If you're like me, packing for a trip can be stressful. But after a number of trips where I packed way more than I could comfortably carry, I decided that I needed an intervention. And thanks to tips from friends, family and colleagues, I've gotten packing down to a science from which I never stray. The results? A happier packing experience, yes. But more importantly, a happier trip experience.
Here are my essential rules:
Less is Way Better than More.
This is rule number one to pack by. So many clothes these days are made from lightweight, washable and wrinkle-free fabrics that it's just not necessary to pack so much. For a one-week trip, just two pairs of pants and a skirt is all I take now. For each additional week, add one more pair of pants. Make one a pair of jeans. They're comfortable, can be dressed up or down and can be worn several times.
Pick colors that mix and match - black or gray are great basics. Add a few colorful items to give you some style and panache. Choose clothes that have a little spandex in them so they'll hold their shape while resisting wrinkles.
Shirts, Sweaters & Jackets.
Take five shirts that can work with any of your pants. And one sweater that's in your basic color. Wear a jacket on the plane. It's one less thing you have to pack and it can keep you warm on a chilly flight.
Accessories can change an outfit. Take a few things - like a scarf or necklace - to dress up your clothes. But don't take fine jewelry. Instead pack one or two replaceable costume pieces. Better yet, don't take anything and treat yourself to a new accessory at your destination.
Wear one pair of comfortable shoes and pack one other - athletic shoes if you'll be walking a lot, or dress shoes if you absolutely need them.
Bring enough underwear for a week. If you're staying longer, wash them out at night. Better yet, buy some new sexy ones while you're away.
A rain jacket/windbreaker (with a hood) that folds into a small pouch takes little space and covers "what if" it rains. Add a small collapsible travel umbrella.
Check your hotel's website for in-room hairdryers. If one's not listed, call and see if one's available - many smaller places have "loaners." If you must bring one, buy a small dual voltage travel dryer. Unless you absolutely can't live without your brand of shampoo or conditioner, leave them at home. Almost all hotels and B&B's supply them. If not, pick some up when you get there and leave the leftovers when you leave.
MakeUp & Toiletries.
Ladies: keep makeup to a minimum. Take small sample size packets of moisturizer and foundation. Add a blush, mascara and eye shadow that go with everything. Keep a set of travel toiletries in a lightweight pouch or plastic baggie ready at home. It helps you resist the temptation of adding more when it's time to pack.
I don't take any travel guides - usually they cover more places than you need. So we tear out the relevant pages or copy them and pack only those pages. Better yet, go online and download and print the pages you think will be useful or check your cell phone to see if they have an app for that.
Bring a collapsible nylon duffel bag or tote for your souvenirs. As you purchase them, put them in the bag, along with your receipts, so you'll have them in one handy place to carry on board and go through customs.
OK, you have everything packed and think you're good to go. But there's one last test. Lift your bag and carry it up and down the nearest staircase (hotels, airports and train stations don't always have escalators or elevtors). If you can't manage the bag easily, take things out until you can. Never pack more than you can carry yourself.
One last thought.
A small hand scale that you can hook up to your bag - if it weighs more than 50 pounds, rethink and repack. Unless you're travelilng with more than one bag and you can transfer items between or among them.