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New Tricks for Old Dogs: Hacks for Packing a Bit Smarter and Lighter

New Tricks for Old Dogs: Hacks for Packing a Bit Smarter and Lighter

Old Jun 25th, 2024, 04:12 AM
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New Tricks for Old Dogs: Hacks for Packing a Bit Smarter and Lighter

We just returned from a two-week trip to four cities in Scandinavia. I tried out a few new packing items and tricks for this journey and I thought I'd report back as to what I considered to be worthwhile and what I did not. I'll explain our traditional overall packing method and how the newer items fit into our logistics.

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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 05:10 AM
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Overall Packing Method

We've used the same packing overall packing method for the past 20+ years: we each use a small soft-sided rollaboard and a daypack.

For this extended trip that required a lot of layers to account for extreme temperatures, we also employed our 15-year-old convertible clamshell-style backpacks. The backpacks, when the straps are zipped into place, can be checked with general luggage, are flexible enough to slide under plane seats and frequently can be squished over rollaboards in the overhead space. If we need to consolidate items before getting onto a plane, our daypacks can be tucked between the clam halves.

Sadly, our convertible backpack brand is discontinued, and we don't know how much life is left in them. I just did a quick search to find a replacement and just can't find anything comparable. Pakt has something similar, but it's just not as streamlined. If I find anything that is close, I'll post here.

We use various sizes of see-through packing cubes to group underwear, socks, and misc items and we most often layer our clothes over them in our "bucket" style rollaboards. Because we were using the convertible backpacks, we packed tops, bottoms, and outerwear in our large see-though packing cubes (17 x 12 x 3h), one for each side of the "clam" of our convertible backpacks. That means that in any hotel room, we can just pull out these cubes with handles to be put in a drawer or on a shelf on top of the "deflated" backpack. I never have to hang anything up.

Our small daypacks have unreliable waterproofing, so we just line them with 2 gal Ziplock bags and that does the trick. The great thing about this tried-and-true method is that cleaning it out at the end of the day just requires pulling out the big Ziplock bag.

I only use a small cross body purse from Baggallini (also discontinued) that can go right under my arm pit OR be slid into the convertible backpack to consolidate before boarding the plane.

And needless to say, most of our travel clothes have lots and lots and lots of pockets. Side pockets, interior pockets, hidden pockets. I could probably fit the contents of a full daypack onto my person on any given day. I'd look odd, but...

Next: New Hacks with Liquids

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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 06:39 AM
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Next: New Hacks with Liquids

As I've gotten older--I'm over 70--I need more cosmetic assists like glycolic and hyaluronic acids, retinol, etc. Allergies mean I have a hard time with anything but certain face washes. I'm picky about shampoo and conditioner. And I now have to fight hair loss with Minoxidal foam. I'm sure other women can relate. I have oodles of reliable toiletry containers on hand--e.g., GoTubes are great. But to do lighter weight carryon, I now would have to be creative to carry on only enough of what I would need and not one ml more of liquid amount or plastic weight and space.

I will link to what I ordered at the end below.

The method I ditched was the contact lens case hack. It's great for weekends--one case duo can hold enough liquid foundation for a few days, you can put glycolic acid on one side and retinol on the other, and so on. Great. But that doesn't work for two weeks, and in reality, the plastic-to-liquids ratio of that packing method isn't practical either in terms of weight and space for an extended trip.

Luckily, on Reddit, some brilliant woman showed a picture of putting her runny liquid toiletries in refillable lip gloss tubes. I ordered three sizes and tested them out with various products to see what sizes I would need to pack. I can report that not one of them leaked. My husband "ordered" a few of his toiletries to be put in tubes. I've now made a set of toiletries for my "road warrior" youngest daughter, too. It may be my favorite packing hack of all time.

Those tubes do not work best for gels or pastes. Refillable squeeze pouches do work brilliantly for those. Hair gel, cortisone cream, and even sunscreen were happy in those. The flip tops were hard to open, but that did not matter. I just unscrewed the tops to dispense them. I don't know if they leaked or not. I did not take chances--I used cut squares of plastic film to place over top of the cap for each flight. My husband was also a fan of this method. Tip: blow into the pouches before filling them.

To go with my new liquids packing methods, I changed my liquids bag, too. I have a stockpile of quite a few of them, but I wanted to make sure I could pass muster internationally. My husband liked my new one and had me order him one too.

I replaced my face wash with Oil of Olay Water-Activated Dry Cloths, thus kicking a liquids item out of the bag. My mother had sworn by these, and I thought I'd test them, believing for sure I'd have a skin flare. Nope--these work really well for me. Who knew?

