Friday, June 27, 2014

What I Packed

Three weeks out of a backpack. No checked bags.

In the Heathrow airport, headed home

For my three weeks in Ireland, England and France, I knew I'd be moving around a lot. I decided I wanted to bring a bag I could carry on the plane. And because I wanted to be even more portable, I didn't want to deal with wheels. I limited myself to my backpack and one crossbody bag that I'd be using as my purse/day bag.

The good thing about taking a backpack is that the bag itself is pretty light. I wanted to be able to carry everything myself without having to ever ask for help, and I wanted to feel more like I was in control of my stuff (no extra bags hanging everywhere or things to keep track of).

This is what I packed, if you're interested. It wasn't perfect (see notes), but it was pretty good. I read a lot of travel sites before I left (this one in particular).

Backpack: Kelty Redwing 40 (E has the 44)
Shoulder bag: Baggalini Partner Backpack (could also alter straps to wear it like a small backpack)

Inside the backpack I used some packing cubes from ebags and nylon pouches from Ikea to keep everything organized. I needed to unpack and pack a lot, and that way I knew right where everything was without having to dig for it.

I washed laundry as we went--mostly in the sink, a few things in the hotel laundry service, and in the washer when we had it at our flat in London. Since it was cold/rainy in Ireland and hot in France, I tried to pack things I could layer.  If I was going to be in one climate for the whole time, I wouldn't bring as much. But I ended up using pretty much everything between the three countries. Almost all of the clothes I brought were black, gray, or white. Everything could be worn with everything else. I rolled all of my clothes inside the cubes except for my jacket and sweatshirt.

The packing list, including what I wore on the plane:

Fleece zip-up sweatshirt (compressed in a gallon ziplock to save space)
Waterproof shell rain jacket
1 pair Jeans
1 pair lightweight pants (like these)
1 pair Leggings
1 pair shorts
1 skirt
2 sundresses
1 pair shorts to wear under skirts (like Spanx)
1 scarf (E's aunt bought me another one along the way)
1 pair PJ pants
2 T-shirts (bought 2 more along the way)
3 camisoles
1 long-sleeve top
3 sleeveless blouses/shells
1 cardigan
1 pull-over sweater
1 canvas jacket (like a denim jacket, kinda?)
5 pair socks
1 bathing suit (didn't use... but you never know)
6 pair underwear
2 bras

1 pair Converse (old, so I could toss them if I needed space)
1 pair running shoes
1 pair Toms (old, so I could toss them if I needed space)
1 pair flip flops (I never wore them)

sleep mask/ earplugs
travel-size Kleenex/ hand wipes
Shampoo and conditioner
hair ties and bobby pins
medicine/ band-aids/ Q-tips
nail clippers/ tweezers
brush and comb
makeup remover
moisturizer/ chapstick
contact solution and case
glasses and case
Packtowel and clothesline
laundry/body soap (This and this. They both worked fine. I used the liquid as a body/face wash for most of the trip.)
Hair spray and curl cream
Neck wallet/ Passport/ credit cards
Bag for dirty laundry
Collapsable backpack (like this) in case I needed more space to pack on the way home (Didn't use)
Ziplocks (a big one to hold memory stuff)

DSLR camera/ charger
extra camera batteries and memory cards
iPad/keyboard/ chargers
Travel power adapter (similar)
Small power strip (like this)
TSA locks/thin cable
iPad camera connector kit and USB cord for camera
copies of all important paperwork (also emailed to myself)
pen and pencil
Small coin purse

I weighed my backpack before I left and it was 18 pounds. It was full, but manageable. I measured it to make sure it fit carry-on regulations, but nobody gave me a second glance any of the times we boarded a plane. 

As we went, I ended up ditching a few things that I didn't absolutely need. I prioritized before I left and knew which things I'd ditch. I left my Converse in London on the last night. They lasted the whole time but they were ready to go. In retrospect I would have brought different running shoes. My Nike Free Runs didn't have enough support and the bottoms of my feet hurt when I wore them, which is why I ended up wearing the Converse almost every day (even with dresses). They have a thicker sole. I was tired of wearing everything by the end, but I could have kept going easily. Wash, wear, repeat.

A word about photo back-up:

I was really concerned ahead of time about how I'd make sure to back up my pictures. Since I wasn't planning to really buy very much, I knew those pictures were the main souvenirs I'd want of the trip. I brought my gigantic DSLR camera which was a pain in the ass to lug around but it takes great pictures. My backup process was to put the pictures onto my iPad every night and then when we had good wifi, to back them up to Dropbox. It worked fine as long as we had good wifi (which we sometimes didn't). I also kept them on the memory card so they were in three places. I know I'm unusually freaked out about losing files, but I didn't want to wait until I was 35 to go anywhere and then accidentally delete all the pictures. The system worked, but it took some odd cord-plugging since Apple doesn't yet make a memory card reader for the lightning plug and my camera uses the old CF cards. But I worked it out.

In my day bag, I'd carry my camera and phone and kleenex, chapstick, water, etc, but no credit cards and never very much money in case it got nabbed. When I flew to and from London, I also packed it full of my prescriptions and the ipad, just in case my big bag got separated from me. I had my passport and anything important in my neck wallet--as much so I didn't lose them as so they'd be protected.

I can't tell you how HAPPY we both were that we didn't bring bags with wheels. I knew that having a backpack would be better over cobblestones, but I didn't have a sense of just how many cobblestones we'd be looking at, and how wobbly they be. And how many stairs... And how many escalators... On the subway, being able to carry everything easily was a lifesaver. We never got stuck in a turnstile, and I never felt like my stuff was too far away from me. When we were traveling from place to place (subway, train, etc) or leaving our bags anywhere for any length of time, I locked the zippers shut.

When we got to Heathrow to head home, there was a line wrapped around the entire terminal because their baggage system was down. It felt so good to bypass that mess and get right on the plane with our stuff.

I think that's it? We're total converts to backpacks now, and packing less.

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