Monday, July 30, 2012

The Jewel Of Northern Italy: Lake Como

Today's guest post comes to us from Shane Mcc from NationalRVParks. Doesn't this make you want to visit Italy?

Any trip to Northern Italy should include a visit to Lake Como. It is a popular tourist destination because of its fresh air, water, mountains and great weather. This lake is so beautiful that many celebrities like George Clooney, Madonna, Sylvester Stallone and Gianni Versace have purchased property there. It has also served as the setting for movies including the Stars Wars. Its appeal is truly legendary.

Como Photos
This photo of Como is courtesy of TripAdvisor

My family, which includes my mother, father, brother and I, traveled to this pristine area of Northern Italy in October 2011 as a side trip while we were visitng Milan.  Lake Como is in close proximity to Milan, Italy. It is easily accessed by train from Stazione Centrale in downtown Milan.  It takes about 45 minutes to arrive. We left on a quiet Sunday afternoon in mid October.

St. Marks

After a short walk from the main train station called San Giovanni, we gazed open-mouthed at a vast expanse of clear, glass-like, calm water and almost in unison, a smile appeared on our faces. We all knew immediately why this area of Northern ltaly is so popular.

Santa Maria Dellfiore

The town of Como was our starting point to tour the lake.  It has various docks where boats are available for transportation to other towns on the lake.  The lake itself, is shaped like an inverted "Y", and is rimmed by small village-like towns that each have a dock for easy boarding and unboarding. 

Statue of David

These towns are rustic and quaint.  A visit to any of them is the quintessential Lake Como experience.  Towns like Tremezzo, where the gorgeous Villa Carlotta is a must see attraction, Mennaggio, with its small wine bars, gelatarias, and cafes, and, Bellagio, the "pearl of the lake" are all worthy of a  visit. 

Bellagio, in particular, was the most appealing for us.  We had lunch at a small trattoria situated along the lakeside.  I particularly remember a gentle breeze, soft sunshine and a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains accompanying our bottle of Pinot Grigio and bruschetta. A pleasant lago di Como memory that i will always treasure. An interesting note is that the little town of Bellagio was Steve Wynn's, the well known Las Vegas impresario,  inspiration for the  Bellagio Hotel, the centerpiece of the  famous Las Vegas Strip. The essence of an old Italian villagio comes to life in its buccolic surroundings.  Bellagio is known as the "Pearl" of the Lake. Our visit to Bellagio will be incentive enough for us to come back.

Photos of Bellagio Water Taxis, Bellagio
This photo of Villa del Balbienella is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Bellagio also is the home of another must see attraction;  the Villa Balbienello (the location of the famous Star Wars wedding scene).  Its meticulously maintained grounds and its old world Italian architecture are of particular note.  

There are many other sleepy little towns and villages worthy of a visit on the Lake.  If you are fortunate enough to spend a few days there, you can really get a chance to explore and enjoy  Lago di Como . The only mistake that you can make about visiting Lake Como is not making plans to return. Please, take some time to view some photos taken of our perfect lake Como sojourn.

Make sure to visit Shane at NationalRVParks, follow him on Twitter or join him on Facebook. [All photos above are courtesy of Shane Mcc, unless otherwise noted.]


Friday, July 27, 2012

5 Ways to Pack Light and Save Money

We all want to take half our closet with us when we go on vacation in case we might need something. Guess what? You probably won’t need it. Just remember: the less you bring, the less you have to carry. With this in mind, start with a packing list and only add essentials to it. A packing list can help save you from over-packing and having to pay overweight baggage fees. In fact, traveling with only a carry-on can save you checked-bag fees as well. Think of the things you can spend that money on during your vacation when you’re putting back that sparkly party dress that you might wear.

Find stylish pieces that work together to extend your travel wardrobe and pack less. Bring neutral bottoms, so all your tops will match your bottoms and you can mix and match outfits. This allows you to take half as many articles with you. If you can find great looking travel clothing, this is even better, because they are lighter weight for more efficient packing and are made with quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics.

