By Paris Love
Spring break, Easter holiday, and those lazy, hazy days of summer – at the beach, in the mountains or wherever we might like to travel. Vacations can be relaxing or crazy busy, formal or super casual, with family or good friends. We look forward to our get away all year, and recover from them when we return home (who doesn’t just LOVE the UNpacking part? 🙁 ) and have a picture in our minds of just what our vacation will be like.
If you’re like me, you might sneak a peek on the internet every other day to look again at the idyllic place you have chosen for your friend or family vacation or romantic getaway. You talk about it at the office or online with friends. You say “I can’t wait” repeatedly, and more and more often as the day to leave gets closer.
“Have you packed yet?” one of your office mates asks.
“Well, kind of,” you reply. What you’re thinking is : what to take, what not to take, oh let’s just take everything, no, let’s just take a couple of outfits, but what if it’s cold at night, what if it’s very hot, do I need a bathing suit, and what about my computer?
Like everything else, packing is an act of organization, and people often comment on how I am able to travel with very little baggage and still have what I need for my trip. My secret is to mix up a little magic, planning and organization – voila! A masterly packed bag!
My friend and her husband recently went to Bermuda for two weeks. She tells me she has a rule that she will only bring what she can personally handle, which is quite a bit now that suitcases have these super-cool swivel wheels. But after struggling to lift luggage into the car rental bus, the parking garage bus and a commuter train, she realizes that it’s time to pare down. It’s all fine when you can pull the bags along, but it costs money to check bags on most airlines, and there are those times when pulling is out and lifting is the only option.
There is an art to packing and a method – and if you ask those who pack light, they will tell you there’s a freedom to it also! Here are some pre-game tips for making packing a little bit easier and a lot more efficient!
- Do a weather check (weather.com can give you the projection for a month, but you should check about two weeks in advance as to the weather conditions at your travel destination)
- Make a list of what you believe you will truly need. No throwing in five skirts and ten t-shirts randomly – choose each outfit and its accessories one by one for your trip.
- Avoid “what if?” thinking. We have a tendency to pack more than we need for those what if situations. At the last minute it is easy to toss in extra shoes or another jacket….which requires a different bag which means another kind of jewelry….
- Think ‘multi-use’ and color scheme – can this top be worn with this skirt? Can these shoes pretty much cover me most of the time? Can I just put a sweater over this outfit for the cool nights? Unless you’re going to a mud wrestling convention, you can probably wear things more than once by mixing and matching.
- Pare it down. Whatever you have decided to take, pare it down by 25%. It’s a challenge but it will help you truly see what you need and what you’ve brought along just in case.
- Set as your goal to pack as little as possible, not to see how much stuff you can fit in your five piece luggage set!
Ten Packing and Trip Prep Tips
- Step away from the suitcases. Pick out the bag(s) you will be using before you start your packing process, and commit to taking no more than will fit in your carry-on or checked bag. You’ll find you will be able to weed out what you don’t really need by using the limit imposed by the bag(s) you have chosen. It’s easy to think that if your things don’t fit in your chosen bag you will just start another – and another…. Pretty soon you are taking your whole wardrobe, including shoes!
- Three key words to remember when packing: Versatile, versatile, versatile!!! Pack a dress than can do double duty – day and night, with just a change of jewelry. Pick capris or pants in super versatile khaki, which goes with everything. You can dress them up or down. If you like to coordinate your accessories, bring neutral shades so that you can mix and match. Remember, you don’t need a totally new separate outfit everyday – most of the people you see on vacation will not be remembering what you wore two days ago!
- If you are a frequent traveler for business or exploration, check out Susan Foster’s book “Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler”. It’s full of great tips for every type of travel: short trips, cruises, golf trips, adventure travel, vacations & business. Susan also has tips on the airline and TSA rules, ways to prevent and handle lost luggage and how to “return home rested having packed less and worn everything.” Go to Smartpacking.com for more on Susan’s book.
