Onebagging Minibreak Successes & Failures

Photo Credit: Stefan Kunze

My wife, the Frugal Croissant, and I recently took a four-day, three-night mini-break to a seaside town. As vacations go, it wasn't the most frugal, but it wasn't the worst. Here's what we could have done to make it cheaper:

  • Drive, instead of taking the cruiselike passenger ferry. But we don't have a car, which is probably a larger savings in the long run.
  • Crash with friends. This would have required us to limit our destination choices to places where we already had friends. Friends of ours (from our own town) who visit this location often have, over time, made friends here and now crash with them, so that's another option, but it's a long game!
  • Make our own meals. We ate out for lunch and dinner each day, because we stayed in a bed-and-breakfast where we didn't have kitchen access. Had we researched places where we could have lived more dorm-like and less hotel-like, we might have saved on food. But most of those places probably require you to stay for longer.
  • Camp. This would have allowed us to stay for cheap AND make our own meals, and there's a campground in the area! But we would have had to bring a tent, sleeping bags, cookware, and other camping gear, so again it's something that would be a lot easier to do with a car. People do backpack with a tent, though; I know it's not impossible. And it's a relatively low-difficulty backpacking trip, since the campground is walking/biking distance from grocery stores and other amenities. So, maybe an option for the future.
  • Come in the off season. Which we might do at some point - but it's a different experience.

Here's what we did do to curb expenses:

  • Come in the "shoulder season," that transition period between off season and high season. This is cheaper than high season, and while some events and amenities aren't up and running yet, there's still a lot to see and do.
  • Book accommodations months in advance. Croissant set a calendar reminder to book in late winter, when people are still thinking about fireside hot cocoa, not beachside margaritas.
  • Get up in time for breakfast at the bed-and-breakfast. Something we have failed to do in the past.

An Experiment in One Bagging

You wouldn't think it would be hard to one-bag (well, two, if you count my purse) for three nights, but I found it challenging. At times, I felt I'd overpacked because my bag was overstuffed and heavy and there was no room to add souvenirs. But I also found that I didn't have enough clothes. So, I guess having problems in both directions means I struck an okay balance??

Here's what I think I did right:
  • I planned my luggage around what bags I would want at my destination. I correctly predicted that my days would be divided into two segments: a morning/early afternoon adventure in nature, and an evening stroll around town. For the adventure segment, I'd want my hiking daypack. For the evening, I'd want my purse. So I made it my personal challenge to use those bags and those alone as my luggage.
  • I brought a range of clothing options for different weather scenarios. The forecast predicted cold and rainy, so I brought my rain jacket, hat, sweater, and hoodie… but in the spirit of optimism, I also brought shorts, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen. I was glad to have them when the weather miraculously turned out warm and sunny all weekend! But the cool weather gear was still nice to have for the ferry.
  • I wore my most unwieldy things while traveling. This was my jeans, jacket, sweater, and hiking boots. (Luckily it was also coldest the first day.) I'd considered wearing my sneakers and not bringing a second pair of shoes at all, but I was glad to have the boots when I got there - they were definitely the right shoe type for tramping through the woods.

Here's what I might have done differently.
  • Don't double up on pants. For such a short trip, it's probably fine to only have one pair of long pants. I could have worn my stretch nylon hiking pants as my main/only pair of pants, instead of packing them and wearing jeans on the trip and most of the time at night. With that said, I'd be singing a different tune if I'd really messed them up (falling in mud, say, or getting them full of thorns, both of which I very nearly did). If the forecast had been right I would not have been able to wear my shorts comfortably. So, maybe this was the right call after all.
  • Don't double up on layers. Even if it had been cold, a sweater or hoodie would probably have been fine, no need for both.
  • Do double up on T-shirts. I brought exactly three shirts for three days (in addition to the camisole/button-down combo I was wearing on the trip over). I didn't count on the fact that I'd get dirty and sweaty and want to change shirts between the Adventure Segment and the Evening Segment of the day. I ended up designating one shirt as my Evening Shirt and rewearing it each night because it was the only one that didn't get too dirty.

    I did bring an extra camisole, thinking I could mix-and-match it with the button-down, but after a day of travel the button-down was too sweaty to reuse, and I didn't feel comfortable wearing just the camisole. An extra standalone T-shirt would have been much more useful and taken up hardly more space.
  • Maximize differences between shoe types. I should probably have brought my sandals instead of sneakers as my second pair of shoes. I definitely would have preferred sandals to sneakers on the beach. If I were only going to bring one pair of shoes, my sneakers would be the ones to bring, but if I'm bringing two, then sandals and hiking boots together give the most variable range of footwear options.

Overall I think we did fine for packing, but there's definitely room for improvement. I'm looking forward to honing my one-bagging skills in future trips. It's fun to try to get things as small as possible, and I love not having a wheeled suitcase to bounce around.


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