Logistics of an LDR: shuttling stuff back and forth
August 2, 2017 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Did you grow up in two homes or have a medium-distance LDR? Please share your hacks for packing and transporting stuff between places.

My partner and I will be living about 1.5 hours apart for a year. We'll be trading off weekends and each staying a weeknight or two at the other's place. I've always been bad at packing but would like to streamline things to make visits easier logistically.

Is it better to have an overnight bag with everything or is it better to leave stuff at her place? For example, do I always carry my mascara with me or do I get one for her place and another for my own? I'd assume having doubles can make things easier but that can get expensive won't be an option with contacts, glasses, and most clothing. Is there a particular bag or piece of luggage you'd recommend?

We both have cars as public transportation is sadly not an option; we both live close to our workplaces. I have a cat who can spend a few nights alone and she has a small, crate-trained dog who will always be coming with us. Preparing for our pets has actually been the easiest part because we simply bought two sets of everything.

I'd love to hear tips from folks who have been in similar situations, especially people in LDRs and folks who grew up with shuttling between two homes. I feel very positive about this situation and love my partner but know little hacks can make a huge difference. Thank you!
posted by smorgasbord to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am not in an LDR but grew up shuttling between two homes not far from each other - 0.5 hour at the most. I had clothes, toiletries, possessions at both homes. I didn't need an overnight bag when going from one home to the other: everything I needed was already there.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:29 AM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think the standard two-house kids-of-divorce advice is also sound here - if you have to pack an overnight bag every other week it's going to feel a lot like travel/a chore, whereas if you have duplicates at her place it'll be more like "hey this is my other house where my stuff already is" rather than visiting.
posted by terretu at 6:32 AM on August 2, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Another vote for a set of duplicates... and one very important note... I had to make sure that my preferred caffeine was at the secondary house; they were further from a store than I, and with no cafe's/restaurants, so if I didn't want super strong espresso in the morning, there was just flat out no other option.

I used a small backpack to hold computer, whatever book I was reading & set of clothes, but I was mostly on public transit. Since you have a car, you can just have a set of stuff live in your car/you can probably get a way with just a sturdy tote bag.

Things I left at the secondary house: phone charger, FULL set of toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, tinted-moisturizer, your own towel), 3-4 sets underwear, and 1 change of clothing (t-shirt/gym shorts). You will use the toiletries at the secondary home less, so I actually liked to get fancier toiletries for the second home as a treat.
posted by larthegreat at 6:57 AM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think ideally you want to have enough stuff at both homes that you could show up at either place with just your purse/laptop bag/daily carry and be comfortable there for a day or two. For me this has been a full set of toiletries, a few changes of clothes (including underwear), and an extra pair of athletic shoes and rain jacket, but this is tailored towards me spending weekends at my dad's vacation condo, where I generally don't bother with makeup and blowdrying and stuff.
posted by mskyle at 7:16 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: TIL that a typical commute in my area is an LDR :/ I routinely go 1.5 hours in two different directions, now (to see family & the person I'm dating).

I keep doubles for the *most* essential and/or heaviest and/or leakiest toiletries (contact lens solution, face wash, shampoo & conditioner, hair serum), and just always keep the rest in two cosmetic bags that I can pick up easily when needed or leave on my bathroom shelf when at home.

One bag is for pre- and during-shower things, like my toothbrush, razor, pumice stone, contact case, glasses, etc., and the other is for post-shower things - evening creams, sunscreen, tweezer, deodorant, non-leaky hair styling products.

My makeup bag lives in my purse all the time. (Makeup is minimalist, highly selective about products.)

Re expense - I watch for deals on the most expensive stuff (contact solution & hair stuff) and multipack when possible. I also limit high-end purchases to things I really can't skimp on (sunscreen, conditioner) - have honed my HG products down over the past years with trial and error - most are drugstore at this point (lots of good options, these days), so it's not as expensive as it could be.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:28 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Clothes - I tried keeping basics at different places, but kept forgetting what was where and coordinating laundry was a problem. I just pack everything I need every time, again being highly selective. Military roll all the way.

Devices/electronics - chargers are good to have doubles of, and I love cloud-based products and services that let me use my phone as much as possible. I do have a tablet + keyboard I never use, just because I hate them. I take my laptop if need be.

