How to Pack for Two Climates

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Packing for a long trip is hard to do. I always try to strike that balance between packing light and making sure I have everything I need. Three weeks ago I needed to pack for my trip to California followed by a road trip back across the country over a period of about six weeks. Easy enough, right? A couple dresses, a bathing suit, a few sandals and I’d be good to go. But in the middle of this trip, I am meeting my family on a cruise to Alaska. You know, the one with all the glaciers? I was sitting on my bedroom floor looking at my suitcase thinking how the hell am I going to pack for 100+ degree weather driving through the deserts of Arizona while also bringing enough clothes to stand on the edge of a windy cruise ship looking at a glacier?

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After awhile of sitting in confusion, I began to pack. I am by no means an expert, but here is what I learned from trying to pack for an extended trip in two very different climates.

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Start by determining what luggage you are bringing.

I knew I needed to set limits from the beginning for what I should bring. I didn’t want to be lugging heavy suitcases all over the place. So I decided on one black suitcase, a duffle bag, and a backpack to carry with me on the plane. I decided to check in my suitcase and bring the duffle bag and backpack with me on the plane. I designated my suitcase to hold all my clothes, the duffle bag to carry my shoes and toiletries, and my backpack to carry my laptop, camera, and personal items.

Lay out everything you want to pack.

It was really helpful for me to look through my closet and lay out every single item I wanted to bring. Having everything laid out neatly in front of me helped me cut out some unnecessary items I didn’t need. Before I began placing clothes in my suitcase I cut out about 30% of what I initially wanted to pack. So in one pile I had t-shirts and tanks, in another I had dresses, in another I had pajamas, in another I had leggings and pants, in another I had all my shoes, and so on. I then divided my clothes into warm weather (California and road trip back) and cold weather (Alaska). Try to pack clothes that you wear often and know you will be comfortable in. A trip is not the time to test out a new outfit you’ve never worn before.  

Utilize space saving techniques.

In my trip to Europe last year I visited three countries with only a carry-on in tow. It was a challenge to pack in such a limited amount of space, but I managed. I was able to accomplish this through the use of compression bags. They are clear bags that come in various sizes and are very inexpensive–I picked mine up from the Marshalls’ travel section for a few bucks. Once you lay your clothes, scarves, or whatever flat inside the compression bag, you push out all the air (I sit on it) and use a special zipper to seal it shut. I’m not kidding when I say you can pack double the amount of things in the same space with a compression bag.

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Now start packing!

Once everything is laid out and your compression bags are ready, it’s time to start packing.

Suitcase: I carefully and neatly placed my Alaska clothes (sweaters, coat, scarf) in one compression bag and sealed it shut. It’s good practice to place your heaviest items on the bottom of your suitcase. I then placed my dresses, tanks, and t-shirts in another compression bag and sealed it shut. Next were my pants, shorts, leggings, and a pair of workout clothes. Finally I placed my pajamas and any other miscellaneous items in a fourth compression bag. I layered these bags one on top of the other, placed underwear and bras in the mesh pocket and shut my suitcase. Everything fit perfectly and my suitcase wasn’t overweight. I even had the front pocket of the suitcase totally clear so I decided to place my hairbrush, mini-blow dryer and a curling rod in that pocket.

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Duffle Bag: In this I placed my hiking boots, and one pair of sneakers, sandals, flats, wedges, and flip flops. I also put my shoes in a compression bag, though I didn’t “compress” it. I just wanted to separate my shoes in a sealed bag from the rest of my items. Once that was in I placed my make-up bag, toiletries and jewelry bag on top of it. Voila! Another piece of luggage packed.

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Backpack: This was the easiest of them all. I packed my laptop, chargers, camera, wallet, travel journal, a few snacks for the plane, a small make-up bag, and my flight information. I wanted to make sure all my valuables were with me on the plane since I had a connecting flight and I always fear losing my luggage. So although I would be devastated if they lost my suitcase full of clothes, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s good to make sure anything you treasure is carried with you on the plane.

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And that’s it! I was so happy when I got everything to fit. I feel very lucky to experience so much adventure in one summer. It felt really good to start off with organized luggage and the knowledge that I had everything I needed and nothing more.

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Don’t forget luggage tags!

Have you packed for multiple climates in one trip? How did you manage it?

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Erin founded the Wonderlost Travel blog in February of 2015 after her experience of studying abroad in Europe. Erin has had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of South America and Asia. She enjoys writing about and photographing her travel experiences in order to inspire others to get out and follow their travel dreams. She has collaborated with tourism departments, restaurants, and other travel bloggers to share reviews and travel advice with readers in over 100 countries. Erin has a passion for traveling the world to experience other cultures and explore nature!

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