“I have learnt that I am incapable of packing the right amount of clothing, probably because I start 10 minutes before I’m supposed to leave, and that I truly hate airports.”
— Marcus Brigstocke
Packing under duress is not the best way to approach the task. Thinking about it now, with no cars waiting at the curb, might be a good way to make it easier. Here are a few things I have learned through study and experience.
Make a list. Start a week ahead, listing specific items of clothing and equipment you will take. Traveling to a different weather situation (warmer or colder than home) always takes
me by surprise; what will that place require? Some people begin to collect things into their suitcases at this point. This is a good way to do a reality check on the suitability and travel-readiness of various items you last wore nine months ago. Having the list makes it easy to pack the next time you make a similar trip, too. (I take the same collection of “formal” clothes on every cruise. My husband might be tired of them but no one else knows these items are my “uniform.”) Remember, too, the cameras, chargers, readers, and other electronics which we cannot be without.
Plan your outfits. For optimum flexibility plan around one color scheme, or at least take things that can be shuffled into more than one combination. Consider what situations and activities you will face and take appropriate apparel. Scarves and varied jewelry can change the look of basic clothing items very easily. Take clothing that can be easily cleaned, avoiding the “salad dressing on the silk blouse” trap.
Prepare with layers. Especially if you are traveling at a time of changeable weather, you will be happiest with multiple layers of clothing. These can adapt as temperatures and humidity change throughout the day. Only a few people (and I don’t know any of them) need to pack as if for a fashion show. Who will know or care that you have used that cover-up twice already this week?
Choose footwear carefully and pack it frugally. Limit the number of shoes you pack as they take up lots of space. Select shoes that go with multiple outfits. No one will notice that you are not wearing different shoes to dinner every night. When you pack shoes, stuff soft things inside the cavities. Do not take brand new shoes on a trip. You will realize their blister potential only when it is too late.
Take carry-on size toiletries. If you are staying in a hotel or cruise ship, bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and probably shower gel will all be provided. Travel-size bottles of everything else will fit easily in a toiletry bag. If no one sells your favorite potions in small bottles, buy small re-usable bottles at the drug store and fill them yourself.
Take a change of clothes for everyone in your carry-on bags. Just in case your luggage is delayed or lost in transit, you will have something to change into while you clean the clothes you traveled in. There will probably be stores at your destination where you could outfit yourself if necessary, but the great majority of delayed luggage arrives within twenty-four hours. If you need to make do with less, it will probably only be for a short time.
Pare down and make do. Unless you are sure you will need an item, leave it at home. If it turns out you should have brought something, you can very likely get a substitute there. (That is how we got our Edinburgh sweaters and Barcelona umbrella.) By packing light rather than trying to cover every eventuality, you alleviate the strain of lifting and pulling heavier suitcases, and have more room to bring home the souvenirs too good to pass up!
One rule of thumb I like is once you think you have planned your bags, put back half the clothing you set out and take twice as much money. That might be an exaggeration but this thinking has helped me enforce ‘hard decisions’ in packing, and I have not recently returned from a trip with half my clothes still unworn.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
16 January 2014