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The Art of Packing (well)!

If images of jumping on your suitcase as your partner quickly snaps the locks shut, or sitting on the thing while you’re doubled over, sweating, tying the straps is your version of packing, then this primer on how and what to pack is for you!

Remember the adage, “pack half of what you think you need and bring twice the money?”

There’s a lot of truth here.

Of course how you pack depends on where you’re going. If you’re spending Christmas at Aunt Milly’s or Cousin Don’s, then you can probably borrow their stuff if you’ve left some important item at home. I mean, there’s bound to be hair dryer there or an extra jacket.

But assuming you’re just touching base at your relatives, enjoying the holiday turkey, the presents, and the warm glow of family…but beginning to get a bit stir crazy, we guess you’ll be heading for the slopes or the sunny Caribbean.

So, let’s review the mystique and methods of packing for the holidays …or any day!

Savvy travelers have learned through experience that how you pack is as important or more important than what you pack. Some hard-earned tips learned on the road include the following:

Cross pack. Put some of your clothes in your husband’s suitcase, and some of his clothes in yours. The same applies to your children. This way if your suitcase doesn’t get there when you do, you have some clothes to wear until it does.
Practice pack. At least once before you leave, pack and unpack your bags. It’s a fascinating exercise because taking your clothes out and putting them back, twice, actually has the magical effect of revealing what you can leave behind.
Pack only what you can carry yourself. We don’t mean what you can lift up and carry a few steps. We do mean what you can comfortably walk around the block carrying or holding. Everyone should bring only what he or she can effectively carry alone.
Roll sweaters up tightly. It’s not the bulk that causes them to take up so much space, it’s the trapped air. This technique makes them more compact.
Many of my colleagues insist that each member have a different colored suitcase for easy identification. You’re tired and cranky at the end of a flight and suitcases really do look alike
No, not any suitcase will do. Splurge. Buy a quality bag with lots of zippered compartments and a good shoulder strap for carrying.

One last point.

At the risk of sounding paranoid, thieves have been known to circulate at airports and check out ID tags on the assumption, usually correct, that if Mr. and Mrs. Jones are at the airport with their kids then their home on 2 Fairmount Drive must be empty! Guess what happens next? Buy a “secret” ID tag, one that folds down.

Now, what to pack.

Let’s get one thing straight up front: the single most important item you can pack are a pair of good, very comfortable walking shoes.

You can do without almost anything else. But not without good shoes.
Beyond that, Cynthia Harriman in her fun and wise book, Take Your Kids To Europe suggests the following for Spring or Summer. Even if you’re not going to Europe, her advice rings true whatever your destination:
• Eight pairs socks and underwear.
• 4-5 bottom-clothes (pants, skirts, shorts)
• 7 shirts (including 1 or 2 with long sleeves)
• 1 nice restaurant outfit. Ms. Harriman says jersey dresses are great for women
• 1 bathing suit.
• 1 towel
• 2 pairs walking shoes (see above!)
• 1 pair sandals or dress shoes
• 2 sweaters ( 1 light, 1 heavy)
• 1 raincoat or windbreaker

All bets are off, says Ms. Harriman for your teens who pack and dress according to their own rhythms.

Let them. But their stuff too must fit in one suitcase that they too can carry.

Avoid jeans because they never dry and opt for darker colors because they won’t show the dirt

I always advise readers to be sure to pack a strong sun block especially heading to the Caribbean or anyplace south.

Insect repellent is also advisable as is a small first aid kit containing band aids, peroxide, anti-infection ointment and some kind of pain killer both topical (for bites and burns) and whatever oral painkillers you use

. I also strongly suggest taking along several zip-lock plastic bags for just about everything from wet swim suits to loose change.

• When visiting another country, do pack some small presents (pens, candies, gum) for the local kids and do pack Immodium, or some anti-diarrheal. We assume you’ve packed a camera and some good reading material and for the kids.
• A blank journal is a must. We notice that more and more parents are taking their children out of school to travel, presumably believing they’ll make up in the educational value of the trip more than what they lose in class time. We think that’s true and journals are a perfect way to record the trip as well as keep up academic skills. Besides, they make for good reports when back in school

O.K. what about winter travel.

Well, much of what we said above applies.

The principles of good, intelligent packing remain the same regardless of the time of year. But, yes, cold weather does have a special challenge. The key phrase here is “layering,” achieving warmth and comfort through various layers of clothes that can be put on or taken off.

So, remember, it’s not “dressing for the cold” which usually means big, bulky sweaters with no adjust-ability for weather changes. It means “dressing for the weather” meaning the temperature will change and your activity will – layering gives you comfort options.

To the above list we add:
• Turtlenecks are perfect for cold weather. Wear your sweater (s) and your turtleneck under your jacket.
• Long underwear should be packed and worn as necessary.
• Cynthia Harriman says, “Silk tops and bottoms or the special ones from Damart keep you incredibly warm and roll up into a tiny corner of your suitcase.” It’s easier, she tells us, than bringing an extra heavy coat

Finally we say, bring a deck of cards and a game or two. Magnetic board are are super for the plane ride. Do not bring a hair dryer or iron. If you need to have one, pick up a cheap one when you arrive at your destination. It’ll be cheaper than buying a converter if you’re traveling abroad and it’ll save space no matter where you’re going.

Besides, you’re already packing clothes that tend not to wrinkle. Right?

Hot Tip
Baggage and Big Headaches!
It seems baggage handling – lost bags, bags broken into, etc. – is the number one headache of travelers today. One solution making the rounds here and abroad is shrink-wrapping luggage. You can either pay to have it done or do it yourself.

Your luggage gets wrapped in strips of wide, self-adhesive shrink-wrap protecting the bag from being opened accidentally or on purpose, getting damaged or dirty. Those in the know say use wide shrink-wrap, up to 12 and 16 inches wide and is best for hard-sided luggage. Wind the shrink-wrap around your bag as often as you want, usually getting eight uses from 1000 feet which comes to about $2.00 a bag. Whatever!


About Kaleel


  1. Great article! I definitely need some help when it comes to packing. I always try to carry on my luggage which means using an even smaller bag. I guess I’ll have to keep traveling for more practice. Thanks!

    • travelvideopostcard

      Well, it’s not one of life’s joys! So when you learn the art of it, pass it on, Trevor.

      Thanks for writing and happy journeys

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