I recently returned from a five day trip to Fort Worth, Texas (sister city to Dallas). It was my first time to that area other than the DFW airport (which doesn’t count…), so it was an adventure. The reason I went there was to meet up with some of the wonderful ladies from the private Facebook group I started, most of whom I had never met in person but had conversed with many times online. A Fort Worth local took the reins in planning the event and thought of lots of special details that I never would have considered myself. She even organized an early celebration for my 50th birthday, complete with tiara and Hawaiian lei (photo below). Here are a couple of pictures of me embracing the Texas culture with a fringed boot and cowboy hat:
While it’s true that July isn’t necessarily the ideal time to visit Texas, the heat wasn’t as extreme as I’d feared. I mostly stayed indoors during the day and enjoyed the balmy evenings when no jacket was required. All in all, it was a fun-filled trip and I’m so grateful I was able to make it! I don’t get many in-person interactions in my day-to-day life, so it was so nice to be able to look into people’s eyes and share laughter and meaningful conversations face to face. I wish I could show you the photos I took of the lovely women in attendance, but not everyone wants to splash photos of themselves across the Internet, so I’ll respect their privacy. Suffice it to say that they are all beautiful inside and out and I’m pleased to know them.
I hadn’t traveled in almost a year (see my last travel debrief here) and I just don’t do it often enough to get good at packing. I don’t know if I will ever be a packing minimalist, but I’ve found that reflecting back on what did and didn’t work has helped me improve in terms of making the right decisions and not over-packing so much (I have a long history of doing just that!). In today’s post, I look at what I brought to Texas with me, whether or not my packing served me well, and what I wore during my stay.
What I Packed
As my trip approached, I paid attention to the weather forecast and saw that temperatures around 100F were predicted for the daytime, with lows around 80F at night. Although the outdoor temperatures can be downright scorching, I was warned that most buildings are highly air-conditioned and a topper of some sort is generally needed indoors. A few “packing pros” in the group suggested that I begin by looking at the agenda for the meetup and considering what I’d like to wear to the scheduled events.
Don’t Pack “Benchwarmers”
One mistake that a lot of people make when packing is to take along wardrobe “benchwarmers” to push themselves to wear those items. I’ve done that quite a few times in the past and almost universally regretted doing so. If we don’t feel compelled to wear something at home, what makes us think that we’ll be excited to wear it while on a trip? When we’re on the fence about a particular item, it’s best to either wear it at home or for a short errand in order to evaluate it. That way, we can easily change into something else if we find ourselves feeling uncomfortable either physically or emotionally. In contrast, if we wear a benchwarmer item on a trip, we may be stuck wearing it for an entire day, which could impinge upon our enjoyment of what we’re doing.
Because I’ve learned that it’s best to pack closet favorites when travelling, I focused my packing primarily on the “tried and true” pieces I own. However, since summer weather had only just begun a few weeks prior and I’d experienced some weight fluctuations since last summer, I took some time the weekend before my trip to try clothes on and see what still held my fancy. I considered packing dresses, skirts, and pants, but then I gave it a second thought and decided to leave the pants at home. I usually just wear dresses and skirts during the summer, but I considered the pants based upon what other attendees had indicated they were taking along. Those people may be perfectly comfortable wearing pants in the summer, but my preference is for dresses and skirts, so that’s what I packed. We have to think about what we like to wear and pack accordingly.
I Could Have Packed Less, But…
I probably could have gotten along just fine packing half of what I did, but I wanted to take advantage of the occasion to wear more of my clothes, especially around other people who care about clothing and style. Additionally, summer clothing doesn’t occupy as much space as winter items do, so I was able to fit much more into the space I had available. I only have two sizes of suitcases, carry-on and large, so I took the large bag, which allowed me to pack more. I even had enough space to pack the special contour pillow that helps me avoid neck pain when sleeping.
Here’s a snapshot of what I packed for my trip. My sleepwear, undergarments, and swimsuit are not shown, but I will discuss those items below. In contrast to most trips I take, I didn’t pack workout clothes this time around, as I didn’t think I would have the time or occasion to use them (and I was right).
About the Items I Packed
I always choose my shoes first when packing; then I move on to bottoms (and dresses) and then toppers. I select my tops last because they are the easiest items for me. I have lots of tops that I love and which coordinate with my various bottoms (in this case, skirts).
Shoes and Bag
I wore one pair of flat sandals on the plane and packed two additional pairs, another pair of flats and a pair of medium-heeled wedges. All three pairs of shoes have proven to be comfortable for walking fairly long distances and all are neutral-toned (either black or metallic) and coordinate well with the clothes in my travel capsule. On my last trip, I packed just two pairs of shoes, but summer shoes are relatively lightweight, so I didn’t think having three pairs was unreasonable. All of the shoes in my travel capsule were worn multiple times.
