I am pretty good at packing, and when I say that I mean I am really awesome. I’m never missing something and I never have more than I need and I guarantee my bag for any trip is smaller than any other woman’s would be (and most men’s). Also I’m fast. A weekend trip, give me five minutes. A week-long vacation, maybe allow me twenty. But lately I faced a packing challenge that made even me pause. I am moving to England for 9 months to a year. The good news: I will now get the chance to update you on all of the wonderful styles across the pond. The slightly sticky news: I have to fit everything I am taking into a checked bag, a carry on, and a personal bag. It’s like the olympics of packing. But for you, who are most likely taking shorter, more frequent ventures, here are some tips from an expert:
1) Never check a bag. Like ever. It’s a rule I live by, passed down from my frequent-flyer father. There are only two reasons you need a bag that large: a) you’re moving or b) you are headed out for three weeks and need a different suit for everyday. Trust me, I’ll show you how.
2) Pack for the weather, not every weather. In the summer throw in one sweater for cooler nights; you don’t need wool socks or even a different sweater for every outfit. Also, chances are you don’t need a rain jacket or umbrella (unless you are headed to Eugene) and if you are in a place that experiences downpour, most likely there is a cheap umbrella store around the corner. Also, if you’re on a business trip, think about your suit’s weight and maybe don’t pack your stylish tweed blazer for summer in Rio.
3) Pack for the occasion. Business trip: you probably won’t need shorts or your man tank, so leave them at home. Vacation: maybe allow a nice outfit for a fancy-ish dinner, but keep it simple. This seems obvious, but one of the main causes of over-packing is the “what if” brain. “What if the company takes us on a surprise snorkel excursion?” They won’t. They would either tell you about it or you can get supplies there. Just be reasonable.
4) Only pack as many shoes as are absolutely necessary. Now, you know I love shoes, but when it comes to packing they are the biggest, most awkward item. So unless it is a really long trip, try to avoid packing a suit that requires brown shoes and one that requires black; one or the other if possible.
5) Pack a swimsuit. Now for someone telling you to pack less, this seems weird, but go with it. Unless you absolutely know you will not have the time or option of taking a dip (and how could you know that) throw it in. Swimsuits are small and thin and if nothing else you could hit the hotel pool for some exercise or the hot tub to relax. You won’t regret it.
6) Re-fold your clothes. Even if they look okay coming out of the drawer, you will fit more in your bag if you re-fold and try to fold all your articles into a similar shape and size.
7) Go minimal with grooming products. This is one area where you have an advantage on all women, including yours truly. Your bathroom bag should fit into the crevice of your suitcase, not take up a quarter of it like mine does. (This is one of the few times you will hear me not encourage some metrosexuality).
8) Rearrange. You can fit it. Try again.
9) Now for the mysterious “personal bag”. If necessary it can serve as a place to stuff whatever didn’t fit in your main bag, but if not, here is what it should have. Two books. Yes two, at least, because especially on long flights one might not be enough or hold your attention. An Ipod, phone, wallet, and other “pocket basics”. Laptop, now this one can go in your PB or your carry on, but never ever check your laptop (the state of many bags on the carousel should tell you why). And anything else you might want to entertain yourself: puzzles, a notebook, etc.
10) And the true key? Have an airport outfit. I’m not kidding, I have one that I wear almost every time. Wear your bulkiest shoes–better to take an extra minute to pull them on after security than find room in your bag. Wear long pants, probably jeans. Like shoes these take up space. Plus planes tend to be cold. And then personally I like a light, loose sweater for my top. If it is cold either in departure, destination, or both, wear whatever coat you are taking. Remove it when you get on the plane and now you have a pillow and personal climate control.
Good luck and happy traveling.