"Snuggie" isn't even a real word.
May 30, 2011 10:15 PM   Subscribe

You know how sometimes you find a single object that makes travel so much less inconvenient, uncomfortable, or disorganized? I'm going from the US to Russia (St. Petersburg) in a few weeks - please tell me what I would buy now if only I knew of its existence. Stuff for plane trips, packing, or just living out of a suitcase are all welcome.

It's a long plane ride, and I plan to sleep if I can. We'll be there for about ten days and will be staying with family friends, but moving between a few locations. I'm female, about average-maintenance. I always end up with too many liquids in my checked luggage and too many books in my carry-on. I always manage to overpack, and inevitably struggle with armloads of stuff at the airport.

I did find some good suggestions in other Ask threads about flying, such as Snuggies (!) and TravelRest pillows, but I'm also interested in new developments and in stuff aimed at streamlining my life after I disembark.

I travel to destinations within the US semi-regularly, so I'd be willing to invest in higher-quality things.
posted by you're a kitty! to Travel & Transportation around St. Petersburg, Russian Federation (68 answers total) 117 users marked this as a favorite
Those little foam earplugs
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:22 PM on May 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

Set of plug adaptors
posted by bq at 10:23 PM on May 30, 2011

Best answer: I know this is super-pricey, but seriously, my Kindle changed my travel experience. I fly for work a few times per year, and between being a fast reader and the trips being *just* long enough, I'd be packing 4-5 paperbacks which is both heavy and space-consuming. Not a problem any longer! If you are someone who reads 2+ hours at a stretch and can at all afford it, invest in an e-ink reader. Especially if you love some classic public domain literature.

Oh yes, and earplugs + eye mask for overnight travel. Dear FSM, yes. Picked up this one from Target and LOVE the built-in eye pillow; it really blocks out light better than any other mask I've found.

If you're a gadgety traveler, you might might want to consider one of these all-in-one back-ups, something like this. Just make sure it has whatever tips you need ahead of time.

Also, pack some empty ziplock bags. They nearly always seem to come in handy.
posted by smirkette at 10:29 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

A kindle has solved my too-many-books problem, and a set of 100ml refillable shower gel/shampoo/gunk bottles makes the liquids problem moot for smaller trips. A smartphone is great for videos, storing trip info, book reading in a pinch, mp3s, etc, and cuts the gadget total down, especially if you would otherwise take a laptop. Also...in ear phones can be as good as noise cancelling phones, and even earplugs.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:31 PM on May 30, 2011

Noise cancelling earphones. I'd recommend passive in-ear ones since they're much smaller.

Kindles weigh less than books.

Quick-drying clothing for doing laundry on the run. Bonus points for skirts that are also dresses and double bonus if they have pockets. Comfortable shoes that also look good are snazzy so you don't carry extra pairs with you.

Do not check bags, and consider getting a smaller suitcase even if you do. The main way I force myself to not overpack is by not having extra space.

Roll your clothing up to prevent wrinkles rather than just stuffing it in your bag. Have a section in your bag for dirty things so you can easily find something clean to wear when you need it.
posted by nat at 10:35 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pashmina and/or sarong.

Pashmina =
- blanket on the plane
- head or shoulder covering if you need one (eg visiting churches)
- wrap for poshing up your evening outfit
- scarf if it gets chilly

Sarong =
- spare skirt
- spare towel or cover-up
- pillow or seat cover if those on offer are grotty
- you can wrap things up in it to carry them if you need to
- head/shoulder covering as above

And both of them are excellent to wrap around fragile souveniers on the way home
posted by girlgenius at 10:37 PM on May 30, 2011 [11 favorites]

Thirding the kindle. Revolutionised travel for me - no longer have to lug around heavy books (and/or swap them for inferior options found when travelling once done :) and can choose between a huge selection depending on your mood. The battery runs for such a long time, it feels like it doesn't even use power.

Great also for queues - e.g. customs and airport security.
posted by mrme at 10:53 PM on May 30, 2011

If you drink tea, some tea. I'm a tea fiend, and I always pack some high quality tea with me. And a few teabags weigh practically nothing. Even if you have good tea where you're going, sometimes it's comforting to have a familiar drink at the end of a long day.

If you wear glasses, an extra glasses case.

If you like puzzles at all, a good puzzle book, or issue of a puzzle magazine, is a lot lighter than a book, and unless you can just tear through those Sudoku, may provide you with much more entertainment than a book would. I always travel with one of those Logic puzzle magazines.

