Traveling Light

Jessie: Enjoying the height of daffodil season.

Every year about this time my thoughts turn to travel. Each spring I take a trip to Bethesda, Maryland for the Malice Domestic conference. I generally fly to the conference and with all the changes to air travel have learned to pack into the smallest carry on suitcase I can manage. I love the challenge of whittling the possibilities down to the fewest items I can manage. I aim to include one item per day I will be traveling plus one extra. Accessories, underpinnings, sleepwear and formal wear don’t count.

Over the years I’ve developed a list of clothing items that mix and match and collapse down to almost nothing when tossed in a bag. I usually only take one extra pair of shoes. I pack one pair of trousers, one day dress and one skirt. I scrunch in a couple of scarves for variety and a couple of shirts and a sweater. I wear one pair of earrings on the plane and plop a second into the suitcase. I throw a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen and a bright red lipstick into a toiletries pouch along with my toothpaste and toothbrush.

I never leave home without my iPad mini, my phone and the charger that juices them both. I load my iPad with books to read, maps of the area and my latest writing project in the Scrivener app. Just before heading out the door I tuck a small knitting project like socks or a lace-weight shawl into my purse and loop an infinity scarf that converts to a cardigan or a dress around my neck to keep out the blasts of arctic chill planes always seem to provide. So far, I have never missed anything I haven’t bothered to take along but have sometimes regretted the things I did make room for in the suitcase.

Readers, do you travel light? Do you pack for every possible contingency? Do you have any favorite travel gear you would recommend or tips to share?


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16 Responses to Traveling Light

  1. You sound like a traveling maven, Kate. Lots of good advice there! My one favorite tip is the knowledge that anything I forget, except for Rx, can be purchased when I arrive.
    But I’m intrigued by “the infinity scarf that converts to a cardigan or dress.” Please send me the pattern!

    • MCWriTers says:

      Nikki, I completely agree with you about buying things you need when you arrive if it truly is necessary. As to the infinity scarf, I confess, I bought it. It’s available on a website called The items are made in Canada from fabric milled in Los Angeles. So far I’ve been very glad I made that purchase!

  2. Kate Flora says:

    I TRY to travel light. The big problem is shoes. How to carry the everyday shoes, the walking shoes, the formal shoes, the what if it gets hot sandals, etc., and still have room in the suitcase for clothes?

    You sound like a pro…so maybe I’ll borrow your scarf when you aren’t wearing it. And get you to tie it for me, since you always look splendid.

    See you in Bethesda.


    • Lisa Beecher says:

      Have you seen any videos that teach how to tie a scarf in many desirable ways? After the third viewing, I give up and walk away muttering, “Apparently, college degrees don’t help with everything.”

      • MCWriTers says:

        Lisa, I always have to pause those videos every few seconds and I have to watch them with a scarf draped over my own neck to practice with. It still takes several viewings for many of the versions. I figure if I know how to tie it one or two different ways and more than all set.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Kate, wear the heaviest shoes, search the earth until you find sandals that double as walking shoes. You’ll need almost no extra clothing if you bring a couple of scarves. I’d be more than happy to show you how to tie one:)

      See you in Bethesda!

  3. C.T. Collier says:

    I thought I traveled light until I saw your list!! My hat’s off to you. There was a time that I checked in at the airport with a carry-on bag for a 3-week trip to Europe. The airline desk person was befuddled. “This is all? For how long?” 🙂

    • MCWriTers says:

      We would have a splendid time traveling together! Three week trip in a carry-on? That’s my kind of packing!

  4. C.T. Collier says:

    I thought I traveled light until I saw your list!! My hat’s off to you. There was a time that I checked in at the airport with a carry-on bag for a 3-week trip to Europe. The airline desk person was befuddled. “This is all? For how long?” 🙂

  5. Lea Wait says:

    I think I travel even lighter .. no extra shoes, one or two pairs of pants/slacks with different tops. I used to use scarves, but at conferences I’m enough of a klutz so wearing a hanging name tag and a scarf generally equals disorganization — if not disaster! I don’t have electronics, except for my seldom-used cellphone. Once I traveled in Italy for 10 days with all navy and red clothes, a little dry soap to wash out underthings, and a small over-the-shoulder bag. The older I get, the less I seem to need. Of course, for Malice, what eats up space going are bookmarks and postcards and favors for my banquet table and gifts for my grandchildren, who I’ll visit with after the conference. And … coming home .. of course … there are BOOKS! See you in Bethesda …

  6. Vida Antolin-Jenkins says:

    At least for Malice, I am a local, so that makes life easier, as I just toss things in the car before I drive up to the meeting. I recently went to Germany to visit my daughter, and in order to make room in my bag for the batting for four queen size and one baby quilt, for an 11 day trip, I brought three pairs of slacks (including the pair I wore), five tops (3 long sleeve, two short), dainty unmentionables, one sweater, two scarves, four pairs of socks, and one blazer. I only brought the shoes I wore to airport, which were good walking shoes. But I see from the notes above, I’ve got more to learn about travelling light. (Maybe I should start with not being a Sherpa for my children’s requests.)

    • MCWriTers says:

      The Sherpa thing will get you every time! Sometimes I find that for trips closer to home I am worse at editing my options because I can fit more things in the car. Air travel feels like a game and a challenge.

  7. Barb Ross says:

    I’m like you Jessie. I make it a point to use everything I pack. It’s a bit of a game. I plan around a color, which keeps the number of shoes to a minimum. (One for travel, one dressier.) I don’t do scarves for the same reason as Lea.

    Currently, however, I am bamboozled by the 80-plus degree temperatures projected for Bethesda this weekend. The dress I was planning to wear Friday (my panel day) may be too warm. Stay with the original plan or rethink? That may depend on what else I can come up with.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Barb, there is nothing to be done about the temperatures. If we were there in December the air conditioning would be blasting above your head during your panel as likely as not. Layers are the only way to go. I am always worried I will freeze to death which is a big part of the reason I pack scarves! You never know when you will need to huddle under one of them!

  8. Arlene Kay says:

    Despite many years of traveling for work I have NEVER learned to pack light, and have resigned myself to my
    fate.I feel triumphant when only three suitcases and a makeup bag are
    required! Having lived in DC, I am pleased if the temp is ONLY in the 80’s. I clearly recall one APRIL 15th when it rose to 100. UGH!

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