Take only two pair of shoes. Wear one on the plane and pack the second pair. There are so many fashionable walking shoes now that can double as dress shoes for a night on the town. Stick to the first rule and find travel shoes that match everything in your luggage. That way you won't feel like you need to take up your limited space with more options. It’s always good to give your shoes a test run before you go, too. Wear them to a variety of activities to see if they can stand up to vacation stress.

Use accessories to dress up an outfit. Sometimes you want to go out for a nice dinner, bar-hopping or a night of theater. Add a funky belt, cute jewelry pieces or a scarf to add pizzazz to something even as basic as a pair of jeans and a black tank. You'll be surprised what a few strategic pieces can do to make an outfit look completely different.

Bring products that do double (and triple) duty. Travel gadgets are one of my biggest weaknesses. If I can find an item that has multiple uses and saves space in my travel bag, it goes on my wish list. Something like an iPod Touch can eliminate the need to bring a DVD player and a handheld gaming device. 

Pack only travel-sized toiletries. There's no way you need a full-size shampoo, conditioner and hair spray for a five-day vacation, or even a two-week one. Look for these items in travel sizes or purchase small bottles that you can refill with your own product and put labels on them. This won't require you to check your bag and more than you think will fit in the 3-1-1 bag you're allowed to take through airport security. You can even buy travel hairdryers, flat irons, electric razors and curling irons. They can take up only half the space as your full-sized items, work just as well and are easy on your wallet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Things to Do in New Forest

Shakespeare’s play As You Like It takes place primarily in the Forest of Arden. When I think of New Forest, I feel like it must have the same atmosphere. Where those that want to get away from it all go to camp under the stars among the social outcasts, the trees and wildlife. I am aware that it’s probably not at all like the play, but in many ways, it actually is. Obviously, New Forest is a place to relax and get away from it all. You aren’t forced to camp or defend yourself from wild animals though.

Things to do for every budget and plenty to do for those who wish to save:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing

  • Gardens
    • Beaulieu Gardens – Explore the lush gardens, palace house, abbey, motor museum and more for £19/11.25 or £49.75 for a family. The palace was home to the Montagu family and also includes an on-site vineyard.
    • Lepe Country Park – Bring your swimsuit and towel to take advantage of over one mile of beach with amazing views. There is also a play area for the kids, D-Day remains and picnic facilities. Admission to the park is free.
    • Braxton Gardens – Free to enter, the gardens feature over 450 roses in 100 varieties, a gift shop and tea rooms.
  • Animals
    • Liberty’s Owl Raptor and Reptile Centre – Marvel at a huge assortment of birds of prey and amazing reptiles. This is a great outing for little ones, because it is educational and fun. Admission is £7.95/£4.95.
    • Longdown Activity Farm – Another fab activity for kids and adults alike. Get up close and personal with friendly farm animals, where you might get to bottle feed goats or calves. There are also indoor play areas and the farm shop where you can load up on fresh local foods, including meat and dairy products to take back and prepare in your holiday rental. Get in for just £7.95/£6.95.
    • Marwell Wildlife – This zoo is over 140 acres and houses more than 250 exotic and endangered species, like giraffe-nosed catfishes and bat-eared foxes. Admission costs depend on the time of year: £14-18/£10-14.
  • New Forest Tour Bus  – Want to see all of New Forest without having to hike there? The hop-on, hop-off bus runs two separate routes that can take you all over to experience all New Forest has to offer. Choose from 1, 2 or 5 day passes starting at £10/£4.
  • Museums
    • Ringwood Town and Country Experience – Vintage cars, a replica railway platform, olde shops and a smuggler’s display. This is sure to be a fun museum for everyone in the family. £12.50 for your whole family, or £4.75/£3.95 for adults and children.
    • Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum – Love to jump on a bike and feel the wind in your hair? With over 350 motorcycles on display, you’re bound to be in “hog” heaven. There are also tea rooms and shops on-site. Get in for just £6.90/£3.
    • St. Barbe Museum and Gallery – Learn about the people and culture of the New Forest coast through hands-on displays, talks, workshops and more, then head to the gift shop and the art galleries. Affordable entry fees at £4/£2 or £10 for a family of six.
Have you ever gone to New Forest?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Live and Learn in London

Live and Learn is a series from Shereen Travels Cheap where I share my travel snafus with you in order that you may learn from them and not repeat them.