My other last hack for the liquids bag was a small cheapie Nelko label maker. Why I have never owned one is a mystery--I label almost everything in my house as it is (there are no mystery light switches in MY house). I labeled all my toiletries, grouped my dry meds according to city stay and labeled that pack...yeah you get the idea.

What I kept the same were my little shampoo and conditioner bottles I've had forever. I could have replaced them with "soap bar" versions, but I'm perfectly happy with what I have. These fit perfectly on teeny tiny shower shelves and work well on shower floors. I think I got them at REI in the camping section years ago for less than a dollar, but I don't see them there anymore. They are small 1 oz cylinder types, squeezable but sturdy, with spout, not flip-top, caps. They don't leak, but again, I used the plastic film hack to prevent mishaps.

Links:
refillable lip gloss tubes refillable lip gloss tubes
I got these in 10ml, 15ml, and 20ml. I tested out how much product I used over three weeks and adjusted sizing per product before final packing.
refillable squeeze pouches refillable squeeze pouches
This came in various sizes, too. Again, I tested out how much I needed (usually much less than I thought).
TSA liquids bag TSA liquids bag
I was able to test these out in Copenhagen against the free disposable liquids bags they have before the security line. My other so-called "TSA APPROVED" bags in my home stockpile may not have passed.
label maker label maker
After two days of testing, I ordered replacement tape because I know I'll be using this item often in my life.
water-activated dry face clothes water-activated dry face clothes
I packaged mine into various square snack bags and labeled them according to city so that I was only pulling out a small amount for each city stop. I had a few in my daypack for each flight, too. How nice to be able to wash one's face anywhere.

Next: Rethinking Make-Up
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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 07:20 AM
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Rethinking Make-Up

When USAirways still existed, one of the amenities bags offered for European flights was a lovely roll-up bag divided into three zippered, see-through mesh compartments. That may have been 25 years ago. Anyway, that became my travel make-up bag and it's still my travel go-to today.

I tweaked how I used it for this last trip. In the past few years, I found myself wrapping the case around a full eyeshadow pallet and securing with a hair band. With that method, I was adding more plastic and bulk to the bundle. I decided to repot my favorite eyeshadows and favorite blushes into a small
Z-Pallete Z-Pallete
that could slide into one of the compartments. It worked beautifully and now no additional wrapping was needed.

The
small travel brush set small travel brush set
I ordered was not that great. But it turned out that the small travel brushes I already owned, my sponge applicators, my tweezers, and nail clippers all fit beautifully inside the little brush case. The brush case slid into one of the roll-up make-up case compartments well, too. Mission accomplished.

I've already detailed how I used refillable lip gloss tubes for liquids. It was perfect for my foundation, and a small tube fits inside the mesh compartments easily.

Likewise, I found that Clinique travel size mascara and Elf regular size eyebrow gel plop inside the mesh perfectly too. Note: these and the foundation would have to go in the liquids container for flights, but they took up only a tiny space. I always kept them at the top of the liquids bag so that I could put them in my make-up bag as soon as I got through security.

I placed a little plastic packet of various types of Q-Tips and disposable lip sponges in the mesh along with an eyeliner, two lipsticks and a cover stick, and I was good to go.

Something that seems at odds with my "packing light" theme is that in recent years, I have had to take a lighted make-up mirror. I just don't see well enough, and I know I can never count on bathroom lighting or mirror proximity anymore to either pluck eyebrows or put on eyeliner. I bought a
rechargeable make-up mirror with a magnetic 10x mirror rechargeable make-up mirror with a magnetic 10x mirror
for this trip and it worked like a charm.

Next: A Few More Toiletry Hacks
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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 08:07 AM
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Next: A Few More Toiletry Hacks

Once I fell in love with the refillable lip gloss tube and Z-Pallette ideas, I sought out other things that I could repot/repackage

I soon found a biggie I shall use from now on. Packing travel size stick deodorant has always driven me insane. First, I have never been able to find my favorite brand in a travel size. Even when I accept I must use another brand on the road, I know that the amount of plastic-to-product ratio is off. The product surface frequently falls off these things, and on long trips, I have always worried about running out of deodorant.
Refillable deodorant containers Refillable deodorant containers
to the rescue. To test if this hack would work, I dug out the contents of a half-empty deodorant stick on hand, zapped it for a few seconds in the microwave until it became liquid, stirred, poured it one of the containers, and let it set up in the refrigerator. I used it as my only deodorant source to see how long it would last.

WEEKS.

