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Sunday, July 1, 2012

My List of What to Carry in an Overnight Bag

I got a request from a reader to write a blog on packing for an overnight bag in depth, and I'm happy to provide that information for you here. As my regular readers know, I am always going to give you detailed information & links to products that I personally own or know to be good, in order make your life easier. I've done the research time on the Internet so that you don't have to (that is, if you don't want to). People have different needs in overnight bags, and I want to try & address every need that I can think of, especially for women. If you just want the brief list that I myself use, so that you can print it out, here's the link for that:

Note: As is my usual style, I will provide you with links to the products I've found in my organizing & simplifying journey, though I have no affiliation with any of these companies or sellers. I must reiterate that I am under contract with no products of any kind, and any advice that I give is purely informational & is not a formal endorsement.

Normally, I wear a short-sleeved polo shirt, black boot-cut pants (because I'm tall, this is my best style), black crew socks & black walking sneakers with no decals on them as my daily "uniform", including when I travel. It is the rare place (excluding very formal places) that will not accept you wearing this outfit, and I'm quite comfortable in it. When you're traveling, even if it's just overnight, you want to feel comfy but pulled-together. Black Mary Jean shoes without a high heel can be worn with socks or knee-hi's if an establishment or workplace won't accept sneakers of any kind. High-quality, padded black flip-flops are nice in the summer if you are doing airport traveling, since you have to take off your shoes nowadays. At any rate, I will no longer sacrifice comfort & stability for fashion, in the way of high heels or fashionable-but-uncomfortable clothes. Your skin should be able to breathe in your clothing. I carry a black cross-body bag that holds a water bottle on one side in an outside pocket, and a mini-umbrella in the other outside pocket. The interior holds all that I need for day-to-day life; my wallet, checkbook/pen, keys, pressed translucent face powder, lip gloss, breath mints, a mini first-aid kit & my sunglasses. Personally, I prefer the Donner Bag for my day-to-day purse, which is sold on several websites & available in a variety of colors (mine is in black). Obviously, you do not have to be like me & wear black as your neutral. But I do recommend picking one neutral color & sticking to it for the purposes of packing, as it'll simplify your travel life a lot. Grey, true white & navy are good base colors for cooler skin tones, while ivory, tan & khaki look great on warm-toned gals. Jewelry is a very specific choice to people & can hold a lot of sentimental value to some, but usually what I usually wear is a pair of 14k or 18k yellow gold stud earrings, either little globes of gold or with a neutral stone in it like a white diamond. If you are traveling by air, I obviously recommend that you do not pack anything in a bag which will be checked. If at all possible, stick to what you're wearing on the day you travel. If you must, put your jewelry in a simple, discrete case in a carry-on bag. Stud earrings are great to wear since they can't get caught on anything. They stay in even during swimming & other water sports. More expensive stud earrings have a screw-on back, which is a nice security advantage to have. I do wear a watch with a black leather strap in most cases (it's not always appropriate, depending upon the setting, for me to pull out my cell phone just to check the time). On a super-active or tropical vacation, a sports watch like the Baby G for women can be a better choice, though. Since I like wearing jewelry a lot, I usually choose to wear a "neutral" gold ring & gold bracelet, as well. But that is totally optional. If you're traveling to a high-crime area or by airplane, you may want to skip wearing jewelry altogether, or just stick to small stud earrings. Wearing lots of jewelry can & will draw unwanted attention to you from pickpockets & theives, especially the flashier you get with it. With jewelry picks like what I described before, you shouldn't need to pack jeweled "extras" unless you'll be going to a very formal special event the next day. Less is more at all times. When you wear "basics" on your "traveling day", you'll end up more comfortable for it, and yet you'll still look polished enough.

