Category Archives: packing

I Wish I Packed Two More Pairs…

Before I left New York I had met three other solo female travelers leaving New York for various destinations in South America just a few days after me.

After one week, I sent them my advice from on the road and a couple of questions – one more urgent than the others, as you’ll see:


J – If you can, get another Eddie Bauer bag. Would be great to have a second. No need to duct tape logo, it peels off after three bus rides.

Day pack

Also, take less than you think you need. I did pack lightly and I still have too much. I also packed 8 pairs of underwear and have not been in a bathroom that is clean enough to wash my own underwear. Will definitely need to do a wash in MVD tomorrow. Wish I packed two more pairs.

C – Are are you in Santiago yet? I’m still in Uruguay but if you still want to do that weekend of the 10th in Vina im totally game. Soy sola Americana en Uruguay.

M – Please can you ask your family if they can recommend an English speaking eye doctor in Montevideo. I think I scratched my cornea the other day and am in pain. Have not been in a city yet so hoping to see a doc there. Will be in MVD for two nights I think. Muchas gracias!

Safe travels ladies. Hope to meet up with you soon!


Final Packing List

What did I take for two months in South America?

Click here to read what I had originally thought I was going to take. Keep reading this post to find out what actually came with me!

And here she is, in all her glory, all packed and ready to head to JFK!

Deuter 60L +10 rucksack
Eddie Bauer foldable daypack

What’s inside you ask?

Here goes…

To make digging through my pack easier:

Eagle Creek Packing cube (1 quarter cube)
Eagle Creek Packing sac (4)
Eagle Creek Compression sack (1)
Mesh bag (for underwear, bras, socks and bathing suit)


Tank tops (3)
Short sleeves (3)
Long sleeves (1)
Sundresses (2)
Shorts (1)
Convertible pants (1)
Yoga pants (1)
Pajamas – tee shirt and bottoms (1)
Socks (3 pairs of Old Navy ankle socks)
Underwear (10)
Bras (2 regular, 1 sport)
Jeans (1)
Fleece (1)
Bathing suit (1 top, 1 bottom)


Keen Voyageur trail shoes
Reef flip flops


Liquids 30z or less (as seen in Ziploc photo above)

Shampoo (1 travel size)
Conditioner (1 travel size)
Face wash (Kiehl’s samples)
Body wash (1 travel size)
Hand/body lotion (1 travel size)
Toner (small container)
Eye makeup remover
Hair stuff (1 travel size)
Chapstick (1)


Razors (2)
Biore Facial Cleansing Cloths
Cotton balls
Q-tips (1 travel pack)
Eyelash curler

Eye care:

Contact lenses (4 pairs each eye)
Contact solution (2 travel size)
Contact case (4 cases)
Dry-eye drops (2 travel size)
Glasses (1 pair)

First Aid Kit:

Chewable Tylenol
Chewable Pepto Bismol
Band Aids
Ayr gel
Bio Freeze (sample sizes)
Girly stuff
Sunscreen SPF 30+ (1 travel size)
Mosquito repellant DEET 30%+
Prescription medicine and notes from the doctors saying that I take it
Malaria pills
Chewable Immodium
Pill crusher
Travel powder packets; Go Greens Veggies and Benefiber

Electronics (anything with a battery):

Netbook, case and charger
Camera, battery and charger
iPod, charger and earplugs
Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp
Alarm clock


Lonely Planet’s South America on a Shoestring
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
Moo cards

Important Documents:

Passport and copies of passport
Passport photos
Yellow card
Credit cards (2)
Debit cards (2)
Travel insurance cards and information


Travel bath towel
Silk sleep sack
Travel clothesline
Sunglasses (2)
Money belt (1; just big enough for my passport)
Money belt (bigger one when I would need to put more stuff in it)
Waterproof money holder for pool/beach
Decoy wallet
Hand sanitizer (1 travel size)
Wet Ones hand wipes
Gloves (1 pair)
Electronic door stop
Locks (2; 1 retractable PacSafe cable lock and 1 REI combination lock)
Hair ties
Packets of Tide one load detergent
Packet of tissues
Plastic bags
Cheap earrings; wear in my ears
Travel toilet paper (2)
Duct tape; wrapped around a pencil
Carabiners (2)
Sleep eye mask
Ear plugs

I also mailed the following to A, so she could restock me when we meet in Chile.