I feel like there will always be a learning opportunity whenever I travel, but this was my first time abroad, so maybe it was  just easier to find things I didn't know about. London is a beautiful city and it's easy to just assume it's the same as any other big city. With a giant park, an underground I really didn't know much about and packing mistakes, it may have been amazing that our trip went so well. Luckily, they speak English there. For the most part. That helped a lot, unlike when we went to Paris…But that’s another post altogether.

Carry a compass – Even when you’re in the middle of a city, you never know when this might come in handy. We had a map, but trying to cross Hyde Park to get from our hotel to Harrod’s wasn’t as easy as it looked, especially when you take the sidewalks and then end up in the middle of the park and can’t figure out which way you were headed in the first place. Amazingly, I remembered the compass and we were on our way – in the right direction, at that – in no time. We even made it to Harrod’s on time to meet my uncles.

Dress in layers – So, going on the knowledge that London and the Pacific Northwest have similar weather, we packed for cold weather, since we were traveling late October to early November. Well, we didn’t plan on it being unseasonably warm for the first four days we were there. How I wish I had packed a few t-shirts and cardigans instead of full-on sweaters and long sleeved tops. I could take off my coat, but couldn’t do much else about my too-warm clothes. Now, I always pack in layers: tank tops and tees that can go under something with long sleeves, like a ¾ zip fleece or similar. Columbia and ExOfficio have become my go-to online stores for great looking travelwear.

Never wear boots on a long plane ride – While this seems to be logical, I didn’t really think about it. I had some fantastically comfortable boots and left them on the entire flight from Portland to Dallas to London Gatwick. My feet swelled on the plane and by the time we got to our hotel room I had to peel them off my legs. They went back in the suitcase and never came back out until we came home. I simply could not get them back on. Luckily, I also brought along some great walking shoes, which I proceeded to wear everyday for the rest of the trip. Ideally, having two pair of walking shoes would get you by: One for casual outings and one for dressing up a little.

Cold weather travel clothes are a must – Do you know how long jeans take to dry after you wash them? Forever, might be an appropriate response. Had I known then what I know now, I would have bought and packed an array of travel clothing, instead of normal every-day clothes. This would have eliminated the need to spend almost $20 at the Laundromat down the street and we could have easily washed our clothes in the bathroom sink and hung them to dry. Even if we didn’t hand wash, we wouldn’t have needed to use the dryer three or four times in order to get everything dry enough to take back to the room, because it would have easily dried overnight.

Figure out how to get to your lodging from the airport before you leave – I’ve since learned this is smart. We didn’t do any research before we left on how to get from Point A to Point B and Day 1 turned into the day that we both hated each other and needed a break. Great way to start a honeymoon. I threatened to heave my bags into the street and get a cab, while my husband insisted the hotel was “right down the street”. It was NOT right down the street. The problem started when we got on the Underground and only had one plan on where to get off. That stop ended up being under construction, so instead of figuring out we could go one stop further, we stopped at the one before our intended station and walked a few miles before we finally did make it to our hotel. I was cranky and starving and I think the folks at the front desk could tell, because they kindly offered to hold our bags and gave us directions toward food. Halfway around the block, we saw an underground station that was fully-functional and would have been perfect to get off at. We used it for the rest of the trip to get to and from our hotel. A little bit of research would have been helpful in this situation.

When you see something being filmed, stop and see what it is – You’ve heard me complain about this before. Leaving Waterloo Station with our newly purchased London Passes to go to the aquarium, we saw an entire film crew and some very familiar looking people. We assumed it was for some commercial that we would never see and then months later found out they were filming the Bourne Supremacy and Matt Damon himself was on set and we walked right past him. Crazy!