- Ever run around in a tizzy before you are leaving on a vacation or business trip? You can avoid this last minute rush by using a handy checklist of things to do in preparation for a trip, including packing. It’s no fun to remember at the last minute that your passport is in your safe deposit box and the bank is closed. Or remembering that you forgot to stop newspaper delivery when you’re on the plane to Europe. Here are just a few items to be sure to put on your trip prep checklist, and you can check out Onebag.com for more:
- Line up your pet sitter and back-up plan
- Call your credit card companies and cell phone provider to let them know if you are going out of the country – they sometimes suspend service to protect from fraud if a charge shows up far from your home and normal usage pattern
- Adjust your thermostats to use less energy while you are away
- Have your mail held at the local Post Office
- Unplug your small electric appliances – this protects from power surges and saves electricity!
- Confirm all your reservations for air, accommodations, transfers, etc…..
- I’m at the Grand Canyon and I want to bring back souvenirs for Mom, Dad, Aunt Betty, Cousin Lulu, a couple of friends and my pet sitter. No problem…. until I realize I can’t fit any of what I carefully chose for everyone into either my checked or carry-on baggage because I crammed them full of my stuff when I packed for this trip. Don’t let this scenario happen to you – be sure to think ahead by leaving a little extra space in your luggage for bringing home those Grand Canyon goodies!
- Here’s one way to pack a suitcase: throw everything in you think you’ll need, get your friend to sit on it with you and struggle to zip it up. Pray it doesn’t burst open on the way to your destination! Or you could follow this simple method so you can fit what you need in your bag and still close it with room left for souvenirs:
- Lay out what you plan to take on your bed
- Roll up simple things like t-shirts, jeans, easy care pants, skirts and dresses
- Line the bottom of your bag with rolled up clothing
- Place the items that have to be folded or draped on top of rolled up clothing
- Fit your shoes (never more than three pair (one of which you will be wearing to travel in) in nooks and crannies
- Little things like underwear and socks can fit in corners.
- If you are checking your bag, add your waterproof travel bag of sundries
- Have fun!
- Of course you want to look great on your trip, right? So you pack the moisturizer, your crème rinse, all your great beauty items. But if you are traveling in the US, there is a drug store in every town, so no need to take a huge bottle of mouthwash or shampoo. Take the travel sizes and if you run out, stop by the local grocer or pharmacy super store and pick up more. Most decent hotels provide blow dryers, so you don’t need to pack one of those either. We often think we have to have everything we need in our suitcase when we can easily find what we need at our location.
- Question: What do pack in your carry-on bag? Answer: Your valuables, your electronics and something to do while traveling. Never pack jewelry, prescription medications, your computer, camera or other electronic in your checked luggage. Keep those things with you in case the luggage gets lost. And don’t forget to bring along book (or electronic reader) or other method of keeping entertained on your trip. The person sitting next to you may not be interested in conversation, so be prepared to entertain yourself!
- Electronics have made travel so much easier, even if the cramped seats and lack of food on most airlines have made travel less pleasant. Although you can’t use a cell phone in flight, you can use electronic handheld devices that provide you with crossword puzzles, Sudoku type games, and your laptop, which is full of things to do. Kindles and the like are wonderful for travel as well – you can take several books, download more while on your trip and lots less weight to carry! And of course, remember to pack your iPod – and check out the great new portable rechargeable iPod/iPhone players/chargers. Super for playing your music anywhere and small enough to pack.
- Laundry baskets for travel? Yep, my friend recently arrived on a road trip from her distant home to mine with her clothes and accessories folded neatly in a laundry basket! She tells me that it is easier to see what is in her basket, much lighter than a suitcase, and since she was traveling by car, she didn’t need a closed and locked bag. When I looked closer, she actually had two laundry baskets, the full one in an empty one. “That’s for souvenirs and shopping finds,” she told me. What a neat way to travel on the road and stay organized. Although I imagine she would get some stares checking into a hotel with her laundry basket in tow!
Paris Love is a Productivity and Organizational Consultant specializing in helping overextended professionals strive for a better quality of life infused with meaningful work, wealth, good health and well being. Paris has written articles for NAPO News, Star Lee Magazine, Baldwin Parent, San Diego NAPO News, Organizing A to Z, BrownSkin Magazine, Online Organizing and Home Base Quarterly. You can catch Paris on A & E “Hoarders” where she helps a family in crisis. Her most recent book, Fifty Tips to Get You Organized in Ten Minutes or Less and Growing Pains, along with more information on her life’s work and business can be found at www.ParisLoveInstitute.com or by calling 770-722-2748.