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Packing Pearls

I've been traveling to Europe every year for the past 12 years and most of what I have learned from "packing light" has been from this forum. I'm asking everyone to list 2-3 pearls that has made packing light easier and your trip more enjoyable. I'll start:

1) When taking prescription meds we're told to keep them in the original containers but they often take up a lot of room and are odd sized. We now have the pharmacy print labels with the information on them and stick them on small (3"x3") zip lock bags with the pills inside. This is much easier to pack and the information is available if a question arises at the airport.

2) Washing clothes during our trip is a must if you pack light, we tried several different soaps (Liquid & powder) and have found that the individual packets from "Charlie"s Soap" are ideal, they work well, since they are powder you don't need to put in the liquids bag.

3) I travel with a backpack and a Pacsafe Vibe 325 sling bag, the sling bag serves as my day bag but is much more, it's smaller than a normal day bag but holds quite a bit, has locking features that provide security and is easy to get on and off.

Posted by
8520 posts

Don't buy souveniers, or only souveniers that will not add much load to your packing. I end up with a new Christmas ornament from each trip and feel quite happy with that system. This saves me money and saves me space, both in the suitcase and at home.

Posted by
722 posts

1) Pack for daytime temperatures about 10-15 degrees warmer than what the weather forecast says. You'll be generating a lot of body heat as you walk around, and the temperature will seem warmer than it really is. And if the weather gets unexpectedly chilly, it's always easy to buy a sweater or shawl at the spur of the moment. When I first started traveling, I would tend to pack heavier clothes than I wound up needing. It has taken a long time for me to break that tendency. (Of course, if you are going to Alaska or some place in the extreme north or the dead of winter, it may be a different story.)

2) If you travel with electronics, pay attention to the weight of chargers and cables -- not just the weight of the devices -- and consolidate wherever you can. An ounce here and an ounce there can really start to add up.

3) For the ladies, don't pack too many scarves. It's more fun to buy them while you're traveling.

Posted by
1194 posts

As much as possible, get rid of the paper.

Keep items in the cloud and on your phone. Only print paper copies of critical documents. Most things can be converted to PDF format. This saves space and weight (paper is very heavy)

Use apps such as GoodReader, Google Drive, Dropbox and Tripit to organize what used to be paper.

Use apps like Kindle and ebooks for your books. These have adjustable type fonts, making them superior for aging eyes.

Posted by
1817 posts

I bet there are a some people who will roll their eyes at my advice, but here it is:
One pair of shoes. On my feet. None in my luggage.
I have had no trouble finding shoes that are fine for a night out in the city or hiking in the countryside or walking all day on cobblestones and hard pavement. I've worn my shoes to the opera and symphony concerts one day and on a hike the next. No one looks at me like I'm a boor or clod or "typical American."
(Disclaimer: I don't do highly technical hikes that require sturdy hiking boots.)

Posted by
85 posts

Although I don’t feel I can pack quite as much into a suitcase, packing cubes really do help keep things organized on a trip with multiple hotel switches.

We just completed a driving trip of Ireland. Rather than pack separate suitcases for my husband and I, I split both our clothes between two suitcases. That way we could leave one suitcase in the trunk of the car at overnight stops. This was also insurance in case one suitcase was lost during flights.

Posted by
3933 posts

I love being part of this forum, I am always learning something new here -

Donald, my husband just joined the too much medicine club and I wouldn’t have thought to have an extra label printed, a great idea. Also to bring powdered soap not liquid. Such a simple change but a good one.

Marie, we are going electronic more and more. A little hard for me to give up my paper copies, but they do add weight. I also have a problem with collecting brochures, etc from places to bring home. Those pamphlets really add up. And yes to the weight of the electronics, we are definitely guilty there. My husband and I would each bring an ipad with charger. before out last trip we realized this was unnecessary and only brought one with us.

Carol, I do have a major problem with shopping while on vacation. Each trip I get a little bit better but it is still a big problem for me. On my last trip, before I purchased an item, I asked myself, where will I put this at home or how will I use it. I put many items back on the shelf. I also stopped buying gifts for family and friends. Even the smallest of items add up.

Can’t get behind the one pair of shoes, but we only bring one extra pair each. Each trip we make we re-evaluate what worked and what didn’t and go from there. We have also learned that most of the items we forget are easily purchased. But please, keep the Packing Pearls coming, we are taking notes.

Posted by
27352 posts
  • Compression cubes, at least for things that don't wrinkle.

  • Just the right quantity of each toiletry (plus a small fudge factor), based on careful calculations made at home.

  • Solids/powders rather than liquids wherever possible.