Look at Eric savoring the experience
If you want a drink with ice in it, head to The Hard Rock – Seriously, Europe has some aversion to ice cubes. You order an ice tea and you get 3 cubes that have all but melted by the time it makes it to your table. You order a soda and you get a bottle (no refills!) from the cooler and a warm glass. If you want a refill, you order another bottle and pay another $4 for it. It’s better just order bottled water everywhere you go. Ask for still water if you don’t want it carbonated. On one of our last nights in the city, we made the pilgrimage to the very first Hard Rock CafĂ©. We took a chance and ordered sodas, since they claimed to be bottomless. When the waiter came back, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Giant glasses filled to the brim with ice and super cold diet beverage! I think this visit gave us a soft spot for HRC and we seek them out wherever we travel.

Don’t bring your whole closet – This is something that I’ve learned since traveling abroad. You’ll likely be traveling to your accommodation via public transportation. Be advised that these usually come with massive amounts of stairs. If you can’t lift your own luggage with ease, you have too much stuff in your bag. This was the first time I had ever even ridden the subway, so at the very least I had wheels on my bags, but that doesn’t help if you have to run up and down three or four flights of steps. My husband can’t be expected to carry 2 large bags like a mule. Pack light, carry-on and everyone will be so much happier. If you forgot to pack it, either you don’t need it or you can get it at your destination. Also, unless you use the space under your hotel bed, there’s no place to put full-size suitcases in your room. They’ll just take up valuable floor space that you need for standing and walking.

There are so many things to see and do in London and I can't wait to go back with all my new travel techniques and enjoy it even more. This time I hope to hit up the zoo, Wimbledon, Windsor and Stratford-Upon-Avon. 

What are some of your biggest travel mistakes?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Products We Love: Foldable Flats

Packing light has started to become the new norm for many travelers, so it’s a must to be able to find items that can travel well and still be useful and/or stylish. When I first came upon foldable flats, I wondered how comfortable they would be, especially after wearing torturous high heels for a long time. Of course, anything is better once you take those heels off. I decided to purchase a pair for wearing around the house and on the plane – because if you’re like me, you immediately want to take off your shoes to get comfortable, but you don’t want to go barefoot.

Obviously, you have to make the most of your limited carry-on space and foldable flats are great, because they fit into their own little pouch and can slip into a carry-on pocket or your purse. You can now find them in a bunch of different colors and styles and are the perfect option for slipping on in the morning and browsing the continental breakfast or buffet. Wear them out to dinner when you want to dress up, but you still don’t want to wear “real shoes”. Ballet flats are very on-trend right now, so foldable flats will always make you look stylish and go with almost everything you own.

Another plus? They are pretty affordable. While I wouldn't suggest wearing them to go sightseeing or hiking, these are an option for wearing with your dress-up clothes and saving space in your travel bag. Several pair can fit in the space of one pair of regular shoes, too, so if you have issues with wanting to bring a bunch of shoes, then these could be your answer. I’m loving mine so far and I think you will as well.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Post: Exploring the Isle of Wight on a Budget

Today's guest post was brought to you by Kit at WightLink. Please go check out her page.
Nowadays, so many of us spend our holiday time abroad that the beauty and splendour of destinations around the UK are never seen by many. It’s not just Spain that has sun-kissed beaches, France that has good wine, nor Italy that has quaint villages – you can find all these without leaving the country, without the hassle of hours at the airport; and without breaking the bank.
The Isle of Wight is one of the UK’s best kept holiday secrets. It’s only a 30 minute journey from Yarmouth on the Lymington ferry, and if you take your car you won’t even need to worry about having to hire transport when you get there.
The island is a great getaway for those on a budget, with loads of attractions available at cheap or even free entry, accommodation available for much less than the big cities, and restaurants that really are hidden gems.
Sleep somewhere different
Ever fancied finding out what it’s like to spend the night in a Tipi? In the east coast resort of Ryde, you might be lucky enough to stumble across the island’s Tipi Holiday Park. These are brilliant if you’re looking for accommodation on a budget, but still want interesting lodgings.
Alternatively, have a look at Compton Farm: a camping experience with a difference. There’s ducks to feed, eggs to collect, tractors to play on…and even a dinosaur footprint to discover!

