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  • Candace Ahlfinger

Packing Tips

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

I always have and use a packing list and continue to update it as life changes. I don’t usually take anything off the list even if it includes items such as coats and gloves when we’re headed to the beach. Instead, I just mark them off for a great feeling of accomplishment. I do recommend actually marking things off the list as you put them in your bag; otherwise, it’s too easy to overlook something. These ideas help if I'm just using a carry-on or if I am checking a bag.

I never pack for more than one week—except necessary perishables such as makeup. (If you’re willing to wash more often you can take clothes for fewer days.) If our hotel doesn’t have washers and dryers, we either find a laundromat or sink wash. I don’t pack by outfit. Instead, I roll pants, secured with rubber bands, in one bag, blouses, again rolled and secured with rubber bands, in another and so on. I label the bags with content—not too specific just simply pants, blouses, etc.

I plan my wardrobe around one color. Everything has to be interchangeable and work, color wise, with my two pairs of shoes, so I use one basic color scheme for the trip.

I don’t carry jeans. They are usually bulky. They dry slowly and, for me, they are too hot in summer and too cold in winter. I take lighter weight pants and layer when necessary. I usually carry a pair of leggings that are decent by themselves or can be layered under pants or a dress if necessary. I have also packed just using dresses or skirts and blouses, but I personally prefer pants. Remember: Generally, pants don’t have to be washed after every wearing. I usually wear a pair of pants three times. (I also put a fabric softener sheet in each of my zippered storage bags to bring freshness back to clothes between wearings.)

I take clothes to layer. Depending on the weather, I usually take a long or short sleeve t-shirt in a color that will work under, and/or over, everything else I am taking. I also take a jacket or wrap on the plane to use as a pillow or wear if it is cold. (Check here for carry-on packing ideas.)

I pack in zippered plastic bags—preferably freezer bags because they are stronger. Squeeze the air out and label each bag. The waterproof bags also keep the contents dry in case I have to walk through torrential rainstorms. (Believe me. It works!) I also put all liquids in zippered storage bag—even in a checked bag--so unplanned spills don’t ruin the suitcase or anything in it. (I have tried packing cubes. They do look nicer, but I have found

Only pack two pairs of shoes except…I pack one pair of great tennis shoes or other walking shoes. A trip is not the time to break in those cute new shoes you’ve been saving! Trying new shoes can, literally, lead to misery. My second pair of shoes is a sandal in summer or a boot in cooler weather. They have to be multi-purpose—comfortable enough to walk all day but cute enough to put with a dress and go out. (Heels are not good. There are too many cobblestones and uneven walks.) My exception? The only time I add a third pair of shoes is a pair of flip-flops if we are spending lots of time at the beach or pool… but do flip-flips really count as shoes?!

I always pack an extra shirt and underwear in a zippered storage bag in my carry on just in case my luggage gets lost. In addition, if I am traveling with a companion, we will cross pack which usually means I will put one complete set of my husband’s clothes in my bag and vice versa. This has come in handy when one of us has luggage delayed. A couple of other luggage ideas if you are checking bags. Put an Air Tag in your suitcase. It can prove to be invaluable. Also, put a list of your hotels and their addresses, along with the dates you will be at each, on top of the items in your suitcase. (I also have my contact info inside my suitcase.)

Pack your liquids in smaller containers. I use old contact cases to carry my base and old 3 oz contact solution containers for moisturizers. I also use “store-bought” travel containers for items, but you don’t have to invest in these if you are creative.

A few other notes about things I’ve learned over the years.

  • Make certain that any electric devices such as curling irons have 110 and 220 switches. If not, they may be burned out. A converter does not make them adaptable!

  • If there is something that you love doing daily, try not to deprive yourself on vacation. For example, I love having coffee and tea in the room. I have found a packable tea kettle so I can have that hot drink first thing in the morning and last thing at night. (Instant coffee still isn’t as good as fresh brewed, but…)

  • I always have a large trash bag in my suitcase to cover it in case of torrential rains!

  • We carry emergency ponchos with us just in case we are caught without umbrellas or raincoats. (Make sure your raincoat is waterproof, not just water resistant.)

Generally, we are not traveling to third world countries, and I will be able to replace something if I forget it. As long as I have my essentials—medicines, makeup, electronic devices—I will be okay.

Do you have ideas you want to share or questions that I may can help you with? Please email me at .

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