Stay Zen while packing for the holidays and other adventures


When I used to travel fairly regularly for work, packing went from a stress-laden event where I started to pack days in advance to an almost meditative process for me. Now that Halloween is behind us, the holiday travel frenzy is looming near, so here are my top tips for staying sane and keeping things sustainable while prepping for your next adventure.

1.) First things first: buy yourself some decent luggage! Yes, it is more expensive up front. But over the long haul, if you invest in luggage that will last years and years and years, you’ll save yourself a pretty penny and reduce the amount of waste going into landfills by not having to buy another crappy piece of luggage every other time you go on a trip. You’ll save yourself time by not having to go out and buy something, giving you more time to focus on what to pack. And, you’ll save yourself physical trouble by having a suitcase that is comfortable to carry and move around with, one that works with you rather than fighting you!

Personally, I have a black roller carry-on that I use for work and trips where I won’t be hauling it around frequently. I got the internationally acceptable carry on size rather than the American carry on size because I knew future international trips are something I want to do and be prepared for. I also have a 50L backpacking pack (still carry-on size) that I use for trips where my legs and public transit will be the main ground transport. Finally, I have a medium-large suitcase that I use for longer trips (two to eight+ weeks) and moving. I’m especially proud of that suitcase because it has gone literally around the world with me and held up solidly over the last 12 years.

So if you’re spending the time shopping for luggage– do your current and future self a favor and get something good. Pay special attention to:

  • Comfort: to carry, to pull, or somewhere in between
  • Durable: insure yourself against tears, broken wheels or handles, and having to replace it in the short term
  • Just the right size: what is the Goldilocks luggage for you and your typical trip?

2.) Accept that you will always forget something. I’m serious. Instead of trying to remember everything, which is something I definitely used to do, I now direct my focus to making sure I remember all the essential things that could make or break my trip. When I forgot my reusable water bottle, I was bummed that I had to buy water; but when I forgot my glasses and lost a contact at my grandmother’s, I was blind for two days.

My rule of thumb: if you’re going to be sick, stuck, or impaired without it, it’s an essential. Pack it first, pack extras. For the rest, it’s usually easy to find a substitute for it, replace it, or go without it. And hopefully you won’t forget it next time! One step closer to meditative packing!

3.) Set up a toiletry bag that is mostly good to go. When I started travelling for work, I quickly realized that packing up all my individual toiletries was taking up a lot of time. My toiletry bag was something I thought could be thrown together at the last minute, but at times actually took longer to pull together than choosing my clothes. Additionally, those “carry-on size” toiletries are expensive,  wasteful in excess packaging, usually bigger than what I need, and often aren’t available for my favorite products I use day to day. Now, I have a small toiletry bag that is usually almost ready to go, and use these tricks to fill it with everything I need:

  • I reuse makeup counter sample containers for mini-sized toothpaste and face lotion. I top these up when I get home, if needed. I reuse a little face cream jar for my hair stuff.
  • I refill a travel size container of my contact solution from my big bottles.
  • I keep a second toothbrush and comb, etc. in my toiletry bag. Easier than trying to remember not to forget these everyday items (See #2 again).
  • I splurged on GoTubes for shampoo and conditioner. These are nice because they are so much easier to fill, squeeze, and clean than other travel size bottles I’ve used. If I were to buy them again I would get the smaller 2-ounce size.
  • My daily makeup that comes in small containers. This was more of a happy coincidence than planned out, but it’s worth keeping travel in mind while shopping for makeup, especially if you travel a lot.

The goal here is to find a way to have all your toiletry essentials on hand, ready to go. That way you can literally just “grab and go.” Less stress, no last minute run to the store for travel sizes, and no wondering if you remembered your toothbrush. Complete packing zen!

4.) Ask those who travel more than you for their best packing tips or recommendations. There is always someone who travels more than you. I bet you will be surprised what travelling tricks they have up their sleeves!

Happy holidays and safe travels! What are your top packing tips?

This blog was originally written in 2015 for BLiNK: Perspectives on Design. It has been fully revised and edited for This Vast Now.

Main photo credit: Flickr CC


Published by Alex Setmajer

Sustainability professional driven to help the world continually become a more sustainable place.

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