Summer means vacations and packing—which can be a bit of a challenge. Here’s one for you: Can you imagine packing for a three week trip and the weight of your luggage (including the bag) needs to come in under 45 pounds? What?!? That’s exactly what my luggage restrictions were on a recent trip to Africa. Thing is, when you fly really small planes throughout Africa, weight restrictions are taken very seriously. Basically, it forces you to pack smart, which is important anytime you travel—whether you are headed to Africa for three weeks or Austin for three days.
I like to think that I’m a fairly savvy packer, but the challenge started at the get-go when I weighed my go-to Tumi. It quickly became apparent that my favorite piece of luggage was going to be a no-go. It weighed too much.
So began the quest for lightweight, durable and expandable luggage. Because of the aforementioned Tumi I wasn’t anxious to spend a zillion dollars. I looked at oversize duffle bags (LLBean has some great ones) but then found the perfect solution at The Container Store…a black Lipault bag with wheels. Easy to clean, easy to carry and easy to move. Leave it to the French to design the perfect bag! All in all, the large-ish bag weighed in at a measly 5 pounds, leaving about 40 pounds for everything else.
(Lipault luggage available in many colors and sizes.)
What was everything else, you ask? In this case, given the type of trip it was, it was all about packing travel-friendly yet chic-enough things that could be mixed and matched. No matter how long your trip, it’s always a good idea to pack multi-functional pieces in colors (in my case that usually means black) that work together. Being that black goes with most everything, I find it incredibly easy to pack. I know this sounds basic, but you’d be amazed how few people actually do it.
A black tee or my favorite travel top, a little black fitted Lacoste polo, can go with jeans and flip flops and then can be thrown under a little cardigan or sweater with a slightly dressier pant. As you can see, they (I have several) go everywhere with me! Throw on a pashmina or lightweight wrap (buy some inexpensive ones in lots of colors like shown below) and you’ve got a look that can take you lots of places. A shorter dress with sandals can be the perfect choice for evening; then transform it into a tunic over a pair of skinny jeans or leggings for another look. Just swap out shoes and accessories. When I travel, almost every piece has to do double-duty. I load up on tops (which are lighter) and try to minimize how many pants and skirts I take.
(Eileen Fisher v-neck short-sleeve jersey dress/tunic; Neiman Marcus. TZ Promise pashmina/scarf in lots of colors; Amazon.)
I’m always amazed when people pack a pair of shoes that just go with one outfit. If a pair of shoes can’t go with at least three of my outfits, it’s out. And, it goes without saying, wear your heaviest or hardest-to-pack shoes on the plane. Also, wear all your good jewelry. If you can’t wear it, always put it in your carry-on—never in your checked luggage. Yes, I made that error once. Never again. Better yet, don’t take really good jewelry. Buy some pretty costume pieces that, if something should happen, they can be replaced and you won’t be heartbroken.
What makes any packing experience even better? Little catchall bags (or cubes) to store things like tee-shirts, socks, shorts and most everything else. Group like things together, throw the little bags in your big bag, then when you arrive, just toss them into the drawers of your hotel/lodge/airbnb/wherever you’re staying. I don’t know why, but this concept of contained storage makes things much easier and you can easily see what’s still clean! You can find these little packing bags all over Amazon. I like these in particular:
(Left: Classic medium packing cubes in Tangerine; eBags from Amazon. Right: Packing Cube System in Lime Green; TravelWise from Amazon.)
TRAVEL LIST – These are things I always travel with, no matter how short the trip:
A stain-remover stick (I like the original Tide one)
A couple safety pins
Extra Q-tips and cotton balls
A travel-sized medical kit with different pain relievers, stomach medication, bandaids, Neosporin, Benadryl, tweezers, extra contact lenses and eye drops.
Dry shampoo. (I love Living Proof’s Perfect Hair Day, but a good drugstore brand is Not Your Mother’s Plump For Joy.)
A lightweight wrap
My noise-cancelling headphones (a lifesaver)
An extra pair of sunglasses
Slippers or flip flops. Buy a cheapie pair to leave in your bag
TRAVEL TIP: When you get on a plane, put a little dab of Neosporin underneath your nose. It blocks the germs. The tip came from a RN and so far, so good.