I'm going to begin with the moral of the story: Do as I say, not as I do.
By this I mean that though I am writing a blog post about better packing practices, I am the world's worst overpacker. If I'm going to L.A. for the weekend, you better bet I'm going to bring four pairs of heels and twice that many dresses. I need options, people. And if I'm going to a cold weather locale and need heavy coats and boots, I practically need my own porter. So with that caveat, here are my packing tips as I originally published them in Go! Girl Guides for ensuring you don't pull out your back before you even get to the airport.
We all envision ourselves as the low maintenance traveler who can just throw a few things in a backpack and go. But for some of us (myself included), reality is a little less backpack, a little more backpack/purse/laptop case/roller bag… okay, large roller bag.
When traveling for an extended amount of time, not only is it easier to lug less around, but with those airline baggage fees, it’s cheaper. So while you may never be a backpack-only type of girl, with a few tips you can at least consolidate down to one carry-on size roller bag (and still bring along your favorite pair of heels too.)
- Pre-Plan: Pack in advance of your trip- Simple advice but highly effective. I’ve been known to wait until an hour before I need to leave for the airport, and in a sheer panic, throw half my closet into my suitcase. But if I make a list and pack a couple of days before the trip, I give myself time to comb through the resulting madness and rationalize that there will be no need for canary yellow pumps or three LBDs.
- Pack Smartly: Whenever possible, pack clothes with one color scheme in mind – neutrals like blacks, grays, whites are easiest, adding in touches of color with lightweight accessories like scarves. Outfits that can easily transition from day to night are necessary in order to avoid taking more than one change of clothes per day. Mix and Match to create more outfit opportunities for less space. Unless you are packing for a special occasion, toss out anything that doesn’t coordinate with more than one piece of clothing. In other words, a polka dot skirt that matches only one shirt you are bringing is probably a no go. (As a style aside, a polka dot skirt may be a no go anyway, but for entirely different reasons.)
- FedEx It: When traveling through different seasons and climates and you will be in one place long enough to receive a package, do what I did: Three months in Europe took me from 50 degrees in Dublin to 90 degrees in Rome. Packing boots and flip flops – and everything in between – wasn’t an option. So I packed cool weather clothes in my suitcase to take with me until I left Ireland and England behind in May. Before I left, I packed a box full of summer clothes and shoes and enlisted a friend to ship them to me at an apartment I was renting for a couple of weeks in London. When the package arrived, I placed my jackets, sweaters and boots back in the same box and shipped it back to her.
- Utilize Every Inch of Space: Pack heavier items in your suitcase first such as sweaters and jeans. They will be harder to stuff into your suitcase if you are short on space whereas tank tops and dresses can easily be placed on top or in any nook or cranny.
- Use Your Heels: Stuff them with socks, underwear, bikinis, jewelry… anything small you can cram in there. Tall boots are even better – they can accommodate complete outfits if rolled up and stuffed inside. When packing, try to pack your heels so that they lay in your suitcase like they did when they arrived in the shoe box. This will help to save space. If you’re cramped, pack them so they stand vertically between your clothes, but be sure they’re protected from the sides by clothing so they won’t get damaged.
We all know the rolling-up-the-clothes trick. Not only does it save space, but it works double duty as a wrinkle alleviator. An even more effective way to pack is to invest less than $20 in Space Bags. Just pack a bag full of clothes, seal it and press down until you hear all the air has released from the one-way value. Your previously full bag of clothes becomes nearly flat, allowing you to pack almost twice as many clothes in your suitcase.
A Few Random Tips:
-Don’t forget that almost everywhere you go will have whatever you might need – and usually for cheaper than you could buy at home.
-Pack clothes that can usually withstand more than one wear like jeans or cargo pants.
-If your main concern is making sure you stick to one bag, wear your largest items on the plane. Don’t pack your winter coat; wear it. Same goes for your bulkiest pair of boots.
-Don’t take more than one piece of outerwear for the whole trip. You aren’t going to Fashion Week, after all. Unless you really are. And then in that case, all these rules are out the window. You’re going to need those canary yellow heels.