And The Kitchen Sink Is Going, Too

Back when I used to read magazines for knowledge and insight (as opposed to now, when I’m really just looking for colorful pictures of the contents of celebrities’ grocery carts), I always loved articles that tried to teach me the smart way to pack a suitcase.

The how-to essays would inevitably advise me to take just five items of clothing (look! it can be tank top! or a bikini top! and look! it can be a shawl! or a sarong! and look! if you turn the arms inside out and wrap them counterclockwise around your torso area, you can transform your long-sleeve t-shirt into a slinky evening gown! and don’t forget a jaunty wide-brimmed hat!) – because that is all any sensible girl could possibly need.

So the information was, as you can see, terribly practical.

And I don’t know about you, but I would have major anxiety if I had to travel with only five items in my bag. Because when I travel, I like options.

Which is why, by the end of today, my suitcase will look something like this:

  • a pair of blue jeans – a traveling essential, really
  • two pairs of shorts – knee-length, of course – because I’m old
  • two cute skirts – just in case I feel like being more sassy than practical at the land of the giant mouse
  • seven shirts – three short-sleeve, two three-quarter length (just in case I can’t commit), and two long-sleeve because the west coast can be way cooler than the South, and I NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR THAT, PEOPLE
  • two pairs of cropped pants – because what if we decide that we want to go eat somewhere sort of nice, and I can hardly be expected to wear the same clothes that I’ve had on all day IN A THEME PARK, and yes, I could wear one of the skirts, but if I’ve had on a skirt all day, I can hardly be expected to want to wear one at night, too. SO I MUST HAVE OPTIONS.
  • a different pair of pajama bottoms / t-shirt for each night (apparently, in those how-to-pack-in-a-change-purse magazine stories, you’re not supposed to *ahem* wear pajamas *ahem*, but that’s just a bunch of crazy talk. CRAZY TALK, I say.)
  • enough “underpinnings” to last me for at least a week, even if I’m not going to be gone for a week, because this is one area where I do not want to be lacking. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
  • an assortment of shoes at varying degrees of comfort and color: brown sandals, black sandals, walking shoes, and at least one pair of sassy shoes (see: possibility of eating out somewhere nice)
  • at least one cute necklace and several pairs of earrings – because not even rollercoasters should inhibit a girl’s need to accessorize
  • And then we have toiletries:

  • a first-aid kit
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • a back-up pack of four toothbrushes – just in case our regular toothbrushes get caught in a piece of oily, germ-laden machinery or something
  • creme sunscreen – SPF 50
  • spray-on sunscreen – SPF 30
  • Shout! towelettes
  • make-up – though I do pare down my make-up bag to the essentials and resist the urge to pack nine different kinds of eyeshadow
  • nail polish – in whatever color I’m currently wearing, plus a back-up color in case I tire of the current color and decide that a change would do me and my toes a world of good
  • lotion – in the past, I would’ve taken one lotion to sooth tired feet and one lotion for my legs and arms – but now I’ll just take this, so as you can see, I’m totally packing light, y’all
  • skin care products – I won’t bore you with the specifics, but there is cleanser, toner, and moisturizer involved
  • an assortment of hair-care products – shampoo, conditioner, sculpting creme, hairspray, clips, ponytail holders, hair dryer, round brush, Velcro rollers, and comb – BECAUSE I’M LOW-MAINTENANCE, THAT’S WHY
  • So as you can see, I have quite a day’s work ahead of me.

    I do hope I haven’t frightened you.

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    1. One pair of pajamas for EACH NIGHT?!?!?! Huh?!?! I only OWN one pair of pajamas!!! If you shower in the morning, it doesn’t matter if you wear the same jammies you’ve worn all week!! Never, never, NEVER heard of this… Yes, I know most people own more than one pair, but I’ve never heard of wearing a fresh pair EACH NIGHT. I now rank you right up with the girl I know who changes her sheets EVERY FIVE DAYS. Fascinating…. :o)

      The multiple pairs of earrings and extra nail polish is, um, probably not necessary….truly… :o)

    2. There was an article in the Sunday paper about packing everything in one suitcase. Jack pointed it out to me. I then pointed out that the picture was of a man. Because only men can do that sort of thing.

      I usually pack at least as much as you. Because a woman must have options! And then I get to pack for four girls. Who also must have options. But somehow Jack can usually fit his stuff into one small bag! But he doesn’t have options.

