The last two years of my life have been a whirlwind of travel that has taken me from the stark terrain of Afghanistan to the tall buildings and lights of Toronto. And the one thing that unifies those trips and all the places I’ve traveled in between those two trips is packing.
Packing is not my favorite past time, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that my friend Andria G. asked me, during our recent trip to Las Vegas, how I managed to get everything into the small tote that I brought. She asked me this while gazing at luggage that was hardly carry-on size.
There are a few simple rules that I live by and they haven’t failed me yet, even when I showed up for a business trip in Florida woefully underprepared for cold weather and had to make a few mad dashes to local Goodwills and a Walmart to get warmer clothes.
Rule #1: Checking bags is not an option. Real talk, airlines stay trippin’ with these bag fees. Some of them are now going so far as to charge for carry-on bags over a certain size. (I’m looking at you Spirit Airlines.)
Rule #2: Take only what you need. If you’re driving, this doesn’t matter as much, but I really hate over packing. Do you really need five pairs of shoes, or will two work? Why take up valuable real estate in your bag, or worse risk having to check a bag, because you think you’ll wear those shoes. Don’t do it. I’ve been known to overpack my make up supplies thinking I’m going to want to do a special face for a night out, I’ve learned this is a trap and have seriously streamlined the make-up I take.
Rule #3: Travel size everything. That clear, quart sandwich bag can hold a lot if you have nothing but travel size products. Even if you use fancy face and hair products, higher-end retailers like Sephora and Ulta typically sell what you need. Taxicab confession: I almost always take the travel size bath products that hotels provide and bring them home to stock my travel size products drawer. My dentist also always gives travel size toothpaste, so I’ve been stockpiling that for years.
Rule #4: Mix and match. When it comes to packing I usually lay out outfits that go together and then I make sure that if I’m in the mood, I can mix every thing up and create entirely different outfits. Jeans can go from day to night by changing the top. A dress can be dressed up or down as long as it has a flattering shape and doesn’t require ironing. Jazz up an outfit with accessories, which you can bring a lot of without taking up too much space.
Bonus Tip: Get through security quick. I usually wear a jersey dress or leggings and a tank top to the airport because you usually have to get nearly naked to go through security these days. Take off your jacket or cardigan before going through the scanner. Don’t wear any kind of metal jewelry or a belt because this is an automatic repeat trip through the scanner. Keep your plastic baggy full of travel size goodies in your hand so you don’t waste time taking them out of your bag. And if you’re bringing your laptop go ahead and slip it out of its case too. I prefer slip-on shoes and toe socks because I want to take my shoes off quickly and I don’t really care for my bare feet touching the floor. Eww.
Last but not least: Pack strategically. For me, packing is like playing Tetris. Every piece has its place and the more things fit together, the less likely you are to end up with footprints from shoes, or worse, hair product and toothpaste on your clothes. I prefer shoes in first, soles down or touching other shoes. Layer with make up bag, accessories bag, and night clothes. Layer everyday, walking around clothes and then follow with going out wear on top of the makeup/accessory bag layer, and just like that you’re packed and ready to go!
Hope this helps you lighten your load on your next trip!