Staying entertained
Throughout the year, the island makes sure to provide visitors with plenty of events – the biggest of course, being the upcoming Bestival music festival in September. Aside from this, there’s something for everyone: from a whole host of other musical extravaganzas, to sporting events, food festivals, and even historical recreations.
Ever wanted to see Beyonce, The Beatles, and Take That playing live in one place? You can – sort of – at the Isle of Wight’s ‘FauxFest’, which showcases the UK’s best tribute acts at a charity event. Or you could follow the Wight History Trail, which takes visitors on a tour of the island - and even better, most of the sights are free.

Family fun
Keeping young children entertained on holiday can often be difficult – and especially if you’re trying to stick to a budget. Carisbrooke Castle has the solution, with Spy Training days in early August as part of their Time Travellers Go series of events. You can get entrance to the experience, along with travel to the island, at a reduced rate through Wightlink Ferries.
With plenty to see and do and some great places to stay, the Isle of Wight is the perfect option for those looking for a break on a budget. Whether it’s family entertainment or fun with friends, the island has something for everyone.
Thanks again to Kit for this fun post. You can find her on her website | Facebook | Twitter

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Two-Day Breaks for Less

If you're looking for a new travel bag, go check out my review of Travelon's Anti-Theft React Weekender bag. With its slash-proof construction, it is both stylish and secure - it's also sold worldwide!

On the main Shereen Travels Cheap blog, I try to mix it up with some awesome deals when I find them. Though I often post things that can be affordable here, I liked the idea of bringing that over, so today you are getting some awesome break deals that are going to go fast, but affordable enough that you will be able to snap them up if you want to take advantage of them.

Choose from a few different getaways at the Burn Hall Hotel in Yorkshire: One night for £49, two nights for £99 or two nights with dinner for £119. This is a couples break that includes breakfast and a bottle of wine (if you take dinner in the restaurant). the Burn Hall Hotel is just a short drive from York, is a Green Tourism award-winner and is near many amazing dining venues and shopping opportunities. You can even bring your dog and enjoy exploring the grounds with him and your significant other.

Get a 2-night stay for two in Staffordshire for just £59, which includes breakfast and a stay at The Garden House in Cheddleton. You're just a short drive to the Peak District, is close to the train station and is private and quiet. A great place to get away from your harried life and just relax and be pampered.

Spend two nights in Edinburgh on a city break at the Western Manor Hotel for just £69 for one or two people, so get away with a loved one or just relax on your own. Either way, breakfast is included. Western Manor is located in Murrayfield and is just 2 miles from Edinburgh city centre. You can walk or drive and see some of the city's best sites.

Enjoy a short city break to get away from the daily grind and engage in some quality rest and relaxation.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cut Your Dining Costs by Half!

Find delicious places to eat on a budget! Food can really add up, which can really make you mad if you spend money on a crap meal. Don’t assume there will be amazing food everywhere you turn. Find and book tables at dining venues in the UK and Europe and save money while doing it!