But tbh - *weight* is an important criterion for everything I buy (laptop, bag, even shoes), and I try to stay minimalist with clothes etc so I don't have to dig for stuff (capsule wardrobe etc).

Basically, I anticipate having to carry crap around whenever I buy anything.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:35 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Herr Vortex and I lived a 3.5 hour drive apart for 3 years of dating. We traded off who would drive to visit the other for the weekend.

We each kept the bare minimum at each others places - toothbrush only, I think - and otherwise we each just had a weekend bag that we kept packed for throwing into the car and heading out.

One funny thing: we had a little fake Christmas tree that would travel to wherever we would be together for the weekend, and then stay the week with that person. That way we'd have our Christmas tree during our time together. I kind of miss strapping the tree into the front seat of my car, ornaments and all, and driving it through the countryside.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: For toiletries in an LDR I've been happiest taking a belt-and-suspenders approach: duplicate toiletries at my partner's house, and a dop kit in my backpack with the things I'd be upset to go without for even a day. (For me that means a razor that's currently in use and a fresh razor head I haven't started using yet, a small thing of my preferred anti-razor-burn product, a small thing of hair conditioner, a spool of floss, a toothbrush, and a few hair ties.) That way I don't waste energy trying to remember whether I still have a sharp razor at partner's place or not.

For clothes, the way it's working out in my current medium-distance relationship is that when one of us sleeps over they leave their dirty clothes in the other one's laundry hamper and the other one washes them whenever they get around to laundry. At the rate we do laundry, we end up each having a few spare things to wear over at the other's place without having to do a ton of planning or coordinating about what gets kept where. If I'm going straight to work after a sleepover, I'll pack work clothes just so I don't have to worry about it, but then if the weather changes or something gets a stain or whatever I usually end up having a spare that I left over at hir place a week or two ago and haven't brought home yet.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a person who did an LDR for about a year, buy a second version of your makeup and toiletries and leave some generally interchangable clothes (i.e., basics) at your partners' house. Allow him to do the same. Also - buy second chargers for all your electronics so you're not forgetting your phone charger.

You may still bring a bag with specific things you might need for each trip, but it'll reduce the load by 90% to just keep staples at each others' places.
posted by notorious medium at 7:41 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Disclaimer - my 90-minute LDR only lasted less than 6 months and we never stayed over on weeknights so work clothes were not an issue.

Toiletries I would keep a set in both places. I carried a makeup bag for my purse anyway so that wasn't an issue. On Thursday night or Friday morning I would pack a weekend bag with clothes, throw it in my trunk, and head for his place right after work. I hated leaving clothes at his place because I would always want to wear my favorite shirt or pair of jeans and it would be at the wrong house.

If you are planning weeknight sleepovers, it would be good to just store an outfit at work in advance and then you will have flexibility to just go over to their place without planning, wear yesterday's clothes to work, and change there. Bring your dirty clothes home and a fresh set the next day.
posted by muddgirl at 7:42 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

OH AND DEODORANT. In fact, the reason I originally started keeping spare toiletries in my travel bag was because having my normal morning routine disrupted meant once I left for work without putting it on and then Had Regrets.

That's the thing, is for me the hard part isn't just making sure I have the right toiletries on hand, it's making sure that I remember all the things on my morning checklist even when I'm not in my usual morning place, and have backups in place so it's okay if I forget one.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:55 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My wife lived in TX and I lived in North Carolina for the first three years of our relationship. I gladly purchased duplicates of toiletries and left them in Texas. I usually packed up stuff too, but if I forgot something, that saved the "oh shit" midnight Target run (though I could also use her stuff, I'm not picky about toiletries. She is. If you're picky about brands, duplicate, because you will eventually forget something, even with good lists.)

I also bought a waffle maker to leave there ($10 cheapie at Target) and a hot water kettle, since I'm a tea drinker and she's not. I also ended up accumulating spices over time, since I cook and she doesn't. Even though we did a lot of driving back and forth, not just flying, it was nice to have those two things that I used all the time already there. I will ditto the tea/caffeine of choice comments.