    3. Don’t forget the children’s Tylenol or Motrin and band aids…they always need band aids when you least expect it.

    4. I love that you are sharing this! I am packing for our 1st roadtrip to Colorado and this is seriously helpful!

      P.S. I am not old and wear the long shorts. Didn’t you hear I am bringing cankles back? ; )


    5. A BIG, HEARTY AMEN to packing an over abundance of ‘underpinnings’. I don’t know just what exactly I’m afraid will happen while traveling but I always pack lots of extra underclothes. And since getting married, I make Ben (and now the kids) pack extra too. Of course he rolls his eyes every time.

      Have loads of fun!!!

    6. Only 7 shirts, hmmm. You may need to rethink that one! :-)

      Great checklist. I’m virtually packing (that would be making an Excel spreadsheet checklist) at this very moment!

    7. Elizabeth says:

      I love that you used the word “underpinnings.” It’s so … Martha.

    8. I would read that whole post again just for the pure delight of the word “underpinnings”.

      Love it.

      Chris in Canada

    9. PERFECT- simply PERFECT. You are a GREAT packer!!! Don’t forget to put all your lotions and wet things in a “zippy” you wouldn’t want them to squish out on everything. :) Hair ties… did you get those?? Before I zip up my suitcase… I do a head to toe checklist. So start with your hair, then ears, then face, neck, top, waist, legs, “UNDERPINNINGS” (snicker-snicker- SNORT) feet….. do that over and over again. :) That’s what works for me. :)
      Oh and a few extras…. camrea, batteries, sunglasses, hat..

      And, just a FYI I don’t think California Adventure is that fun for kids- it’s worth it just for the fact that you can walk around the park with a glass of wine or Margarita, so if you do go- go in the afternoon…. like they say- It’s 5 O’clock somewhere!!!

    10. No matter what I pack or how much I pack, it’s the wrong stuff. So now I just throw whatever will fit into my one rolly bag which I carry on and hope for the best.

    11. Here’s what I do:

      Make three piles. Pile one is the stuff it might be nice to have along. Pile two is the stuff that will probably be useful. Pile three is the stuff I can’t live without.

      I pack pile one into a carry-on and leave the other two piles at home.


    12. You and I pack the same way! It’s good to be prepared. When my husband packs he puts in one pair of underwear for each day..I think that’s just crazy! No way I could enjoy vacation knowing I didn’t have any extras!

    13. It’s always good to have options! When we went a couple of us did end up wearing skirts to the was hot and I think a cute, sassy, breezy skirt is as cool as shorts!
      Have a great time and do lots of pics.

    14. You and me are pyjama soulmates – I swear! I also wear a different pair every single night! I also use a fresh towel every single day. And I change my bedsheets every single week. Yes, that is me living.on.the.edge!!!

      Have a great trip!!

    15. because not even rollercoasters should inhibit a girl’s need to accessorize

      This should be someone’s advertising slogan!

    16. Christine says:

      LA in June…will not be cold. Capris will be fine.

    17. Leave the shampoos and conditioners, the hotel has those as well as body lotion. That will make room for more shoes. It’s all about the shoes. Don’t forget to leave space for all the stuff you will be bringing back like 3 mouse ear hats, various mouse clothing apparel, etc., etc.

      Oh and maybe mosquito spray is a must. I don’t know about mousedom but around here the things are like a batallion of dive bombers.

    18. Okay, who is going to carry that bag?! As the daughter of a former travel agent, and as someone who just took a 3 day trip with WAY too many clothes and shoes in her bag, I feel compelled to offer some tips. First of all – the pajamas are hilarious. I’ve never heard of a nightly wardrobe change for sleepwear. If you’re addicted to pajama options it may be hard to resist taking them all with you, but I’d advise an edit if you can make yourself do it. Underpinnings – never stint. You’re on the right track there! Toiletries – um. There’s a 3.4 oz limit for any one container now, and your entire selection of liquids and gels MUST fit in a single 1-liter sized ziploc bag. Some airports let you get away with this (my recent trip to CA I carried a gallon sized bag) but others don’t (my recent trip to New Orleans I had half my toiletries confiscated by a troll in a TSA uniform). Bring extra baggies with you, just in case. I recommend packing more tops than bottoms, and pack your most versatile comfortable bottoms: jeans, khakis, black trousers or skirts, etc. And one dress (not too dressy). And lastly, amen to the Shout towelettes. Oh, and pack as much as you can the day before and let the suitcases ‘settle’ for the night – you’ll be surprised how much extra room you might find in the morning. (Well, sometimes.)

