My husband and I have been house-sitting since 2011, anywhere from one week to 6 months. Packing is always a big issue for us. Slowly but surely, we are learning that we don’t have to pack everything we own for a successful house sit!
When we first started house-sitting, it was mostly in Ontario, Canada, and we had access to a vehicle. So packing our coffee pot or tennis racquet was no big deal.
Travelling in Costa Rica or Mexico is a different story. In most cases, we didn’t have a vehicle, and lugging all our stuff from one place to another was becoming a real chore, especially for air travel.
Packing just the essentials is a learning curve, but one that you can master successfully. When you pack everything but the kitchen sink, it becomes time-consuming, costly, frustrating, and even overwhelming.
Here are some handy tips that will make your travels much more pleasant – everything from the clothing you need to footwear, even to reading!
Clothes and Shoes
Pack enough clothes to carry you through one week, then hit the laundry!
It has been our experience that most places supply a washer and dryer, or there is a laundromat nearby. Smaller items can be washed by hand and hung to dry.
Mix, Match, and Accessorize
Another great tip is to mix and match. Accessorize your clothes with scarves, belts, purses, etc.
In fact, why not treat yourself to small purchases such as earrings or a bracelet while travelling? They are easy to pack and will make your outfits look great!
Pack a few tops, bottoms, dresses or pants, and workout clothes (if you are into exercising while away). A guideline could be 3 tops, 3 dresses, 3 pairs of pants, a couple of pairs of socks, a warm jacket or sweater, and a bathing suit.
I sometimes think it is easier for men: some underwear, a few T-shirts, jeans and shorts, a pair of shoes, and a belt! Women tend to agonize over what to wear.
Knowing what shoes to pack can be a hassle. A good pair of cross trainers can be used for exercising and walking; a light pair of sandals or soft shoes for casual days or nights. If possible, keep the number down to a minimum, maybe 3 pairs at the most.
3. Packing Electronics
This can be a tough decision for many people. I would be lost without my cellphone or laptop (I work remotely from home), but when my last e-reader broke, I switched to reading books from my phone—one less thing to pack.
This can also depend on how long you plan to be away. If it is for several months, then it may be necessary for you to pack them all! If you are an avid reader, then by all means bring your e-reader with you. Invest in a great backpack that has a special place for your laptop or electronics or a tech organizer where you can keep all your gadgets in one place. And don’t forget your chargers!
4. What toiletries to take
Of course, you want to take your favourite shampoos, conditioners, etc., but remember if travelling by airline, there is a limit on size (we learned this lesson the hard way when my husband’s expensive shaving lotion got thrown out because it was over the limit). If you must bring them, transfer them to smaller reusable bottles or containers. For extra protection, pack in zip-lock baggies.
Decide what you need—do you plan to use it daily or is it just one-time and can be left behind?
Another option is to replace liquids with solids – dry shampoos and soap bars; you can even buy toothpaste tablets! This will also eliminate the risk of spills.
Essentials to include are shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste tablets or toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, minimum makeup, and sunscreen.
5. Use leak-proof bottles and Packing Cubes
In addition to ziplock baggies, you can use leak-proof bottles such as the TSA APPROVED BPA FREE TRAVEL CONTAINERS.
Another option is packing cubes which are fabric containers in a rectangle or cube shape. Not only will you be able to pack more but everything will be organized! Pack your favourite T-shirts in one cube, your socks in another, etc. When it is time to unpack, you can quickly find what you are looking for.
If you are not using packing cubes, roll your clothes to take up less space and tuck tiny items in your footwear.
Take Advantage of Consignment Shops
This may sound strange but we have recently started doing this. It is awesome here in Mexico. Pack the essentials you need. Then instead of buying new clothes, head to a consignment shop and add items to your wardrobe as you travel at a fraction of the cost. This way, you can take what you don’t want to pack back to the consignment shop. When they sell, we can buy more clothes if we want or take the money. Our wardrobe is constantly updated and cuts down on the expense of buying new clothes while travelling.
Use a Laundromat
Just before leaving, use a Laundromat service. You will be amazed at how they pack your clothes after laundering and drying them, in one small package. Just load it into your backpack and you will have clean clothes for the next part of your journey. We love this idea and have done it several times.
It really comes down to what you are willing to do without. Personally, it is my goal to get down to one backpack and eliminate all those suitcases.
The key to remember is that you should be using the items that you are packing. I have been guilty of packing something ‘just in case’ I might need it and often times I don’t end up using it.
What is your preferred method of packing? Please share in the comments below.