And I cannot emphasize those little foam earplugs enough. You think you don't need them - until you find out that your roommate is a snorer. Or talks in their sleep. Or has a Siamese who likes to howl out the window at 2am JUST BECAUSE. Or decides to have sex. They're small; bring multiple pairs.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:54 PM on May 30, 2011

Best answer: Love my Go-toobs. Recently located this excellent travel jewelry case -- and really like the handbag too. And I very much recommend travel underwear and a small container of travel soap and small travel clothesline to go with it. And lastly recommend Merrell for travel shoes.
posted by bearwife at 11:03 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you have an iPhone you already have a kindle, albeit a small one. The app is totally free. I assume there is one for Droid too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:25 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep, Kindle. A travel packet of wet wipes (Cotonelle, etc). Scanned copies of all your important documents, emailed to your own account, accessible from anywhere. A neutral-scented, clean-absorbing moisturizer that you can keep on yourself and is good for all your parts (face, hands, feet).
posted by halogen at 11:31 PM on May 30, 2011

Anything that you can do to prevent/mitigate menstrual woes. This might mean fiddling with pill timing, it might mean using a Diva cup instead of tampons, it definitely means bringing an ample supply of your tampons of choice, because even if you fiddle, and bring a Diva cup, something may go wrong. Do bring your over the counter pain medicine of choice. It's not that you won't be able to find it in Russia, but you'll have to find it, and that's usually not convenient when you're bleeding or in pain.

As someone who has a terrible cough right now, I'm imagining having this cough while traveling. Whatever you take for a cough, it would be worth it's weight in gold overseas, if you take something in tablet form. Cough syrup, well, if I tried to travel with it, I'd have a grape explosion in my bag.

Sure, this sounds like a hassle, but make sure you have phone numbers for the consulate, embassy, etc. Photo copies of your passport and other documents - travel insurance, etc - , kept in a separate place. Also, make sure to leave a copy of everyone's documents with a family member here, because if you can't get to a computer, you can't get to your email. Also, if there's any chance your cell phones won't work, keep a few family phone numbers in your purse/wallets.

Finally, proof of vaccination/immunity. The CDC is recommending vax/immunity for measles for ALL international travel. Get your titer done now and update as necessary. Tuberculosis is currently a big problem in Russian prisons, where it is not well treated. Those released from prison are walking vectors. I'm a big fan of "better safe than sorry."
posted by bilabial at 11:39 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. I dont leave home without them.
posted by Fiat124 at 11:42 PM on May 30, 2011

Best answer: Duct tape always comes in handy for something; not the whole roll, just a little bit wound around a tube or bottle of something. It's held curtains together, temporarily mended torn hems, etc.
posted by lois1950 at 11:47 PM on May 30, 2011

If your travel bag is deep like mine [I only take one bag to avoid checking in luggage] attach a small LED torch by a small climbing carabena onto the inside of the top zip. I can find things in the dark in shared rooms, get to the toilet in the night etc.

And when traveling to exotic lands, I like to take small tokens from my home country to give to hosts, co-travelers. Light paper bookmarks, small badges, stickers etc.

A small roll of surgical tape comes in handy too - as mentioned above. It works for pragmatic things as well as rescuing sore spots in walking shoes.

I always take a pack of wet tissues, flushable if possible, and some Uricleanse tablets.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:53 PM on May 30, 2011

Best answer: I love love love my Eagle Creek packing cubes, especially when I'm travelling to a few destinations. It makes keeping your clothes organised so much easier. I have a two sided cube, a long one for socks and tights, and a flat one for my dresses. I'd never travel without them now.
posted by ukdanae at 12:07 AM on May 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Really nice insoles for all your shoes. I'm a fan of those dr. scholl's gel things, but different people have different preferences. I've found that, unfortunately, there is a correlation between price and comfort level. My best friend swears by those bright green superfeet insoles. Even though you think of flying and traveling as involving a lot of sitting down, there's far more standing and walking - in lines, around new towns, traversing airports, standing on public transport - than you might realize. Comfy feet are paramount.
posted by Mizu at 12:58 AM on May 31, 2011

Seconding Eagle Creek Pack-it gear, especially the folders. I can get a week's worth of workshirts and a pair of trousers into a very small space, they are fantastic.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:01 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I travel a lot and the things that I miss when I don't pack them are my pashmina wrap (in hot countries they overdo the aircon, and obviously good when you are cold), my little foam earplugs (because I don't have noisecancelling headphones and cutting out the noise really does make it more bearable), my multi-power adapter (takes any plug and lets you plug it into anything).

