First packing attempt....

First packing attempt....

What to pack?  It's a dilemma faced by all travelers.  Should you pack enough changes of clothes so you aren't bothered washing things out in the sink or hunting down a laundry?  Bring only 3 changes of clothes and either wear and wear and wear again (yuck) or hope to find a place to do a wash-up?

Handwashing in the sink is usually not the problem -- it's getting the stuff dry in a reasonable amount of time.  I have yet to find a quick-dry anything that will dry overnight in a humid place like Ireland or the Scottish Highlands.  Shampoo is great for handwashing, by the way. If you are lucky, your room may have a hairdryer or heated towel rack to help speed things along.   And it seems that soiled clothes take up more space in your suitcase than clean duds.  My sister subscribes to the "throw-away" principle, at least where underwear is concerned.  She brings her oldest undies -- enough for the whole trip plus one or two more -- and each night, tosses the day's pair in the trash.  I did the same thing on our recent trip to Scotland and found it rather liberating!

Above you will see the first aborted attempt for a pack to Scotland.  Six attempts later, I had pared it down considerably.  While it was still hot early autumn here in California, Scotland's forecast was rainy and chilly.  So we packed rain jackets, fleece, gloves, wool cap and rain pants.  I also packed lycra leggings (in place of long johns) and a swimsuit, just in case we could swim at the Fairy Pools.  In retrospect, that was insanity as the weather was quite a bit warmer than we expected.   While I did wear the rain jacket daily, the rest just took up space.  With a hooded rain jacket, I never needed the wool cap, gloves were worn once, and the Fairy Pools were so cold, I didn't even consider swimming.

The binoculars were another waste of space.  I packed a bright coral-colored lightweight hoody, which I absolutely love.  But it got dirty too fast.  Other good packing items were my own GPS, preprogrammed with the local maps and first night's stop.  A facecloth was worth its weight in gold, because many accommodations outside the US don't provide them.  I used a small quick drying sport towel and kept it packed in an outside pocket to dry off during the day.

What we needed and didn't have:  more wool socks, a change purse, a couple more button shirts, a little notepad, hair spray, A COMMUTER CUP!, Imodium, and spot mirrors.

Eh?  Spot mirrors?  Oh yes.  These are little round magnifying mirrors with a sticky back that you put on your car side mirrors.  Believe me, when you are driving on the other side of a narrow road in a strange car, you need all the help you can get.  I would have stuck them on at the rental shop and just left them on when I returned the car.

Hair spray -- what can I say?  I generally don't get all worked up about my hair, but a couple of times I caught some strange looks from passerby and knew I had surpassed the "tousled" look and gone Wild Woman: 

Wild hair day

Wild hair day

So here's what I took and used/needed for two weeks in Scotland, staying in B&Bs with no laundry.  This all fit in a carry-on bag.  I did check that bag though, to save my back.  For carry-on I used a day pack with one change of clothes in it, my meds, camera, purse contents.  As a last ditch, if I have to abandon everything, I use a travel neck pouch that holds my credit cards, passport, and cash. 

  • Clothes:  rain jacket, 3 pairs khaki pants (not jeans), 4 knit long-sleeved t-shirts, 1 wool pullover sweater, 1 lightweight nightgown, 4 pair wool hiker socks, scarf, underwear, 1 pair pressure socks for flight, 1 pair hiking boots, 1 pair casual oxford shoes, travel slippers
  • other stuff:  toiletries (3 oz bottles of shampoo, conditioner, liquid bath soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss); hair spray/gel; medications in the bottles from the pharmacy; Advil or similar pain med; 1st aid cream; Benadryl cream (for the midge bites!), 2nd pair eyeglasses; sunglasses; Wet Ones; Swiss Army knife(only if you are checking your bag); small flashlight;  a couple snack items, instant coffee; chewing gum; a Spork (from REI -- Lexan plastic spoon/fork/knife); tiny sewing kit; camera
  • Electronics:  Maps, GPS & cord; power converter (Rick Steve's is the best); cell phone, charger; Samsung Galaxy tablet (great maps!) and cord.  My cell carrier is AT&T, so I put a small international plan on for calling and texting.  It was great for making calls to confirm hotels or verify opening hours.  On my Galaxy tablet, I put on the Google Hangouts app.  I used it in the US for calling home for free and found out it works in the UK, too, as long as you have wifi!  I was able to call home every night to check in.
  • Entertainment:  I knit on the plane, so I took a couple pairs of wood circular needles and yarn; a book (or books on your tablet); I journal when I travel, so I make my own 4 x 8" faux-Midori inserts with a combination of watercolor paper and mixed media paper; travel watercolor set; black drawing pens; a glue stick, Washi tape and tiny scissors.  Yes!  With the glue stick or Washi tape you can stick all manner of stuff in your journal -- tickets, brochures, maps, stamps -- you name it.  And the scissors are helpful for trimming and knitting!
  • Another use for the washi tape -- figure out where the sweet spot is on your rental car dashboard that keeps you lined up and in your lane, and then put that tape on the spot.