Monday, April 22, 2013

The Art of Packing

A friend of mine recently asked me to help her move from LA to Baltimore on a road trip via Interstate 70! In a matter of a couple of weeks I've gone from getting a random text message to preparing to fly from NY to LA to drive to Baltimore and then take a bus back to NY.  This trip provides a couple of packing challenges, namely packing for a variety of weather conditions, flying carry-on and preparing for long hours on the road.

I know everyone has their preferences, everyone has their little "luxury" items they want for trips, some people fold their clothing, others roll it up, etc. I'll spare you my blow by blow packing list but, I will share some of my craftiest packing methods.

As you read this, keep in mind that my preference is to pack light. Since 2007 I've been carry-on only for any trip I've taken, well at least for departure. Sometimes I do enough shopping that I have to expand my bag and check it for the ride home. I like souvenirs, particularly purses, shirts and random ceramics, guilty as charged. Still, for the bulk of any trip I like to be the person that has everything you could possibly need but keeps it in small spaces. I guess you could say I aim to be the Mary Poppins of travelers.


10. Check the requirements for all modes of transportation that you'll be using. Pack based on the most restrictive. For this trip, my flight allows one carry-on suitcase and one "personal item," which for me, will be my day bag.

9. Toiletries... there are ways to cut back on what you bring without sacrificing comfort. Save trial sized products for trips. Use refillable travel sized containers to take favorite products from home. Also, look for alternative items that require less packing space. Instead of shaving cream I now use Shave Secret Shaving Oil. It's a tiny container and it has more than enough oil for a couple of weeks... yes, weeks of shaving. If you are sensitive to toiletries, try any alternative products at home first. Last, look for solid substitutions. Soap instead of shower gel, solid stick deodorant, solid perfume instead of your regular cologne. I once found a limited edition of Clinique's Happy To Be perfume in a solid pencil. I save this just for travel.

8. Matchy-matchy... ok, it sounds lame, but seriously, pick out garments that all match. This makes dressing each day so much easier. You may plot out a specific outfit for each day, but you can't predict the weather and many other circumstances. The weatherman told you the temperature was going to be 70 and it's really 50? Just add a layer, no biggie. Get a stain on your shirt at lunch? Put on any other shirt in your bag. If they all match, you're good to go. For this trip, I'm going with black as a base color and adding in teal, purple, pink and grey items.

7. Invest in quality bags. A good suitcase will endure many years of abuse and protect your possessions. My suitcase is a Rick Steves' Convertible Carry-On. It cost $99 in 2007. It's still on sale for that price plus he's added a water bottle holder to the newest version. He also sells a more basic version for $79. When I purchased this a friend thought I was crazy for spending that much on one bag. Then while we were on a trip her suitcase broke making mine look good. Six years later, mine is still going strong, making it look great. Seriously, this is the best suitcase I've ever owned.

My day bag was purchased a couple of years ago for a trip to Florida. It's been so useful that I use it on a daily basis for going to work now too. It's the Sherpani Via, a packable daypack that can be folded into its own pocket. I've never actually folded it up because I use it so often. The straps are my favorite part. It can be carried as a tote bag or as a backpack without any adjustments. While searching for a link to paste here I found it on sale. So, in a couple of days I will own it in black too!

Photo Credit: Betty Kane
Left: Front View - Sherpani Via Day Bag With Tote Bag Straps Visible
Right: Front View - Rick Steves' Convertible Carry-On Suitcase

Photo Credit: Betty Kane
Left: Back View - Sherpani Via Day Bag with Backpack Straps Visible
Right: Back View - Rick Steves' Convertible Carry-On with Backpack Straps Visible

6. Don't pack too many items that you'll only wear or use once. For this trip I'm packing two inflatable hangers and some Tide detergent travel packets. At one or two intervals along the trip I'm just going to wash a couple of garments. I'm also bringing some Downy wrinkle release spray. As a basic rule, I hardly ever travel with more than three or four bottoms. For tops, it will vary on activities and weather.

5. Find a method of organizing that works for you. I prefer to use packing cubes and pouches to keep like items together, tops in one, pants in another, etc. You can buy packing cubes from REI, Magellan's, Rick Steves' and many other travel suppliers. However, a great way to save money on packing cubes is to save the durable plastic packaging some curtains and bedding come in. They are usually clear so you can see things easily and they often have a zipper.

4. Use every nook and cranny of your suitcase. For example, I'll pack socks inside shoes. Then the shoes get wrapped in a plastic bag or cheap plastic shower cap. This keeps the shoes from touching clean garments and maximizes the space. Then I'll organize the packed cubes and any little spaces can be filled with smaller items, like chargers, a small pouch of jewelry, a rolled up belt, etc.

3. Accessories, makeup and jewelry... Oh my! Pack light with these items? Inconceivable you say? I beg to differ! As long as all of your garments match then this will be a breeze. A scarf can go a long way. I'll be packing one that is large enough for me to use as a wrap around my bathing suit in LA and then use it as an actual scarf in Denver where the temperatures will be much cooler. For makeup, Sephora, Este Lauder and Mary Kay offer a variety of products in one compact. I use powder foundation and I have a great set of travel brushes. Mine are Bobbi Brown that I got at a warehouse sale. You can find plenty of affordable options at places like Ulta, Harmon's or even CVS. When it comes to jewelry I like to take a couple of pendants and one chain. Toss in a one or two pairs of studs and dangle earrings and wear one or two rings. I pack makeup and jewelry in to small wristlets or clutch bags so I have "going out" options for night time purses.

2. Do NOT leave your packing till the last minute. Get your laundry done, your toiletries purchased, pull everything out that you want to pack. Really look over it and make final decisions. Have two shirts that look similar? Leave one home. Will one belt suffice? Are you really going to wear that hat? Remember, unless you are going to some very remote location, most destinations and routes in the civilized world will have anything that you need and/or want along the way. Do NOT let yourself add a bag. Stick with your initial baggage restrictions, you'll be thankful for it on the road.

1. Find multifunctional items. Suitcases and day bags with a variety of handles and pouches, rain coats that pack into the pocket, collapsible bags, reversible clothing, etc. Some of my best travel items include a reversible fleece jacket, a packable rain coat and a reversible belt. A bandana is great for outdoorsy trips. It can be used in place of a hat, as a washcloth, and even as a pot holder when cooking while camping. Leggings are another great multifunctional garment. I use them under a skirt or even pants for extra warmth, for physical activity or even as pajama bottoms.

Photo Credit: Betty Kane
Left: Reversible Fleece Jacket - Black Side
Right: Rain Jacket
Photo Credit: Betty Kane
Left: Reversible Fleece Jacket - Purple Side
Right: Rain Jacket Folded in Pocket

I hope to post from the road. Till then, happy crafting!

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