If you travel semi-regularly, buy some decent luggage of appropriate sizing. For me, that means soft luggage with wheels (e.g.wheeled duffle). I have had the same luggage now for about five years with many trips (and have lent it to colleagues), and including commuting that involves rolling it on sidewalks for reasonable distances.

Definitely get the small toiletry bottles and decant into them before each trip. It saves heaps of weight and stops you getting so exhausted hauling your luggage.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:36 AM on May 31, 2011

I love this site on one-bag travel. Totally changed the way I travel. No specific recommendations, just an approach to the too-much-stuff problem I found helpful.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:46 AM on May 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Seconding the Eagle Creek (or similar) packing cubes.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:24 AM on May 31, 2011

For the holidays, I had two bags from Tom Bihn: an Aeronaut and an Empire Builder for my MacBook Pro. Both had the Absolute Shoulder Straps; I got 2 small and 1 large and 2 side-pocket packing cubes for the Aeronaut, and a Clear Quarter Packing Cube fit on top of the main compartment. Organization was clean and clear, things arrived in a reasonably good condition (needed about 10 minutes in the dryer for my Christmas Clothes to get some of the wrinkles out), and we were good.

The only problem I had at all was that I was transferring through Minneapolis - St. Paul Airport, and that place is ridiculously huge. (I came in a gate in the F wing and left from the A wing. The place is less transfer-friendly than Dallas or LAX, and I am saying that from personal experience.)

Those two bags - since one was my laptop bag and went under the seat nicely - took up my luggage allowance, and I didn't need to check a thing. (Then I UPS'd my presents home to Seattle.)
posted by mephron at 4:30 AM on May 31, 2011

I've been finding the Amazon Basics Electronics Travel Case as a very handy way of keeping my gadget ephemera in some sort of order while on the move. Found via BB.
posted by bright cold day at 4:35 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some kind of ereader, absolutely. I was always a little wary. Then I went on vacation with one and it was fantastic. I did not have to worry I was reading too fast, etc.

A pashmina is excellent for the reasons above. Bring cozy socks for the plane ride. Don't travel in jeans -- try a skirt and leggings, it's more comfortable to sleep in.
posted by jeather at 4:36 AM on May 31, 2011

A good ambient music playlist for your ipod/iphone/kindle.

Combined with the noise-cancelling headphones people are recommending here, sometimes it's good to have background music that can drown out exterior noise yet is suitable to doze off listening to.
posted by panaceanot at 4:37 AM on May 31, 2011

If you have an iPhone you already have a kindle, albeit a small one.

Not quite. The true Kindle adds the benefit of free worldwide 3G that iPhone/iPads/Androids can't match. This has been a godsend to me many times when roaming would have been $deadly or unavailable and wifi was nowhere to be found. Slow, clunky web browser and e-mail, sure, but it just works. And the thing is small and cheap enough that you won't flinch when you drop it or someone sits on it. Heck, even the somewhat unnerving 'cloud' nature of your data makes the actual device pretty disposable. Get a new one, sync it back up, nothing lost.

"Performance" socks, underwear and t-shirts that compress down small enough to squish into your carryon bag and that you can wash in the sink and dry in a couple hours. I like the Ex Officio ones, but there are many brands. I've lived a few weekends with lost luggage and so always carry at least one of each in my carryon now.

Nthing the Eagle Creek gear, which has saved me countless hours of hotel room ironing. I like the shirt folders since they take up almost nil space when empty.

Dristan, earplugs and if you're me... Sudafed for airplanes.

Speaking of which... compression socks for long-distance flying, too. Your feet just land so much happier.

A towel.

No tea.
posted by rokusan at 4:39 AM on May 31, 2011

Nthing the Kindle. Battery life is incredible compared to smartphones. It's handy not just for the weight of books you save, but the selection - I have about 120 books on mine at the moment, some new, and many old favorites - so if I find myself reading something that I don't like as much as I thought I would, or if it's just not the thing I want to read right now, I just flip over to that. Also, it plays Audible audiobooks. Also, there are games like Scrabble and Panda Poet. All with that battery life.
posted by tomboko at 4:41 AM on May 31, 2011

I think you're operating from a false premise here. The reason travel is inconvenient for you is probably not because you don't have the right stuff, but because you have too much stuff. Sure, some of the things on here are convenient--I recommend noise-canceling headphones myself--but in general, you're going to do a lot better if you just bring less stuff.
posted by valkyryn at 4:42 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, sorry, I see you're of the sexier travel underwear gender.

