I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been in at least one of these travel situations:
- Waiting until the last possible minute to pack
- Bringing double the amount of necessary clothing/shoe options
- Forgetting to bring a critical item for the trip and being forced to buy a replacement
Packing is not a fun task, but--similar to organizing--when you create a system to help get the job done you are not only going to cut down on the time it takes to get ready for a trip, but you’ll also spare yourself the stress, second-guessing, and overstuffing that is commonly associated with it.
Last week I hosted an interactive workshop with Kit and Ace to discuss travel organizational challenges, which included all things closet, packing, and wardrobe related. As an organizer (with a strict carry-on only policy!), I shared my tips and tricks to create a better travel experience and how to (realistically) improve the functionality of your closet.
Maybe it’s the pressure to confine all of your belongings into one bag, or maybe it’s the task itself that just is too daunting to handle, but most people do not enjoy packing. Here are some ideas to make packing a bit more doable when preparing for your next trip.
Create a packing list. I don’t know about you, but I rely on lists to reference in every aspect of my life and the same goes for when I’m packing. I have found it helpful to have a base packing list for every trip that you go on that includes your “must haves”, and then adapt as needed depending on the climate or activities that you will be doing on your trip. Here’s a packing list to help you get started, and a blank version if you want to start from scratch and customize based on your needs.
Plan your outfits in advance. Try on your full outfits (yes, even the shoes and accessories) so that you aren’t over-packing and to reduce the guesswork (or failed outfit attempts) during your travels. And remember: you don’t need nearly as many options as you may think! Pack exactly the amount of items that you need then throw in a versatile extra (like a top) in the off chance that something goes awry with your planned choices. Want to make the most out of your options? Choose one color family (black, brown, grey) and pack versatile pieces that you can mix and match.
Choose travel clothing wisely. Choose flexible, breathable clothing that can be layered to make yourself not only comfortable on the plane, but also prepare you for any temperature changes. This is a great opportunity to save space in your suitcase by wearing your heaviest articles of clothing and shoes. Since you can't control the temperature on board make sure to bring a couple of essential layers for the inevitable chilly moments. Thick socks are great to slide on after you board (or opt for compression socks to help with circulation), and a thin blanket or oversized scarf that can be folded up and tucked in your bag will keep you toasty and cozy without adding bulk to your bag.
Prepare your carry-on bag. if your carry on bag is the purse that you’ll be using on your trip, great. If not, pack a small bag or crossbody inside of your carry on to wear once you’ve reached your destination.
Keep items accessible. Keep your go-to items compartmentalized. Create a necessities pouch to hold the items that you reach for often, or if you are on a longer flight or are packing for more than just you (like your kids) a pouch for each category (i.e. beauty, tech, food) so that you just have to grab the desired punch instead of pulling your entire bag up on your lap.
Stay hydrated and nourished. The air is super dry during flights, so make sure to keep your body (including your lips and skin) hydrated. Bring an empty water bottle to fill up after you've made it through security and have the flight attendant refill when they make their routine beverage run. Include a couple of healthy snacks in your bag (fruit, protein bars) in case the airport options are less than appealing or don’t adhere to your diet.
Prepare for the just-in-case moments. Communal transportation is always going to be germy, so it's smart to arm yourself with products just in case your experience needs some special attention to make yourself comfortable. Travel-sized disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are small enough to add in your bag, and you'll thank yourself for having them after wiping away the questionable crumbs and smudges on your seat during boarding.
Set your luggage apart from the pack. if you’re in the market for a new bag, opt for a bag in a fun color or print. Or, choose a sturdy label or tag (that can’t easily be pulled off or removed) to clearly indicate which is yours.
Before you start any journey, research the weather and conditions and requirements for your trip. Do your research, make a checklist of the things you absolutely need and start packing. If you travel frequently create a packing list on your computer that you can update to include “must-haves” and blank space for trip specific items.
Common mistakes when it comes to selecting what to pack:
- Focusing too much on the “what if” situations
- Choosing individual pieces vs. outfits
- Bringing shoes that you’ve never worn before
- Packing too many shoes: people usually pack too many shoes and they take up the most room because of their shapes. Follow the rules of three. Consider one casual sandal or loafer, sneakers, and an evening shoe.. Wear the heaviest pair on your flight and pack the other two.
How to make the most out of your packing:
- Roll your clothing-takes up so much less space and makes things less wrinkly
- Use packing cubes to divide and conquer as they take up so much less space and you can fit a ton inside
- Bring extra large ziploc bags because they will come in handy more often than you realized: corralling snacks, protecting your toiletries, or holding items that you purchased.
- Add in a laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes separate and make unpacking easier. Just toss the contents of the bag in the wash and unpack the rest!
- Opt for travel-size multi-taskers when it comes to your beauty products. Choose a tinted moisturizer that serves as foundation, a soap, and shampoo in one, and wipes that clean hands and face.
I’d love to know: do you have any fun trips coming up? Are there any packing tips that you swear by? Share in the comments below!
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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.