Vacation time is fast approaching and if you’re lucky, you may find time to get away to see the sights, hit the sand or land somewhere in between. Wherever your travels may take you, packing is the necessary first step of your journey. Have no fear: I’ve got a few tips to make packing your bags a breeze. I will also clue you into the most important packing item you should never leave home without!
What to Pack
Packing is a science and it’s boiled down to 4 questions:
How long will you be gone?
This is the most important question and your answer will determine the number of outfits you’ll need to pack for your trip. A good ratio is roughly 1 outfit per 1-2 days, more tops than bottoms, with enough options to mix and match.
Think of it in terms of the über-popular capsule wardrobe: pick a color palette, make sure you can wear every item in 2-3 different ways and include a variety of accessories (scarves, hats, jewelry, etc.) to change up the look.
I equate packing to the strategy in playing the card game Gin Rummy: never pick up a card from the discard pile unless it can serve two potential uses in your hand – a straight flush or a set of 3- or 4-of-a-kind. The same rule applies to packing: never take any item that can’t be worn again in another style incarnation.
Finally, pick a neutral color that goes with your color palette so you can pack as few shoes as possible. For example, if your neutral color is black (e.g. black pants, jeans, skirts or dresses), you’ll only need to pack black shoes – maybe a pair of ballet flats or strappy heels – and wear heavier, bulkier shoes like boots or sneakers on the plane.
What kind of trip is this?
Is this trip for business or pleasure? Are you seeing the same people every day (e.g at a conference or on a business trip) or are you sightseeing with friends and visiting different spots every day? That will also rule into the number of outfits you bring along. Less is more!
What’s the weather like where you’re going?
This answer will tip you off about the type of clothes you’ll wear (sweaters vs. tees) and what kind of outerwear you’ll need (a warm coat, raincoat or beach cover-up). Also think about getting there: going to the tropics? You may still want a light wrap for the plane.
What are you doing while you’re there?
Lying on the beach with a margarita (my kind of vacation!) or making toasts at your best friend’s wedding? Negotiating business deals or making presentations to partners? Braving the black diamonds, or getting certified to dive 100 feet? Think of all the events or activities that will happen on your trip and pack clothes and gear accordingly.
How to Pack
As for packing, I’m about to unveil the must-have essential that every traveler needs in his or her arsenal:
Packing cubes (like these eBags or these Eagle Creek) will completely change your packing process and ensuing enjoyment of your trip. Rolling your clothes as you go, pack one cube for each clothing category: intimates/socks, tops, bottoms and so on. The cubes keep everything from merging together, melding together or becoming one big mess together in your suitcase.
My touring musician husband used 4 of these cubes on his European tour last summer. He dedicated one cube for socks/underwear, another for t-shirts/sweatshirts, another for performance/stage shirts and another for jeans. Every day he’d reach in and pull something out of each cube. He said it was a life-changing experience to keep his suitcase organized throughout the 4-month tour. Let’s hear it from Bob:
“After many years as a touring musician, I thought I had figured out how to pack and be relatively organized on the road. The packing cubes changed everything (and I’m not that open to change!). It’s a complete no-brainer: everything has its own cube and that’s where it lives. There is no searching for anything or thinking involved; you know it’s in its designated cube! Last summer, the merch person looked in my suitcase and said, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen a musician organized like that’.”
People, I’ve got a believer!
Let me make a believer out of you, too. Invest in a few cubes and try them out on your next trip. As a mom, I often pack my son’s clothes with mine in the same suitcase, and we each get our own set of cubes (his are turquoise, mine are orange) so everything stays separate and in order in my suitcase. These cubes have totally changed my family’s packing and traveling experience – for the better!
I hope these tips will help make your future traveling experiences easier, too. Please share your own packing tips that have changed your life – and that could change ours as well!