How To Pack Light
Ten ways to cut down on your luggage
By Diana Pemberton-Sikes
At the height of my clothing consumption days in my late teens, we were invited to the wedding of a family friend in Austin, Texas. It was a two day drive from our home in Colorado Springs, and my mother, in the interest of managing her limited trunk space, gave me an ultimatum: I could only take as many clothes as I needed for the trip. No more.
To make sure I did not over pack, as was my habit, Mother stood over me as I loaded my suitcase, militantly refusing to indulge my, "Let's take everything and I'll let you know what I feel like wearing when I get there" attitude. Every piece of clothing I packed had an assignment on my trip itinerary. I got everything in one small case, protesting as I packed.
Justifiably, it turned out.
At the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, we were issued a last-minute invitation to the bridesmaids' luncheon, to be held the next morning at a posh country club. Having brought exactly the number of clothes I needed and no more, I was faced with the very scenario every self-indulgent teenage fashionista dreads: I had nothing to wear.
I couldn't muster one extra outfit from my sparse travel wear, and given the lateness of the invitation (10 pm) and the time of the function (11 am the next morning), I didn't even have time to shop. I ended up wearing the same dress I'd worn to the rehearsal dinner to the luncheon the next morning, sheer black stockings, strappy sandals, and all.
My mother never heard the end of it.
Thus, for any trip I took over the next few years, I packed practically everything I owned, even if it was for just a weekend trip. Business suits, jeans, cocktail attire - you name it, I was ready for it. That my bag always weighed a ton was of little consequence.
My, how times have changed.
There's an old Aboriginal saying that goes, "The more you know, the less you need."
I have found this to be true, particularly with clothing. You don't need to have a lot to LOOK like you have a lot; you just need to know how to REALLY wear what you already own.
With that in mind, let's apply this concept to packing for business trips, leisure trips, or any trip that takes you away from your closet for days on end.
Here's what you need to do:
- Check the Weather
Start by checking the weather in your destination city by visiting weather.com at: www.weather.com
Having shivered in San Francisco and melted in Mississippi, I've learned that it's easier to pack for a climate different than your own than it is to shop for it once you get there. Always be prepared.
- Make a List of Activities
Make a list of all the probable activities you'll be doing on your trip, like visiting, eating out, going to church, playing golf, networking, meeting with clients, etc. This will give you a good idea of the types of clothes you'll need to pack.
- Decide on a Color Scheme
If you stick with a color scheme for your ensembles, you can mix and match them easily which means that you can produce numerous outfits from only a few pieces. Darks tend to show less dirt; neutrals can span a variety of climates.
- Opt for Travel-Friendly Fabrics
Knit, gabardine, and denim travel more easily than linen, silk, and cotton. If you won't have access to an ironing board or will be laundering items by hand during your trip, opt for easy-care fabrics that retain their shape and look good with a minimum of fuss.
- Choose Your Pieces Wisely
Several tops teamed with a couple of bottoms will see you through several days' wear. If you have a knee-length skirt and a long pair of pants somewhere in the mix, they will take you just about anywhere, from meetings to restaurants to strolls along the beach.
- Scrimp On Shoes
The average female airline passenger carries five pairs of shoes in her suitcase. FIVE! To save your back and conserve space, use the color scheme trick noted above and trim your shoes to two pairs - flats and heels. Wear one while traveling and pack the other.
- Account for Accessories
If you have special accessories that you want to wear with a particular ensemble, bag them together in a Ziploc™ bag. If you use a garment bag, punch a hole near the top of the baggie with a hole punch and loop it around the hanger of the outfit you'll be wearing them with so you'll have everything handy and in one place.
- Make A List
If you have a tendency to forget items either coming or going, make a list of everything you need to take so you can check it off as you pack it. Check it off again as you pack to come home to make sure you return with everything to left with. So what's a bonus to this system? You can readily file a claim with the airport should your bag go missing, because you know exactly what's in it.
- Pack a Bag Within a Bag
If you plan to return with a lot more than you left with because of shopping, being showered with gifts (bridal, baby, or birthday), or cleaning stuff out of Mom's attic, pull out your luggage set and pack everything in the smaller suitcase. Then nestle your packed suitcase within the larger suitcase, and check it. You'll have a spare case ready to fill for your return trip.
- Carry Makeup and Meds Separately
Whether you travel by car, train, or plane, always carry medications, pertinent toiletries (makeup, contact lens solution), and treasures (expensive jewelry, electronics) in a carry on. These are the items that are hard to replace if lost, so keep them handy and safe.
Finally, always give yourself plenty of time to pack. Rushing almost always leads to over-packing or forgotten items, so don't put yourself in that situation if you don't have to. Launder everything before you start, check items off your list as you pack, and double-check to make sure you have everything. The piece of mind is worth the extra effort.
Packing for business or pleasure needn't be a panic-inducing event. Start with a plan, opt for a color scheme, pack travel-friendly fabrics, and choose pieces wisely for function and versatility. Not only will you look chic and well put together, you'll be amazed by how far you can go with so little.
© Copyright Diana Pemberton-Sikes
About the Author
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at www.fashionforrealwomen.com. Need some other tips and tricks? Pick up a copy of Wardrobe Magic.