Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Success! (plus some tips for carry-on only international travel)

I totally, 100% nailed the challenge. I've got enough clothes and shoes for 3 weeks in Brazil packed into the above carry-on, and I'm still under my weight limit (currently at 16.3 pounds). My hope is that the dress I'm going to wear to Rico's cousin's wedding will fit perfectly in the bit of space left in the suitcase, and that it won't send me over the 17.5 pound limit. As my friend Sayama put it, it's a capsule wardrobe extraordinaire!

A commenter on my previous post asked a simple question, but one I definitely want to address here: Why bother going through the hassle and potential inconvenience of only taking carry-on luggage on an international trip, when we can easily check a bag for free?

Part of the answer has to do with practicality. We will be traveling quite a bit while in Brazil, jumping between various destinations and staying with multiple relatives within each city. The idea of lugging a big ol' suitcase around is quite frankly unappealing. Furthermore, there is the advantage that you don't have to wait around at the airport for your luggage to come out before you can clear customs. You also avoid the all-to-common stress of losing your luggage for a couple of days. If everything you need fits into a small bag, you're good to go in any situation!

The other part of the answer is more subtle and has to do with the part of my personality that is constantly waging a war on clutter. At home, I strive to purchase only what is needed and to keep only what is actively being used or displayed. Why should my approach be any different when I'm on the road? Yes, it's nice to have options, but if I can make do with 4 shirts instead of 15, I should do it. After all, even though I'm a pro at packing a suitcase, there is always stuff in there that I don't end up using. Dead weight that is hauled around, space that is taken unnecessarily. By doing carry-on only, I'm forced to carefully analyze what I really need and what I will use. It's a challenge, but every single time I've traveled with a minimalist philosophy I've been very, very happy.

Here's the complete list of what's in the suitcase:

- 1 pair black trousers
- 1 denim skirt
- 1 pair khaki shorts
- 2 pairs leggings
- 1 cashmere sweater
- 2 long-sleeved tops
- 5 t-shirts
- 5 tank tops
- 4 summer dresses
- 2 sets workout clothes
- 2 sports bras
- 2 pairs socks
- 1 bikini
- 7 pairs underwear/2 bras
- 1 brown belt
- 1 pair fancy black sandals
- 1 pair brown leather sandals
- 1 pair brown leather ballet flats
- 1 pair havaianas

Not in the suitcase (i.e. my travel outfit):

- 1 pair jeans
- 1 tank top
- 1 long-sleeved top
- 1 lightweight sweater-wrap
- 1 pashmina scarf
- socks/underwear
- 1 pair running shoes

Going in at the last minute:

- 1 floor-length formal dress

Items for my (big) purse:

- complete set of travel-sized toiletries
- makeup
- jewelry
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- cell phone
- camera
- wallet + passport
- a laptop (!)
- glasses and sunglasses
- empty water bottle

The key to making it work? Choosing main color schemes (mine are blues + brown accessories for casual looks, and black + black accessories for fancy looks), ensuring you can mix and match your pieces to get lots of possible outfits, choosing several smart accessories that can change the look of your clothes, avoiding bulky shoes, and taking the lightest-weight clothes possible.

My selection of clothes and accessories will get me through a formal wedding, a trip to the mountains where it will be cold and we'll do some hiking, a trip to the beach where it will be hot and we'll do some sailing, and plenty of walking + dining + going out with friends in Rio and São Paulo. Hopefully I've chosen well, and won't be forced to buy clothes or shoes while in Brazil (although that's always a great excuse!).


Marcia (123 blog) said...

you are amazing!

I used to envy people like you who'd have one suitcase while I'd have two plus a gigantic handbag but I finally did it - twice now so I know it can be done.

UK trip 2008 and Ireland 2009 - BUT I only had one set of weather to think about so you, my dear, are AWESOME at packing!

Mandi said...

Oh man, you and I would get along real well -- your thought process was exactly the same as mine would have been, including wearing on the plane the heaviest pair of shoes you want to have with you for the trip! It's so satisfying to be so efficiently packed, isn't it? :) In any case, sounds like you're set to have a great time on your trip!

NOLA said...

Wow, that is amazing. You're amazing! I think I'm taking more for an overnight retreat tomorrow. :)

Amber said...

Can I just say, as a Virgo, I have BIG respect for this skill of yours. I LOVE it. It actually gives me a little high to see how little I can pack, and still have all I need. You may win the gold, however. lol


Anonymous said...

Wow! I haven't been here in forever, so much to catch up on about life in CA. Congrats on the light packing, I shall learn it yet...


Ali la Loca said...

Hey everyone, thanks for the encouraging feedback. We made it to Brasil and I must say, the sweetest part was breezing through customs because we didn't have to wait for our luggage (and thus didn't get stuck behind the hundreds of teenagers returning from excursions to Disney). Good stuff.

--jenna said...

I'm so impressed with your packing job! We're going to Mexico in a few months for a wedding, and I'll definitely be using your list as a sample packing tutor! :) And we can't wait to see you guys...whenever that may be!

Vicky Honolulu said...

Anyone that can pack like that could run this country!! Ali for President!!

Ali la Loca said...

~Jenna - It seems to be a good template for doing carry-on only. Where in Mexico are you going? I'm going to call you tomorrow to make some plans for Rio.

~Vicky - Love it!! Well, I guess this is a good test for decision-making, efficient use of resources, and staying within a budget. :D Hope all is well with you in Hawaii.

Jody said...

Can I just say you have mad packing skills! I agree, just traveling with the carry-on is so much less of a burden! I have def had to wear two sweaters + coat on the plane a few times, but being the first in line for customs is worth it!

Have fun on your vacation!

Ali la Loca said...

~Jody - I think doing carry-on only travel is so much easier when you're going somewhere that isn't *that* cold. I've got a cashmere cardigan, a lightweight jersey wrap sweater and a couple of long-sleeved shirts and I'm good to go. Having to bring heavy sweaters or a jacket would have thrown a whole new dimension into this challenge.