One more travel contact solution
30 more Biore Facial Cleansing Cloths
Another travel size tube of suntan lotion
Go Greens Veggies and Benefiber powder packets

In retrospect:

Did I pack light? Yes.

Could I have done with less? Absolutely.

Did I use everything? Almost. If you are wondering why some of these things made the list, it will make sense as you keep reading along…

I didn’t start packing until the morning of my departure


I mean I had written out my packing list, I had gone shopping and I had been collecting all the things I was planning to pack. I simply used my backpack as storage for these items.

When I say ‘used my backpack as storage’ I literally mean, I threw stuff in as I acquired it.

I just didn’t really try actually folding and packing everything until the morning of. Oops.

Since I was packing the morning of my departure, it was an ‘as is’ situation.

For example, I couldn’t find my adaptor for Argentine voltage. Would need to put a converter on the packing list. Could every back up toiletry fit in my quart-size Ziploc bag since I did not want to check my bag? Of course not. Did I forget my toothbrush because I was so crazed the morning of? Yup. What about the cord to upload photos from your camera to your computer? You guessed it, I forgot that too.

In retrospect, did I really need those toiletries I left behind? Nope. There are <gasp> stores that sell similar products at a quarter of the price in every country I visited in South America.

FAQs: Packing

FAQ: What are you going to pack?

I hope not a lot! Everything will be in my rucksack and it will be on my back. I know I will acquire things along the way, so my goal is to pack as lightly as possible.

As I know all too well, anything I need, I can buy on the road.

My route will take me through mostly warm climates but air-conditioned buses and high-altitude will make things a bit colder.

FAQ: So really, what are you going to pack?

I haven’t attempted to actually pack just yet but this is my guide so far. I know I can buy toiletries (and really almost anything) on the road so am starting out with just a few travel size containers. Is 2 overkill? Should I start out with 1 of each instead of 2?

I do not want to be busting at the seams before I even get on the plane. And I would like to go carry-on so need to ensure I have one plastic bag with toiletries coming in at 3oz or less.

If you have any suggestions, deletions, additions, please post in the comments below.

Here goes:

60L rucksack – if I don’t exchange for something a little bit smaller
Foldable daypack

Tank tops (4)
Short sleeves (2)
Long sleeves (2)
Shorts (2)
Convertible pants (1)
Black cotton dress (Just in case? I’d be happy to go shopping should I need something!)
Leggings (1) – Leaning towards no, because of the…
Yoga pants (1)
Pajamas – tee and bottoms (1)
Quick-dry or moisture wicking socks (2; still need to buy once I decide on the shoes – suggestions welcome)
Underwear (8)
Bras (2 regular, 1 strapless, 1 sports)
Jeans (1) – I know this is a big debate for travelers but mine are so super comfortable
Fleece (1) – $11 from Wal-Mart. I tested it on a red-eye flight and it kept me warm. Almost hot. Never happens. A winner.
Bathing suit (Mix and match – 2 tops, 2 bottoms essentially giving me four options)
Beach cover up (1; may buy there)

Trail shoes (1) – Testing out four different pairs in my apartment this weekend, one will emerge the winner
Flip Flops (1)
Foldable flats; debating and would need to buy them first. I will have no problem going shoe shopping – I can always mail them home!