I don't own one yet - but, I have an eye on the new Patagonia ultralight 20 liter blackhole daypack. Versatile.
That being said - I find using a smaller suitcase, purse, backpack - helps to keep the packing light. I am also looking at the eagle creek migrate.
(I don't need more packing gear - just an admitted addict.)
I wear one pair of "hiking type" sandals. This eliminates socks. (Footwear varies with location and climate.)
Money and credit cards are very light, always welcomed, flat, and don't take up much space.
Purse - Ameribag with synthetic material - great for organization and weather durable. Packing light - make family members carry their own stuff!

Posted by
4574 posts

My pearl:
Do what works for you, not what others say you should do.

Posted by
9769 posts

There's nothing in this thread about how to pack pearls! I protest!

Posted by
8206 posts

I get my jeans and khaki pants heavily starched at the laundry. They shed water and stains better, and they still look good after 4-5 days even. I carry only 2 pairs of pants in my suitcase--and the pair I'm wearing.
We try to stay in rental apartments (instead of hotels) that have laundry facilities. With a washer/dryer, we can carry half as many clothes.
I carry a tablet instead of a laptop when traveling. It does most of what I use a laptop for.
Everyone carries a 21" swivel wheel carry on bag. The wife also carries an oversized purse. That's it. Everyone handles their own luggage too. We never check a bag unless we're ordered to (check one.)

Posted by
11350 posts

Camp Suds, , available at REI and other outdoor stores, is a concentrated liquid soap.. I buy the larger size and put it into two 3 oz bottles. I travel abroad for 3-4 weeks at a time and it takes care of all my hand laundry. I also cut a bar of Fels Naptha soap half, an excellent stain remover which our grandmothers used. I buy it at Ace Hardware.

Posted by
1080 posts

Two more pearls:

1) Shout stain remover comes in small tear open packets, we take 10-12 of these on every trip & they save your clothes at least once a day.

2) Multi outlet that has at least 4 outlets, ours is a Monster travel multi outlet, it’s compact and light weight, you will be surprise how many electronics you take with you ( camera, phone, iPad, computer, etc.). Your lucky if you have 2 outlets in your hotel room!

Posted by
899 posts
  1. Start weeks ahead planning what might work. Limit what color pants I take so tops go with most everything and fewer shoes are needed.
  2. Weighing everything and realizing that some items are so heavy you could take 2 of the same item for the same weight/space. Ex: 1 cotton t-shirt weighs they same as 2 modal blends and takes longer to dry if washed.
  3. Bring a loose t-shirt or top to sleep in that can also do double duty of needed.
  4. In the summer, light weight croc sandals that can give my feet an alternative and can be used at the pool.
  5. I use shampoo or body wash for sink laundry.
  6. Limiting electronics to just my smart phone and ereader. No laptop or tablet.
Posted by
2857 posts

A couple things I learned from my limited travel and things I would do again:
1) This extention cord worked great since outlets were limited and two of us had phones, Mophies and cameras to charge each night. extention cord
2) Forever New soap is powdered and comes in packets or a small bottle. Forever New
3) Folding hangers work better than a clothes line and fold into shapes that hang all my clothes. I packed 4. folding hanger
4) Even if you don't think you'll need them, take your spare pair of eye glasses. Remember your sun glasses too.
5) Take a rain poncho or rain coat because when you need it, you won't be able to find one. The cheap plastic ones are useless for more than an hour's use.
6) A small flashlight comes in handy when you're trying to find the B&B's door lock at night and there's no porch light.

Posted by
7395 posts
  1. My most important one is to create (or reuse) your own packing list, finalized several weeks ahead. Then check off the items as you pack. If not, I begin to think of extra items when I see extra space in my carry on suitcase, so the “official list” keeps extra weight from coming along for the ride.

  2. I only take one pair of shoes unless I’m going to a special event that requires formal shoes. My favorites are the Keens Rose sandal in black. They’re great for easy hiking, don’t mind if they get a bit wet, and I don’t need to pack socks. I always bring some bandaids, but I’ve never needed them.

  3. Use the hotel shampoo for my hair and to wash clothes in the sink. (I bring one from a previous trip to wash my clothes I wore on the flight.)

  4. Travel size toothpaste tubes from the dentist aren’t full. I place a regular tube nose-to-nose and fill them up. Then I can just use 2 for a 3-week trip.

  5. My electronics are just my iphone and iPad. I love photography and have great photos from just my phone.

  6. Clothes: my entire wardrobe is three nice blouses, a couple of washable dresses, two pair of black pants, a black cardigan sweater, a black raincoat, underwear, two scarves and a short nightie. I don’t do a color palette mix/match since the tops and dresses are worn separately; I just bring my favorite lightweight ones. (I travel to Europe in September, usually.)