For nightgowns, robes & some clothing options, I like Land's End products the best. Their cotton is really soft. J.Jill is my second favorite for clothing- their cotton clothes are the softest I've ever felt, but they are more expensive & their selection varies a lot. Land's End, on the other hand, has a pretty steady line of items that they stick to perfecting & keeping around. Look for items on clearance &  outlet sales on J. Jill, though- they tend to have good stuff there! J.Jill goes up to 4X in Women's clothing (size 26/28) & Land's End goes up to 3X (24/26). Land's End Business Outfitters doesn't have sleepwear, but they do have a lot of great work, casual & outerwear pieces. Also, on many items they go up to a 5X(32/34) or 34W for ladies. I love their relaxed fit polo shirt, and their items tend to come in lots of different colors, and nice ones at that. They have good cardigan sweaters, too. You do not have to belong to or own a business to order from them, either, so don't be scared off from ordering for that reason. They will hem your pants purchases to the length that you personally need for free, as well. So if you have a hard time getting pants with the right length in inseam, this is the place to check out, as they will even do unusual measurements like 29 & 1/2", too.

I do not pack shoes in an overnight bag unless it is an overnight trip where I'll need dressier shoes for an event the next day. If I'm just going somewhere to spend the night & would be going right back to work or home the next day then I don't need a separate pair of shoes in that event, since my wardrobe is set up to accommodate mostly black or dark-color clothing already. You can of course keep a pair of shoes like what I'll discuss here in this blog in your bag permanently if you have the income to afford setting aside a set like that. If you ARE going to pack shoes overnight, you can put them in a plastic grocery or small white plastic trash bag. For airport travel, I recommend using a shoe bag, though.

Some people have lifestyles where they're going to a certain type of event frequently, so you will need to adapt your bag accordingly. If the next day will include a business meeting, funeral or any other event where I must dress up, then I'll pack accordingly- which means a skirt & blazer or a dress which will not wrinkle, two pairs of a pantyhose, dress shoes & an evening bag. Linen, while terrific in the summer, tends to wrinkle badly. Rayon can also be wrinkle-prone. Be aware that I'm sharing a "full list" that you can pick and choose from, from going to an athletic event to a formal ball. The following list should work in fairly temperate weather conditions. My list is based on living in the Mid-Atlantic area of the U.S., where we have four distinct seasons but relatively mild weather full-time. If you live in a tropical or arctic area, then you will need to dress more appropriately for that climate. For me autumn means wearing a black, lined leather jacket- sometimes with a wool scarf & black driving gloves- when I go outdoors. And I'll often wear a black cardigan or blazer indoors, during autumn, winter & early spring. This is a great item to have for those times when you go into a chilly movie theater or restaurant, even in the summer, due to heavy use of air-conditioning in those places. In the wintertime, I wear a black-and-white herringbone pea coat that buttons up, along with a black winter scarf & my black driving gloves. When it's snowing or icy out, I wear winter boots with a specific tread for those conditions instead of sneakers. If you like layering, just-slightly-cool days can call for a fleece or down/quilted vest. A fleece vest can be layered really easily with a coat, too, since it doesn't add anything to the arms, and adds very little bulk to the body. If you live in an area where temperatures change a lot- and change quickly- I highly recommend adding a vest to your wardrobe & wearing or packing it for travel.

If you even think your trip could end up lasting more than a day- and this especially true with airplane travel- be prepared. Whether you're traveling for a few days or weeks, packing cubes can be helpful in separating items out neatly in a suitcase. My own travel bag (which is separate from my carry-on overnight bag) set aside for three days or more is separated into the following categories:

1) Nightgown(s)/robe
2) Bras
3) Panties/slips
4) Socks/hosiery
5) Shirts/Dresses
6) Bottoms- Pants, Shorts, Skirts

Here's a couple of links to well-liked & -designed packing cubes below:

