Tagged With packing

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I was a packing cube holdout for the longest time. Sure, people rave about them, and they are a classic travel hack.

“But what would they really do for me?” I wondered, as I tightly rolled my t-shirts and tossed them into my cavern of a suitcase. “I mean, it’s a whole extra layer of fabric, so it’s not like they save space,” I would speculate, as I dug to the bottom of my backpack looking for that flashlight I could have sworn I put near the top.

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It’s great to have a packing list for real world items, to make sure you don’t forget your underwear or your toothbrush, but what about a digital packing list? Make sure you have these electronic essentials before you travel so an internet blip doesn’t leave you confused or stranded.

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Last week I went to Tokyo. I got myself a windbreaker and I got my baby a pop-up book and a mobile. I got origami paper and tea and a Wi-Fi-enabled zoom-lens earwax picker. I bought trinkets for my friends — stickers, pins, a pop-up book, a bracelet, a squishy peach that looks like a butt. Of course I got a lot of snacks.

But I made sure I got socks. If you get socks everywhere you go, you’ll have a souvenir that sticks around for months or years.

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Six years ago, my husband and I moved across the country from Arizona to the East Coast, where we’re both originally from. At the time, we had a two-year-old and an anxiety-ridden cat — not to mention furniture and belongings in the house we were renting, the condo we owned and a storage unit. It was a lot more complicated than when I moved to Arizona at 22 years old with only a carload full of stuff.

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The last thing I pack before a trip is my makeup bag. I'm always running behind, so I inevitably throw things in a bag in a panic and forget something I need, and take at least three things I don't. I have a couple of trips planned, but there are always road trips and weekends away that come up last minute, so it's good to have a bag on reserve ready to grab at a moment's notice, or at least have the travel-friendly products hashed out so I know what to take in a rush.

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Moving never goes exactly as planned, no matter how prepared you think you might be. Movers arrive late, you run out of packing tape — or, like me, you drop and break your laptop because you didn’t realise it was sitting under a stack of clothes you’re hurriedly throwing in a box. Inevitably, you’ll forget something.

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When we moved last year, the majority of our belongings made it to the new place unscathed. The only casualty of note was my bed frame, an IKEA buy from a few years earlier that we were incapable of taking apart on our own and the mover claimed could be moved as is. It could not, and shortly after they left our place we discovered that it had essentially been ripped in half in their attempts to get it into our second-floor walk-up.

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Necklaces are pretty much the only kind of jewellery I wear — my hands swell too randomly for rings and my earlobes reject earrings! — but delicate, tangly chains make packing them for trips more than slightly annoying. Unless you wish to spend your trip untangling necklaces, throwing them in a bag — even one with separate compartments — simply does not work.

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Packing, for me, can be a weeks-long process. As soon as my flight is booked (sometimes sooner) I begin thinking of every piece of clothing and accessory I could possibly need, lest I be stuck in a cold restaurant without a jacket or out at a trendy bar without a statement piece. Sure, it’s fun, but it also isn’t the most efficient use of time.

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These days I tend to travel at least two weeks out of every month, which means, amongst other things, that I’ve become a pro at living out of a suitcase. I know exactly what I need to pack for a week away and how to pack it so it all fits comfortably in my carry-on so I can avoid checking a bag at the gate.

The biggest moderately recent add-on to my arsenal: A thin duffle bag I lay at the bottom of my carry-on before I pack it.

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Over the years, readers have given travel tips for cities all over the world. But some tips keep popping up for city after city and should be part of your general travel habits. Not every tip works for every city, but you should run through this checklist next time you're headed somewhere new.

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I just returned from a trip to Europe with my husband's extended family. It was the first time we travelled out of the continent with our five-year-old, and despite a couple of time-change-induced meltdowns, I'm happy to report it was a net positive experience.

I'm can't yet say I'm a pro at globetrotting with kids, but I've been obsessively stealing tips from parents who are - particularly those who've mastered the art and science of packing. With this holiday, here are some things I'm so glad I brought along, and some that I wish I had thought of.