• Mary

The June List: Packing Tips & Tricks

Updated: Apr 23

I’m back from vacation! Our two weeks in Bordeaux, San Sebastian, and Bilbao are behind us, and while we love exploring new places in the world, my husband and I are happy to be home, recharged and getting back into our routines.

My list for June is a little bit different. I'd mentioned prepping for this trip in my May List and so I wanted to share some thoughts on how I approach packing. Two weeks in 50 to mid-70 degree weather meant that I could be wearing anything from jackets to sun dresses, and these swings in temperature posed an extra challenge for me this time around. 

I began thinking about packing for this trip some time ago; incorporating packing as a part of my overall planning process feels more manageable to me than as a one-and-done task. 

Here are the details about my approach and some tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years to help me get better at something I don’t naturally have a good sense for. 

tl;dr:

  • Plan outfits in advance. Use a spreadsheet

  • Bring an edited down makeup and toiletry bag

  • Be realistic and rational (about shoes, the weather, the work it takes to lug your stuff around, etc.)

For anyone looking to pick up a new neurosis, read on. I break down it all down below. 

Prep

I use a Google spreadsheet to plan what I’m going to pack. Before anything goes onto the list, I do some setup work to bring in by-the-day information about weather and location. Here’s how I lay out my spreadsheet. 


Outfit Planning

I begin by pulling in a few specific garments I would like to incorporate the vacation capsule. This forms the foundation of the punch list of individual items I'll want to make sure to pack. Then, I start to fill in cells. Having separate columns for Day and Night helps to make sure I have enough layers for chillier evenings and reminds me to pack for nights I want to dress up for dinner or going out. An Other column reminds me to plan something versatile and comfortable for travel days, bring a swimsuit for beach days, etc. A Sleep column may be a bit much but I might as well cover all the bases. The idea is that every single piece of clothing, pair of shoes, accessory, or piece of jewelry that I bring is scheduled to be worn. 

I have a few go to basics that get packed on most trips:

  • A lightweight black cardigan

  • Black pants 

  • H&M basic tanks (great for layering, acceptable to wear out, comfy enough to sleep in, and only $6 apiece)

  • Leggings for flights and in-room lounging

On top of that, I list out and then allocate the other ideas that I have in mind for the trip including those pieces that I love but seldom wear because they sit squarely in the vacation-life part of my wardrobe.

Plugging and swapping and planning becomes a fun puzzle for me, and each time I open the Google Sheets app on my phone it makes me happy to be thinking about something I’m really looking forward to. I challenge myself to wear most garments at least twice, and as I finalize my list I continue to edit down the number of items until it’s time to pull them out to get packed. 

Bath & Beauty

Makeup can get bulky, and the more makeup you bring the greater the risk of something leaking or exploding all over everything it’s packed next to. 

I typically pack one makeup look, which for me means one eyeshadow, blush, mascara, a lip balm, and a lipstick that I mean to but often don't wear.

For bath and body products, I load up on whatever minis and samples I’ve accumulated lately, and fill in with products transferred to Muji travel containers. I don't pack shampoo, relying on the hotel or a local drugstore if staying in an AirBnB. I have a mini bar of Aesop soap that my husband and I both use; he likes that it's unscented and I like knowing that it's gentle enough to use on my face. 


Shoes

I pack flip flops for the room and shower, sneakers, and either leather sandals OR flats. Unless I’m at work or at a wedding, I haven’t found myself reaching for heels lately, so there’s no reason to think I’d want to walk miles in heels when traveling for leisure. 

Depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing, I might need another pair of shoes. If that other pair is something bulky like heels or boots, I wear them on the flight and bring big fuzzy socks to slip on so I don’t gross out the person next to me when I inevitably kick them off mid-flight. 

Accessories

  • 1 pair of sunglasses. If I bring more than one pair, I’ll lose them

  • Several pairs of big earrings. I like to use them to distinguish between outfits when repeating clothes

  • A large, lightweight scarf. For use on the plane, as a picnic blanket, a shawl. It's usually just tied around the handle of my purse

  • A watch, which I don’t typically wear, for the flight and to keep time while out and about without wasting my phone battery

Jewelry gets placed in muslin pouches and tucked between rolled clothing, and the rest is taken onto the flight in my purse or worn on my person.


Electronics and other odds & ends

  • We have an audio splitter for when we’re traveling so that we can watch something on the laptop while at the gate or in between flights during a layover 

  • An international outlet adapter, which I’ve grown less and less happy with as I’m wondering if there are more compact and lightweight options to which I can upgrade

  • A digital camera

  • An international SIM card to ensure we have access to Google Maps and can communicate with family. In the past we would buy them from a telecommunications shop in the country, but this time we ordered one ahead of time on Amazon that would work in several European countries. All we had to do was activate it in the States before we left

We're also looking into a suitcase friendly water filter so we can stop buying large plastic bottles of water everywhere we go.


The actual packing

There are several schools of thought regarding the "best" way to pack, be it rolling or layering everything flat and then wrapping it all up on itself. I use a combination of rolling and flat laying. I know people can feel pretty strongly about their packing technique, so I'll leave that up to you. Either way, it's helpful to stuff your chargers into shoes. 

My ultimate goal is to pack everything I've planned while leaving enough room to bring home souvenirs and keepsakes. This time, I was able to carry home a handful of French pharmacy skin care products for my mom, my mom-in-law, my sister, my sis-in-law, and myself, magnets from each city we visited, a pair of espadrilles which French Basque is known for, and about 5 pounds of this gorgeous, white-streaked black granite that we picked up on the beach in St. Jean de Luz and which I then noticed all over the place. Funny enough, what I'm calling Bay of Biscay granite is probably my favorite thing that I brought back; I'm going to use it as jewelry holders and shop displays on vendor days.

It's a process

It wasn't too long ago that I hated and sucked at packing. I'm actually quite proud that today, I enjoy it a great deal and have developed an approach that works for me. I love travel planning, and this is absolutely a part of it. 

One last tip

Unpack the same or next day when you return! Do your laundry immediately and get it out of the way. Then you can review your travel photos in peace. 

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