With, not only can you make reservations online, but you can see diner reviews, menus, get big discounts and accrue points for each reservation you complete to earn your way to a free dining certificate. Even if you’re already in the city and want to have lunch in an hour, make your reservation just to get the points credited to your account when you check in. You can do it on your smart phone via mobile web or their free phone and iPad apps!
It’s one of the best ways to check out those Michelin-starred restaurants run by celebrity chefs, too. Deep discounts on some of the best food in the world? Count me in. I’m totally using TopTable to eat at one of Gordon Ramsay’s London restaurants for less when I return. In the meantime, I will use their sister site,, to make my reservations for Ramsay's Los Angeles restaurant.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Runnur Mini Backpack

Do you ever feel weighted down with bags just about everywhere you go? You need to carry stuff with you, but purses are for girls, bum bags are uncool and you can only put so much in your pockets before your pants start falling off. I often carry a small handbag on trips - and more often larger ones - but there are so many places we go that I just wish I were hands-free, but still had my essentials. You probably go to many of these places, too: the dog park, the airport, biking, hiking, theme parks, anywhere you have a baby with you... The list goes on and on. This is why I was so thrilled to find the Runnur.  They market it as a mini backpack, but it's way more awesome than any backpack I've ever owned. It's also more comfortable and doesn't give you nasty pre-calculus flashbacks.

Testing out this fancy new gadget was a no-brainer. I like the design for both men and women, because it's so functional and has a simple look. I, personally, wouldn't try to wear it out to a 5-star restaurant, but I can see it working for some men. I chose the Runnur in medium, so Eric and I could both try it on and give thoughts. As you can see, it works much better for me than him. I was happy with the size, but certainly could have gotten a small and had it work, too. If I planned to do a lot of activities like hiking, the small would fit more snugly and been a better choice. Eric is excited to get a Runnur in large before our next trip.

Let's get to why this product is so great and what's going to make you rush to the website to get one. Obviously, the Runnur was designed for runners, right? I suppose you could use it for running, but this convenient sling that fits like a seatbelt was designed for those on-the-go. The nylon strap makes use of every inch of space, with pockets and loops and a carabiner as well as easy velcro and zipper closure. Eric says it’s effortless to wear and thinks it’s pretty cool and manly. I think the pockets are perfect for carrying everything you need, and then some. I packed mine for an on-the-go gadget geek – like with what I would want to take on a plane. Surprisingly, I would not have been able to get the same items into a similarly sized handbag.

How did I get it all in there? It was easy with all the pockets and slots and holders. The Runnur has a great ID card holder, so you don't have to fumble around for it. It also has a built-in wallet with card slots and separate sections for money and receipts, two velcro pockets for electronics, a bigger velcro pocket with a thick front to keep glasses, or any number of other things from getting crushed, a larger zipper pocket that has room for snacks, your camera, change and makeup. This pouch has a nice reflective strip on it for being seen in the dark. You also have a carabiner to hold keys, pen holders and a mesh pouch for your water bottle. Above you can see what I stuffed in there and following you can see where I put them all.

As you can see, your money and your ID are kept right next to you in highly convenient compartments. Carry all your important things in this wallet pocket, like cash, credit cards, gift cards (for anyone who saves them for vacation), your boarding pass and your passport - or you can use the secret pocket on the inside for your passport. Sneaky! Having them right there will eliminate thievery and since you are keeping everything in the Runnur, you can save time emptying your pockets at airport security and just place it right into a bin and put it right back on when you exit. Simple!

These two pockets are great sizes and can easily fit a point and shoot digital camera and my smartphone with case that makes it even fatter than usual. I didn't even have to wrestle it out when I wanted to use it - my favorite part! The nylon fabric makes sure things don't stick and will slide easily in and out.

Like to carry keys or one of those tiny flashlights or even a reusable grocery tote that packs into itself? This carabiner is pretty handy. I will admit that walking around with keys jangling can be sort of annoying, but you certainly won't lose them and will always know where they are. If you'd rather, you can put them in the zippered pouch.

Eric loves taking his DS with him everywhere he goes, and would totally use the Runnur to carry it around. He'd also be able to carry extra games and a spare stylus, but I generally have one puzzle game that I'm playing, so I filled my larger pouch with a healthy snack, pressed powder and tinted lip balm. I don't like to be shiny, hungry or chapped. I also don't like to be thirsty, so this mesh bottle holder is a perfect addition! 