I would also recommend duplicates of any charging cables, if you don't use the same kind of phone (we're an Android/Apple family, and the first time I left my charging cable at home and my flight was delayed, I ended up paying the Best Buy Express tax, ouch). It's not like you won't be able to use the spare cables once you're cohabitating again.

I left a couple of pairs of underwear, a spare bra, a pair of jeans, yoga pants, and a t-shirt there. I was very glad to have done so the first time American misplaced my bags and I was scheduled to help her girlfriend with some stuff the next day... even though you're not flying, it's really easy to leave something when you're in a hurry and/or doing the whole "I've done this a million times, I've got everything" thing, and if you can't wear each other's clothes (I can wear her shirts, but otherwise, we're built differently and she doesn't wear women's clothes), having spares on the other end will make you a lot more comfortable, not just in the event of forgetting something but in case you spill something on yourself, menstrual emergency, etc. I keep spare clothes in my car anyhow because I'm just that clumsy. :)
posted by joycehealy at 8:45 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did LDR for a year and a half w/ my spouse.

For comestibles, remember that unless it's product that expires (mascara) or you are like me and never actually get to the end of a thing of gel before the packaging is just ugh on the outside, you're still using the same amount - up front costs are higher but things should even out over time.

For clothes personally each season I put my clothes on the bed and basically divided them up according to time spent in each place, with a view towards mostly coordinating outfits so everything brown/khaki/cream went one place and everything black/grey/accent went another, with shoes - this meant wearing the shoes home that I wore down. Also packing for activities were kind of key since I wasn't in meetings at Second Home, but sometimes would head straight to one from the train. But you get the idea.

Each place had pjs, min one set of workout clothes, one dress for emergency dates, and then the only really hard part was shoes at that point. I invested in a cheap neutral set of pumps for my non-formal home "just in case." Basically a long weekend bag would do.

There was a hairdryer at each end, that was key too.

It was actually pretty freeing at Second Home to only have a couple of choices.

Second charger or if you share the same type of charger and can work it out is a great idea.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm only going to speak to toiletries because this is not quite the same, but I bike to work and shower at the office (technically in a fitness center locker room, not literally in my office.) I've been doing this for a decade, but for me I've found there are some things I prefer to have dupes of and other things I prefer to bring back and forth. For me, makeup is the thing I bring back and forth the most, because I like high-quality makeup and brushes and that just costs too much to duplicate, plus it's all contained in a relatively small bag that I can just grab and add to whatever else I'm bringing.

Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, deodorant, razors, moisturizer, hair product, brushes, hair dryer, etc., maybe some cheapo makeup dupes for emergencies/just in case.

Makeup, curling/straight iron or other things only used for special occasions, all clothes, most shoes (I do leave some shoes at the office).
posted by misskaz at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I did something similar for four years. I had duplicates of consumables and daily-use items like toothbrushes, hair brushes, razors, etc. I mostly carried clothes back and forth. I recommend a sturdy, capacious garment bag, because it's a lot faster to grab several hangers and put them in the bag than it is to fold clothes, and it keeps them looking better too.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have a LDR, but I do have a vacation house 4.5 hours away, so am frequently packing. Good advice upthread about duplicates of stuff you can afford to duplicate - less to think about. We tend to travel back and forth with 2 rubbermaid tubs. One for clothes because we have dressers in the other house that we just unpack into and then once the tote is empty, we just use it as a dirty laundry hamper. Slap the lid on and it goes back home for laundry day. The other is so every time there's something one of us thinks of that needs to be taken to the vacation house, it can just be put into the tote and we're ready to go. Once the tote is empty, it sits somewhere where things that need to make the return trip can be easily put into it.

I have some old, but still fairly presentable clothes that I keep there, along with spare underwear for emergencies, but I like my clothes and want to know where they are, so I pack clothes for every trip. MrJane is not so picky, so he leaves a bunch of clothes up there.
posted by sarajane at 10:29 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

+1 to sarajane's permanent floating shuttle tub.

1 more thing: if it's clothing that's very hard for you to find, keep one in both places. This was crucial for me & swim suits.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:40 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

We've had to do the LDR thing a few times, and I'm a big proponent of keeping enough duplicate stuff in each place that you can travel with nothing more than you would take to the office in the morning. Basically, you want to remove friction from the process, and having to pack and have checklists and remember stuff is all friction.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:08 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

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