  7. Packing cubes: I use two Eagle Creek Specter Tech Shoe Sacs for my clothes (1 oz. ea.) and the RS smaller mesh cube for underwear. I don’t need to roll my clothing in the shoe sacs.

  8. Make notes during your trip for personal feedback of what’s working or not for you, and leave it in your suitcase as a reminder for your next trip.

And finally, learn from others. Incorporate ideas that work with your travel style, and feel free to ignore others. My LL Bean toiletry kit was criticized by some fellow forum posters, but it’s perfect for me because of the visual efficiency gains - a major factor when I recently had several 1-night stops in France.

Posted by
4427 posts

I have traveled successfully with only the shoes on my feet, since shoes are heavy and take up space. However, because I've had two pairs of Bean hiking boots where the soles came off (I was home both times and both pairs were 10 years old), that one pair of shoes will be relatively (but not absolutely) new.

Posted by
10296 posts

I've broken up my toiletries by putting all meds in a separate baggie and all cosmetics in another baggie. The toiletries kit has dental, soaps, wipes, hair oil, and other necessities for early morning or just before bed. Not only does the kit zip up and squash down more easily, but the meds and cosmetics can fit into little airpockets in the suitcase. No more struggling to get the dang suitcase zipped up with a bulging toiletries bag.

Posted by
139 posts

Laundry soap: Seventh Generation sells powder, fragrance-free laundry powder in compact, single-load packs. I pack 3 for trips where I’ll do laundry in a washer.

Ziploc pill bags (from pharmacy or Amazon) are sturdy, small, clear, square. I used them for OTC meds, and pack my earrings (1 bag holds several pairs) or necklaces in them. They’re like mini file folders for my toiletry kit. I put one with any meds I might need for a flight in my plane seat bag.

Double-swivel head carabiners: I use bright lime green ones to clip my plane seat bag (a Side Kick from Tom Bihn—terrific pockets) to the seat pocket. Everything I need is right there, including a Kindle Fire and headphones. At the end of the flight, I stow the carabiners and clip on the strap again, to wear as a cross-body bag.

About packing pearls: I don’t, even for domestic trips—you risk nicking the nacre. (When else can I type those last 4 words on a RS forum? Can’t resist. :-) But if I did pack pearls, I’d use layers of soft flannel between them for cushion and protection. My DH got a small, special bag for them when he gave me pearls for our wedding. Fake pearls? They’re a good thing. Scarves? Even better.

Posted by
650 posts

We don't use any electronic appliances but phones and tablets. So we buy outlet to USB chargers for each destination's electric outlets rather than a converter plus a U.S. outlet to USB plug. It's one less thing to carry. Also we have both micro and C devices, so we bring double ended cords, thus saving one cord each.

We pack light weight Marino wool from Icebreaker, Smartwool, or Royal Robbins, almost exclusively for tops, jackets, and socks. The warmth to weight ratio is great. Two layers plus a rain coat is as good as a coat if necessary. Wool dries super fast, and it's body oder resistant. Light weight wool tees are also cooler than cotton in the heat. I pack silk/wool blend long underware in the winter months.

A car mount for phones is small light, and worth it's weight in gold for auto driving.

We bring less paper and more electronic tickets and info every trip.

Posted by
195 posts

To be honest I like to wear makeup when going out in Europe in the evenings. I packed a small ziplock with sample sizes. The whole kit fits in the palm of my hand and weighs about 7 oz. In the future I would pack a small quick dry towel when staying near a good swimming beach. I also brought a cotton bandana for hiking. When it was 85 degrees and we were hiking up hill in Cinque Terre, (the easy trails were closed) I wet the bandana and but it over my head, covering it with a baseball cap. The instant cool down was great.

Other things I brought that were useful which I learned about from this forum.
a yard of duct tape wrapped around a pencil
small homemade sewing kit--in place of scissors I used the cutter on the dental floss (Credit goes to Lady Light Travel for the instructions on how to make it.
6-8 foot long charger cord
moleskin (a lot of it)
quick dry hiking pants (Columbia brand)

Posted by
5697 posts

Good to know I wasn't the only one who thought you were asking how to pack your pearls. (I put my thrift-store fake pearls in a ziploc)

Things I have learned:

  • Don't be afraid the packing police will come after you if you check a bag -- if you check, there's no 3-1-1 bag restriction on liquids, your packed Swiss Army knife is legal, and you can walk onto the plane without worrying about overhead space. (We do still use carry-on size bags and try to pack light)

  • Do your souvenir buying at the last stop, or at least towards the end of the trip, so you are not hauling heavy breakables on and off trains.

