Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday Travels: Pack a Suitcase

This task falls into the category of "Life Skills I Want to Teach My Kids."

It also falls into the category of "Life Skills I Need to Master First."

We travel a decent amount, and we generally don't pack days ahead. Also, I'm one of those annoying people who likes to fit everything into a carry-on suitcase that will (just barely) fit into the overhead luggage bin. Waiting at the baggage claim just seems worse than a root canal.  Can we still be friends?

For a 3-4 day trip, my kids usually fit everything into an L.L. Bean backpack, and with a little guidance, they can pack themselves using a list I give them.

On our recent trip to San Diego, I felt like I'd just about attained to Packing Nirvana. I'll show you what I did, and maybe it will work for you too. The rules are simple:

1. Don't pack anything you won't wear more than once.
2. Pack one garment per 24-hour period you'll be gone. (Not counting PJ's, gym clothes, etc.)

The weather forecast called for sixties and low seventies, so I needed some layers, but no puffy snow gear. Here's what I packed, and I did so in about fifteen minutes:

1. One pair of jeans
2. One pair of khakis
3. 2 T-shirts -- one long-sleeved, one short-sleeved. 
4. 2 Camisoles - so glad I had these; it was chillier than I expected!
5. 1 lightweight cardigan. Cardigans are really the answer to life, the universe and everything, don't you think? 
6. 1 cocktail dress and 1 dressy jacket - this ruined my wear-twice rule, but the Prof and I had a fancy banquet to attend. 
7. 1 scarf - works to jazz up and outfit AND keep you warmer in the morning/evening chill. 
8. 1 set workout clothes
9. 3 pairs of shoes: running shoes, comfortable ballet flats, and dressy heels for the banquet. Again, the heels were extra. I generally wouldn't pack so much footgear. 
10. Undergarments and socks - rolled up and stuffed into shoes. 
11. Toiletries -- I keep these always packed in two small travel cases that sit on my bathroom counter, ready to be grabbed and tossed in. Important: Pack a 3-oz. (or smaller) container of laundry soap and perhaps a couple of clothespins -- you'll need to wash a few things during the trip!

On the plane, I wore dark jeans, a white button-down shirt, a heavier, drapey white cardigan, and my trusty Frye boots. Hallelujah for that hardworking cardigan; I wore it for part of every day. 

Learning to pack light but smart seems daunting -- I've been known to stare uncomprehendingly at a weather forecast that differs by ten degrees from my own city. But when you figure out how to take just enough and still feel sartorially sufficient, you'll be footloose and fancy free. 

Now, find somewhere to go; you need an excuse to practice packing!


Anonymous said...

"Now, find somewhere to go; you need an excuse to practice packing!"

well all right, if you insist ;)

Erica said...

You did great! Here are a few more tips from a professional traveler.

1. Don't grow to be 6 feet tall with size 13 feet. Too late for me.

2. Travel woollite and/or travel-size Febreze spray are your friends. As are fabrics that dry quickly. Why pack more clothes when you can wear items multiple times?

3. Color coordinate so you can mix and match tops with fewer pairs of pants.

4. Wear your bulkiest items/multiple layers on the plane, especially your biggest shoes. You can always take off layers in flight.

5. Roll don't fold your clothes.

6. The smaller your underwear is (think thongs), the more you can pack in a smaller space. Though I only follow this advice when absolutely desperate... ;-)

Raji P. said...

Can I just hire you to come and pack for us for our next trip in 2 weeks? Do you carry a wheelie or a backpack?

cwoodf1 said...

Great tips.
Do you have any suggestions for a good carry-on bag?
I'm finding I'm traveling internationally a lot and need a lightweight, sturdy, easy-to-lug-around small suitcase.

Lately I've seen a lot of these sweet hard case ones that roll standing straight up. Considering my bags are usually extremely heavy (and walking to/from the train station to the terminal and then to the gate can be a trip of its own) eliminating even the relatively low stress on my arms and back from rolling a slanty carry-on would be great.

Hannah said...

Hmm. One option for you might be something like this: http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?prodid=11528067&whse=BC&topnav=

Since you travel internationally, the zip-off backpack might serve you well.

I have not tried the hard cases, but I am seeing more and more of them. And I do love the wheels on those upright styles.

Anne said...

Good tips. I always pack WAY too much.

Raji P. said...

My husband travels every week, and internationally every other month and his workhorse suitcase is a Ricardo from Kohl's. We found it to be lighter than most others, not too expensive and he can travel with just that for a week long trip. It does not wheel upright though. My son desperately wants an upright wheelie suitcase for himself. I told him to wait until he has a job :)

Julie said...

Awesome advice, if we had somewhere to go I would love to take it! Could you also please write a post for a thirty-something who finds herself wearing the exact same thing that a few fifty somethings are wearing, but won't look good in twenty something clothing anymore and has a super hard time putting any clothes together, hates shopping and has a goodwill sized budget? Sigh. I know. Hopeless!

Hannah said...

Yikes, Julie, I'm not entirely secure in my ability to help, but I think I know someone who can. Maybe I can get her to guest post! Back at you soon.