Packing an overnight bag is not a cut-and-dried, one-size-fits-all approach, though many authors & organizers act as if it is. I always suggest buying items that will multi-task for you. A convertible overnight/laptop/backpack/airplane carry-on is my general suggestion in a choice of bags. However...when choosing an overnight bag, think carefully beforehand about your lifestyle, what you own already & what you want to carry with you in the event that you need to have this bag hold your needs for 24+ hours. Do you carry a laptop with you all the time, and if so, will you need a special sleeve for it? Are you a techie with a ton of little gadgets that need a certain kind of bag? Does your overnight bag get frequently involved with airplane travel? If so, you may want a bag with a hard handle that extends from the bag by a couple of feet or so, along with wheels on the bottom of the bag for easier walks through the terminals. Do you need a bag that will not let a men's suit, a women's blazer or dress suit, a ball gown or other item wrinkle in the least? Are you a city dweller who needs your bag to hold money & valuables more safely, with a locking mechanism on the zippers? Or are you athletic, often carrying your bag with you on your back while camping or hiking outdoors? In any event, I always recommend packing your bag with a scented dryer sheet or two (unless you're allergic to fragrance). This will help keep items from getting that stale suitcase smell, and it adds a layer of "freshness" to you, when you wear the clothes they came in contact with!

Summer weather usually requires a change in the clothing that you'll pack. I like white linen crop pants with a short-sleeved gauze, light cotton or linen shirt. Dresses or long gypsy skirts in these lighter fabrics are also great. Other options are Calcutta cloth, seersucker & voile. Any bras, panties & slips that you pack will likely be changed over from a dark color to beige accordingly. In tropical climates, clothing tends to be far more casual, so the wrinkling which occurs in summer fabrics is better tolerated. At home I'll wear tank tops, but my upper arms are not my best feature, so I don't usually wear them in public. Also, many workplaces & some establishments elsewhere do not allow tank tops, tight or cut-off shorts or flip-flops. Instead of sneakers & crew socks in hot weather, I simply wear a pair of sandals that work for both casual clothes & some dressy events (like going to church, on a date or to an interview). Here are a few examples below:

If you'll be at the beach and/or pool, you'll need to pack a bathing suit, plus perhaps a summer cover-up, flip-flops or water shoes, one or two beach towels per person & if you're trying to avoid getting too much sun, a sun hat is appropriate. Some people believe in sun exposure for health, while others do not. If you need to, pack your sunscreen for the face & body, lip balm with SPF 15+ & maybe some aloe gel for after-sun skin moisturizing.

For semi-formal or formal events in the summer, you may want to switch over to a nude-colored flat or pump to look more "with it" for that time of year. Here's a few examples:

I also wear a cooling bandana around my neck on very hot days. Military personnel often wear these in desert conditions, for example. If you're traveling, you can either pack this dry in your overnight bag or if it's wet, store it in a quart-size freezer bag that zips with a small ice pack to keep it cold. All you do to activate it is stick it in a sink with enough cold water to cover it. Little beads are in it, and expand to keep you cool for hours. As long as the ends are wrung out, it won't drip on you, either.

My Favorite Overnight/Carry-On Bags

Additional Bags
Black evening bag (this should work both for semi-formal & formal events)_
Nylon or canvas tote, preferably insulated & with a zippered top (they'll fold down beautifully flat in your overnight bag & is great if you'll be buying a knick-knack, drinks [bottle of wine or something similar], food or gifts & need some extra room that can't be afforded in your purse or overnight bag)_

Clothes (this is what I pack for my list- please obviously feel free to adapt this to your gender, wardrobe basics, climate & lifestyle)
1 black bra_
1 pair of black panties_
1 pair of black socks_
1 dark-colored cotton short-sleeved polo shirt_
1 pair of black pants_
1 negligee, nightgown or pair of pajamas, as appropriate_
1 black hooded, zippered jacket, preferably with a removable nylon shell & a fleece interior (I've provided the link to a good one below)_
1 black cardigan sweater_
[Optional] Down/quilted or fleece vest_
[Optional] If you're an exerciser, you'll probably want to pack a sports bra, workout bottoms & athletic socks. Here are my favorites:
If going to a semi-formal event: 1 dress that is NOT black (choose a color and/or pattern that is flattering to your coloring or figure; I don't recommend wearing black clothing to weddings, but your shoes & purse can still be black)_ 2 pairs of beige pantyhose (in case one pair of them gets a run in it)_ Beige or black slip (depending upon the dress color) that stops right below the knee is what I normally pack & wear- you may need a different slip length, depending upon the hemline length of your dress_
If going to a cocktail or other party that is NOT black-tie or white-tie: Black cocktail dress_ 2 pairs of black pantyhose_ Black slip_
If going to a black- or white-tie event: 1 ball gown_ 2 pairs of beige or black pantyhose (whatever is appropriate based on the color of the dress)_ Beige or black slip (again, whatever is appropriate for the dress' color; this slip will usually fall much longer, sometimes down to the ankle, depending upon the dress)_

