When trudging through an airport, do you enviously stare at those seemingly “perfectly organized” people who can pack for a trip, no matter how long or short, and no matter what the season, in just one carry-on bag?
Packing for a week, weekend or month in a regulation-sized carry-on suitcase (22” x 14” x 9” wheels and handle included) can be done, but there are a few rules to follow. The first rule is the hardest; don’t run out and buy a new wardrobe for your vacation; opting instead to take only those pieces you love and know work together.
Secondly, admit no one, except for you, really cares what you wore two days ago. In other words, you can wear the same outfit twice.
The secrets to packing light are simple: plan in advance, make a list, pack only those clothes you really love, and then, once you’ve packed your bag, unpack it, edit judiciously and pack again.
Clothing should be easy to pack, easy to clean and easy to mix & match. Stick to the basics – black, white and beige – for separates – adding a few colorful accessories for pizzazz.
Start with a list; dividing each day of your trip into two parts – day and night. Next, fill-in the blanks detailing exactly what you plan on wearing right down to the undergarments, shoes and accessories. Before packing, revisit the list and edit.
On packing day, lay everything out on a flat surface, adding or subtracting those items you need or don’t need. Remember, every item – shoes, tops, bottoms, outerwear and accessories – should coordinate with at least two other items. Vacations are not the time to break in a new pair of shoes!
For a weeklong summer vacation, here’s what I suggest:
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 pairs of slacks (1 black for evening)
- 1 pair of jeans
- 5 tops
- 1 cardigan sweater (sports jacket for men)
- 1 dressy blouse (dress shirt for men)
- 1 or 2 tank tops for layering
- 1 swimsuit and cover-up
- 1 sundress
- 1 pashmina (tie for men)
- 3 pairs socks
- 1 pair pajamas
- 4 to 6 panties (briefs/boxers for men)
- 2 bras (3 for a longer trip)
- 1 Little Black Dress
- Foldable hat, rain jacket, small umbrella and fold-up travel tote
If you plan on exercising while traveling, add two pairs of running shorts or leggings, two jog bras, two pairs of socks and two wash-and-wear tops to the above list.
The hardest part of packing is, of course, what shoes to pack. My suggestion is to take three (four maximum) pairs of shoes, wearing the bulkiest ones on the plane. (One each: sneakers, sandals, flat walking shoes and dress shoes.) If it’s winter, limit yourself to one pair of boots.
For a month-long vacation, the list is similarly succinct, with a few extra pieces to avoid sartorial monotony: three shorts, three slacks, two pairs jeans, eight tops/tee shirts, two dressy tops, four tank tops, two sundresses, two cardigans, two swimsuits and an extra pashmina. Men, add one pair of dress slacks and an additional dress shirt to your master list.
Although most airlines still allow one carry-on and one personal item, these policies are subject to, and most probably will, change without notice. Be sure to check the Transportation Security Administration’s website (www.TSA.gov) for any new travel restrictions, as well checking the airline’s most current baggage restrictions before you pack.
Cognizant people’s footwear needs remain the same in spite of dwindling allowable luggage dimensions, companies such as Adidas, Nike and New Balance have started manufacturing lightweight packable sneakers. International luggage company, TUMI, Inc. makes a packable down “puffer” jacket, which folds up into itself to become a neck pillow. I purchased one last summer before taking a high-altitude trek in the Peruvian Andes and I am here to tell you it worked beautifully, especially when temperatures dropped to a chilly 31 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Pack your passport, visas, driver’s license, itinerary, medications and valuables, including your Smartphone, eBook, camera, laptop and/or tablet and assorted chargers and cords, in your handbag, tote or briefcase (NOT in your carry-on) and be sure to have a TSA-approved lock handy! Even if your bag is within the carry-on limits, you could be forced to check it at the very last minute. And remember; leave the family jewels at home.
Call me crazy, but I refuse to check my luggage, so if something doesn’t fit in my carry-on bag, it stays home. Beware the flight attendant who says my bag is not “regulation!” Not only do I carry the manufacturer’s hangtag with the specifications clearly printed on the tag, but I also travel with a small tape measurer to prove my bag is in compliance.