You might prefer this style of
refillable deodorant container refillable deodorant container
. I didn't order this type so I can't vouch for it. It just so happens, though, that my husband, who never throws anything away, had been gifted some sort of healing balm in a similar container that he had never used. I recycled it by digging out the contents, melting the remainder in the microwave and pouring it out onto a paper towel before tossing in the trash, and cleaning the container in hot water. Then I did the dig-zap-refill method with half-empty containers of his favorite deodorant. He is a fan.

I next rethought my razor. OK, packing a
Gillette mini Gillette mini
would reduce the handle space, but then the case took up more room. Ah hah!--I found binder clip hack for it. Just put a large binder over the razor end. No need for the case.

What I could have done, and what I didn't do, was change my soap and soap case. There are all sorts of things out there now. But the fact is, my low-tech soap case has always suited my needs. It has a separate, clip shut lid. I use the lid as a soap dish in the shower and just drain it before I pack up for the next stop.

Next: My Failed Laundry Hacks
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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 08:33 AM
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Next: My Failed Laundry Hacks

For some reason I convinced myself to buy a
Sea-to-Summit Dry Bag Sea-to-Summit Dry Bag
for sink washing, and also add a trial of dry laundry soap sheets. I should have pre-tested. The first time I tried on the road, I swore I made more of a mess without getting the clothes clean.

At least neither new thing cost me much luggage space.

I'm returning to my old method with just a slight tweak. I use either the bathroom sink or a large two-gallon Ziplock bag. I pre-spot the clothes with either hotel shampoo or Dawn dish washing liquid (I brought a 20 ml lip gloss tube of it and that was way more than enough for the entire trip). Fill with water, let the contents soak for a bit, slosh around, drain and refill, slosh around, drain and refill until no suds show. Then start squeezing away.

To hang the clothes to dry I use one or more of the following methods: my old-school stretchy
travel clothesline travel clothesline
(forget the suction cups--those never worked); my
clothes clips clothes clips
(I only pack 4-6), and/or my
fold-up travel hangers fold-up travel hangers
. The clothes clips work well for drying the Ziplock bag too.

Next: New Fun Hacks I Really Liked
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Old Jun 25th, 2024, 08:45 AM
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Next: New Fun Hacks I Really Liked

I have no idea where I first spotted the idea, but I was SOLD right away. Jacket straps!!!!! I think I got the one I used on Etsy because it had sturdier attachment clips. I used mine practically every day of the trip for my GoreTex jacket because we had such variable hourly weather between huge temperature drops, rain, and wind gusts.

I also used both of my types of
luggage bungee straps luggage bungee straps
throughout the trip as we made our way on connecting trains and through airports. The larger one worked well for putting our convertible backpacks on top of our rollaboards; the smaller was perfect for attaching my daypack to the rollaboard. That gave me options. Both stored easily in the strap compartment of my convertible backpack.
______________________

Hope you found at least one good idea here.

Happy Packing!

AZ
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Old Jun 26th, 2024, 10:12 AM
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Thanks - especially for generous use of links. It can be hard to picture some of these unique items!
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Old Jun 27th, 2024, 01:51 AM
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Happy you found some stuff useful, nyse. This is the link to the lip gloss tube picture that got me repotting almost everything in my toiletry bag: https://imgur.com/gGkv5Ja. The poster obviously had good luck just using a Sharpie. I went a tad overboard with my new label maker sealed with packing tape.
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Old Jun 27th, 2024, 06:58 AM
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Just ordered some of those refillable squeeze pouches - I've had my eye on them for awhile. I already have a pretty good packing system, but I'm always open to improvements.
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Old Jun 27th, 2024, 08:12 AM
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I, like you, Melnq8, was delighted to do something new. Of course, you should see my closet: 1/2 actual clothes and 1/2 travel gear. It's not like I could use anything new. I could pack for the Arctic or the Equator in an instant in there.
Then again, maybe everyone should live that way.

I have donated a lot of stuff over the past few years. My brimmed bike helmets and seat and seat cover were quickly snatched up at Goodwill. I kept all the cycling rain gear, even the shoe gaiters.

My youngest daughter asked me which travel hack I liked the best of the trip and it's a 3-way tie between the lip gloss tubes, the refillable deodorant container and the jacket straps. The lip gloss tubes solve the problem that I now need more facial products; the refillable deodorant containers solve my frustration with needless extra plastic and product waste (no more tossed deodorant sticks with product inside again); the jacket straps were a godsend in the extremely variable weather.

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Old Jun 28th, 2024, 03:41 PM
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Just received the refillable squeeze pouches - they don't look easy to clean for re-use. Your experience?
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Old Jun 28th, 2024, 07:45 PM
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Yo AZ, thank you for this. This forum needs more posts like it, practical, pragmatic tips and like that.
I am done. the hax
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 01:21 AM
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Zebec--Well, I'm blushing here. Thanks.