Shampoo (2 travel size)
Conditioner (2 travel size)
Face wash (Kiehl’s samples)
Body wash (2 travel size)
Hand/body lotion (1 travel size)
Razors (2)
Shaving cream (1 travel size – it comes in a pouch so not even a big can)
Toner – for when I can’t wash my face
Eye makeup remover
Cotton balls
Q-tips (1 travel pack)
Nail clippers/file
Toothpaste (1 travel size)
Floss (1)
Mouthwash (1 travel size)
Hair stuff (1 travel size)
Chapstick (2; I will lose one)
Eyelash curler
Mascara (Don’t laugh at these last three, I wear no ‘real’ makeup but these I must take)

EYE CARE; this gets its own category because this is crucial for me
Contact lenses (4 pairs each eye)
Contact solution (2 travel size)
Contact case (4; each time I change lenses)
Dry-eye drops (2 travel size)
Glasses (1 pair, debating on bringing 2) – My reasoning: 1 – because if it breaks, I will get a back up pair poste restante!; 2 – because if it breaks, can I depend on the international post?

Chewable Tylenol (I hate swallowing pills. My quart-sized plastic bag will be filled to the max with other liquids so I have to forgo Children’s Liquid Advil – don’t laugh)
Chewable Pepto Bismol
Neosporin (1 travel size)
Band aids (just a few to start with)
Ayr gel (awesome stuff, especially for dry climates)
Blister stuff (it’s a rub for the backs of your heels, comes in a tiny case)
Bio Freeze (sample sizes in little pouches)
Girly stuff (have heard mixed things about bringing your own stash but I will bring enough to start with and stock up once I get down there)
Sunscreen SPF 30+ (1 travel size to start with)
Mosquito repellant DEET 30%+ (any suggestions on brand?)
I have read about Dehydration stuff? Charcoal stuff? Do I need to start out with it?
Prescription medicine and notes from the doctors saying that I take it
Malaria pills (apparently the FDA does not approve of the liquid version)
Pill crusher (once in malaria zones, this will be as important as my passport!)
Vitamin D – chewable 😉
Travel powder packets; Go Greens Veggies and Benefiber to get vitamins and nutrients I may not get on the road

ELECTRONICS; or anything with a battery
Netbook, case and charger (still a big TBD)
Camera, battery, extra memory card and charger
iPod, charger and earplugs
Head lamp
Mini flashlight; do I need this if I have the head lamp?
Alarm clock
Watch (I don’t even own one, I still need to buy a cheap/cheap-looking one)
Converter to charge said electronics (already own)

Guide book
Book (1)
Pens (2; for the same reason I need two chapsticks)
Moo cards

Passport photos
Yellow card
Credit cards (2)
Debit cards (2)

Packing cube (1; quarter cube)
Packing sac (3)
Compression sack (1; for heavier clothes while I am in warmer climates)
Dry sac for any wet items on travel days (TBD)

Travel bath towel
Silk sleep sack
Sink stopper
Travel clothesline
Sunglasses (2) – I lose and break sunglasses, so two five dollar pairs from Old Navy will suffice
Waterproof money holder for pool/beach
Hand sanitizer (1 travel size)
Wet Ones hand wipes
Floppy hat (1) – May just buy down there to blend in
Gloves (2; 1 fleece and 1 stretchy cotton) – Each was 99 cents and if the buses are as cold as I have read, this is a good investment.
Winter Hat (1) – May buy down there, if it’s necessary
Whistle and Door stop – thanks for these tips, Legal Nomads
Locks (2; 1 retractable cable lock and 1 combination lock)
Hair ties
Plastic bags
Cheap earrings; wear in my ears
Travel toilet paper (2)
Duct tape; wrapped around a pencil
Carabiners (2)
Sleep eye mask
Ear plugs

What do you think? Too much? Am I missing anything?

My departure date looms…let me know what I can eliminate!

For Shame!

Boy did I goof. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the boyfriend and I went to DC for a weekend trip back in October. And boy did I mess up. I overpacked. The horror!

I broke several of my packing cardinal rules.

