Guest writer Angela Coryell shares her favorite packing tips…
Packing for my next vacation is always a mixed bag. On the one hand, I want to bring enough of my life with me to ensure that comfortable sense of preparedness, whether it’s bringing all the fun shoes I need, swim gear, jewelry, slinky dresses, or colored hats, to name a few. On the other, I want to pack light enough to leave room for shopping on my trip and making sure my bags and suitcases fit within all required airline compartment measurements and allotted spaces. Another important thing for me is to have all my stuff visible and organized should I be flagged for a random search or should I need to fish something out at the last minute before checking a bag.
I’ve devised an innovative, easy up-cycling way to do all this, and at no cost – by saving all the zip plastic bags from the various bed comforter and sheet sets I’ve purchased over the years and using them as organizing compartments. Using these ‘smart bags’ has made packing for travel a whole lot easier and satisfying, even fun… and how often can you say that about packing? Quite simply, I divide my clothes into categories and bag them up separately. In a few larger sheet set bags, I pack my pants, pajamas, and boardshorts, in another I pack my swim suits and rashguards, and in another, my tanks, T-shirts, and etc.. In small pillow case bags, I pack individual shoes (great for protecting them against being scratched or damaged), in another, a stack of panties and socks, in another, my jewelry, then toiletries. This way, it’s all visible and transparent and doesn’t fall out everywhere!
The only catch is how to accumulate enough bags for all your clothing categories. If you don’t have any, ask people you know, family, friends, who might be just throwing them away. Also, next time you’re at the department store, ask an employee if they have extras they’re throwing away. And it’s actually still very helpful if you only have one or two of these for, say, all your underwear, socks, or other things that can litter up your suitcase and fall apart everywhere. And these bags aren’t the only thing you can use, of course. Do you like to bring designer purses or beach bags on vacation that you don’t carry on or with you at the airport? Pack them full of clothes and stick them in your suitcase (pictured here) and maybe wrap your designer bags in regular plastic bags to prevent scratching.
A word to the wise: pack in your carry-on a small bag with a few essential clothing items like 1 swim suit, 3 panties, 3 socks, 1 sport bra, 1 pair reef sandals, etc., just in case your luggage is delayed or gets lost… that way you won’t be left high and dry! It’s also super helpful to take smart phone pictures of all your packed bags so you remember how to re-pack them for your trip home and to have a record of all your stuff for filing a claim should something be stolen from your bag in transit. It’s also a good idea to have a separate dirty laundry bag to store stuff after it’s gotten dirty. If you’re taking really long flights, pack a few scented dryer sheets to drop in your dirty laundry bag for freshness.
I recommend this very useful list of pack hacks, which includes tips for divers and photographers:
- Carry a refillable sport bottle attached to your backpack and fill it with water at the airport water fountain after you clear security check points instead of buying bottled water, which tends to be ridiculously expensive!
- Always take a smart phone picture of your boarding passes, passport, drivers license, IDs, dive certification cards to have as back up.
- If you’re taking a trip in a cab, take a picture of the vehicle and license plate before you get in (and any cab driver ID displayed on the dash or back seat)… one time it saved me from losing my wallet I left in the vehicle!
- Keep notes when you return from a trip of the things you need next time and the things you didn’t need – store a copy of this in your suitcase, too.
- Take a smart phone picture of your packed bags or write down how you packed and refer to these when re-packing for the trip home.
- Pack a small pack of baby wipes for freshening up during long flights or wiping your tray table, etc…
- Make your own sleep pack : small bag with ear plugs, eye mask, and inflatable neck pillow.
- Pack a dirty laundry bag for stuff after it’s gotten dirty and if you’re taking really long flights, pack a few scented dryer sheets to drop in your dirty laundry bag to offset any odors.
- Pack a compact, foldable bag inside your luggage and carry a spare TSA-approved lock in case you end up with wet gear or bulky souvenirs – you can check in the extra bag.
Dive Trip Pack Hacks:
- Pack your mask, dive computer, light, or any other small fragile equipment in a large, empty plastic mayo jar.
- Pack travel-size mouthwash spray to spritz and freshen any smelly dive regulator.
- Pack travel-size conditioner to work through your hair after dives to make detangling a breeze.
- Pack zip ties, cable ties, an extra mask strap, and a small set of tools – could save your dive!
- Pack after-diving products like shampoo, soap, wash cloth, and lip balm in a plastic zipper bag in your gear bag for easy access.
Travel Photography Pack Hacks:
- Carry spare memory cards and/or flash drives – you can store pictures on them, plus most people will gladly pay you for a spare memory card or flash drive if they need one.
- When on a live aboard cruise ship, pack a power strip to plug in all electronics (phone, camera battery chargers, video battery chargers, etc…) that way, you’re only using one outlet instead of hogging multiple ones.
- Take a picture with your diving camera before you dive to make sure all cards are in and that the battery works!
Angela Coryell is an artist, photographer, and tropical vacation aficionado. She and her husband travel, dive, and photograph mostly in the Caribbean and South Pacific Islands. You can see images from her extensive travel adventures on Instagram: @AngelaDrinkofBeauty.