    19. I take it back – I HAVE heard of nightly wardrobe changes for pajamas. On soap operas!

    20. Me and my two teenage DDs… we look like DHubby has thrown us out of the house when we go on vacation!!

    21. You forgot the most important thing:


      that and germx and baby wipes. Cause you never outgrow the need for a baby wipe bath.

      8:) (That’s my Mickey Mouse emoticon.)

    22. suzanne says:

      I’m with the pajama limit….I’m wearing my SAME COMFY jammies every night, and having a hard time replacing them because I can’t find any that are as comfy as these. And yes, I’d go with the hotel toiletries AND blow dryer. Leave more room for clothing/shoe options. And jewelry takes up hardly ANY room! Yes, need plenty of undies. And an extra plastic bag for any wet swimming suits on the return flight. So is the quart size bag of toiletries applicable if you are checking your bags or just for carry-ons?

    23. suzanne says:

      Oh, and you simply must know that I live with the LIGHTEST packer EVER…and it’s hard to travel with him. He’s gone this week for four days, and he left with a small duffel bag…one pair of pants on, and two in the bag..I’m not sure if there was anything else in the bag or not! =@

    24. I think the quart size bag limit is for carry-on, but don’t be surprised if TSA opens your checked bags. I put all our stuff in zip lock bags, sit on them, then zip them up. You wouldn’t believe how that saves space, plus it keeps other hands off your clean belongings. When we went to Israel I forgot my husband’s “underpinnings”. He only had the ones he was wearing–I cried. We just washed that single pair out each night, resorted to some very creative drying processes, and the next morning he had clean underwear. It was the third day of our trip before we were able to purchase two extra pair. That give him a pair to wear, a pair to be drying and an extra pair. It was a great learning experience for us. I still take a pair for each day and one extra. LOL

      Leave the long-sleeves and three-quarter sleeves at home and take a sweater, it won’t that cool in southern CA.

    25. Take it all Boomama. Take it all. You’re gonna wish you did anyway, so you might as well have your peace of mind that you have your stuff near you…

      And take an extra case for all the extra stuff you’re bringing back. Because believe me, you’ll be bringing stuff back!

      I went to Mouseland a couple of years ago, and I had on comfy sandals that could get wet. You never know when you’ll go on a water ride or when someone will bump you while you’re carrying your Coke… Good times, I tell you.

      Have so much fun!

    26. What about a swimsuit and robe for the pool? Just wondering, as I always forget my bathingsuit and end up buying something atrociously unflattering and overpriced.


    27. Coming out of “blog hiding” for you BooMama. Here’s a link to airline info./tips for traveling. Hope this helps! Have a fun time and a safe trip to the land of the big mouse. :)

      LOVE your blog!!

    28. Have fun! Don’t forget to have the breakfast Mickey Mouse Belgium waffles!!!! I want to hear how much you savored them for me.

      Another way you could pack is to do what we did to Estes Park this past weekend…don’t pack and buy it all when you get there. It was simple :) smiling hugely (it was also dumb :) smiling even bigger!
      Love ya!

    29. Ok, I don’t know about all of these CRAZY people that don’t wear clean pajamas every night, but I am right there with you! And I always pack extra everything for all 3 of us (I pack for my husband, because he just doesn’t know how to be prepared like I do)!!!

    30. If you want to eat someplace nice, try th e restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It’s got atmosphere, stuff to look at AND the food ROCKS!

    31. This is definitely a job for Packing 911. I’ve sent out an APB.

    32. Seriously . . . new pj’s for each night? Two sets of pj’s max – you’re clean when you put them on – after your shower, you take them off when you get up. This will lighten your load big time!

    33. I love wearing sassy skirts in the summer time. They are just as cool as shorts to me.

      WHAT ABOUT SHOES??!! :)

    34. I’m just impressed that you can still wear shorts.

      Pack it all! I’m the same way. You’ll be upset that you didn’t.

