Packing Boot Camp! Oorah!


If you are packing without a plan, you are free-falling without a parachute.  I’m about to share tips that meet three goals… make packing easier and faster, have you more organized during your trip, and also make the chore of unpacking easier and faster. I present to you… “Packing Boot Camp!”

Over packing is the enemy and we’re going to win the battle.


Pile of pants

We’re going to start with rules:

1. Key to success is paring down… by pairing up!

This starts with picking a neutral color for your theme such as black, navy blue, beige or white.  Anything you are going to coordinate will go with one of these.  For most seven night cruises, I will pack one pair of black dress pants and one pair of black casual pants. On the plane, I wear a pair of jeans or khaki pants. Add in two pairs of shorts and I’m covered on my “bottoms” and since it’s bottoms that usually take up the most space, less is more.

2. Stop worrying about the “what if’s.”

There’s a difference between “being prepared” and going overboard.  There’s a good chance that there are stores where you are going so if you forgot it, lost it, didn’t plan for it or didn’t have enough of it…. whatever “it” is… you can probably pick “it” up. Taking a couple of Band-Aids is a good thing.  Packing a box of assorted sizes because you don’t know what size cut you could have or how many days you will need to dress it is going overboard.  Pack what you likely need.

3. If you can’t carry it, you’re packing too much.

Assuming you are physically able to do so, this is a vital rule. For a typical 1-2 week vacation, you shouldn’t need more than you can carry. You are going to have to move your own luggage at some point even if it’s from the car to Skycap, in an airport, to a rental car or somewhere.  I even extend this rule to kids to a degree (more on that below).

Winter weathr



Know your itinerary. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t plan.
What is the expected weather?  Cold, hot, dry, rainy, snow. You need the appropriate clothing to match the weather.
Will you visit places with dress codes? Some churches, temples and mosques around the world disallow shorts, bare shoulders or an uncovered head.
What activities will you be doing?  Be prepared if an activity you will be doing requires you to pack specific items.  Swimming? Bathing suit and cover-up. Hiking? Boots.
What is scheduled? Will you need business attire for conference meetings or dressy clothes for a couple of cruise formal nights?
What amenity items are provided in your cabin or room? Soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer.  You don’t need to double pack items that are provided.


Plan the right tools for your arsenal:

  • Start with the right suitcase. Whether you choose hard or soft case is your personal preference.  If your trip involves flying or a motorcoach tour, check allowable dimensions.
  • Stick to no more than one check-in bag per person. (Exceptions are rare…. be discriminating with a darn good reason to require more.)
  • Plan on a carry-on bag whether you are flying or not. If flying, make sure it meets allowable dimensions for bringing onboard to stow in an overhead.
  • Pick a “personal item” which can be a laptop case, totebag, purse or a backpack small enough to fit under an airline seat in front of you.
  • Grab some Ziploc bags. You’ll need a quart size one (or similar size vinyl bag) for your “3-1-1” packing of gels and liquids you pack into carry-on luggage. We’ll talk about the rest of the bags.
  • Small (good quality!) 3 oz. and smaller bottles for creams, cleansers, moisturizers, etc. that will be in your “3-1-1” carry-on bag.
  • Crazy duct tape, yarn pom-poms or some other way of drastically individualize common looking luggage
  • Sturdy luggage tags for your carry-on and check-in luggage.  Yes, also for your carry-on
  •  TSA approved locks


