How to Pack Light

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 full 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” approach to packing.  Every piece of clothing I packed had a specific assignment on my 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.

Literally.

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, vacations, or any trip that takes you away from your closet for days on end.

Here’s what you need to do:

1.  Check the Weather

Start by checking the weather in your destination city by visiting weather.com at:

http://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.

2.  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.

3.  Decide on a Color Scheme

If you stick with two or three colors, you can mix and match easily, enabling you to create numerous outfits from only a few pieces.  Darks tend to show less dirt; neutrals can span a variety of climates.

4.  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 (this trick would have saved me at that wedding all those years ago).

5.  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 laundry facilities during your trip, opt for easy-care fabrics that retain their shape and look good with a minimum of fuss.

6.  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.

7.  Account for Accessories

If you have special accessories that you want to wear with a particular ensemble, bag them together in a Ziploc â„¢ 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.

8.  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 you 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.

9.  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 out 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.

10.  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.

Need some more help in coming up with a winning travel wardrobe?  Download a copy of WARDROBE MAGIC,

http://www.wardrobemagic.com

to see how easy dressing well can be.

Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!

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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 .

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3 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply August 1, 2015

    Do you still have Getaway Magic? We are going to South Africa including a train trip of 17 days which includes Smart Casual during the day and Formal for the evening, as well as a 3 day safari.
    So I really need help in what to pack to cover all bases and not have tons of clothes. It is their summer in October but airconditioning on the train.

    Help and thanks in advance, Sandra

  • Sandra Sterling

    Reply Reply August 1, 2015

    Do you still have Getaway Magic? We are going to South Africa including a train trip of 17 days which includes Smart Casual during the day and Formal for the evening, as well as a 3 day safari.
    So I really need help in what to pack to cover all bases and not have tons of clothes. It is their summer in October but airconditioning on the train.

    Help and thanks in advance, Sandra

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 2, 2015

      Hi Sandra,

      Yes. You can find it at GetawayMagic.com.

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