(I assume they are functionally identical no matter what kind of bits are inside.)
posted by rokusan at 4:42 AM on May 31, 2011

My husband suggested also, "First class ticket." :)
posted by tomboko at 4:44 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Always a change of underwear in my carry-on for particularly long trips. Simple way to feel refreshed during a long layover.
posted by fso at 4:55 AM on May 31, 2011

The best little secret I use for long distance travel: panty liners! Clean underwear without having to change your clothes. Really nice for the overnight/long-haul air travel, where you're in the same outfit for a really long time (leave day/night flight/destination day 1).

Also Chico's "Travelers" line packs tiny with no wrinkles, and you look a little dressier while feeling like you're wearing pajamas.
posted by mimi at 5:16 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wear some kind of jacket during your travel days. With lots of pockets. If you can get away with it, field jacket. If not, some kind of blazer or sportcoat-esque thing. You can get a lot of shit into a jacket, and you just throw it in the bin while going through security.

And it is a lot harder to get your stuff stolen when it is part of your clothes.

(Wear shoes that don't have metal in them. I literally took apart a pair of shoes that kept setting off the metal detectors, and sure as hell, there was a piece of steel in each to stiffen the insole. Rage!)
posted by gjc at 5:25 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shaving oil - one tiny bottle instead of a whole aerosol can of gel. Possibly the best single space-saving thing I have. Solid shampoo, although I do understand that Lush is not for everyone. They do solid conditioner as well, if you can find on that works for you. For ten days you can use face moisturiser as body lotion and that's one less thing to pack (so long as you don't have insanely expensive stuff for your face, I suppose).

No more than three books, of which no more than two in your carry on, and at least one of which you intend to leave behind at your destination (while you can buy another book to replace it, it's kind of cheating). A kindle is on my list of things to buy when I get a new job.

A tote bag that folds up really small, kept in your handbag, so that when you end up buying a bottle of water and a puzzle book and some last minute presents at the airport, you stick all of that and your handbag into the tote, leaving you with the same number of bags you had before.
posted by Lebannen at 6:01 AM on May 31, 2011

I also love the Eagle Creek Pack-it Cubes.
A tote bag that packs up small, for when you come home with too many souvenirs.
Neck pillow for the plane (inflatable).
A cardigan or light jacket, I'm always cold on airplanes.
Tums, Pepto Bismol, or some such.
I also wear shoes that slip off easily when going to the airport. I wish the people in front of me in the security line did, too.
Wet wipes for your face. I don't know why, but even on a short flight I turn into a nasty greaseball. It's nice to freshen up mid-flight instead of feeling like I haven't showered in a year.
If you want to take a pen, make sure it's the kind that won't leak on an airplane (guess how I figured that one out.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:17 AM on May 31, 2011

I studied abroad in Russia, and I will say the one thing that made a big difference was a small battery operated alarm clock.

I didn't have to bother with a plug adapter as the only things I brought for electronics were a disc player that I rarely used except for travel within the country or in and out of the country and the alarm clock.

I'd recommend AGAINST something like a Kindle or anything else that would require charging if you don't absolutely need it --- not only for the charging factor but the likely-to-get-stolen factor. A couple of small books should suffice, and don't discount the very real possibility that you will be BUYING things there to come home. Definitely leave room in whatever luggage you bring to bring back extra items.

Also, DON'T bring anything you can't afford to lose. Any valuable jewelery beyond wedding rings I'd leave behind, and I'd absolutely make sure you claim anything of that sort on your entry customs' form. I don't know what the customs situation is now, but I recall when I went in and out of Russia in 2002-2003, customs agents and other airport officials could be really corrupt. Many -- most even --- are probably not, but it wasn't a risk I was willing to take.
posted by zizzle at 6:20 AM on May 31, 2011

I like traveling with 2 bags, one carryon-size rolling bag, and one small briefcase that I can easily fit under the seat in front of me. The briefcase gets my laptop, ipod, reading material, and maybe a snack, and everything else goes into the rolling suitcase.

It's easier to pack if you don't have the mentality that you need a completely fresh change of clothes every day of the week.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2011

Go-girl and/or p-style.

You can pee standing up... So cool! And you don't have to worry about nasty bathrooms, or no bathrooms.

Each has its own benefits/draw backs. Since they are cheap, I recommend one of each and seeing which suits you better. I recently got both to try and they both are great, though I prefer the go-girl because it is foldable rather than hard plastic like the style.
posted by HMSSM at 7:46 AM on May 31, 2011

Agreed with craven_morhead that you do not need an entirely new outfit every day. For 10 on-the-ground days I'd pack two pair of slacks (black), four nice (work grade, for me) tops, one fancier top, one pair of lounge/exercise/pajama pants, panties for every day, one bra, one pair of dress shoes, socks as required and flip-flops to use as slippers etc. I'd wear another pair of slacks and the lounge/exercise/pajama shirt (I take a long-sleeved black t-shirt for this) on the plane, plus another bra and walking-grade shoes.