Garment Bags (for suits or other items that cannot be folded into an overnight bag)


Other (these items are optional, but nice to have)
A game on your cell phone, a novel, crossword puzzle book, magazine or Kindle E-Reader w/ charger so you'll have something to read_
A flashlight if you'll be going out after dark & will be in an unknown place to you or you'll have a long way to walk. Some areas are not well-lit around clubs, theaters & even concert halls. If you have to walk down alleys to get somewhere, at night these places are usually very dark. (I had to do this a lot when I went to clubs or concert venues in D.C., because parking is a nightmare- you're going to be doing some serious walking down in that city!)_ Here's the link to my fave flashlight:
If traveling by air, a passport holder is great to have (around-the-neck style works best for me):
For international travel, include an electrical plug adapter:
iPod or MP3 player, plus charger (really nice if you're into music or need it for exercising)_
Spare blanket (nice to have if you'll be spending the night in a guest bed- you never know what temperature your host will keep the bedroom at!)_
A wristlet or cross-body dance bag if you'll be going out to a bar, club or concert arena (this way, you're not lugging around a purse, briefcase or man-bag):

If you're going to a semi-formal event (church, wedding, romantic date): 1 pair of comfortable black dress flats_
If you're going to a formal event (cocktail party, black-tie or white-tie event): 1 pair of comfortable black dress pumps_
If you're going to an athletic event where you'll be participating: 1 pair of black running sneakers or hiking boots_
If you're going to be doing building or any other event like working with household tools- 1 pair of black work boots_
In winter- Winter boots with a tread specifically designed to help you walk on ice & snow more easily. I found that the Toe Warmers brand is the most comfortable & gives me the best grip in my feet when snow & ice are on the ground:

