Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Preparing for travel: Packing

Confession: I love packing. I love packing for trips and I love unpacking at my destination. I like the idea of anticipating my needs, choosing my favorite things, and figuring out how to live on less stuff for a few days. In this case, I'm getting ready to be gone for almost three weeks. I'll be on six planes and spending time in four states, and I have to pack for snow, rain, heat and swimming. Luckily, no formal attire will be required and I'll be able to do laundry when I need to.
My packed toiletries for a 20 day trip. The small bag contains my makeup.

I hate feeling stressed, and packing for a trip at the last minute is guaranteed to cause stress. Therefore, I look at packing as a multi-day event. First, I compile an initial list of what I need to bring, or at least think about bringing. (I'm usually so excited about the trip/the prospect of packing that I do this a couple of weeks in advance.) Then, I check the weather at my destinations. I start a pile of things I want to bring in my carry-on as they occur to me. Right now on my coffee table are an odd assortment of thing not all of which will end up in the bag, but I like being able to see them all together. Two days before I go I make sure I launder all of the must-bring items. Then, a day in advance, I get out the suitcase, and start making piles of clothes and shoes. Approaching packing gradually like this means I'm less likely to forget something, because I have given myself plenty of time to remember it. Also, I'm able to think about outfit combinations and options more clearheadedly than if I'm in a rush and must pick five shirts-any five shirts.

As with everything in life, packing for a trip involves a balancing act between packing more than you need and enough to get by without excessive clothes washing or having to buy something new. A few rules of thumb that I go by:
  • Pack at least one sweater or jacket that is warmer than you think you'll need.
  • Pack your nicest sleepwear, socks and underwear. In situations where you might be waking up in the vicinity of family member or strangers, you'll be glad you left your ragged stuff at home.
  • Don't bring jewelry you couldn't stand to lose, and don't pack anything delicate that will get tangled if you aren't wearing it.
  • Pack only clothes that are in the same color family so you don't have to bring extra shoes or accessories.
  • If you can help it, make your carry on as light as possible, especially if you have connecting flights. Try to find lighter books, and leave items you might normally keep in your purse like an address book at home, unless you are traveling for business. If you are planning to write postcards, enter your addresses in your cell phone or PDA, or type up a quick list of those people you know you want to write to and bring a single sheet instead of an entire book.
  • Don't put anything in your checked bag that you absolutely would hate never to see again. Obviously, you'll have to check your favorite jeans, but those are replaceable. Anything truly precious to you should be left at home. You just never know.
  • Don't bring anything on your carry-on that is forbidden by TSA. They have a lot of rules, so to pays to pay attention, especially when it comes to medications.
Part of my trip is going to be spent helping my relatives plan and pull off a three-family yard sale in rural Maine. Expect photos and reporting on how it goes upon my return. In the meantime, have a fantastic Father's Day/Summer Solstice and Independence Day!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com

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