That's still a lot of clothes. If I was sure what I was doing every day I could probably cut down a shirt or two. Note: there's almost nowhere else in the developed world outside the US where people walk around in crappy clothes, so pack to be well-dressed every day. I wouldn't take jeans or sneakers (for one thing, they're heavy) since that isn't generally how grown-ups dress. Don't take any Dry Clean Only items unless maybe you needed a very nice dress for something - ask your hosts. Everything else can be washed in a sink (including panties, but I figure they weigh an ounce or two and take up no space, and I hate sink-washed socks).

Since you're staying with someone, they can either share their liquid toiletries or take you to get some.

Honestly, my One True Thing would also be a Kindle (or more accurately IS a Kindle, though mine is not international 3G and I'm probably going to have to fix that soon). If I was going to be traveling for that long and then be at a host's mercy for 10 days, I would need to be absolutely sure I had lots of reading material at hand.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:51 AM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: Oh, for Saint Petersburg, I also absolutely suggest that you carry those pocket tissue packs because very few public restrooms in Russia have toilet paper.
posted by zizzle at 8:55 AM on May 31, 2011

Yup -- battery operated alarm clock, quick-dry socks and undies, pashmina, and packing cubes are all essential. Except instead of packing cubes, I just use big ziplock bags. They're cheaper and work almost as well. I also bring along a pack of laundry soap sheets, which makes doing laundry in the sink really easy.

The one bag site linked above is pretty awesome. I highly recommend taking a look at it. valkyryn is totally right: it's not that you don't have the right stuff to travel; you just have too much of it.

Hope you have a great trip in Russia and a safe, easy, and light travel experience!
posted by k8lin at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2011

Best answer: Toiletry bags that hang are great and easy to pack up for moves to different locations. Here are some at REI.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:26 AM on May 31, 2011

2-gallon, 1-gallon, and some quart and sandwich-sized Ziploc bags to keep things visible and sorted as you live out of a suitcase. I fill mine with clothes (the 2-gallon size), underwear, scarves, etc. and sit on them to squeeze out the air. The smaller ones are great for jewelry and other easy-to-lose-items. If I'm staying someplace for a while, and there's a dresser, I just throw the filled Ziplocs into the drawer. Then I'm three-quarters repacked when it's time to leave.
posted by Elsie at 9:36 AM on May 31, 2011

You know, everyone says don't check a bag. After years of following that advice I'm for the complete opposite. Check EVERYTHING except for the computer bag (with phone, e-reader, computer, important documents, earplugs, etc).

Yes, it's nice to not have to go to baggage claim, but it's not THAT hard and it beats lugging all my crap through the terminal. Where it really pays off, though, and finally made a believer out of me, was the long trans-ocean flights. Not having something under the seat in front of you so you can stretch your legs out straight makes ALL the difference. I don't even mind an economy seat if I can keep the foot space clear.

I've also never had any issues with lost/misdirected bags. YMMV.
posted by ctmf at 10:26 AM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

I take hand sanitizer if I'm not sure I'll be able to wash my hands before eating (it also de-stinks underarms like a charm--an essential when you're traveling somewhere showers are few and far between) and a Diva cup.
Lately I've been especially enamored with the Go Girl for peeing in the woods and in iffy public restrooms. (In Russia it may be helpful to bring pocket-sized tissue packs or a roll of toilet paper when you go out, too.)
A water bottle, though in St. Petersburg you'll mostly be buying bottled water or refilling a bottle from boiled water at the place you're staying.
A little bit of duct tape, as honey-barbara mentioned above, also comes in handy to put directly on your feet where blisters are forming, because it helps friction happen on the tape (which shifts with your skin) rather than directly on the skin. I've used this on long hikes beautifully.
I love having a little pocket/keychain compass when I'm in an unfamiliar place. It's probably my most practical possession.
posted by soviet sleepover at 12:36 PM on May 31, 2011

The Burton Sleeper Hoodie is the best travel gear I own. It's a seemingly normal hoodie but contains a built-in, inflatable neck pillow (removable so you can wash the hoodie) and a sleep mask that folds down from inside the hood. Those are the main draws and man, oh man are they nice for long flights or car rides or being stuck in an airport terminal. It has a few other features that are more subtle but also really nice: thumb holes in the cuffs to make ad-hoc "gloves", armpit vents to keep you from getting musty, the right front pocket has an internal iPod pocket and place to run your headphone cord inside the zipped hoodie to your ears, internal passport pocket. It also comes with a travel toothbrush, sleep mask, and luggage tag.

