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I may not be the expert on surviving long-haul flights — leave that to Independent Traveler and read 10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight. (Who knew you should take a baby aspirin before a flight to avoid blood clots? And that dreaded Deep Leg Thrombosis is mainly due to dehydration? Gatorade, people.)

But I am an Expert Packer.

People are amazed when they see that the same small REI convertible backpack/expandable bag I packed for two weeks is the one I used for one year. In fact, I recently found that it’s easier to pack for a year than it is for a two-week beach vacation.

The bag I take for 2 weeks or 52 weeks and my Reiker multi-purpose shoes.

For my two-week bag I had enough room to indulge in 3 bathing suits (they’re small) two party dresses and a couple of outfits I didn’t even use. What’s my secret? There are two: First, pack things that have multiple purposes. Second, avoid packing things you can beg, borrow or buy once you arrive.

Tip #1: Coconut oil. I brought a 4 oz. jar of it to the beach vacation, where we stayed in a villa with a kitchen. I ate it, cooked with it, used it on my hair as a conditioner and on my skin as a moisturizer — that’s four uses.

Tip #2: Don’t pack a towel unless you absolutely need to. Usually you can get one wherever you’re going. Youth hostels and drugstores have an abundance of towels you can buy for $1 or $2. If I must pack one, I carry a small REI rapidly drying towel.

Tip #3: Use the 80/20 rule. You know, if you look through your closet you only use about 20% of your clothes 80% of the time? I keep that in mind and just pack what I’ve been wearing all week. This is not the time to bring out clothes you’re uncomfortable in. They’ve been hanging there for a reason.

Tip #4: Laundry in the shower. Now here’s something weird that I do. I pack 3-5 pairs of underwear made of rapidly-drying nylon. You have to wash them, right? And you have to wash your body, too, right? So I take a pair of those nylon undies into the shower and they double as a bath scrubby. We’re both getting clean! I know, it sounds strange, but it’s very practical and one less thing you have to pack (scrubby).

Tip #5: If you don’t need it for the first week, consider not bringing it at all. Examples: Extra contact lens solution, shampoo, toothpaste, other toiletries. Bring enough for the first 7 days and chances are you can buy it or borrow it once you’ve run out.

Tip #6: A nice, comfy, big scarf is absolutely mandatory for a woman. I got mine  for $7 at the local variety store. It’s purple and white and pretty. Planes and hotels are cold. I use mine to keep my head and neck warm. On the beach you can use it for a cover up or even to lie on. It dresses up any outfit and if it’s washable will serve you forever. Also, you wear this instead of packing it, so it leaves room for other stuff!

Tip #7: Shoes are the hardest item to select. Again, go for multipurpose. For warm climates I use a pair of Reiker shoes that I bought in Istanbul. I don’t think this model is available anymore, but Reiker offers a huge variety — you’re sure to find something appropriate for your travels. I like these for summer because they’re slip-on, fit perfectly, and work great for walking around all day or using at the beach. This is a shoe that will pass for use with a casual summer dress, shorts or with jeans.

In colder climates or in winter, I wear one big pair of boots and pack the Reikers in my bag. It may be a hassle taking the big boots off at the airport but that’s one essential item I can’t borrow or buy when I arrive (especially because I have big feet).

Happy travels!

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