When it comes to travel, packing is a necessary evil. Yet what should be a simple enough exercise – stashing away the clothing and paraphernalia that you plan to take on a trip – can confound the most brilliant minds, confuse normally logical thinkers and reduce otherwise stoical men and women to near tears.
But travel packing doesn’t have to rank somewhere near missed flights and lost luggage as among the least favorite aspects of a vacation or business trip. It can be transformed into a simple chore at worst, or even an enjoyable part of the travel experience. One secret of success is to plan ahead.
Some frequent travelers make a list of what to pack so they don’t have to start from scratch for every trip. Then augment the basic list each time you travel with clothing and items geared to that itinerary, destination and set of activities. If you’re going to spend most of your time at only one or two hotels, check in advance to find out if they have hair dryers, irons and similar amenities. If so, you don’t have to carry along your own.
Begin packing for traveling days, or at least hours before you leave home. If you wait too much and have to rush at the last minute, you’re more likely to take things you don’t really need and to forget some that you do. When it comes to selecting clothes, the secret is coordination. You don’t need a separate outfit for each day and evening.
Instead, plan a travel wardrobe around one or two colors so a number of the same accessories match various outfits. Pick colors that don’t soil quickly and fabrics that are drip-dry and wrinkle-resistant. A few distinctive touches, such as bright neckties for men, and handbags, shoes and scarves for women, stretch the basics into a choice of ensembles. When heading for a destination where the weather is uncertain of variable, pack layers of clothing and items that can fill a dual purpose.
If you still don’t know how to pack for traveling, here are some additional life-saving tips for you:
A cotton T-shirt for hot days can serve as a warming undershirt on a cool evening and a night shirt for sleeping. A light wool turtleneck may be worn alone or under a shirt or blouse. Sandals are great for the beach, and become slippers at night.
Before beginning to pack for traveling, prepare your belongings for a safe journey. If you’re going to be away for only a few days, buy toiletries and grooming products in miniature sizes. If they aren’t available, put liquids into small plastic bottles or containers, and seal them in plastic baggies for protection against leaks.
Save luggage space by stuffing shoes and handbags with socks, gloves, handkerchiefs and other small items. Then place the shoes in covers that will keep them from getting scratched and protect other contents of the suitcase from being soiled.
You may buy shoe covers, or use large plastic bags or even an old pair of socks for this purpose. If you’re going to fly, set aside things that should be carried in the luggage that you take on the plane. That includes anything you will need in case your checked suitcases are temporarily lost. Keep important medicines with you.
Make sure you pack written prescriptions for important drugs in case any of the containers are misplaced. If you wear glasses carry along an extra pair. Don’t pack jewelry, cameras, money or travelers checks in checked luggage. If you have room, carry along a change of clothing in the event your larger suitcases end up missing for a day or two. Before you begin to pack your luggage, pile everything you plan to take on a bed or other clean surface.
Pack shoes, cosmetic kits, books and other heavy objects at the bottom of the suitcase, near the hinges. Above them, nestled among protective clothing in the center, should go fragile and breakable items.
Drape large garments across the suitcase with the ends, like sleeves and pants legs, hanging over the sides. Then fold the ends of the items over each other in a criss-cross design. In this way, the garments will cushion one another to prevent wrinkling. Fill the corners and empty spaces with socks, underwear and other small items that don’t fit elsewhere.
After you have finished packing for your traveling, close your suitcase and pick it up. If you can’t lift it without straining, take something out. Even if you plan to use red caps and bellboys, there probably will be times on any trip when you’ll have to hoist your own luggage.
Finally, keep in mind the rule of thumb that some veteran travelers swear by. Although somewhat depressing, it often makes good sense. Pack half as many clothes as you think you’ll need for a trip, and take twice as much money.