They seem to be fairly difficult to find (possibly discontinued) but if you can track one down and are the sort of person who doesn't feel like a bum wearing a hoodie in public, it's really great.
posted by devnall at 12:37 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I took the rubbery clothesline that onebag.com recommends with me to Europe and it really helped reduce what I needed to bring with me. You just wash a few things in the sink overnight, hang up to dry and they're usually dry in the morning (depends on the climate, of course). Pack quick-drying basics from Travelsmith or someplace like that and you'll be able to significantly reduce what you bring.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:37 PM on May 31, 2011

I'm a big fan of little bags or containers that hold "like" items in my luggage. I use those cosmetic bags and pencil cases, but any small bag that closes easily works well (ziplocs, those little felt bags Crown Royal comes in, whatever). It's basically an extension of the notion of the dopp kit. For example all my electronic bits (plug converters, chargers, cables, batteries, etc) go in a little bag. If I'm going to a developing country, all the health/hygiene/first aid stuff (advil, hand sanitizer, some version of TP, extra tampons, etc) goes in another little bag. On the other hand, most clothing has its own area inside my pack and doesn't need a packing cube. But you can go there if you like, especially if your luggage is a big empty box lacking in compartments.

Other packing advice:

Pack less stuff. You are not moving there. You really don't need that much in the way of clothes for a ten day trip. One thing that helps is to pack clothes that all go together. Another thing is to wash socks and underwear as you go (that said I have had a pair or two die on the road - so don't err to far in the other direction). Also shoes. Pack less of them. Seriously.

If you wash as you go, just use shampoo or body wash. It's all the same. Don't waste your time with the laundry soap paper stuff. Same goes for like 99% of everything on onebag.com. I appreciate the dude's intent, but for the average vacation to a first-world destination for under a month, no. Just no.
posted by Sara C. at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have an Eastpak messenger bag that expands when I unzip the bottom - I use this as my 'handbag' when travelling (I carry a lot of camera bumpf and water) and unzip it to carry stuff home when I return. I also put the free sachets in magazines in my toiletry bag as it's a good way to use them up and also not have to purchase minature toiletries which are craxy expensive.

It's always the unseen things that cost money when I'm away - toenail clippers and the like, or plastic forks - but remember there are things you can buy on the road and you don't have to take them home again.
posted by mippy at 2:59 PM on May 31, 2011

Simple, clear, plastic zip lock baggies for EVERYTHING. Everything stays separate and findable. You can label on them as well, so when you are to jetlagged to remember anything, you can read your notes on what you want to wear together.
posted by Vaike at 4:32 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your handcarry should be able to fit in a small backpack or tote bag:

- a ziploc bag with your toiletries (gratuitous self-link here of what I carry)
- any valuable jewellery in a small pouch
- kindle to replace all your books, OR iPad loaded up with books and magazines
- camera, ipod and noise cancelling earphones in one pouch
- a large travel wallet that can hold your currency, cards, passport, boarding pass, travel documents and a pen for immigration forms (I use this one) - this way I'm only ever fiddling with one binder like object.
- pashmina for coldness/bundled up pillow/blanket
-wear flipflops and have a pair of socks for the plane.
- empty water bottle to stay hydrated on the plane. most plane staff are good about filling it up for you.

Pack things you aren't going to USE on the plan in to the deep pockets/hidden pockets. Things you will use, keep handy in the main compartment.

Check in luggage:

- packing cases are great but I don't buy them, I just use plastic/paper bags I have around the house and label them ("tee-shirts", "tank tops", "underwear", "shorts") - you get the idea. It makes life living out of a suitcase much easier. i have another friend who does the same but by outfit. YMMV.
- all electronic chargers/adapters in one pouch.
- a spare plastic bag for dirty clothes
- a spare folding reusable bag for shopping and carrying random things
- toiletries decanted into small bottles and in one waterproof, washable case
- makeup in one waterproof, washable case (clear cases so you can tell what's in them)
- one light jacket/cardigan if going to warmth, one heavy jacket if going to cold
- black leggings can be dressed up or down, used to layer, and are versatile. i always pack 2 pairs.
- a button up shirt is similarly versatile
- a pair of comfortable but dress up/down shoes
- I have 2 pairs of silk pants that dress up or down superbly, are light as a feather, and handwash and dry very well. find yourself something similar with those qualities.
- 1 smaller cross body bag for day excursions etc, and a small wallet (I don't want to lug/keep taking my huge travel wallet out in public, markets, etc)
- 1 plain long dress can be used for day trips, night events, and dresses up or down.