I only brought one handbag along on the trip, the one I had been using for all of June and July. It’s a comfortable, metallic bag with black trim. It holds a lot and goes with pretty much everything, so it was a good choice. In retrospect, I wish I had also packed a small bag to use when going out at night. That’s something to remember for next time.
Yes, there are quite a few dresses in the mix, five to be exact. I realize that dresses aren’t as versatile as separates, especially in warmer weather when not much layering goes on. However, I like to wear dresses and was willing to sacrifice the mix and match possibilities that separates engender. I ended up wearing all of the dresses and felt good in each and every one. Consequently, I’m happy with my decision to pack so many, especially since I don’t have a lot of opportunities to wear them at home.
Finally, I wore one topper for travel (grey and black striped moto jacket) and packed three other options. The cobalt shrug was a bit of a gamble, as it was new and had not yet been worn, but I thought it would look nice with most of the dresses in my travel capsule. The two tie-waist cardigans and the moto jacket had all served me well for at least a year, so I knew I’d be happy to wear them when indoors in Texas. I wore all of the toppers multiple times with the exception of the cobalt shrug, which was worn just once. In hindsight, I could have left that piece at home, but I was happy with it the time I wore it.
I also packed seven separates, four tank tops and three skirts. Two of the skirts could be worn with all four tops and the other worked with three of them. I feel I made good choices in this regard, but because I wore so many dresses, I didn’t end up wearing one top and one skirt (see below). Those items didn’t occupy much space, but in the future, I think I’ll only pack two skirts and three tops if I have so many dresses in my suitcase.
What Did and Didn’t Get Worn
As I mentioned above, I wore almost everything I packed and many items were worn multiple times. Here are the pieces that were worn at least twice and sometimes three or more times.
I was pleased with the shoes and toppers I selected for my travel capsule and with the exception of one topper, they all received multiple wears. My bag was carried all five days, as well as in the evenings. Each of my dresses and most of my separates were worn just once. The only separate that was worn twice was my black crinkle maxi-skirt. As stated previously, I could have easily gotten by with packing fewer clothes, but I liked having the opportunity to wear more of my favorites, so I basically don’t regret packing as much as I did.
There were only two items that I didn’t wear at all, one tank top and one skirt. Interestingly, I wore the skirt two days after I returned home, but the tank top has yet to be worn since my return. Both pieces were favorites last summer. I don’t think it was bad to pack these items in particular; I just didn’t need as many separates with the number of dresses I included in my capsule. Next time, I will either pack fewer dresses or fewer separates for that length of trip.
I didn’t photograph all of my outfits and some of the photos I have include other people so I can’t use them. Fortunately, many of my ensembles were repeats from earlier in the summer or last year, so I have alternate photos of them to include here (which is why my hair is longer in some photos than others and I look slimmer in some as well).
Here’s a look at my Texas outfits. Fortunately, I was happy with all of them. It helped that I only packed “tried and true” pieces that I knew worked well for me and would be suitable for my travel activities (mostly hanging out with friends, going out to eat, and exploring Downtown Fort Worth a bit).
I didn’t wear the white hat in Texas; that photo is from last week in San Diego. Sadly, most hats are difficult to pack unless they are the “crushable” variety. I will have to look for some of those, especially since I’m growing out my gray hair (an update on that soon) and will be wearing hats more often. Also, the black skirt shown above is not the same one I wore on the trip, but the outfit is identical otherwise. I didn’t get any photos of my black skirt outfits in Texas (there were two), but I did wear the burgundy tank with it one day. For my return home, I wore the red tank and the striped moto jacket. I wish I would have gotten a photo of that outfit, as I liked it a lot, but I’m sure I will be wearing it again soon and can take a picture of it then.
The photo above needs some explanation. In the first image, I am at the Fort Worth Water Gardens, which was right across the street from our hotel (the Sheraton Fort Worth). The Fort Worth Water Gardens was built in 1974 and includes three pools of water and a terraced knoll. It’s a beautiful and serene place and I wish I would have been able to spend more time there. The main attraction is the active pool which has water cascading 38 feet (11 m) down terraces and steps into a small pool at the bottom. I wish I would have packed my camera for photos (but I include a few cell phone images below), but I knew I wouldn’t have much time for photography and it would be too hot for me to spend much time outdoors during the day.
In the second image, I have a big smile on my face because I got to enjoy one of my favorite treats, a peanut butter smoothie. I make smoothies in my Vitamix blender almost every day at home (a few of my favorites include this one, this one, and this one), so it was nice to get to have one while I was in Texas.
The third image is from my early 50th birthday celebration. I can’t remember the last time I wore a tiara, but I think moving into my fifties is a good time for one! I received a lovely card signed by all of the meetup attendees, as well as a gluten-free cake (delicious – yes, I don’t do gluten and haven’t for over two years due to my digestive issues). It was nice to be able to mark the passage into a new decade surrounded by such wonderful friends.