Melnq8--I've only cleaned out two of them so far, and hot water, drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid, sloshing, and a bottle brush have worked well. I clip them upside down on my wall drying rack using my travel wash clips to dry.
Full disclosure: I have a grandchild living near me and my kitchen drawer has everything from silicone straw brushes to bottle brushes right now, so I admit I'm probably more equipped than the average person for the job.

My empty hair gel packet was easy to clean. My husband reported that his shampoo packet cleaned out with just hot water. My nearly empty packet of Voltaren gel was less easy but I got the job done. I probably could have gotten away with just topping it off. I did top off my sunscreen supply from the last trip for my upcoming trip because I wanted to empty the original tube of sunscreen I used to fill it. I should have put the expiration date on the packet with my label maker, but since the upcoming trip is a beach trip, I'm sure I'll get through the entire packet anyway.

Just had a thought--these packets would be a great way to repackage all the remainder sunscreen that comes home after a beach vacation. I have always ended up with the family's bunch of half-used used bottles with good expiration dates. Just repackaging them as soon as I get home would save a ton of wasted product. My label maker will be ready!
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 01:59 AM
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One more tweak of an old hack:

We all know the old packing tip of putting hotel bathroom shower caps over shoes in the suitcase, right? But often, those caps are way too small for my clodhopper-size shoes, and they certainly are never big enough for my husband's.

I ordered these extra-long, more oblong-shaped
shower caps shower caps
on Amazon specifically for this trip, and we were quite pleased with them. They were not only big enough, but they may also have even been a bit too big for my shoes. However, that size did not negatively impact their utility at all. Their thin plastic took up far less space than the shoe covers or plastic bags we've used in the past, and they sure kept water and grit from our clothing. I was surprised that I can reuse all--not one of them had holes at the end of the trip.

Getting a 100 of them may seem like overkill, but I just gave around 10 of them to my road warrior daughter, and her husband asked if he could have some too.
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 06:07 AM
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As much as I like the idea, I don't think the refillable pouches are going to work for me, so they're going back. I think I'll stick to my usual travel bottles in their waterproof pouch. The only product I need much of is body cream, which I go through like crazy, and because we usually travel for a month or more, I take an entire 12 oz tub with me.

You've shared some interesting ideas though. I guess those of us who travel a lot have our tried and true methods, but it's always interesting to see what others do.

We're always experimenting with new methods for carrying medications. Spouse prefers using 4-5 small separate weekly pill cases filled for an entire month+, all which fit into a qt size ziploc bag. I'm still perfecting my method as I have to take different pills at different times of day. I don't like wasting space with multiple weekly containers (having to bring them back empty), so I lean towards those tiny cellopane bags. It's a work in progress.
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 08:18 AM
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Melnq8--I totally get what you are saying. To each his own!

Re meds: I once used to pack those weekly containers! I ditched them for the same reason--too much space.

Right now, those tiny plastic pill bags are pretty much my life anyway. I package up an AM mix, a Noon Mix and a PM mix about once a month and keep them in three different stackable Rubbermaid containers on my dresser. The teal version doesn't look too bad with my bedspread.

I do reuse the pill bags until I can't possibly seal them shut anymore, so I don't feel too guilty. For this trip, I just gathered the needed quantity per day of stay in a sandwich bag that I labeled with the name of the city. It was great only having to pull one sandwich bag out at each stop.

Still, it's a pain having to cart them over. The great thing is that my backpack got much lighter as we traveled.
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 08:37 AM
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Yeah, I reuse the tiny bags too. I hate waste. Sounds like you're a very organized traveler.

My bags are alway heavier coming home - I tend to load up on European chocolate. All the more reason to use less space from the get go

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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 01:11 PM
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AZ, Thank you SO much for taking the time to write all of those great ideas~!

One thing I've just about given up is any makeup at all, except Sephora lipsticks in a tube.....face makeup makes me very hot and the older I get, the less I care about all those products....
But I do need a hair "helper" and like the Aveda pump oil/gel in the blue bottle.......
Other than that, I pretty much rely on the hotel shampoos and hand creams...
Hey, I don't look great but I carry SO MUCH STUFF in my bags on the way home, I just let go of all the cosmetic things to make room for things like cheese and cans of tuna!
Who's the most eccentric poster on this forum.....Cast your vote now!
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Old Jun 29th, 2024, 05:56 PM
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I enjoyed reading about your ideas and admire the trouble you go to with makeup.
my hack is stick sunscreen, so will not need to go in quart liquids bag.
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