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How to Pack for a Trip

07. September 2012

I have a confession to make.   I hate to travel.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love visiting friends, family and new places.  It’s the “getting ready” partthat drives me bonkers.  I’m 58 years old and I still don’t know how to pack for a trip.

While my friend, Rene insists the anticipation of an upcoming vacation can be as exciting as the trip itself, all I feel as I get ready to go is anxiety and dread.   Weeks in advance, I start obsessing over what I should pack.  I have nightmares about outfit combinations. 

With days to go, I begin to hyperventilate – staring into my closet as my blouses, slacks and shoes go in and out of focus.  An otherwise decisive woman, I cannot seem to determine what stays and what goes into my suitcase.  It’s agonizing and embarrassing. 

My well-traveled friends make it look so easy.  Maggie packs the night before.  Susan can get everything she needs into a carry-on bag.  I seriously don’t know how they do it.

The problem is trying to figure out how to take everything I think I might need…frantically planning for each possible scenario.   Half of what I carry with me never gets worn.  It’s there “just in case.”   Well, NO MORE!

Standing in the checkout line at my neighborhood Vons recently, my eye caught a “teaser” on the cover of “Real Simple” Magazine.  “Pack Like a Pro,” it read.  I tossed a copy into my basket.

What a find! The article (in the July issue realsimple.com) is packed full of packing tips.  It’s a thorough, multi-page guide for pathetic packers like me.  I gave ‘em a test run on a recent trip and the strategies really work!

Here are a few of the tips that helped me conquer my packing anxiety.

*Follow a Simple Formula.  Pack three tops for every bottom.  Generally, pants and skirts take up more room than shirts, and when you wear them multiple times, no one is the wiser.  (so true!)  A week-long trip shouldn’t require more than six tops, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, one dress and three bras. (OK, this is just for you gals!)

*Stick to a Color Scheme. (Best tip of all!)  Start with two neutrals for your core basics and add two to three fun shades that coordinate.  (I stuck with black and white basics with red, royal blue and pink for accent colors.  It worked great!)

*Be a Lightweight. Not all clothes are worth their weight.  Leave behind pieces with bulky linings or heavy embellishments.  Think “thin” and opt for pants made of polyester-rayon or acetate-spandex.  Also, stretchy jeans or jeggings can take up half the space of regular denim.  Control temperature with layers.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Lighten your load further with “multi-taskers…which don’t have to be those girl-explorer zip-off cargo pants!  T-shirt dresses, leggings, tunics and maxis take you from sightseeing to dinner.  Let yoga pants moonlight as pj’s or use your cover-up in place of a robe.

Embrace the Accents. Satisfy your craving for variety with little things like fun belts, bold jewelry and printed scarves.  Chunky, colorful bracelets and necklaces draw the eye so people don’t focus on the clothes.

Choose Fabrics Wisely.  Blends containing nylon, elastane or polyester beautifully resist wrinkling.  Prefer something natural?  You’ll have the most luck with wool, Lyocell or modal.  Cotton mixed with spandex (love it!) will also hold up better than 100% cotton.  You can always pack a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray ($2 for three ounces at drugstores.)

These tips only scratch the surface.  The “Real Simple” article is literally packed with packing pointers from essential checklists to folding techniques to a clever tip on how to transport a down coat!

If you’re phobic about packing, do what I did. Get a little advice from the packing professionals and take the stress out of traveling!


Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.