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How to travel (in comfort and style) for 2 1/2 weeks with only one small backpack

- Author: Crystal

The hubby and I just returned from a very relaxing 2 1/2 week vacation to Puerto Rico. We decided to travel very simply by packing only one small backpack each. The advantages were numerous, including saving a ton of time and money, increasing our travel flexibility, and helping us to enjoy our vacation much, much more. All it took was… you guessed it: a tiny bit of organization!

Here’s how we did it:

  • Started with my pre-made vacation packing list and pared it down as much as possible.
  • Substantially limited the clothing and shoes we packed. We opted for two outfits each (one to wear, one to bring). Because I like to dress up, I added an attractive non-wrinkle dress for special evenings out. We each brought three pairs of underwear (one to wear, two to pack).
  • Washed clothing in the sink each night before bed. My Peace Corps skills came in handy: Wet it down, soap it up, scrub, rinse, squeeze it, shake it out and hang it up. It takes 10 minutes or less to do this, because you’re just washing a couple of things each day. If you’re not into the idea of hand washing, you can do a daily load of laundry at the local laundromat (cheap and easy!), or ask your hotel or guest house to take care of it for you (not as cheap).
  • Selected low maintenance clothing. The easiest clothes to wash in the sink are lightweight and contain mostly synthetic fibers, such as polyester. My husband’s “high performance” travel clothes (e.g., Ex-Officio brand shirt and boxers) were designed to wash up easily and dry in about 1 hour. And indeed they did!
  • Kept an open mind. We knew that anything we wished we had brought (or forgot to pack) could be purchased upon arrival. It’s so fun to go shopping on vacation anyway, right? And it’s true: you REALLY don’t need as many things as you think you do when on vacation. In fact, halfway through our trip, we went to the UPS store and shipped back home to ourselves all the things we brought but didn’t end up needing!

Stuff we are very glad we brought to Puerto Rico:
– SUNBLOCK (cannot stress this enough; wow, that sun is hot)
– Deck of playing cards (endless games of Rummy – a great game for two!)
– Lightweight clothing that was easy to wash
– Small umbrella
– Shampoo and bar of soap (the latter doubles as laundry detergent)
– Reusable compact shopping bag (innumerable uses)
– 3 pairs of underwear each
– Empty plastic water bottle for refilling (saves $)
– Food for the plane, like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, oranges, etc (saves TONS of $)
– Chaco sandals (these wash up easily; are comfortable for city, beach and mountain hiking; look great)
– Warm sweatshirt for the plane
– Prescription sunglasses
– Purse

Stuff we brought but ended up not needing:
– 2nd pair of socks (socks dried fast after washing; second pair not needed)
– 3rd pair of shoes (I know, I couldn’t help it)
– 2nd swimsuit (I couldn’t decide which bikini to bring)
– hair conditioner (a 2-in-1 shampoo was better)
– extra undershirt (only needed two)
– swim trunks (high-performance shorts doubled as swimsuit)

Stuff we wish we had brought:
– body lotion (bought it when we got there)
– foot pumice (bought it when we got there)
– camping gear (turns out Puerto Rico is great for camping)
– vitamins
– earplugs
– insect repellent (bought it when we got there)
– hydrocortisone (darn mosquitos!)
– travel utensils and plates
– money belt
– good hat (bought it when we got there)

Other things we purchased when we got there:
– knife for making sandwiches (obviously, you cannot take this on the plane)
– groceries (saved us a lot of money to eat fruit and yummy local bread with Nutella for breakfast, and then make sandwiches for lunch, rather than eating every meal out)
– more sunblock
– more soap for laundry
– cold medicine and cough drops

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!

1 Comment - Categories: Travel

Save money by packing light

- Author: Crystal

While flying to Pittsburgh today, I thought of another good reason to be organized while you travel. Many airlines now charge you extra cash ($25 on AirTran!) for a second piece of luggage. What better reason to avoid being a “What If” packer! If you haven’t already, check out my article called Pain-free packing for packing strategies and pre-made packing lists. Bon Voyage!

No Comments - Categories: Travel

Pain-free packing!

