I am a notorious overpacker -- for any given trip, I consistently pack about twice as much as I actually need. One of my dear friends, Allison, once laughed in horrified shock when I called for her for advice (she's a champion packer), and told her how much I was packing for one week-long trip. But even after she tried to talk me off the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink packing ledge I was on, I still snuck a few items that I had taken out of my bag during our conversation back into my suitcase.
But this trip, I was determined to take only carry-on, for two reasons: (1) it's a group trip, and we were encouraged to take only carry-on, and (2) as one of the few adults on this trip, I thought it best not to have to worry about lost bags, etc. of my own. Besides, we'll be gone for not-quite-a-week -- surely I could handle this.
I just finished packing, and am sort of stunned that I made it happen; especially since, as the trip photographer, I'm taking quite a bit of gear that most normal travelers wouldn't have with them. I boasted that managed to get everything in carry-on on Twitter, and several folks asked me to do a packing tutorial. While I'm not going to unpack everything and show you (because trust me, it was like Luggage Tetris trying to get everything in), I thought I'd share the list of what's coming with me. Admittedly, I still overpacked -- old habits die hard -- but the fact that I managed to do it all in carry-on luggage is still big progress for me.
6 days in Costa Rica with 20+ teenagers, and 5 or so adult chaperones
- Our itinerary is varied -- we will be in urban areas, on construction sites, and in rainforest.
- The weather will likely be hot and humid, with rainshowers every day, followed by cool nights.
- Our days will be filled with sweaty activities, followed by a few evening dinners with locals, requiring a couple of clothes changes most days
- As the official trip photographer, also tasked with keeping families back home up-to-date on what their kids are doing, I need to bring considerable camera gear, as well as my laptop to process photos.
- SwissGear Victorinox laptop backpack (shown in the image above, on the left. Mine is ancient -- I've had it for years -- but this one is similar)
- Eddie Bauer Rollaboard (on the right --again, I've had it for years, and I can't seem to find it online, but this one is similar)
what i'll be wearing on the plane:
- Long navy blue cardigan (similar to this one, I like that it has pockets, and should keep me warm on the plane and if the nights get cool in Costa Rica)
- A dark-grey American Apparel circle scarf (I always travel with one of these regardless of season; they're huge enough to act as a swimsuit cover up, or a shawl)
- These boots. I bought them a couple of years ago before a trip to England: they're incredibly comfortable, and they're waterproof, which will come in handy on the rainy days and in the rainforest, I suspect. Also, they're easy to zip on and off, which is important for airport security.
- My dive watch. Although I don't wear a watch every day (and I won't be diving on this trip), I always like to travel with one, preferably analog -- I set it to the time zone of my destination as soon as I board the plane, in the hope that it will help with jetlag. (Not that I'm expecting jetlag on this trip, mind you -- it's only an hour difference from Houston.)
what's in the rollaboard:
Following my friend Allison's advice, I rolled each of the items I could, to maximize space in the rollaboard. It was amazing what I was able to fit.
- 8 short-sleeved t-shirts (all solid-coloured, with no graphics. I like graphic t's, but I figured these plain ones would work both day and night, particularly if paired with the scarf above, and the skirt, below)
- 1 long-sleeved t-shirt
- 2 cotton shirts (sort of kurta-pullover-style -- a bit dressier than the t-shirts)
- 3 pairs of khaki trousers. I don't wear khaki trousers as a rule, but I learned on previous travel photographer gigs to Africa that they tend to be cooler than jeans, but just as rugged. One of these are full-length, the other two are capris. I could probably leave one of these at home, but again, because they're not denim, they pack really small.
- A jersey-knit black skirt. Again, this is primarily for dinner, but I might wear it during the day as well, with a pair of yoga shorts underneath (since we photogs tend to squat and find ourselves in strange positions to get a photograph)
- 2 jersey knit short-sleeved dresses. For dinners
- A pair of silver ballet flats. This is one of the most used travel items I have -- they're these -- and I love them because not only are they crazy comfortable, but also because they're silver, so they look a bit dressy at night. Great for when you don't want to pack heels, but you want to look put together.
- A pair of Nike Rifts. They're incredibly funny-looking, but they are the most comfortable shoes of all time. Unfortunately, I don't think they make them anymore, but you can get them on Ebay, I think (I actually buy pairs anytime I see them, just in case -- I've been wearing them forever). They're my throw-down athletic shoe.
- A pair of flip-flops, mostly for use as shower shoes (did I mention I'll likely be staying in a dorm?)
- A swimsuit. No plans on actually going to the beach this time, but you never know.
- A hooded, crushable, zip-up windbreaker/rain jacket. This one.
- A long t-shirt and 2 pairs of yoga shorts -- one for the skirt above, and one to use with the long t-shirt as pajamas (again, dorm)
- Underwear, socks, etc. Obv.
Also in the rollaboard:
- Immodium. You never know when traveller's tummy will hit.
- A prescription of Cipro, that I got from my doctor earlier this week, for any serious case of traveller's tummy, should it arise.
- Some fever/pain relievers. Just in case.
- Insect repellent, in this form and in this form. Because, you know, rainforest.
- My 70-200mm lens, in its own padded case.
- My 50mm lens, in its own padded case. Even though I suspect I'll use this lens less than the other two I'm taking, it's sort of my throw-down, go-to lens, so it comes along nonetheless.
- Various chargers, cables, powercords.
And in the front pocket of the rollaboard:
My laptop and a clear ziplock bag of my travel-size toiletries, for easy access when going through airport security.
what's in the backpack:
- 2 camera bodies. Whenever I'm shooting in the field, particularly on a gig, I hate changing camera lenses, because dirt can get into the camera bodies. So I always have two ready to go -- one with a zoom and one with a wide angle.
- My 16-35mm lens, in its own padded case. I'm keeping this lens in my backpack for easy access, so I can take photographs of the journey.
- Spare batteries for both cameras, spare memory cards
- iPhone and portable charger
- My iPad mini, with books and music loaded on it.
- Journal with pens.
- Passport and other travel documentation.
- Small make-up case
- Empty water bottle (will fill for shooting days)
- Reading glasses. Because my eyes have decided to age before I decided to.
- Halls Vitamin C drops. I always pop these like candy when I travel -- trying to keep away from the cold germs on the flights!
- Hair scarves. For when the afro starts to bug me.
The bags are heavy, and I know I probably could pack even fewer things, but as I said, I'm a chronic over-packer, and besides: the bags closed easily, without me even having to sit on them! I'll let you know how it worked out when I return.