Now, as convenient as I think this would be for travel, it would also be awesome for physical activities. Fill it with a bottle of sports beverage, snacks and first aid supplies. My first thought when I saw the Runnur was that it was amazing for theme park travel. Now, I didn't jump up and down and stand on my head to test out whether or not items would fall out if I did, but the closures are so well made, I wouldn't be worried that they would fail. Leave it on while on rides or put it in the pocket in front of your seat. I like to hold on to my stuff so I don't forget it, so another option is to wear it around your waist during crazy rides and then wear it normally again once you get off. You always want to keep a bottle of water with you to stay hydrated, your camera to capture memories, sunscreen to keep from getting scorched and snacks to hold you over until mealtimes. 
The Runnur is lightweight and foam-filled, to make it comfortable to wear against your body. It also features a non-slip shoulder strap that is contoured to fit your curves. Eric can't wait to get his to wear while out bike riding. I wish I had one over Memorial Weekend when we were hiking the lava cave, because it would have been so much more comfortable than my usual cross-body bag, and I would have had somewhere to put my water bottle. Have I convinced you yet? If not, maybe this video from Runnur will help:

Additional information
Where you can buy it: On the GoRunner website
How much it costs: $39 - and they ship internationally!
Colors it comes in: Canvas, Plum, Black w/ Red Stitching, Silver (the one I have on) and Solid Black.
Sizes it comes in: S, M, L, XL

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pack for a Week in a Carry-On

For some people, carry-on travel is really difficult. I have to admit that it took some time and practice for it to become second nature to me, but I refuse to pay the outrageous fees for checking a bag, so I have perfected packing light and now advise others on how to do it more easily.

Coordinating colors – Bring clothing that all fit within a main color scheme. Plan for all your bottoms or all your tops to stay in one color range, like tan or black, so that all your pieces will mix and match with each other and allow you to make the maximum amount of outfits with fewer key pieces.

Less shoes equals more space – I generally suggest bringing two pair of shoes – one walking pair and one comfortable, but dressier pair – as well as a pair of flip flops. If you’ve followed rule number one, then it should be simple to keep your shoe choices to a minimum. Look to bring a nice pair of sandals or ballet flats for women and a pair of loafers or similar for men as your extra pair. These will go with any less casual outfit choice and ready you for a night out or even a business meeting.

Bring layers – You never know what the weather might be where you go, unless you’ll be traveling to the Equator. Layers are essential and also give you more combination choices. For my upcoming trip to California, which will be mostly summer weather, but with some cooler nights, I chose 3 tank tops (in the same colors), a sleeveless cream and gold top for afternoon tea and a fancy dinner, a cream-colored cardigan, a pair of khaki shorts, a pair of khaki capris, a pair of lightweight jeans, a dress, a bathing suit, a pair of wedge sandals, a pair of flip flops and a pair of folding gold ballet flats. Yes, I will have to do laundry, but that is a small price to pay to be able to pack in less space. Quick drying fabrics, like bamboo, soy or polyester, are ideal for this.

Accessorize – Turn a boring tank top or plain dress into a fun going out look by adding statement pieces like necklaces, belts or scarves. They take up little space and can give you totally different looks. Men just need to bring a nice dress shirt and several different ties. They are easy to pack and different patterns can make the same shirt seem completely like a whole new outfit.

Eyeshadow palette, lip/cheek stain, tinted moisturizer and powder base.

Double Up – When making your packing list, look for things that do double- or triple-duty. Shampoo can be used as shower gel (like philosophy’s 3-1-1 gels), tinted moisturizer can double as lightweight foundation and sunscreen if it has SPF in it and your iPod can work as a video player, e-reader, laptop and handheld gaming device.

With these tips, you can easily fit everything you need for a week or more in just a weekender-size bag like I did. I even had room for all my toiletries, netbook, Kindle, snacks, camera, mini straightening iron and my travel blanket. Just remember that the clothing you wear on the plane will also figure into your travel wardrobe. Notice that the outfit I'm wearing will easily coordinate with other other pieces I'm taking. Now, get started on your packing list!