Problem 1: packing the night before

Problem 2: packing after dinner (and wine) with girlfriends

Which led to problems 3 and 4…

Problem 3: Not packing outfits that worked with the shoes

Problem 4: Not packing for the right weather

Not only did I overpack, but I packed for frigid weather. That weekend we were there, the weather was gorgeous.

I also packed non-practical outfits. Yes, on our departure day I wore my tall boots so I did not have to pack them, but I had not taken into consideration that the jeans I packed – did not work with those boots. Which means, the boots could only go with limited outfits. Thankfully, I had packed my trusty Converse to go with the jeans. While the boots paired with my leggings, I only packed one thing that actually looked normal with leggings, being leggings. The rest of what I packed made the leggings look like pants. Big no no.

On top of that, this was the boyfriend’s first trip to DC since he was a kid. Did I remember the camera? Of course not. Do either of us have smartphones? Nope.

So at the Lincoln Memorial, we did what any tourist who comes to a place unprepared, we bought, oh yes we did, a disposable camera. Stop laughing.

Let it be known I only was recently weened off of disposable cameras in the past few years, so I had no shame. Though it was hilarious looking around us – not one single person had a disposable camera. People had smartphone cameras, small digital cameras and high-tech cameras. Not us. We had the very desirable Fuji QuickSnap.

Hey, it did the job. Well, we don’t know yet because I just finished the roll and mailed it to be processed.

Overpacking Prowess

I know I have shared some of my personal tips on packing.

I pride myself on being a good packer, and when I am not, I recognize it. On the flip side, my sister is one of the worst packers. EVER.

As I packed on Thursday night for my weekend, I thought about my sister, and her packing prowess…NOT!! I thought, what would she pack for two nights away from home?

She is well aware that she over packs clothes, hair supplies and everything you might think you need, but won’t even use. She is devoted to her hair products, and hasn’t found them in travel size. She refuses to buy travel size containers to pour her shampoo in. Obviously, because she exceeds the 3 ounce liquid limits, she also has to check her luggage…which I won’t do unless I absolutely have to – say it with me ‘checked luggage is potentially lost luggage.’

Even as kids she over packed. She was like a little bag lady. On long car rides, I’d use the seat belt to create a border as her side and my side. Her stuff couldn’t cross. And it always did.

I traveled with a book and a Walkman with a few cassette tapes (remember those?). Back then she packed stuffed animals, pillows and toys and games and who the heck knows what.

She also was given less leg room for storage. As the older sister, I always sat in the seat behind my mom. My short (er, she’s taller than me) mom. I ensured my sister sat behind my dad, my 6 foot + dad. Since my dad did most of the driving, he needed to be comfortable, and to do that his seat was pushed pretty far back, limiting my sisters leg room. This should have been a good thing, limiting her ‘carry on’ possessions. Alas, she found every possible corner to stuff some crap into.

Pack, and travel, lightly. You can buy what you need. And what you think you can’t easily replace (glasses, prescription medicine), be sure you pack it!

Caveat: I have never traveled extensively with children, except when I was one. I’m sure this changes things up a bit. So parents, do tell. What’s the craziest thing you, or your child, ever wanted to bring on a trip?

And a special shout out to my Mom and Dad – feel free to share any of J’s crazy must-haves for our many family road trips. I know I am off the hook for that since I always traveled lightly 😉

Up up and away

Everyone usually thinks about packing for the destination. While that is true, you want to be comfortable on the journey there.

Typically for flights under three hours, I don’t really care because that’s just an easy hop. It’s when you are in that plane for longer than two movies, where you want to be comfortable.

Here are my tips:

A travel pillow

I have two different kinds, one you can blow up – which ultimately takes up less room, and a Smarter Image one. Whatever you do, don’t pack a full size pillow from your bed.


I have one chance, and usually one chance only, to fall asleep on a plane. You’ll need to get a prescription from your doctor. While the doctor would probably not advocate using alcohol, a glass of wine before boarding, usually helps with zonking out for a bit.