      Oh and we went to “Chocolate Capital USA” this weekend and I wore a sundress (and crocs) to the themepark and it was just fine. And SASSY.

    35. My husband and I just went to Ireland/England for 2 weeks. I was so impressed with the fact that I packed light. We were sort of forced to, but I didn’t take everything, plus the kitchen sink! ha
      For Reluctant Entertainers
      PS Thanks for the tips!

    36. If we ever find ourselves traveling together and sharing a hotel room, I am afraid one room may not hold all the overpacking.

      And you better throw in that kitchen sink because you just never know.

    37. Oh, I feel your pain! When we went to Paris (twice) the Feller told me both times, “TWO PAIRS OF SHOES!!” Humph..not likely! I had to pack for a week IN PARIS, FOLKS! IN ONE SUITCASE! We are talking LOTS of walking and sightseeing, lots of eating in fancy-schmancy French restaurants, a fashion show, a river cruise, etc., etc….you can just imagine!! Not to mention everyone in Paris dresses up all the time, even the bums. I kid you not, it took me a month to pack and repack. I still forgot a pair of jeans and khakis the first time and had to suffer the humiliation of buying a pair of jeans IN THE MEN’S department cause apparently, jeans in Paris only fit French women who have no badunk-adunk butts or thunder thighs. *sob* I remembered them the next time! But, I managed, even the second time around when it was cold and winter stuff is much bulkier. My trick? I used three basic colors: red, black, cream. Everything matched everything and I wound up with outfits unworn (mixed up, of course) My biggest splurge was the shoes ’cause I have funky feet and they hurt if I wear the same shoes every day. (did you buy that? the feller didn’t) My biggest regret WAS over packing ’cause I had to limit purchases. I had no where left to stuff them. Oh yeah, I had to keep my bag under the 50 pound weight limit. It was a nightmare, truly. The only thing that saved me was that we could still carry liquids in our carry ons so all shampoo, lotions, makeup, etc was with me. I used all the mini bottles I could find and threw them out when they were empty. One thing I did not take and sure missed…a wash cloth. Never go to France without one ’cause we never found anyone who knows what they are. I guess they wash with their hands.
      Good luck and my rule: pack your case to completion, step away, then come back and remove no less than 5 items, preferably more. I promise, you will never miss them.

    38. All I have to say is if I wore a skirt to a theme park, my thighs would need an ambulance at the end of the day…with all that rubbing together.

    39. Your use of the word “underpinnings” is cracking me up! I, too, tend to over pack; you never know what you might want to wear.

    40. Leanne from Canada says:

      I’m coming out of hiding too to say have a great time(I get such a laugh from your blog!)….we just enjoyed a trip there in April with our 4 kids. I always pack too much too but why not…it gets checked on the plane!!! If you’re coming out to eat, try a meal or two at MiMi’s. They have huge portions (you can literally share a meal ), and very tasty food…a welcome break from all of the fast food. If you’re renting a car you can drive about 15 minutes up to Brea Mall (a wonderful mall by the way), and eat at Cheesecake Factory. If you’ve yet to experience this restaurant it is well worth the drive….our kids still talk about the good food with the HUGE portions. (Not to mention fabulous cheesecakes!!) You’ll probably want to break up some of your days by coming out in the afternoon when the crowds are the biggest and heading off for a swim or a nap. Please don’t miss taking in the show”Bill Hilly and the Hillbillies”’s at the Golden Horseshow where you can actually sit and eat and rest your feet…get there early to get a seat but it is so worth it…a very funny show!! Have a blast. (If you’re there on a Sunday you might want to take in a service at the Crystal Cathedral just to see that amazing pipe organ…our kids were absolutely fascinated…sit in the lower balcony and the pipes are right behind your head!!)Enjoy!!

    41. You lost me at “underpinnings” and I totally missed the part about shoes the first time-sorry.

      Have a fabulous time! ( say it like Franck in Father of the Bride )

    42. Absolutely wear the skirts to the theme park! I do – they just need to be long enough to “tuck” if you find yourself sitting crosslegged on the street waiting for the mouse parade.

      If needed – pack an empty lightweight duffel for dirty clothes to return via checked luggage and have room in your bags for souvenirs purchased.

      And as an Expat traveler and survivor of the Heathrow incident last summer – the limited liquids only applies to carryone luggage. I fully intend on taking a large bottle of KC Masterpiece and some Log Cabin syrup back with me from the States this summer. I will fight them in Customs for it!