  • Take medicines for a week longer than your trip -- just in case of volcanic eruptions or other catastrophes that could delay your return.

Posted by
19 posts

My favorite thread so far! I’ve already learned so much from all of you and will definitely learn more. My pearl is to bring very few (if any) nicer outfits for going out. I discovered on our last trip (when I was keeping track) that I usually just went out in whatever I was wearing at the time. This is what I prefer to do on vacation.

Posted by
713 posts

One of my favorite tech/electrical travel hacks is this charging device that, using only ONE electrical outlet and the appropriate plug adapter if needed for the country you're in, can charge up to five electronic devices at the same time. I recommend that travelers get one of these type of chargers, and see how many of their electronic gadgets they can charge using it, and so they can leave unnecessary electric plugin pieces at home, and reduce the need for electrical outlets in hotel rooms. The charger isn't big: 4.06 x 3.15 x 1.14 in; it has a 5 foot long electric cord (removable for packing). It is dual-voltage, so in Europe you just need the appropriate wall plug adapter and it will handle the current just fine. It's in constant use at home and I always travel with it.

On this charger, my smartphone is charged using the odd-looking USB-C port, and the four 'regular' USB ports charge my: iPad, FitBit, camera batteries (via their charging devices such as this one), portable power bank, and headphone Bluetooth adapter. Obviously not all at once. I've rarely had all five ports in use at once but in a pinch I could. The only device I travel with that can't be charged using that charger, is my MacBook Air. This charger wasn't cheap, but it has a "smart" technology that figures out how to charge the things I plug into it, and it's never let me down.

The charger isn't marketed as a "travel" charger because it has a cord, which is a bit more to pack and carry. But that's just why I like it for travel - because you aren't stymied if the available electrical outlet in your hotel room is in an inconvenient place. Plug it in, and because of the cord you can place the charger and its attached devices, on a nearby appropriate and convenient surface (table, nightstand, whatever).

Recap: I travel with: (1) the charging device and its cord, (2) the necessary wall plug adapters for my destinations, and (3) the charging cables with USB (or USB-C) connectors for the various devices I mentioned. All of that fits in a smallish red fabric zip-close bag that came with a tote bag long ago. Many of the devices I carry, can be charged with the same cord (micro USB) so instead of bringing 3 or 4 of those I pack just two at most. My only devices that need charging every evening are the phone and the camera batteries.

And yes, I'm that person who has posted elsewhere, that my travel wardrobe and packing decisions amount to, whatever clothes I can fit in after the electronics are packed. :-)

Posted by
713 posts

There's nothing in this thread about how to pack pearls! I protest!

I'm with Kim! This reminds me of the meme showing a not very happy looking cat "reading" a copy of Harper Lee's classic novel, with the caption: "Absolutely NO information here about killing mockingbirds."

(I know, someone did chime in with the pearl information. We're good.)

Posted by
2768 posts
  1. If you are a fashion-conscious person, try all the clothes you want to bring on in outfits. Make sure everything works ok together - and find interesting combinations, like that one sweater is fitted right to go over the dress to make a skirt-looking outfit, or the t-shirt dresses up nicely with the scarf. Everything in one color family and shoes that go with everything. At home I might have some outfits that go with brown toned shoes and other with black. Not on a trip. Pick one color family.

  2. 3oz of many toiletries is too much for a 2-4 week trip. Go to the container store or similar and buy multiple small bottles. You can fit a ton into the TSA size baggie if you don’t stick to those poorly shaped 3oz bottles. Even better, travel sized baggies are sold that are sturdier and in a shape that holds more.

  3. Don’t mess with crazy space saving packing (compression, weird folding techniques) if you will be moving hotels more than once on your trip. Yes you can fit more in - but you have to put it back each time you move and that’s sometimes nearly impossible with dirty clothes and even a small souvenir.

  4. Go electronic for as much paper as possible. Keep everything backed up to the cloud/google docs/Dropbox/email so it’s not only on your personal device. It baffles me how many people on this forum are all about packing light - except for the pounds of notebooks and folders and printouts they lug around.

Posted by
899 posts

After a few trips I've gone to smaller toiletry containers - 1 ounce of less is plenty for most things. Just because TSA says 3oz doesn't mean you need it and it just takes up more room. Plus I've found the silicone bottles dry out after a few months. Went to use a partial bottle of baby shampoo and found it the consistency of jello. I use my label maker or a sharpie to id what's in any container.

Posted by
1426 posts

"in place of scissors I used the cutter on the dental floss "
@Leslie - you are a genius!

