In this post, I share some of my tips for effective packing. Since most of us take at least one trip per year and the airlines are placing more and more restrictions on baggage allowances, it has become increasingly important for us to learn to pack wisely.
My packing tips have been gleaned through my many years of over-packing and my subsequent concerted effort to mend my “wicked ways.” While I still have a tendency to over-shop on vacation, my packing for the outbound portion of my trips is now much more modest and manageable. Read on for my packing prowess suggestions…
List Your Probable Activities
Before you even open your closet to start the packing process, take a few moments to jot down the probable activities in which you will be engaging on your trip. Is your trip for business or pleasure? Will you mostly be sitting in offices or meeting rooms, or will you be venturing outside for open-air activities? Will formal dinners be a part of your plans, or will you primarily be eating in casual diners? Think about what you will most likely do on your trip, as that information will be a key guiding factor in terms of the clothing and shoes you will need.
Check the Weather Forecast
Most people remember to investigate the weather report for their destination, but I thought I’d add a gentle reminder in case this quick check slips your mind. If you will be traveling to an area that experiences a lot of weather shifts, it’s always a good idea to find out what you might face during your time away.
For example, my recent trip was to the Lake Tahoe area, a region for which snow is a possibility in pretty much any month of the year. I have learned to never assume that the sunny San Diego weather will follow me to Tahoe, especially since my summer skirts and dresses didn’t provide sufficient warmth when the weather turned on a dime a few years ago. This year, I lucked out in terms of weather, but now I always remember to check the forecast and plan accordingly.
Select a Color Palette
It is much easier to maximize your outfit combinations using minimal garments if you select a color palette for your trip. I usually recommend deciding upon one key neutral color (maybe two, if you include denim) and two other colors.
As a reminder, neutral colors include black, brown, navy, gray, white, cream, and beige. Neutrals can be combined with each other and basically every other color in existence, so including neutrals when you pack really gives you a lot of “mileage” (pun intended…) in your travel wardrobe.
Let’s say you love to wear black. If you include one of each key piece – shirt, pants, skirt, jacket, etc. – in black, you will have a lot of mix and match possibilities.
Shoes First, Bottoms Next, Tops Last
I find it’s best to select your shoe options first. Shoes are the heaviest items in our suitcases, so I recommend wearing one pair of shoes (ideally the heaviest pair) and packing a maximum of two other pairs. While exceptions exist, three pairs of shoes will generally be all you’ll need for most trips. Select shoes that you love and can easily walk in, as we typically walk more while traveling than in our day-to-day lives. Ideally, select shoes that can be worn with all or most of the outfits you will pack for your trip.
After deciding upon which shoes you’ll take with you, choose your bottoms. For men, this means pants, jeans, and possibly shorts. For women, skirts and dresses may also be added to the mix. Since bottoms can usually be re-worn at least once, you don’t need to pack one bottom per day of your trip.
Select your tops after you’ve finalized your bottom options. Since tops generally weigh less than bottoms and shoes, here’s where you can include a wider variety of choices. A good rule of thumb is to pack twice as many tops as bottoms. Remember to include at least one jacket or coat (usually not more than two or three) for evening wear or cooler climates.
Use Accessories to Increase Options
The best way to increase your outfit possibilities is through the use of accessories. Of course, this tip applies more to women than to men, but men have accessory options as well (belts, jewelry, sunglasses, pocket squares, etc.). Accessories usually don’t weigh very much, so if you have carte blanche to over-pack anything, this is the category.
If you are a woman and love scarves, tote a few along in colors or patterns that match or coordinate with the garments you are taking on your trip. Pack your favorite costume jewelry pieces (it’s generally better to either leave your expensive items at home or wear them throughout your entire trip) to add personality and life to your ensembles.
A Word about “Just in Case”…
There are three words that are responsible for the bulk of over-packing – “just in case.” Many of us keep throwing more and more things into our suitcases with those words in mind. We want to plan for every possible contingency that might occur during our travels. My best advice also consists of three words – just say no!
While it’s okay to pack an umbrella for potential rain, I don’t recommend overloading your luggage with things you won’t need on the off chance that your plans may take a 180 degree turn. Plan for your most likely activities and pack accordingly. If something completely unexpected arises, you can shop for anything else you might need. Yes, I said shop! A change of plans may necessitate a shopping trip. Win, win, says this shopping enthusiast… And since you didn’t over-pack, there will be room in your suitcase for a few new purchases.