What Else I Packed
In addition to the clothes I showed above, I also packed the following:
- 1 pajama bottom
- 2 pajama tops (both short-sleeved)
- Lounge outfit (top and Capri pants) to wear when getting ready and in my hotel room
- Undergarments (I usually pack a few extras)
- Socks (2 pairs, to wear in the hotel room)
- Jewelry (at least 10 pairs of earrings, 3 bracelets, and 3 necklaces)
- 2 books
- Reading glasses
- My pillow (as mentioned above)
- Neck wrap and wrist pad (I have a lot of joint problems)
- Flat iron
- Lint brush
- Toiletry items (a lot of those – I don’t travel lightly in that department!)
- Supplements (packed in baggies and small containers, not original bottles)
- Snacks (nuts, cookies, energy bars)
What I Should Have Packed & What I Wish I’d Left at Home
I noticed very few omissions this time around. I wish I would have packed a long-sleeved pajama top, as the suite where the group hung out at night was pretty cold. Fortunately, I was able to use the robe hanging in the closet of my hotel room, but it would have been nice to have a long-sleeved top to wear instead, as the robe could be too warm. I also wish I would have packed a small bag to use when going out at night, as I mentioned above, but that’s about all I can think of in terms of what I wish I’d packed.
Most of the above items got used, but I wish I would have left a few of them behind. Since the notes I made following my last trip helped me to pack more wisely this trip, I think it will be useful for me to do the same this time around. Here’s what I wish I would have left at home:
- One pajama top – I only wore it once and could have easily gotten by with just one short-sleeved pajama top. I wish I would have packed a long-sleeved top instead.
- Lounge outfit – It wasn’t really necessary, as I could have just worn my pajamas while getting ready and in the room.
- Books – I only ended up reading on the plane and since I had magazines downloaded on my iPad, that was plenty to read. One of the books I packed was “To Buy or Not to Buy,” which I was going to use for a presentation, but I could have easily photocopied the pages I needed instead of packing the heavy book. As it turned out, I didn’t end up doing the presentation because the meeting veered off schedule (which wasn’t a problem since I enjoyed the diversion).
- So much jewelry – I didn’t need as much jewelry as I packed, but since I was running short on time before I left for the airport, I just threw a bunch of pieces into my jewelry bag. In the future, I would like to give more thought to my jewelry strategy and pack fewer items.
- So many snacks – This is a mistake I often make when I travel, as I always worry that I won’t have enough to eat given my dietary restrictions. However, just a few snacks would have been enough. Since I had a mini refrigerator in my room, I was able to pick up some fresh food to eat for breakfast and snacks each day, so I didn’t need as many of the non-perishable items I brought from home.
There were a few other items that I packed and didn’t use, but I don’t regret having them along. I often experience neck pain, so my neck wrap would have come in handy if that occurred (fortunately, it did not). I also packed too many undergarments but since I actually forgot these items twice in the past, I don’t mind having a few extras along when I travel, as I’ve been known to extend my trips sometimes. All in all, I feel that I packed pretty well and used most of what I took along on my trip. Yes, I could have been more minimal in my packing, but my bag wasn’t overstuffed, I didn’t have to pay any excess weight fees, and I was happy with the outfits I wore. For some trips, it would be better to pack less, but for this particular vacation, I was glad to have more options to wear.
A Few Photos from Fort Worth
I didn’t take a lot of non-people photos in Fort Worth, but I wanted to share a few images of the scenery that I captured on my cell phone. Not far from our hotel was the beautiful Sundance Square Plaza, a 55,000 square foot area that includes fountains, giant umbrellas, and a state-of-the art sound and lighting system. Concerts, exercise classes, and outdoor movies are featured in the plaza, plus it’s a fun place to hang out and people watch. Here are a few photos of Sundance Square Plaza during the day and at night.
The nighttime is bustling in Sundance Square and it’s common to see horse-drawn carriages carrying visitors around the city.
I had a nice view of the city from the window of my hotel room. Here’s how it looked on the first morning of my trip, super clear and sunny (and hot!):
Conclusion and Coming Attractions
I hope you found this post interesting and perhaps helpful as well. I know it’s just about my experience, but maybe it made you think of things you might want to pack or leave at home the next time you travel. If you have questions or comments for me or would like to share your experiences and packing tips, please do so.
Later this week, I will publish my first of two posts updating my goals for the year. Since my 50th birthday is on Monday, I’ll share some thoughts on that and reflect on my life goals for 2016. I will also do an update soon on my wardrobe and shopping goals for the year and let you know how I’m doing in that respect. I hope some of you will choose to share how your 2016 goals are progressing in the comments section of those posts. I really enjoy your comments and read them all even if I can’t always respond to every single one. I value you all and learn so much from those who choose to write to me, either on the blog or via email. Thank you so much for your support over the past 3.5 years!