Posted by
1259 posts

I need two pairs of shoes for excellent reasons.
You don't need laundry soaps. Solid shampoo bar works.
Take only the cosmetics and meds you need for the duration of the trip plus a few extra days.
Leave all your supplements at home, you will survive.
Many cosmetics and sundries can be purchased locally.
My Blunt Metro umbrella has gone unused on two rainy trips so it stays home.
I didn't use the iPad much last trip so it might sty home.
Skin layer laundry must be done nightly or you run out of undies.
Don't unpack unless you're in one hotel for more than four nights.
Ziptie all your plug adapters, chargers, and cords together so nothing gets lost.
You can use an old fashioned toothbrush for a few weeks.
I've got lots more.

Posted by
1878 posts

From the subject header I was afraid you were asking whether to put pearls in a checked bag!

I use wool or Nike Dry Fit socks that don’t get as grungy as fast as plain cotton athletic socks or dress socks. Can be worn for two or three days. Also Ex-Oficio quick dry underwear even though I don’t hand wash. These are synthetic and are good for at least two days between washes.

No great insight here but packing cubes for both socks and underwear. Shirts and pants I roll up.

Two pairs of shoes are a must for me or my feet will hurt. But I stuff socks in the pair than go in my 22” inch checked bag.

For souvenirs I am selective but allow myself museum guidebooks, which are flat. Also small items like animal figurines.

Posted by
2857 posts

I just thought of a couple more things to add, so instead of editing my previous post:
1) Use colored hair ties to tie up electronic cords so you can color code what goes with what. It’s easier to find the right cord for charging something.
2) Dish towels make good souvenirs and gifts. Non-breakable, cheap and pack flat.

Posted by
2145 posts

Well, I was planning to say, "leave the pearls at home"!

- Take ziplock bags in various sizes, there's always a use for them.
- Test wash clothes in the sink at home to see how long they take to dry.
- Use compression bags and packing cubes as needed, they're great for packing and organizing.
- Check out some articles on "capsule" wardrobes.
- Layer
- Review/revise your packing list as soon as you return.
- Have fun!

Posted by
195 posts

If you happen to use a subscription meal service such as Blue Apron, the tiny bottles that they use for liquid ingredients are good to reuse for travel and are about 1 oz in size or less. One bottle holds enough shampoo and/or conditioner for a month. You can fit up to 6 of them in the ziplock bag for airport security. I used them for clothes wash powder too. They take up little room compared to the 3 oz. travel bottles.

Posted by
722 posts

I just thought of another one:

Pack no more than 12 items of clothing, including pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, jackets, sweaters, rain gear, and such. (Underwear, socks and pajamas don't count toward the total, but whatever you wear on the plane does count.) Mix it up however you need to for your destination, but cap it at 12 items.

Posted by
852 posts

Compression packing cubes.

Small empty spray bottle to add hot water to at destination to get the wrinkles out of clothes packed in the compression packing cubes.

Posted by
1194 posts

This addresses packing for two different climates.
Many bloggers recommend that you split your packed clothes based on the amount of time spent in each climate. This is a terrible solution!

When packing for two climates pack the clothes for the warmest climate. Layer on extender pieces to deal with the colder climate. That way you can use your warm weather pieces through the whole trip.

Extender pieces consist of:

  • puff vest or jacket
  • base layer
  • Light to medium weight sweater
  • leggings
  • wool socks
  • rain jacket
  • scarf
  • gloves
  • light hat

Also consider doubling up light clothing. Wear a light shirt under a 3/4 sleeve tee. Wear a tee under a button up shirt. Wear a sundress with leggings and under a sweater.

Also consider dual use clothes: pants that convert to capris. Shirts with roll tab sleeves that convert to short sleeve.

The key is layers, not separate pieces for each climate.

Posted by
2768 posts

There is very, very little that if you forgot it would ruin your trip. Don't worry too much about "what-ifs" - you can always make do or buy something there.
As long as you arrive with your passport, some way to access to your money (ATM card, cash, or credit card), and any essential medical items, you will be ok.

Posted by
302 posts

I don't take pearls🙄but for several years now for travel both domestic and internationally been wearing a very small ($100) pair of diamond stud earrings and my mother's thin and simple gold necklace. (They all have vetted clasps.) I put them on the night before a trip and don't remove them till home again. When hiking or other casual pursuits I just tuck the necklace inside my top. It can later turn the black tank top I hiked in to chic museum attire...almost all my clothes are black/ white/gray and merino wool anyway so I don't even really have separate travel clothes.

Posted by
4574 posts

I am surprised no-one has pulled out this old 'pearl'.....take half the clothes(stuff) and twice the money.