The New York Times had a business travel special today, and the story that stood out for me was, obviously, the one of packing. I was amazed by the flight attendant who, in a carry-on suitcase, packed the following:
- three pairs of shorts
- three pairs of dress pants
- one skirt
- three pairs of casual pants or jeans
- three nightgowns
- three bathing suits
- one sarong,
- three lightweight sweaters
- four dresses
- 10 casual shirts
- six dress shirts
- a clutch
- two pairs of shoes.
Plus she’ll wear a third pair of shoes, as well as jeans and a longer sweater.
10 casual shirts? I think I own less than 10 casual shirts.
The point was that according to her, all this magically fits because she rolls her clothes (and she has a nifty technique for folding dress clothes).
As someone who obsesses about travelling light, I'm impressed. See slideshow here.
There are tonnes of articles about how to pack, and by now, it shouldn't be a mystery that rolling saves space, minimises wrinkles and makes clothes easier to pack, a limited colour palette works best, bring clothes than can be layered rather than heavy warm clothing, use accessories to make outfits interesting.
(I wouldn't go as far as one dude in the story, who recommended packing food in IN HIS SHOES so that he wouldn't waste time in the airport looking for something to eat. Disgusting.)
They're all good tips, and I find them pretty easy to follow, since I naturally dress in a limited colour palette, and I love to layer.
My other organising principles for packing:
- I mentally plan what I wear each day, and make "contingency plans" for weather changes.
- Bring nothing you can only wear once. Your bottoms, for example, should go with at least 3 tops. Or better yet, all your tops.
- Bring stuff that looks good rumpled. Good thing I am attracted to slouchy, naturally rumply things.
- Scarves perk up an outfit, keep you warm and are easier to pack in multiples than cardigans. In countries where people dress conservatively, it's also useful a cover-up without having to layer on more clothes. If you only brought one winter coat, at least your scarf changes.
- I almost always bring nice black knit sweater. I find that pulling it over anything instantly makes me look more presentable And it's much lighter than a jacket.
- Dress for a flight as if you're going to be trapped in an airport with missing luggage. Basically, stuff you can lie on an airport bench on without looking worse for wear.
- An extra change of underwear, travel-size mouthwash, and facial wipes in your carry-on bag can make overnight delays or a long flight way more bearable.
- Jeans are the most versatile item ever, and they can go without washing for a long time. Sometimes, it's the only bottoms I need. Bring your softest, most comfortable pair.
- Shoes can always be boiled down these three practical parts: flip flops, Converse/driving shoes (depends on type of trip), ballet flats. (And they all pack reasonably light)
- I'm not a dress person, but on the right trip, I find my life easier to bring say, 5 dresses for 5 days. They're also very easy to dress up or down with a change of shoes.
- I wash some of my clothes on the go (I pack a little bottle of delicate detergent), and I always look up cheap laundromats at my destination. Lonely Planet is especially helpful about these things.
- I backpack a lot, and it's super handy to bring one wire hanger to hang things up.
- Always bring at least one indulgent thing you love, especially if it's a long trip. Or else you'll find your travel wardrobe really depressing after a while.
- The foldable Longchamp Le Pliage totes are my travel best friends. They look smart, pack light, and hold a lot of nonsense.
- Separate different garments into different clothing bags can help to keep things neat. I pack my things in Ziplock so that I can squeeze the air out to make more room. If you're backpacking, it also keeps things dry in case you get stuck in a storm.
- Charge the iPod!
And if you're starting to take any of this too seriously, listen to the wise words of one traveller quoted in this article: “Know that by packing light, you will always be dressed well enough, though you’ll rarely be the best-dressed person in the room.”