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A Master Class in Packing

In 2021, my friend Esther invited me to accompany her on a 10-day trip to Turkey. Though I knew nothing about Turkey, I jumped at the chance because I’ve learned you must take advantage of opportunities, especially when they involve travel. But then she told me I should only bring a backpack and a carry-on. For ten days!

I pushed back a bit, until she explained to me how cumbersome it would be carrying a bigger bag on a bus, up hills, etc. And then there’s the very real risk of your bag not arriving on the same flight you do.

Luckily, Clay has some experience at this and he managed to get ten days of stuff into my small carry-on. And I figured out that Esther was 100% right.

Now, I will shout this advice from the rooftops — bring one carry-on bag and a backpack. That’s how Clay and I traveled to Belgium and Amsterdam in 2022 and it worked like a charm.

Now, facing five months in Europe and the UK, that is still our plan. Since that’s a much bigger commitment, we decided to learn from a professional, so we attended a packing class taught by Alyson Lamprecht of Way To Go Travel in Reno.

The Bundle Method

To be honest, I thought I knew enough about packing for that class to be boring within 20 minutes, but I am happy to report that I was wrong about that too. Alyson is super engaging and boy does she know some things. She learned the magic of packing working 18 years for the airlines. When she retired, she opened Way To Go with her husband, Hannes.

We sat in her hour and a half class and my mind didn’t wander once. The biggest part of the class was learning how to pack 25 outfits (with shoes) in one carry-on. That’s actually double the number I was planning on, so I do see some shopping in my future.

Alyson took five shirts, four to five pairs of pants, two lightweight jackets (perhaps a vest) and she bundled them, one on top of another in a small packing bundle box, which then fit neatly in a carry-on with plenty of room for more. Alyson’s method also minimizes wrinkling, even after a 16-hour flight. She did mention that this is ideal for people who like to unpack when they get to their destinations, though if you’re only staying for one or two nights, you can bundle outfits together so you can pull them out one at a time.

Woman demonstrating how to pack a suitcase.

She puts underwear, pajamas and even a swimsuit in a tube cube that can compress. And her method leaves room for four pairs of shoes – two for walking, a pair of slippers and something fancier. She packs each pair in a Ziplock storage bag and she says plastic grocery bags will also work to keep them, and your clothes, clean.

She recommends packing your raincoat and umbrella in the outside pocket so it’s easily accessible when you land in weather.

When she was done, there was still room in her carry-on for the souvenirs purchased on the trip.

Alyson recommends not putting your cosmetic bag, medication, passports/ID and money in your carry-on suitcase. Instead, keep that close to you just in case you need it, or you get separated from your suitcase. She also brings along a pair of travel slippers for long flights, so there’s no need to show off your pedicure to your seatmates.

ONE CARRY-ON AND A BACKPACK
IS ALL YOU NEED IF YOU PACK SMART.

Learning Alyson’s packing magic definitely made the class worthwhile, but she was full of good advice that we will definitely use, including:

  • Make sure you can identify your bag immediately, and as importantly make it so others don’t think your bag is their bag. Use color, ribbon or an easily identifiable luggage tag. And no matter how unique you think your bag is, double check before you take off with it. We recently found out about
  • Bluetooth Airtags for our luggage so we can locate it with our phone. And this is going to come in super handy when we get back and need keys again! If you get yours on Amazon, we’ll receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!
  • Bring a small lock for your bag. While you can’t leave it locked through TSA, it will be safer on trains, buses, ferries and even your hotel room. 
  • If you have more than one bag, use a bike lock cable to hook them together. This makes them much less temptying to would-be robbers. 
  • You probably know that Europe has different voltages than the U.S., but did you know that all countries have different ones? Make sure you know which you need for the country you’re traveling to and buy it before you go. Alyson says to consider leaving your electrical things at home if you can. “Most hotels have hairdryers and if they don’t, consider going native,” she says. “That’s one of the main ways Americans stand out in Europe – we have to have our hair perfectly styled.” 
  • Alyson showed us a waist belt that protects the RFID chips on your passport and credit cards so ne’er-do-wells can’t scan them while you’re crammed together on a train. (Sounds like we’ll need to do a whole blog on how to protect yourself from thieves 🙁). If you’re in Northern Nevada, you can pick this up from Way To Go Reno. If you’re somewhere else, we also found it on Amazon.
  • Since I’m no longer carrying a purse, I wanted a smaller wallet for my backpack. These are small and also protect the RFID chips. This is so cool that Clay got one too, in our Wanderful Whirled colors, (cuz we’re dorks like that). We bought ours at Way To Go in Reno. If you’re not in Reno, you can also find them on Amazon.
  • She recommends taking photos of your passport, id, vaccination cards and credit cards (front and back), then emailing them to yourself and deleting the photos from your phone. This way you have that important information in the event you lose them or they get stolen. 
  • While we were in her store, we bought a travel clothesline as most European AirBNBs don’t have dryers (many don’t have washing machines). If you’re in Northern Nevada, you can pick this up from Way To Go Reno. If you’re somewhere else, we also found it on Amazon.
  • Speaking of which, Alyson gave away a travel washing machine to one lucky attendee – the contents? A large Ziplock bag and a bar of Laundress soap. Just put the clothing item in the bag with a sliver of soap, swirl it about, take it out, rinse it in the sink and hang it up to dry.
  • As we’ve learned how slowly things dry when we’re not in Nevada, we also picked up a microfiber travel towel that you use to squeeze out the excess water, cutting drying time in half. She says this is particularly useful for denim. We got ours at Way To Go.
  • I learned this from our travel agent, Mandi Mendez as well, but always pack duct tape! You can use it to hold a suitcase or your clothes together if necessary. You can put it over a Band-Aid if you get a blister and you can use it to babyproof your room. Since I bought all the colors of duct tape for our move, it makes me very happy that at least one of those rolls can go with us!

If you’d like to take advantage of Alyson’s extensive knowledge, you can sign up for her newsletter on her website: www.waytogoreno.com. We’ll also continue to share what we learned as we implement it.

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