Pack smarter, not harder.
There’s nothing like the excitement of an upcoming trip, anticipating the new memories to be made, experiences to have, and places to see. It’s intoxicating. Yet, the thrill of traveling seems to vanish once the packing begins, at least for me.
I always find myself staring at my suitcase. Its intimidating emptiness silently laughed at me. To be fair, I’m a chronic over-packer. A shirt I’ve worn twice in the last three years? Of course, I’ll need it for this trip. Is swimming involved? One swimsuit per day of swimming plus maybe an extra. What can I say? I like options.
Yet after years of traveling, I found over-packing is not only unnecessary but frustrating, especially if you’ve experienced the utter humiliation of frantically switching clothes between bags in a busy airport, trying to hit that 50lb weight limit. After many trips and bad experiences, I’ve found some packing tips that have turned my suitcase from unfortunate to efficient.
The Power of Basics
Basics are the everyday essentials that will always look good. They are the foundation of any wardrobe, a favorite pair of flattering jeans, your most comfortable t-shirt or tank, a lightweight jacket, a crisp white button-down shirt, or pair of plain sneakers. The list goes on.
Basics are lifesaving when packing because of their versatility. They go with anything, look good with everything. They can be dressed down, dressed up. Essential pieces are the saviors of overpacking because they are reusable. You don’t need three pairs of jeans, just that perfect one. They also serve as the base of any outfit, leaving room for those statement pieces you do want to show off or buy for a specific trip. Basics allow those pieces a comfortable place in your luggage.
Neutrals, Neutrals, Neutrals
This one is more of a style preference, but my mother always said, “George, if everything you bring is black, white, and beige, you will never look bad and always match.” This is obviously subjective, but there is some value to her sentiment.
While you shouldn’t only pack neutrals, they have the same power of versatility as basics. They are interchangeable, easily styled, and effortlessly chic. Let’s say you have two pairs of pants, one white and one black, with three shirts, two black and one white. These five pieces alone offer a multitude of outfits. Whatever combination will look put-together and stylish with minimum effort or can be easily paired with a statement piece.
The Rule of Three
Footwear is my kryptonite. I delusionally think five pairs are necessary for a week-long adventure. It’s not. It never will be. So, I created the rule of three. Three shoes. A fun pair, a sensible pair, and a final pair that depends on the destination. This trick works whether you’re going to a resort for a week or Europe for a month.
The fun pair is heels, knee-high boots, or unique new sneakers. It’s the shoe you won’t wear every day but will get to show off one or two times.
The sensible pair is your everyday shoes, something you can wear comfortably exploring new cities or scenic views. They should be casual and easily pair with most outfits. Sometimes these are the hardest pair to figure out, but it will not make your trip and packing experience much more enjoyable once you do.
Finally, the third footwear just depends. Are you going on a beach vacation? Then it’s sandals or slides. Going on a very active trip? Maybe it’s hiking boots or sturdy gym shoes. The third shoe is whatever the other two pairs can’t offer you. Think of it as a metaphor. If your vacation was footwear, what would it be?
It’s natural to fold clothes flat in your luggage. I did it most of my life; however, many organization experts say rolling is the way to go. Rolling clothes and packing them vertically is a game-changer for space efficiency. You’ll be shocked at how much more room becomes available, and more room means more memorable survivors can come home with you.
Lists are Lifesaving
My final packing tip, and maybe most important, is a list. I was never a list person, so confident that I could remember everything I needed. Dozens of toothbrushes and sock purchases later, I am waving the white flag.
Making a list of what you need before you start parking is like taking a deep breath. It keeps you organized and helps remind you of what might have initially been forgotten. Lists remove the stress of packing. What you need is on the page. Once it’s in the bag, check it off, and move on. Personally, there’s some satisfaction after seeing all the items crossed off, a small showing of accomplishment.
Everyone has their own system and what works for them. These are just some things that have made packing less of a manic experience for me. Hopefully, one of these packing tips will work for you next time you stare at that intimidating empty suitcase.