- Author: Crystal

luggageA packing list will help you avoid two very common mistakes:

1. Packing the morning of or night before a trip, and/or

2. Being a “What If” packer!

Here are my 1-2-3 easy packing tips:

  1. Choose one of these sample packing lists: Business or Vacation
  2. Adapt it to your own needs! Be realistic, and remember that lighter luggage is always better.
  3. Save it! Better yet, copy it to a free online list manager, such as Backpack. (Backpack is where I keep all my lists for easy access via the Web.) With Backpack, you can refer to your packing list – and make edits and refinements – whenever you need to!

What’s a “What If” packer?

A “What If” packer is the person who asks themselves too many “What if” questions while they are packing, and who ends up throwing into their suitcase a zillion things they never end up using on their trip.

You know how it goes: What if I get invited out to a fancy dinner? I’ll need those green pants to go with my top. Oh, and those matching purple shoes and belt too! What if the hotel has a tennis court? I’ll need my tennis racket, balls, outfit, shoes, etc.. What if it rains? I’ll need my raincoat, boots and umbrella too! What if I get really bored? I should pack a stack of books, magazines, Sudoku…

To avoid being a “What if” packer, remember the following:

  • Packing lighter is always better. Period. For your sanity, for the sanity of others, and for the health of your back.
  • Take a tip from those clever Europeans and pack black or other neutral clothing pieces you can mix up and use across multiple events and outings. Colorful jewelry or scarves are great for accenting and dressing up/down neutral outfits.
  • Use a packing list that you prepared in advance, and do not deviate from it unless you have a very valid reason to do so.
  • When you arrive at your destination, you can nearly always borrow or purchase whatever that you forgot to bring. And that usually ends up being way more fun anyway!
  • Avoiding the “what ifs” comes with practice and experience. Be realistic and honest with yourself when you think of what you want to and will accomplish during your trip!

So when should I begin packing?

  • At least three days (ideally, one week) prior to your trip, take a solid 5-10 minutes to look at your packing list. Preferably, print it out. Ask yourself: Are there items on this list I need to purchase, borrow, or wash/dry clean before I can pack? Are there errands I need to complete to prepare? If yes, highlight these items/errands on the list, and get them done at least two days before your trip.
  • Two days before your trip, lay your luggage out and open. Begin putting items into the luggage, checking them off the list. Don’t worry about how they are arranged in the luggage just yet. This two-day head start will allow you to troubleshoot and obtain any missing items in time for your trip!
  • The night before your trip, go through the list one more time, ensuring that all last-minute items are packed. Now is the time to arrange the items in the luggage and zip her up!

Happy packing, and Bon Voyage!

Have ideas to share? Post a comment, or write to Crystal (crystal@sparkleize.com).

No Comments - Categories: Closets, Travel

Road ready: Organize your car!

- Author: Crystal

An organized car will help you navigate the challenges of life with less hassle. The time is NOW to get your trunk and glove compartment in ship-shape condition!

Here’s how to begin:

  • Gather your important documents. These might include current car registration, proof of insurance, roadside assistance information, and any other important paperwork you may need when on the road. Paperclip it together – or better yet, put them in a clear plastic envelope. Store this in the glove compartment for easy access.
  • Throw away the garbage! Chuck all the fast food bags, greasy napkins and old grocery lists stuck under the seat.
  • File away car maintenance paperwork you might have tossed onto the backseat, such as receipts and documentation from past oil changes or repairs.
  • Assemble useful trunk items. These might include: jumper cables, tire iron, rubber gloves (these come in handy when changing a car battery, for example), glass cleaner, paper towels, large road atlas, rain poncho, emergency blanket, flashlight, extra flashlight batteries, clean towels, change of clothing including socks and shoes, a large jug of spring water, and an economy-size box of energy bars for emergencies.
  • Consider purchasing a sturdy crate to store automotive necessities in the trunk. A crate keeps stuff from rolling around and getting jumbled up back there. Keep an extra crate handy (they can fold up!) for groceries or other purchases.
  • Got kids? Consider a backseat storage device for keeping toys and other kid-related items (handy wipes, snacks, etc) from getting strewn about.

Want to keep your car orderly? Follow these simple rules:

  1. Get the trash out. Each day after work, park near your trash can and empty the car of any garbage, no matter how small.
  2. Don’t use your trunk as a storage space for anything other than automotive necessities. Period.
  3. Make plans to get those errands done. Have items in bags you need to return to the store? Boxes of stuff to take to the donation center? Stuff you borrowed and need to give back to your friend? Get it done and it won’t pile up in the car.

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or e-mail Crystal.

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car, Travel