Toiletries (I always recommend packing these in a fairly small, hanging toiletry bag with a well-divided interior)
All-in-One Shampoo/Body Wash/Lingerie Wash- I like a Paula's Choice product given to you in the link below. This is a fragrance-free product, so it will not conflict with your perfume, nor should it cause any allergic reactions. These products go through rigorous testing & I've found most of her products to be very high-quality. All Paula's Choice products are available in sample pack sizes, which I highly recommend, as they can go through even the testiest airport without issue, are inexpensive to purchase & last a long time when left unopened.
Body/hand moisturizer, preferably in sample packs or a 3 oz. or less-sized bottle_
[Optional] Clear nail polish, to stop runs in pantyhose, and for putting on bare fingernails and/or toenails for a polished look_
Contact lens case, travel-size cleansing/storage solution & re-wetting drops, if applicable_
Cuticle scissors or fingernail clippers to remove loose threads from clothing and/or trimming back hangnails_
Daytime facial moisturizer w/ SPF 15+ sunscreen, if applicable_ (good for oily or combination skin types) (good for normal skin types) (good for dry skin types)
Dental floss (I prefer picks instead of spools of floss)_
Deodorant/anti-perspirant (I like Mitchum Power Gel in Mountain Air- this stuff is clear & never gets on any clothing. The fragrance is not overwhelming, but it's really clean-smelling & nice to wear. It lasts at least twenty-four hours, sometimes up to forty-eight hours, which Mitchum is well-known for)_
1 set of ear plugs, if you are a light sleeper_
(Optional) Evian travel-sized water spritz, nice for airplane travel, as your face can dry out more easily in those conditions. It is also very refreshing in the summertime_
Eyeglasses case, mini-eyeglass repair kit, eyeglass cord to wear them around the neck if needed, a cleaning wipe & a small bottle of eyeglass cleaner OR eyeglass pre-moistened cleansing wipes, if applicable_
Feminine products (enough for overnight), if applicable_ For women: Remember that if you are packing maxi-pads, it's a good idea to pack one or two pairs of white or beige panties to wear under your nightgown or pajamas. If it's that time of the month, I would suggest packing extra panties, anyway. If you use maxi-pads, I don't recommend sleeping in the same panties you'll be using for daily wear, for hygienic reasons (because of sweating, etc.)
Hair Conditioner/Shave Lubricant duo- I'll include another link for my favorite combo from Paula's Choice:
Facial Cleanser/Makeup Remover/Toner all-in-one: Either cleansing wipes or sample packs of your favorite product that will not break you out or dry out your skin. If you can buy single-use packets or a 3 oz. (or less) version, do so. Here's a few of my favorites: (the 3 oz. size is $10.00 + shipping)
Hairbrush and/or comb_
Hairstyling products, if applicable, such as hair paste, gel or hairspray_
Hairstyling tools, if applicable- ponytail holders, headbands, bobby clips, travel-sized hairdryer, curling iron, straightening iron, etc._
[Optional] Lip balm_
Makeup, if applicable (foundation, pressed powder, etc.) & makeup applicators/brushes_
[Optional] Mini battery-operated fan_
[Optional] Mini first aid kit_
Or you can make up your own: .5 oz. tube of Neosporin_ A couple of small bandages, medium bandages & large bandages_ Single-dose packets or small tubes of Advil, Aleve, anti-diarrheal medicine, aspirin, diphenhydramine (Benedryl), Dramamine (motion & airplane sickness relief) and/or Tylenol; if you'll be traveling by air, keep all medicine like this sealed in it's original packaging, or airlines will not allow it onboard. If you buy the big bottles, instead, this means keep the medicine in it's original box (if it came with one) & still possessing the unbroken seal around the cap. It is not worth the headache of arguing with airport security, in my opinion, to do otherwise_
Mini-sized mouthwash_
[Optional] Mini sewing kit_
Nighttime facial moisturizer, if needed_
[Optional] Non-melting nutrition/energy/granola bar or two (to grab as a quick breakfast or snack, if needed)_
Packet of pocket tissues_
Personal sexual protection, if applicable_
Pillbox or fob with 24 hours worth of prescription medication and/or supplements that you take, if applicable. I recommend keeping this medication in your purse or a fanny pack, NOT putting it in your overnight bag. If there is ANY chance that you may be delayed more than one day, pack half a week's worth of medicine. Using pillboxes won't work for more than a couple of days straight with most airports, if they were to search your bags- they'll want the meds in their original bottle or packaging. Don't bring every pill you have in the prescription bottle, in case for some reason your medicine is seized or is lost in flight (which can happen). Bring just enough to get by for the expected duration of your trip, plus one or two days extra._
[Optional] Purell or Wet Ones wipes, mini-hand sanitizer gel and/or sanitizing spray (The spray is excellent for grocery store cart handles, ATM machines, faucets, handles, light switches & doorknobs. The wipes are good, too, if you're going to a hotel or other place where you might want to wipe down surfaces before you set stuff down or sit on them)_
1 or 2 Q-Tips_
Razor for shaving, if applicable_
[Optional] Shower cap_
[Optional] Sleep mask that blocks out light_
Solid potted version or a purse spray version (usually these are in a .5 oz. size) of your favorite perfume, if applicable_
[Optional] Spray mineral water (travel size) in a pump bottle- A lot of people like this for airplane travel or while being in very dry climates, to refresh their face. Airplane conditions can make normal-to-dry skin feel parched. No matter what, a spritz of water on the face can be very refreshing.
Toothpaste (get a small travel-size tube)_
Umbrella (if it isn't in your purse)_

*If you just want a small, cheap selection of absolute basics, this is a decent set of items to purchase*
For women-

For men-

Toiletry Bags (only needed if your overnight bag doesn't hold your toiletry items safely on it's own)

I know that this is a lot of info, but I mean for you to develop your own personal list from what I've written here. What I've included is a jumping-off point for you here, things to serve as a reminder for what's needed when you travel. I hope that it helps!

Here's to being a happy traveling organized minimalist,

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