16 July 2013

Summer traveling, suitcase packing

Summertime is the time for traveling, and just like last summer, I’ve been doing a lot of living out of my suitcase. Just over the past few months, I’ve been to Minneapolis, Chicago (twice), Alabama, Cancún, and most recently, Buffalo and Niagara. If I get my act together, I might make a brief semi-solo trip to Philly soon too (just putting that out in the universe to see what happens). I really do love getting the chance to travel so much, even if the packing stresses me out each time.

But at least I’ve learned a lot about packing! And like most of my readers, I don’t travel for work constantly, making me some sort of insanely efficient traveler. No, I pack fairly heavy and I have to think about it a lot each time. But the stress and planning pays off, as ultimately I pare my luggage down to a manageable amount. For example, here’s all our luggage that Mr. P and I packed for over two weeks in Italy:

That regular-sized backpack and carry-on suitcase, there in the front, was all the luggage I needed. I used the same suitcase and backpack last summer for my seventeen days in New England (in New Haven and NYC and Cape Cod). And the same suitcase and backpack got me through nearly all my travels since and in between, from London to Mexico. Really, no matter how long the trip is, I always take that backpack and suitcase, and I can fit everything in there and, best of all, avoid checking my bag. It’s cheaper and I never have to worry that I’ll be too weighed down with luggage to, you know, actually travel around.

So today I thought I’d give you a few of my packing tips for your upcoming vacation. Remember that legend about the Miss America contestant that packed a suitcase as her talent in the competition? Yes. This is totally like that.

Anytime I pack a suitcase – for a weekend-long trip or for a vacation lasting weeks – I lay out every day’s worth of clothes to look at. I’m a visual person.

This is basically what I packed for a long wedding weekend trip, hence the sparkly dress and fancy shoes. But the rest of it is basically what I’d pack for any long weekend – casual and dressy enough for all but the most extreme adventures (no hiking up a mountain in a striped cardi and gold sandals). It’s grouped into possible outfits in the photo; here’s the rundown by type:
  • two dresses
  • three tank tops
  • two pairs of jeans (skinny and not-so-skinny)
  • one pair of khaki shorts
  • two cardigans
  • one khaki denim jacket
  • one scarf
  • one pair of gold sandals
  • one fancy dress and shoes for the formal event
Lightest packing ever? No way. Not only is that enough clean (not clean-ish, CLEAN) clothes for five days, it’s actually possible to make nearly two weeks’ worth of outfits out of those items thanks to similar color schemes. Blue’s obviously my jam, but you could have mostly greens, pinks/purples, whatever. The gold sandals are neutral enough to go with everything, but fancy enough to use as dancing shoes should the heels get uncomfortable. And the real magic is in that scarf – the blues, reds, grays, and khaki tones means it can go with basically any of the other items I packed.

So yes, a lot of clothes for every situation. But it’s okay that I’ve nearly overpacked, because I’ve learned the secret of ROLLING MY CLOTHES. I cannot be too enthusiastic about this. If you don’t roll your clothes when you pack, START NOW. It saves space, there’s less wrinkles, and because you “bundle” outfits together, you don’t have to go digging through previously-neatly-folded stacks of clothes in your suitcase for the jeans you thoughtlessly shoved in the bottom.

Here’s how I do it. Fold everything in half, then place the least-wrinkle-able item ON TOP and roll over it. That’s important, because whatever item is on top is going to be in the middle of the rolled bundle and most subject to getting wrinkled. Here, I’ve placed the jeans on top and the tank top underneath.

Since the jeans are the “core” of the roll, the tank top isn’t as tightly rolled and will have fewer wrinkles. Easy! Then I just tightly roll the bundle, smoothing any wrinkles as I go.

Skirts and dresses can be a little tricky, but I find that folding them in half, then folding the corner back usually gets the job done.

And just to be thorough, I’d actually flip that skirt-plus-jacket combo over before rolling it. The jacket is less likely to wrinkle than the cotton dress, so it should be in the middle of the roll.

Note too that I didn’t pack anything that can’t be tightly rolled up – even the fancy sequined dress. It got rolled into its own bundle, and to protect the lace and sequins from snagging on other items in the suitcase, stuffed into a Ziploc bag. The nude patent pumps also got protected with a pair of socks (which can be repurposed for avoiding bare feet in hotel rooms).

Believe it or not, the dress was completely ready to go straight out of the bag. I did hang it up upon arriving at the hotel, but it didn’t even need that. Bundling, it’s amazing!

And speaking of Ziploc bags, they’re great for any number of things. I prefer sandwich bags to fancy zippered bags because I can see what’s in them. And gallon-sized bags are great for clothes bundles or remembering whether you’ve wore those undies:

I start off packing them all in the “clean” bag, then as I wear them over the course of the trip, I stuff them in the “dirty” bag. No sniff tests! (Eww, gross. But you know you do it too.)

Finally, here’s my five-plus days of clothes stuck in my carry-on suitcase:

Do you see all that room?! Less than half my suitcase is filled with clothes! Of course, it gets filled up with lots of other items – the aforementioned bags for undies, an extra t-shirt and shorts for sleeping in, a ridiculous number of chargers and power cables (in another Ziploc bag), my makeup bag and other toiletries, even a beach towel when we went to Cancún. But it all fits in my carry-on, and that makes me a happy traveler.

So if you’re traveling this summer, try rolling your clothes for a change. I promise it’ll save room in your suitcase with less wrinkles. If you can manage to squeeze all your liquids into teeny-tiny bottles as well, that means you can even get away with not checking a bag! And the less time spent anxiously waiting for your bag at the luggage carousel, the happier your vacation will be.


Mary Beth said...

I am OBSESSED with this post! I'm definitely going to try rolling my clothes next time I travel. I did that a long time ago when I went to Europe, but not since. Storing your shoes inside of socks? Genius! Keep the organization posts coming! :)

Janice said...

Kudos to your packing skills! I'm one of those who both roll and use Space Bags. Most of my crew don't like the bags. I do. When I go through security if they hand check the bag, they just lift up a packed bag, flip it over, put it back in. Wha-la no messy suitcase! Rolling IS the way to go and you certainly have it down. :)
To other blog readers,I can attest that her clothing was not wrinkled on that 5 day trip, and she looked like a million+ bucks, as she always does!

Christal said...

totally intrigued. :-)