16 Strategic Packing Tips:

  1. If there’s more than one person and one check-in bag for your family, “mix it up.”  It’s less likely for more than one bag to get lost so mix an outfit or two in the other person’s bag.
  2. If traveling from cold weather to warm weather, wear the lightest jacket you can comfortably wear when you leave home. It should be a one that can double-duty as a blanket or rolled as a pillow on the plane.
  3. Choose clothes with fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily, are versatile, can layer and don’t take up a lot of space.  Great fabrics include cashmeres, rayons, cotton blends and silks do well.
  4. Denim travels well, but takes up space so wear your jeans when you leave for your trip.
  5. Shoes.  Then think about the above Initial Step… knowing your itinerary.  You need shoes based on weather, dress codes, activities, and itinerary. Then refer to rules 1, 2 & 3. Remember: over packing is the enemy!  For a 7 night cruise, I wear sneakers and I pack a pair of flip-flops, a pair of comfortable black dress shoes and I splurge with packing one more pair of shoes.
  6. Speaking of shoes…. Inside them put your rolled up socks or stockings and put the shoes into bags so they aren’t against your clothing.
  7. Everything that can be leak, no matter how good the container is, should also be put into a Ziploc bag.  Semper paratus.  Trust me. If you travel often enough, the time will come that you wish you’d been “always ready” for that problem.
  8. Prescriptions and any OTC medications you want with you should be kept with you in your carry-on bag. They do not have to count in your 3-1-1 bag.  For ease going through airport security and for your convenience, put them all in a second Ziploc bag.
  9. One of our goals was to be more organized during your trip.  That means no digging around in your luggage for small objects.  Use Ziploc bags for each of the following groups of items:Make-up Kit
    Jewelry Kit
    Medication Kit
    First Aid Kit
    Desk Kit (if you take highlighter, pens, sticky notes, etc.)
    Bathroom Kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, tweezers, etc.)
  10. Figure your wardrobe by going through your day-to-day itinerary. I suggest a max of two “bonus tops.”  That’s generous when it comes to Boot Camp Packing.
  11. Pack your heaviest items in the bottom, but keep in mind that “bottom” means one thing when your luggage is laying down and another thing when it’s upright. Heavier flat items go in the bottom when the bag is laying down and bulkier heavy items are along the side which is “bottom” when the bag is upright.
  12. You may be living out of a suitcase when on a tour that requires frequent hotel changes.  Take advantage of those bagged “kits” to use them to the bathroom or vanity, and then drop back into your suitcase when moving again. If staying in a cabin or room for multiple days, unpack the Bathroom and Makeup Kits and put everything back in the bags when packing at the end of the trip. Put the other “Kits” into a convenient drawer or shelf, while any valuables go into your safe if you have one.
  13. Bring at least a couple of gallon sized Ziploc bags in which you’ll put dirty underwear, socks or a wet bathing suit for the trip home.
  14. Back to Rule #3 when it comes to kids. If a child is old enough to walk, then there is a cool backpack that’s appropriate to their size. You’ll be carrying their clothes and necessities, but they can carry their toys, distractions and comfort items that come with whatever age thy are. It will help you both to make decisions on what they can bring and they can be proud of making decisions and “carrying their stuff” in the airport just like big kids or adults.
  15. Do not bring home read magazines or books unless it’s necessary.  Gift them to housekeeping by leaving them with a note saying you hope they will enjoy them.
  16. Once back home, store your First Aid and Desk Kits in your luggage so they are already packed for your next trip. Put shoes and other items away, do what you need to do with your laundry and put a dryer sheet in you each bag to keep them fresh until your next trip!



You’ve survived Packing Boot Camp!  You now have the rules, steps and tips in your arsenal to overcome the enemy.  We’ll post future blogs that fine-tune some areas with more tips, but what’s in this article can make a difference.  And if some of the pairing down or decision-making is uncomfortable for you, then dig deep and decide why.  Sure, it may see a bit difficult to “pack less” and ignore “what if’s” but when you see how much easier it gets to packing this way, how much more organized you will be and how much it makes unpacking faster, you’ll appreciate it.  So soldier on and become a better packer!


You can Make a Difference

As Memorial Day approaches, this week’s blog is dedicated to those who gave their lives serving our country and to the loved ones they left behind who continue to experience that sacrifice.  In their honor, we at Connie George Travel Associates wish to recognize the work done by Fisher House Foundation for military families.

For every share on Facebook of this blog article by Memorial Day (May 30, 2016), we will donate $1 to Fisher House. We will donate up to $250. There are 70 Fisher Houses located at military installations and VA medical centers.  These houses provide housing to military families so they may be close to their loved ones during hospitalization for illness, disease or injury.

Stop by one of our Facebook spots to discuss these and other travel tips. You can find us at our Facebook page or, ladies, visit our Savvy Travel Chicks.

Happy Traveling!

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