Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On packing

While I do travel a fair bit, I have never been very good at packing. I bring all my favorite pieces, confident that I'll be able to mix and match enough times to be satisfied, but I'm never content with my outfits. On my most recent trip, a dash to Paris in December, I was probably as successful as I could have been, packing in the middle of the night and being unsure of how to manage to look fashionable (because Paris) and also comfortable enough to walk around (because tourist). I brought enough shirts to last me a week so I had plenty of options when I changed my mind half-way through the day and switching out of a plane shirt into not a plane shirt. You know what I mean- the shirt you go in the plane in and spend 24 straight hours going between freezing cold and burning hot and eating and plane bathrooms and ugh... Man why do I ever go on planes! Anyway, I brought about 7 tops to layer, two pants, leggings, and a dress. It was great for the 4 days we were gone, including the accidental night we had to spend in Minneapolis.

With summer travel on the horizon, I'll focus this post on spring/summer/early fall packing (AKA, no boots and coats). 

This is my mathematically unproven formula for a trip that takes place in circumstances where you cannot wash your clothing, in this case, a 10-day trip to warm places.
  • 1-2 shirts per day you'll be gone (including plane/car days)
    • Maybe this is a little extreme, but I always assume that a.) I'm going to want to change immediately after the plane/car ride and b.) I'm going to want to change whenever my shirt gets messy, whether I spill or sweat or someone else spills or sweats on me. Crazier things have happened!
  • Half as many bottoms (jeans, shorts, skirts, skorts?) as days you'll be gone
    • Unless you wear your bottoms until they smell, which they will because warmer temps = stank, you'll want to bring a few options. This is taking into account the evening switch when you've been hot all day then come to your room before dinner to rest then realize its dropped 20 degrees after sunset. Shorts in the day, jeans at night! 
  • 1 casual dress
    • Beach, cuter exploration of the city days, just because...
  • 1 nicer dress (or nice outfit, skirt/shorts/pants and top reserved for fanciness)
    • Because vacation means you need at least one picture in which you look real good. 
  • 2 jackets (moto, jean, cardigan, hoodie- something you don't need to pull over your head)
    • I say 2 options because I have multiple jackets I would want to bring, and I try to always have a jacket with me, but I guess you could go with one. But two is better, especially if its still cooler. Plus what if you spill? Seriously, I'm paranoid. 
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt to layer with (if its still cool where you're going, like 70 degrees or less during the day)
    • I'd go for chambray on this one. Or a striped tee. Or something else that goes with almost everything you might wear. 
  • 1 pair of shoes you could wear all day every day
    • Tennis shoes, or those walking sandals that people love but make me cringe. 
  • 1 pair of shoes you could wear half a day
    • Oxfords, Toms, flats, something you can walk around the city looking chic in before regretting it and going back to change into your tennies.
  • 1 pair of sandals (if you're going somewhere you'll be in the water or near the water)
    • This is more of an at-least recommendation, because if you're going to Miami you should bring multiple sandals, one for the beach to get sandy and possibly stolen, and a nicer pair for walking around and dinner and stuff. This also includes if you're staying in a place like a hostel which has a questionable bathroom and you want to wear something on your feet to prevent that "what did I just step in?!" moment. So really, its more like one pair of nicer sandals and one pair of sandals that are a bit of a throw-away.
  • 1 backpack, 1 crossbody bag
    • The backpack is for wandering the city and beach all day, the crossbody bag is for dinners and museums, if they don't allow backpacks. I love a leather backpack- you could easily not be a tourist in such a chic option. The crossbody bag can be worn under a jacket for some additional security. 
  • 1 scarf
    • This scarf is everything- for warmth, a pillow, a head-cover, a way to cover extra skin if needed. I always tuck one into my bag and use it the whole trip.

This wardrobe could easily take me to 10 days of fun in Barcelona, London, Istanbul, New York City, L.A., Miami, or Rome. Its versatile enough that I could do more city exploration or just be a beach bum, provided I include a swim suit. Everything matches and vibes together- nothing is out of place in my color palette and I could literally wear all the tops I have with all the bottoms I have. Easily I could squeeze 2, maybe even 3 weeks out of this travel capsule. 

Clearly, I'm an over-packer. But what can I say, I like being prepared for anything. E and I happen to have sort of erratic vacations, with surprises and adventures that are both fun and almost always unexpected, so I would feel pretty confident setting off with these in my suitcase. Because the majority of these pieces are lightweight and therefore easily packed, I feel confident I could fit all of this into a carry-on. Yup. A carry-on. That's what I travel with, unless I'm seduced into something bigger because of bulkier items (read: in winter, for a 10-day trip, its not a carry-on).

For a 3 day trip, this is what I would bring:

Still a lot of combination options, still some leeway for adventure like a few extra days away (read: stuck at the airport overnight). I still went with the two jackets, because honestly, I would wear both on the plane and still be cold.

I also want to mention the midi skirt- this is included because I've traveled a little in the Middle East (and other places, but people tend to worry about dressing for travel to the MidEast) and, even though it gets very hot there, you can't romp around in shorts or skirts above the knee. Well, you can. And many people do. As a security guard at the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa, Israel, I saw countless women (all tourists, I'll note) from  all over the world in what can only be described as bad choices. Women who looked like they forgot their shirts that morning. People who didn't realize their bottoms were hanging out of their shorts. Just generally, not enough clothing. The midi skirt serves the purpose of a cooler, more conservative option that, if paired correctly, can be culturally acceptable almost anywhere. Israel is, relatively, significantly less conservative as a whole than the rest of that region, and I still would never walk around in a tank top and shorts there. If I was in the Middle East, I could take either of these packing options and be alright, I would just omit the shorts and wear the scarf or cardigan the whole time to cover my shoulders and neck. Most places I've experienced were rather modern (Turkey, Israel, Morocco) and very tourist-friendly, but who wants to look like a tourist while traveling? Backpacks and cameras are a dead give-away, I don't need to add on top of that an extra layer of culturally-insensitive American by showing too much of my body. People will say that in some places they don't mind if you're not following the local dress-code, but you can believe you'll get a lot more respect if you stay more in line with what is normal in the region.

I find that if you're dressed respectably, you'll be treated far better. By the staff at hotels, restaurants, at the airport, taxi drivers, etc. Quality, appropriate clothing shows that you know what you're doing, and therefore are probably less gullible and inattentive- two things you never want to be perceived as when travelling, or in general.

One more thing- if you have room for it and care about the state of your clothing- bring a travel steamer. YES. A steamer. Bring it with you and enjoy crease-free, fresh clothes the whole trip! Provided you have the correct adapter plug! This is the version I have, and since I got it I haven't ironed anything and it's been wonderful.

Well, those are my thoughts about packing, and hopefully it helps us pack a little lighter and more thoughtfully!


  1. These are great tips! I am such an overpacker....I like to have options haha!


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