Natasha Muslih post Suitcase

Packing Shouldn’t Be a Burden

I recently read an article about a woman who wore seven dresses, two pairs of shoes, and two pairs of shorts (half the clothes she packed for her Canary Islands holiday) to avoid an $85 overweight baggage fee. She became so hot and sweaty by the time she boarded her flight, she thought she was going to faint and so she quickly peeled the almost nine pounds of clothing off and put them back in her bag. People everywhere congratulated her on her creativity, but I am dumbfounded: if she was inventive enough to think of a way to beat the system, then why could she not have packed better in the first place? The mind boggles. As long as you’re not going on an equipment-intensive vacation (ski holiday or camping trip for example), you should be able to fit everything you need in one carry-on suitcase. How do I know? I depart on holiday for two months every summer with my family and we limit ourselves to taking what will fit in the boot of a compact car, so in other words, one small bag for each of the four of us. This is how I have taught my daughters to pack:

  • Choose your capsule wardrobe: the easiest way to do this is by picking a neutral colour theme and going with it, but it’s possible to be more creative. The key is to be able to mix and match and make sure that everything can be worn in multiple ways and in various settings. Also, very important is to take the weather and cultural mores into account. Don’t assume the desert is going to be hot (nights can be cold) or that spaghetti straps and miniskirts are acceptable everywhere. Take some time to check the weather forecast and find out a little something about the culture where you’re going.

  • Pick three pairs of shoes, max, depending on your needs: one pair should be neutral and comfortable – shoes you can wear every day and almost everywhere.
  • Give everything a once over: do all these pieces spark joy? Is it possible to leave any of your choices at home? It often is. Remember: you can always have things laundered if needed and if you really are missing something, you can buy or even borrow sometimes.
  • Don’t forget socks, underwear and something to wear to bed (can double as something to lounge around in). Add this to the pile now.
  • Put everything in packing cubes: these won’t help with keeping your bag weight down, but they are fantastic for organizing.
  • Throw in a large foldable bag for purchases (something you can check-in on the return trip). On my last trip, I managed to fit in a stool, a light fixture, a few small ceramic bowls and some cushions into a large duffle that always travels along with me as a secondary, back-up bag.
  • Pack your “personal item” – the small purse, backpack, briefcase or laptop bag usually allowed on board in addition to the cabin bag. In mine, I put: my toiletries in a ziploc bag, all liquids and gels being under 100mls, of course; my computer; prescription drugs; jewellery or other items of value; a sleeping mask; earplugs; earbuds or headphones; scarf as an additional layer and accessory; and of course passport, money and phone. With most things digitized, I don’t even need to pack books anymore – everything is on my phone (including scans of my passport, insurance papers, credit cards and airline tickets)!

Of course, it’s easier to pack more items in the summer than in the winter, when clothing is bulkier, and a bit trickier to pack when traveling in multiple climates, but challenging doesn’t mean impossible! Wear the heaviest, bulkiest clothes onboard, plan for layers and buy a lightweight down jacket if you don’t have one already. And if you’re up for an even bigger challenge, aim to travel with just an overnight bag – and please report back here with your tips!

Also by Natasha: Retreat-ing: it’s like summer camp for grown-ups

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