If you're traveling for a wedding, wear the same pair to the groom's supper and the wedding and have another pair for non-fancy use. Match your clothes combinations to the shoes you bring, and quit worrying about how you look.
  3. Light layers. Light layers are your friend. Again, this all depends on the climate where you're traveling, but bring a light jacket or sweater and a scarf. This way, if it winds up cold and rainy, you will still be comfortable. If it's hot and sunny, you didn't fill your luggage with one sweater for each day of the week.
  4. Bring sturdy clothes that don't wrinkle. You don't have to wear outfits made entirely of nylon, but don't bring all linen either. Are you really going to want to spend your vacation ironing? When you're clothes shopping, select items that won't wrinkle easily. Crumple a part of the garment in your hand and see how long it takes for the wrinkles to fall out. That's your litmus test. Don't go out and buy a wrinkle-free wardrobe just for your vacation, you probably wouldn't mind ironing less in real life too--just change your shopping perspective a bit.

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