things I never carry/do:

- I don't lock my bag
- I don't carry an umbrella, I can buy one if I need one, haven't needed one yet (very extensive traveller here).
- denim is heavy. I never pack jeans
- I don't travel TO a destination with more than half a suitcase, regardless of length of trip. allows for shopping, if you are so inclined.
- I don't carry products that aren't multipurpose - eg, Nivea Creme is a whole body moisturiser and cheap enough for me to use up and throw out whilst there. I carry a bar of soap and throw it out at end of trip. I use a sunscreen that's a tinted moisturiser.
- I don't carry food.

ALSO - as a girl, I find my packing to take longer than my (unfussy) partner's, because even though I'm on holiday, it's important for me to look and feel nice. So instead of packing straight off, I basically decide on my colour schemes for the trip FIRST, and the jacket I'm taking. Then I decide which 2 pairs of pants, and then everything else falls into place. Everything has to match everything, I don't choose "outfits" but rather, separates that coordinate. That way if i spill something on one item, everything else can swap with it.

On your first day of trip, locate the nearest convenience store/supermarket. Then if you NEED something, you can go get it with little fuss.

STREAMLINE - pack with LESS than you think you need.

Have a great trip!
posted by shazzam! at 5:45 PM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think packing success is an iterative process. You need to constantly be on the lookout for ways to:

Combine functions of two or more objects into one (especially shoes!)
Shrink objects
Leave objects behind

The key is even small changes add up. Coming home with your lotion bottle half full?; get a smaller bottle. Never find the time to workout on the road, leave the extra clothes behind. Taking 3 pairs of socks - try taking one or two and washing them in the sink (love my laundry soap sheets!)

The big move for me? No casual shoes on business trips. Dress shoes go out with me at night and workout shoes go to the gym. Yes I sometimes sigh that I don't have a more comfortable pair of shoes to change into at the end of the day, but I am able to fit what I do bring into an incredibly small package that makes me very nimble on my trips.
posted by jbradley at 7:41 PM on May 31, 2011

The Droid Kindle app is awesome, as are some of the games for the phone.

I've found foam earplugs with large closed-ear headphones over top to be the quietest possible night's sleep. The large headphones are fine on the other end, since I can carry them around my neck.
posted by talldean at 8:11 PM on May 31, 2011

"Heather Poole, a flight attendant from Los Angeles, demonstrated how to pack enough for a 10-day trip into a single standard carry-on." The helpful NYT video is here.
posted by aqsakal at 2:32 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

A cervical neck pillow will make plane and bus naps much better. Also recommended - foam earplugs and eye mask.

If you're moving around a lot, a decent foldup toiletries kit is a good idea - no need to unpack it. You can just hang in up in each place.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:37 AM on June 1, 2011

Specific to St. Petersburg: the mosquitos are evil, at least they were for me. Quarter size bites that left mark for weeks. You can get afterbite there for sure, but maybe bring some benadryl. And maybe bug spray.

Also, you won't be needing a pashmina during summer!
posted by kitcat at 7:45 AM on June 1, 2011

In economy on a 777, get the very last row, inboard aisle seat. The last row middle section fills up last, and almost always you get the whole row to yourself. Plus, it's close to the galley but not annoyingly so. Often a flight attendant will just ask people in that vicinity if they want any coffee or anything, even when they're not running the little carts.

Who needs first class when you can put the seat arms up and have four seats' worth of room?

This is on United, Tokyo Narita / Seattle, which I've done several times now. Other airlines may vary, I guess.
posted by ctmf at 9:27 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Added benefit of having a pashmina or scarf in Russia is that women often cover their heads going into cathedrals and monasteries.
posted by sparrow89 at 9:29 AM on June 1, 2011

Cotton buds (Q-tips) and wet-wipes. They make me feel human.
posted by teraspawn at 10:11 AM on June 1, 2011

"Heather Poole, a flight attendant from Los Angeles, demonstrated how to pack enough for a 10-day trip into a single standard carry-on."

...And in my opinion, she packs way too much stuff. It's sorta neat that one can fit that quantity of crap in one of those stupid rolling carry-ons, but that doesn't mean one actually ought to do it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:41 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not to halt this still-running thread, but I did want to thank you all for the great suggestions! Keep 'em coming.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:10 AM on June 1, 2011

Half the clothes, twice the cash. One bag.
Use those tiny shampoo bottles they give you in hotels and fill with whatever toiletry liquids/gels you need.
posted by storybored at 7:38 PM on June 1, 2011

Simple, clear, plastic zip lock baggies for EVERYTHING.

