Travel Caching & Learning to Pack Less

SFO My Second Home

I travel a lot for business and for pleasure, and my most frequent destination (by far) is Dallas, Texas. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been reading here for a while. Dallas is home. Newer readers might not know that I even tried to maintain two homes for a little while — one in Dallas and one in San Francisco. I wasn’t ready to let go of Dallas, but I craved more time in San Francisco.

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion over the course of many months that living this split life wasn’t workable for me. Now I live in San Francisco full time, but I still get back to Dallas quite a bit, usually every 6 to 8 weeks. All this back and forth convinced me that I needed to find a way to make my travel to Dallas simpler.

Packing for Trips to Dallas

I’ve gotten pretty good at packing and could do it pretty quickly, but I still struggled, forgetting things I needed and not using things I’d brought. The biggest challenge was the range of things that might pop up during any given trip to Dallas — from attending a lecture with my mom, meeting friends for dinner or happy hour, hosting formal meetings for work, watching my nephews baseball games in the Texas heat, lounging around the house with family, and squeezing in some time for yoga, not to mention my favorite breakfast tacos. (Tacos don’t require special attire, but they’re definitely a priority.) Also, I usually stay for about 10 days when I go. That’s a lot to fit in a carry-on luggage.

When I found myself butting up against the limits of carry-on luggage, I went back to the drawing board. I didn’t want to be one of those people who holds up the entire boarding process while attempting to shove their bulging luggage into the overhead compartment. Checking my luggage doesn’t particularly appeal to me either, and I was willing to make considerable efforts to avoid it, including packing less.

Since I stay at my family’s house each time I visit, I could easily leave a few things behind for future trips. So why did I need to bring everything back and forth on each trip, like a pack mule?

Well, I don’t actually.

Bathroom Travel Cache

An extra bathroom where I keep part of my travel cache.

My Travel Cache

Having a small stash of supplies at my destination has changed the way I pack entirely. I’ve learned to rely on the things I have in Dallas already, making sure that I keep them fully stocked and replenished, leaving me precious carry-on space to use for clothing or other things I need to specific to that particular trip.

Here’s a list of the basics I now leave in Dallas:

  • Hairdryer, flat iron, curling iron, and a brush
  • Toiletries — deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, etc.
  • Running shoes
  • Flip flops
  • A couple of pairs of heels and flats, and a pair of short boots
  • Slim laptop bag
  • A comfortable sweater
  • A light jacket
  • An umbrella
  • A wrap or pashmina
  • Gloves

Extra Credit, Not (At All) Necessary Items

There are also a few extras pictured that survived my massive purge of stuff and just never made the move with me to SF — a mini library of old favorites, two purses, a couple of semiformal dresses, a mink stole I was given by my grandmother, and all my childhood momentos and photo albums. Definitely not required for quality travel caching.

Closet Travel Cache

The extra closet I’ve taken over in Dallas for the rest of my travel cache.

More About Travel Caching

It’s very effective when you find yourself traveling consistently to the same location. When I came across this post on travel caching in NYC from Tim Ferriss, I discovered that he’d created a catchy name for what I’d already been doing. His post shows the contents of a trunk kept for him at his regular hotel in NYC.

Just for fun, here are a few differences between my style of travel caching and Tim Ferriss’ version:

  • There are no canned lentils on my list! You won’t find me eating my breakfast out of a tin can. But I can virtually always count on there being chia seeds or oatmeal stocked in the pantry, which makes for an easy breakfast.
  • I do my own laundry before I leave town. There’s no hotel staff to do it for me, and my mom stopped doing my laundry when I was in middle school. Somehow not having to walk down three flights of stairs in SF to feed my building’s shared washers and dryers with a seemingly endless stream of quarters means that laundry feels like a luxury. So I always return to San Francisco with a bag full of clean clothes.
  • In Texas, you need a car to get around. Not so in NYC where Tim travel caches. When I visit, my Dad takes his truck, and I’m lucky enough to be able to borrow his other car.


My company recently hired another lawyer who reports to me and works out of our Dallas office, which means no end to my reasons for continued trips back to Dallas. Thankfully, I’m prepared!

New Carry On Luggage

No overstuffed carry-on luggage here.

Word Harvesting

(Cropped) Fridge Words by Jon Fife via Flickr.

Earlier this year, I took a writing class focused on narrative travel writing, taught by my friend Lavinia Spalding. One of the techniques she emphasized from our first session is called Word Harvesting, and it’s a valuable tool far beyond travel writing.

How to Harvest Words

Since writers deal in words, hopefully descriptive and evocative, regular reading is one way to ensure you always have a fresh supply in mind when sitting down to write. (No surprises here.)

But Lavinia takes this a step further. She recommends reading one poem every day and keeping a running list of words that jump out at you. Nouns and verbs are favored over ubiquitous and often superfluous adjectives.

Some of My List — Grip / Sanctified / Romp / Blossom / Playthings / Hiss /Abide / Rapture / Uttermost / Den / Nerves / Marred / Flare / Trumpet / Soothing /Lustrous / Radiant / Stymied / Satellite / Measure / Bushel / Rare / Fetched / Dribble / Fluid / Peak / Valley / Peekaboo / Pop / Madcap / Sheltering / Pasted / Tumult / Rustle / Rutted / Gloat / Temper / Punishment / Bawdy / Unruffled / Vicissitudes / Luckless

The next time you sit down to write, pull out your list and try to work those words into your essay, blog post, or journal entry. I found it easier than expected and lots of fun.

What If You Aren’t A Writer?

The exercise is still valuable. Collecting rare words that pique your interest helps you engage with whatever you’re reading, and adding a little poetry to your day can even be soothing at times. It helps us to better describe the peaks and valleys in the tumult of our daily lives. Often we use the same unhelpful vocabulary stymied by the lack of new language and mental images — words that are not up to the task.

So instead of remaining on the same rutted path, treat words like playthings. Use them whenever you feel the urge, unruffled by the newness of their sound on your lips. Pop, dribble, and trumpet their entry into your lexicon, not gloating over your new knowledge, but relishing the specificity with which it allows you to communicate.


P.S. – There are tons of options to add more poetry to your life, including daily poetry email lists. This is the poetry app I use. It’s surprisingly satisfying to “spin” the wheel and see what category and corresponding poems show up. Today’s category = Humor & Love.

Poetry App