Comfortable clothes

For flights longer than three hours, I wear leggings, a soft tee-shirt and a hoodie sweatshirt. I also pack a scarf and depending on how long the flight – a long wrap sweater – it can be used as a blanket.

Your bulkiest shoes

In the summer I travel in flip-flops. Truth be told, flops are probably not the best choice of footwear. Should you need to evacuate the plane, flops are probably not what you want on your feet. If I’m adventure traveling, I will keep on a pair of hiking boots or my Keens because those would be the bulkiest shoes in the bag. And because I don’t usually check any bags, wearing those bulky shoes tends to lighten up what I am carrying.


Always. My feet always get cold. Always.

Hand sanitzer

I always carry it but especially on flights. Have you ever seen an airplane bathroom? Even after I wash my hands in that gross place, I come back to my seat and squirt a few drops again.


Not only does this enable you to enjoy your own music, but you can listen to the airplane music selections at your seat. Anything in your ears works really well if you have a chatty seatmate or if you are seated near a barking dog.

An activity bag

Yes. Seriously. Always.

If you have any tips, share them in the comments section below.

If I knew then what I know now

A friend and I were new to the travel scene. We had only arrived in London a few weeks prior. She would live there for three months, and me for six. A few weekends in, we had decided that we wanted to go to Paris! Cue Bonjour Paris from Funny Face.

Oh Paris. We couldn’t wait to get there. Everything romantic about Paris that one would think of, we had in our heads. Romance! Fashion! Shopping! Sophistication! Food!

Yes, that Paris probably exists. But since we were recent college grads and not really rolling in the dough, that Paris would have to wait. Our fine French cuisine was perfectly fine. Fine dining it was not. We had perfectly fine crepes from street carts, and assorted cheeses and omelets and wine. Oh the wine. We drank it like water that weekend. Hey, it was cheaper than a soda, and we were trying to stay on some semblance of a budget for our weekend getaway!

We had arrived by train late at night and we had booked a small hotel. We didn’t want to stay at <gasp> hostels (soon after this trip I realized hotels would be my new best friend during my travels). This was a small, cheap place.

If TripAdvisor was around back then, we didn’t know. And if it was, from my memory of the place, it would not be highly rated.

I remember was that the blankets were like potato sacks, the lock to our door was broken and the climb to our room was at least 6 flights of rounded staircase.

Did I mention we packed high heel boots? We had no business doing that because fancy dinners and fashion nights out were not in our future. We also packed skirts and cute tank tops. Did I mention this was the middle of November and Paris weather is not warm that time of year.  We didn’t realize this of course, thinking, it was Paris! Ooh la la!

The plus I remember about the place we stayed, was that we had one of those romantic balconies you think of when thinking of Parisian architecture. Granted it was not very deep so we basically stood with our back to the building clutching the wrought iron balcony directly in front of us.

What my friend did not tell me was that our terrace, connected to every other terrace, oh, and that terrace door, did not lock.

This place was so far out of the center of Paris, we couldn’t even see the Eiffel Tower. This would not be a big deal since we didn’t know if you could see the Eiffel Tower from everywhere in the city, except we found out later that night that we were nearly thirty minutes outside of Paris. Maybe even further.

So what are you to do when arriving late into a strange city displeased with your chosen accommodation? Get drunk at the local bistro of course!

And get drunk we did. I believe we ate cheese omelets (only thing we could read on the menu) and drank more than enough red wine. Somehow the two of us started speaking French via my Spanish skills and met a few locals. I remember that we decided to get drunk in order to tolerate the accommodations. I do not recommend this.

Needless to say we got back to our place, laid down our heads and woke up very hungover. This is why I don’t recommend this. We were hungover in gross digs, that we were already repulsed by. It was slow-moving but we were ready and willing to find new digs for our remaining two nights in Paris!