This, but not just the small ones. The large ones are a super-cheapo alternative to a packing cube. You can fit about 3 t-shirts, rolled up tightly, in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. They're also great for keeping damp or wet clothing from getting the rest of your bag wet (just be sure to air dry them when you get a chance to avoid mildew). If you can find the kind that are use a "zipper" that's much easier.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This will sound cheesy but it totally works for me. I load onto my ipod a self-hypnosis mp3 called "Deep Sleep Every Night" by Glenn Harrold. When I want to fall asleep, I turn it on and I usually wake up hours later. I got in in the itunes store. Also, melatonin is a great thing to have to help with sleep.

I have a bad back and Thermacare Heat Wraps have been great to have on longer flights. They're basically like those air activated handwarmers you use when skiing but the size of a weight belt. They can only be used once, but if you suffer from back or neck pain they can help a lot.

I also agree that having the tea you like on hand can make a big difference.

If Gotoobs are too expensive for you, you can also get little flexible squeeze bottles in many different sizes from REI. They are made by Nalgene and are great for transporting small amounts of liquids. REI in general would be a great place to peek around. I hear they have great travel underwear there.

I also always pack some of that Starbucks instant coffee for emergencies. (I have coffee emergencies.) It tastes OK, has caffeine and can be made anywhere with hot water.

I also try to buy those fancy blister bandaids from the pharmacy or at least some moleskin in case of blisters from long treks.

Have a great trip!
posted by dottiechang at 1:44 AM on June 10, 2011

Oh! Buy a water bottle with a built in filter. You can get some with filters fine enough to filter out things like amoebas, etc. This is worth consideration since not all tap water in Russia is potable.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:13 PM on June 10, 2011

Please don't laugh, but PajamaJeans have been a life saver for me while traveling. They are super comfortable, they don't require a belt, and they look enough like jeans that you won't need to change into different clothes when you arrive at your destination like you would if you were wearing sweats or yoga pants, they dry faster than denim jeans, they are comfortable to sleep in, and they keep you warm.

I won't lie and say that they are exactly like jeans, but unless you need to be really dressed up when you're traveling, they are a decent facsimile and much more comfortable.
posted by TaeBelle at 6:14 AM on June 11, 2011

Best answer: If you can afford them, I also suggest noise cancelling headphones. Mine are Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b, and they're great. For sleeping on planes, I also wear silicone ear plugs WITH the NC headphones.

Also, I finally have all my in-flight necessities together in one pouch, so I can pull that out of my carryon and tuck it into the seat pocket along with my book. Flight001 makes one with lots of zippers, but I just use an old flannel drawstring storage pouch that came with a handbag.

In the pouch: inflatable neck pillow (I use the Komfort Kollar), eye mask, sleeping pills, ear plugs, iPod, headphones airplane adaptor thingie, handkerchief, and hand lotion and lip balm from my carryon liquids baggie.

I also support travelling light, so I was going without slippers for a while. However, on a recent trip, my feet were really cold in this poorly heated condo we were staying in, so I bought a pair of lightweight slippers ($15 from Macys) to keep my feet warm. I wore them on the plane on the way home, too, which was nice.
posted by IHeartWallabies at 9:04 PM on June 19, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for the advice, the trip was incredibly fun and your suggestions made it easy. I ended up buying a two-sided Eagle Creek packing cube, a packing folder, and a hanging toiletry bag, and I couldn't believe how easy they made it to live out of a suitcase while staying organized!

Other outstanding winners: GoToobs (I'm just going to start using them at home, I loved them so much), the incredible silicone earplugs (huge hits with my travel partners too!), and the Kindle. Oh, the Kindle! I was shocked at how much lighter my luggage was just by eliminating books, and I totally love the thing for plenty of other reasons, too.

I also really appreciated having a travel towel, a flannel bag for laundry, an eye pillow, and noise-canceling headphones. Moisturizing all to hell during the trip made me much more comfortable, and rinse-free face wipes and a travel toothbrush really helped. I ended up getting a prescription for a couple of sleeping meds [highly suggested], and I basically got ready for bed, passed out, and woke up in Paris. Incredible.

I would have liked to have brought duct tape, which I forgot, small scissors, and I'm planning to buy a TravelRest pillow.

FWIW, the capsules inside Kinder Eggs make amazing pill cases.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:50 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

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