    43. Ooops – that KC Masterpiece and Log Cabin will be in my “checked” luggage.

    44. My goal is to get all of my stuff in one bag. This is helped when I am visiting friends/family for an extended period of time and I just wash my clothes there.

    45. Frances says:

      OK, first of all, I think you could start a whole ‘nother debate about whether you sleep in a different pair of pj’s each night (each of my girls, though I swear it’s so Mom will have more laundry to do) or you wear the same one each night (I honestly thought it was just because they were comfy, but the whole laundry thing brings other thoughts to my mind…)like Mom does and wash them when you do laundry…but I do hope you’re taking the puter to the big mouse because I don’t think I could go a whole week without you. And if you blog each night after the boys are in bed, we could relive the day’s (mis)adventures with you : )

    46. Leanne from Canada says:

      Wow…you’re quick to reply…so here’s a couple more absolute MUST suggestions for you, especially if the crowds are big (they will be nothing like they were for us in April…crazy 1-2 hour lines at the big rides!!). Do not wait a long time at a ride if it has a fast pass….get to know the fast pass system and USE IT…even if it means one adult runs at the appointed time to “re-fast pass” your ticket. This might all sound like greek to you but ask somebody in the know ‘cuz it is worth it for the short line-up you’ll enjoy…also for the big rides that your little guy will not enjoy…definitely use the single rider line and you’ll get right on and then your hubby can do the same (only some rides have the single rider option but it also is well worth it…don’t miss California Screamin in California Adventure Park…if you love roller coasters you may want to do this one, oh, about a million times…not for the weak of stomach!!!)…ENJOY!!!

    47. yes to all of that and that’s just the stuff that goes in the suitcase. what about all the carry on stuff like laptops and books and magazines and ipods and cell phones and carmex and cameras? that’s the stuff that makes my husband nuts.

    48. connie says:

      All this time I thought you were going to Orlando!! I now understand the concern about the flight! “ding”

    49. I pack the same way. *sigh* No matter how hard I try I end up taking too much because, like you, I must have options.

      The one time I was successful in not bringing too much, my 4 year old threw up on my only pair of pajamas, and my baby threw up on my last clean shirt… basically leaving me nothing to wear on the final day of our trip.

      Next time I’m bringing TONS of clothes.

    50. Oh, Boomama, you’re a HOOT. And yes OF COURSE we must have options. Sheesh! ;-)

    51. Lea Margaret says:

      I think that the hotel has shampoo.

    52. I SURE hope you packed your “jj”!! ;-) Can’t wait to hear about everything!! xo!

    53. I’m tired just reading your list. And I’m kind of glad that I’m not going on vacation real soon. Because when I pack, not only do I pack all that stuff (well, not ALL that stuff, as I DO wear my pajamas all week–sorry to gross you out), but I have to pack for the 6 other members of my family. Yes, I start about a week before and everything is chaos until it is all packed. So, I’ll enjoy my summer at home and let people come to visit me.

    54. I always pack lots of options, too. But then I am also known for cramming an amazing amount of stuff into as small of a space as possible! :)

      A tip: When I packed for our cross country trip, I used a lot of gallon sized ziploc bags and it really made everything so much easier. I put a change of clothes for each person inside a ziploc bag and squished all the air out of it for carrying in our ‘airplaine backpacks.’ They really took up a lot less space that way. I used ziplocs for toiletries and things that might leak and it helped to contain small things together in one place. Also, I took a small duffel bag that folded neatly and packed it in our suitcase. I knew that we would have more stuff coming back – and we did!

      Have a great trip!!

    55. Although the airline might not see it that way, you can never pack too much. You never know what will happen, actually. I know as I have gone to visit family in Maryland twice (twice!) in May only to be caught in the middle of a freaking cold spell (with no jacket and no longsleeves).

    56. YOU are so funny!! We went to D-land for Christmas this year and I went through the same stuff…I like to think of myself as L.M., too, despite being charged by the airlines on the way to L.A. for over wt. bags.
      In the end…we did pack way to much. And as far as weird goes…I’m a shower-in-the-morning AND a shower-before-I-go-to-bed girl. AND I change PJs every other nite. Maybe a little OCD going on…