The place we found overlooked the Notre Dame, in a great neighborhood, and to this day I have no idea how much we spent. I can tell you that when I started backpacking like a proper backpacker, never again did I stay in a place that had an elevator AND en suite televisions! Not only did this place have an elevator, it was one of those old school cargo elevators where you could see out as you went up. And the televisions, had English-speaking stations with French subtitles.*

While this place wasn’t the Four Seasons, for two clueless backpackers…we were sitting pretty for two nights. I laugh now because we had so much to learn.

* Having televisions with English channels in a country whose native language is not English actually annoys me now. I love not really knowing what’s on the news but trying to figure it out. You are totally taken out of your comfort zone and it turns into very basic language learning. I find it fun.

Packing Rules to Live By

The wedding we attended last night differed from other events in recent weeks because it was close to home so I was able to get ready at home! With so much recent traveling to fancy events, it can be a challenge to remember to pack everything. I am waiting for the day I forget a shoe. Not a full pair, just one.  I knew I wouldn’t forget my shoes yesterday, because I’d have left home barefoot!

Traveling for dressy events requires me to pack choices ensuring that I pack way more than I normally do. You have to remember the dress, the shoes, the undergarments, the jewelry, etc.

I love traveling. Don’t get me wrong! LOVE it. But packing for a formal event requires more thought when packing than a regular weekend away. Typically I am a light packer (maybe too light) and I live by these three simple rules when it comes to traveling:

1. If I forgot it and I need it, most likely I can find it at my destination [Band-Aids fall into this category. I have bought Band-Aids, plasters and Hansaplast (and a knee brace at that) in a variety of countries.]*

2. If I won’t be able to buy it at a local vendor AND I absolutely need it – do not forget it [an extra pair of contacts and my glasses fall into this category]

3. Checked luggage is potentially lost luggage [plus, in the event of a delayed or cancelled flight, you are seen as a less flexible traveler to the airline because it’s an ordeal for them to find your luggage or if you are running late for a connection, you know your luggage will be with you – wherever you wind up. But…after an international trip, I’m usually game to check my luggage. I can do without my dirty laundry for a few days if the luggage goes missing. I just make sure to pack the necessities…again, my glasses fall into this category!]

* I have a permanently packed toiletries bag loaded with everything I would need, including an extra pair of contacts, that is ready to travel at a moments notice (and it’s been used at a moments notice). It’s so ready to go that I just need to remember to pack my glasses. And, of course…there are some random adhesive bandages from various countries in there too.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray

In other words, expect the unexpected.

Knowing full well that I have a wedding this weekend I was planning on borrowing a dress from a girlfriend. I was also going to pack earlier this week so I didn’t have to jam it all in on Thursday night. But alas, plans change.

All week I came home from work, put on pajamas and settled in front of the television. (Hey, it’s been a long week with the unexplained stomach pains and not feeling my regular, perky self.) So of course, plans to borrow a dress from said friend kept getting pushed and pushed.

Because last night was the last possible night before leaving for the weekend, I had to revisit the plan and instead borrow from other friends who live closer…and now in merely one night of popping around town picking up dresses, I now have a whopping five dresses to choose from. I eliminated one already (too summery for this weekend’s winter weather) but I have no issues with packing four dresses. I mean, it’s not like I need to bring four pairs of shoes…two will suit me fine. The boyfriend seemed to have a slight issue with bringing four dresses. It’s not like we are bringing extra luggage…we’ve got the room, and I am a light packer so it’s really not an issue.

This is not a matter of procrastination. Like the title of this post, it’s just plans gone astray. I should have had the dress in my closet a week ago. I also should have started packing before last night. It’s just a weekend but still packing the night before, even for the most organized of packers (yes, me!) is just my thing. I like to pack a little and start getting through my list, throughout the week. At least I had the list written.

And finally, I would just like to clarify that packing of four dresses is not indecision. I have so many options now that it’s going to be a game time decision.