Summer is here, schools are letting out and if you’re like me, my attention is focused on summer trips. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going by plane train or automobile, how you pack is almost as important as where you go. Packing can strike fear in the hearts of the uninitiated. I have taken a very unscientific survey among friends, family and strangers in order to come up with packing tips that are sure to make your trip a little smoother.
Getting started is the hardest part. I use a rolling rack set up in my bedroom as the staging area. These racks can be purchased at Target or Container store and can also be used for hanging coats up at a party. The heavy duty commercial rolling rack at Container Store is my favorite. Make sure that all of your potential clothing choices are laundered or dry cleaned. You don’t want to be running around a day or two before your trip picking up dry cleaning. I usually start about a week before a big trip and few days before a small one. Our worst packing choices are made in haste, when we are running out of time.
Exactly what to bring depends largely on what type of vacation: city sightseeing, beach, adventure, sports related. All of these different types of vacations require very different gear. Both www.frommers.com and www.packitup.com are two of many websites that offer free downloadable packing and activity planners. The Frommer’s site has a list geared toward each of the above mentioned trips. In addition to making packing easier, these lists can be really useful if the airlines lose your luggage and you need to make a claim with them or with your homeowner’s carrier.
As you are laying out your clothes, there are a few things to remember. First, plan to have 2-3 tops for every bottom. This is the same ratio you should see in your closet! If you take darker bottoms, it is easier to wear them longer, as they do not show wear and dirt as much as lighter colors. Fabrics should be as wrinkle resistant as possible. Cotton blends are a better choice than linen, and any type of synthetic is going to be better to travel with than silk. Lightweight, tech fabrics are great, as they can be washed out and dry in very little time. Please note that sticking with one color scheme (black or brown) allows you to take fewer shoes, which take up the most room in your luggage. After you are done, instead of adding to the choices, challenge yourself to take away one piece every day. Most people pack much more than they need.
Once you’ve accomplished the above step, the hardest part is over. Now it’s time to fit everything in your suitcase or duffle. According to my research, the hands down winner are the “rolling” method of packing. People swear by this philosophy. As you start, roll all of the larger pieces like pants, coats, etc. They should start on the bottom of your case. As you get to the smaller things like bathing suits and tee shirts, they can be placed around the bigger pieces in the corners and crevices.
An interesting packing product that is gaining in popularity is “decompression bags”. They are the plastic bags that can be packed with clothes and then decompressed with a household vacuum. These bags seem to be a great solution. The only drawbacks I see are if you are moving around a lot, or cannot get access to a vacuum on the way home. These bags are available at the Container Store and can be used many times over.
Once your clothes are in the suitcase, it’s time to use my favorite packing instrument, the ever-useful Ziploc bag. These are perfect for lingerie, socks, toiletries, jewelry and many other items. I use both the quart and gallon size depending on what I am putting in them. They are reusable and can serve other purposes when you arrive at your destination, like transporting sweaty workout clothes or a wet bathing suit.
I always pack shoes on top or in the zippered compartments on the outside of the suitcase. The outside compartments are great for sandals, flip flops, magazines, books and maps. I use the plastic bags that the newspaper comes in to keep my shoes from soiling any of my clean clothes. Again, these bags are reusable and the perfect size for shoes.
Once your bag is packed, make a commitment to LEAVE IT ALONE. Clothes should not go in the suitcase until the day before. You don’t want too much time to ponder all of the clothes you WANT to bring! If traveling with children, I always pack healthy snacks (mostly). I also find that energy and breakfast bars are great to have for layovers or long waits on an aircraft. Lollipops work well for takeoff and landing. I also love books on CD, which can be downloaded onto an iPod. My 10 year old twins used to love The Magic Tree house. I also brought along little toys and games that could be doled out periodically on a long flight.
Once the packing is done, you’ll be free to strike out and discover the wonderful places you visit. I’ll leave you with a quote by Susan Sontag that I love: “I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list!” Safe travels…