to pack in a carry on

Recently I went on a trip to SoCal with my husband for our anniversary. We got an amazing deal on flights so we had to go. Shortly after we booked the trip the Canadian dollar tanked. I think it hit an almost all-time record low shortly before we departed. We were already doing this trip on a budget, and seeing the exchange rate on our accommodations made us tighten our belts even more.

We both decided to pack only in a carry-on. More importantly, we both packed in regulation size carry-on luggage. Because when we landed in Denver I couldn't believe the size of baggage that people were trying to pass off as a carry-on. Some of them were big enough to fit me inside of them. We are talking the same size that I took to Africa for three weeks. Not that I want the airlines to really crack down on it (my front pocket that was loaded with books and magazines would have stuck out a smidgeon from the "does your carry-on fit in this compartment thingamajig" and please don't EVER weigh my carry-on) but seriously people, if it takes 2 people to hoist it into the overhead bin, it's too big. I've ranted about carry-ons before, so I'll stop now.

I packed a small 22" suitcase and a tote bag. I also packed a beach bag in my luggage for the trip home and for while we were wandering around in the beautiful weather. Oh, my husband didn't bring along a "personal item" on the way there so he would potentially carry the beach bag on the way back. I knew we would need it, we had to bring back donuts and coffee, and things have a way of expanding while on vacation.

His packing was a huge success. Normally, he's an overpacker. He routinely packs an entire duffle bag for a weekend at the hunting cabin (no running water) and only changes his underwear. He really just needs a shopping bag with underwear and a sweatshirt for those weekends but he convinces me every time that he needs options. On this trip, the budget wouldn't allow it. So he shoved as many shirts and shorts as he could into the bag and was off.

I really should have followed his model.

Instead, I did my research. I read blogs, scoured Pinterest, and looked at pictures of outfit combinations. I made a list on a sticky note and put it somewhere safe that I wouldn't forget about it... I had NO IDEA where I put it when it came time to pack. I was panicking. I didn't have time to recreate my master list from scratch, I had to go from memory. I looked at the most recent pin that I had used as my guide and did my best to remember what items correlated to the author's items. Of course, as soon as I returned home and went back to work I found my list, stuck to the bottom of a notebook under my pile of other very work related items. My original master list:

bathing suit x2 I ended up bringing a 3rd, I had room!
T shirt
Long tank
Striped long sleeve T
Chambray shirt
Maxi dress
Black dress/cover-up
Green shorts
Jean shorts
Linen top
Beach bag
Pumas Wore on the plane
Sandals x2
Flip Flops Yes, I brought 4 pairs of shoes for 10 days
Black jacket Forgot this 
Rain jacket
White sweater
Bra x3 Wore 1 on the plane *duh*
Pink scarf
2 pairs of socks
Gold accessories

Then, like all the blogs suggested, I made outfit plans. Of course, this was on the lost sticky note somewhere in my office, so I had to recreate it to the best of my imagination. I put the list on my Reminders app in my phone so that I could delete the outfits as I wore them.

chambray + jeans + pumas For the plane
tunic + jean shorts + sandals
tank + leggings + sandals
maxi + sandals
tank top + bikini + shorts +sandals
t-shirt + jeans + whichever shoes
chambray + shorts
cover up + bikini + flip flops
linen t + shorts + sandals or shoes
stripe top + pants + pumas For the plane

Pretty smart, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

Until I realized that we were actually gone for 11 days. This is where my math always upsets me, 16-26 should be 10, except it wasn't because the 26th was a full day of traveling. My first mistake, I packed for 10 days, not 11. Thankfully I always pack an extra pair of underwear - that is just a rule I have, I've never needed them (until this trip) but am always glad to have the security.

My second mistake, not enough tops. Thankfully I also realized this early on, and was glad to have taken the advice to wash tops out in the sink and hang them to dry, and following that advice, I brought lightweight tops.

My third mistake, I sweat. Even when I am cold I sweat. And I'm often cold. Packing for SoCal in February is a really odd trick, one moment you are warm and sunny and then next second the sun was down and the damp air had my arms and feet purple with chill. Being sweaty means it is nice to be able to change in the evening - I could not afford this luxury, I had to live in it, throw a scarf on it, or put a sweater over it.

This leads me to my fourth mistake, forgetting a layering piece, the black jacket. I think that was the make or break moment for comfort on my trip.

We went for supper for our anniversary and I wore the little black cover up/dress and the pink scarf with sandals. Since it is a cover up you can imagine it is a very thick and heavy dress. No. My husband forgot to inform me that we would be sitting on a roof-top patio after sunset to watch the planes land on the San Diego skyline. It was beautiful, the food was amazing, and best yet I got to put his sweater on and look like an 8 year old at a fine-dining restaurant while I used my scarf as a blanket on my bare legs. I asked the servers if they gave out blankets, they didn't. I thought, what a simple way to boost your guest's comfort, go to Target and buy a few black fleece blankets, you could very easily up your patio booking numbers and lower the gas-powered heater bills. I guess they expect their guests to dress for the weather and not for looks. The server gave me a black napkin to match my black dress, but that didn't matter once I was wearing the oversized blue men's crew neck sweater and a pink blanket/scarf draped across my lap.

Every night, just in case, I would wash out the shirt I was wearing. I somehow managed to wear a shirt three times on this 10/11 day trip. I kept looking at my Reminders list of outfits and could not figure out what happened to my awesome system. It made sense why I had so much extra room in my bag for the granola bars, protein shake powder, extra shoes,  extra bikini, books, and magazines - I didn't pack any clothes!

What I had the most difficult time with is that I normally don't have to think about what I am going to wear. Often when I am packing I will literally pack the clothes in the order that I am going to wear them (I am usually packing for work). I put clothes in and assign a day to them. On this trip I was consistently side tracked by what I would wear the next day and what had to be hand washed in the sink. However, with this format I allowed the weather or activity to dictate what I wore based on a master list of options. It gave me some flexibility in my otherwise rigid packing list. I guess you have to do that, if say, going to the beach necessitates a bathing suit.

I will try again. I am not defeated, I am smarter. I will pack more tops. I won't, like all the blogs suggest, remove a top when a dress gets put in, that is just nonsense. You will want a top for when wearing a dress doesn't seem as appropriate or is a stupid choice based on the forecast for the day, or you want to take off the dress and be comfortable. Don't remove the top! Just add the tiny dress because it doesn't take up space anyway... And don't lose your list right before the trip.

That's all.

PS the sites I used to create my original list were: hej doll, and livelovesara


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