Pack Pro

I just booked a plane ticket, which fills me with no end of glee because there is nothing I love more than taking a trip. Truly. Except for maybe a really warm, delicious cookie. And Jim Halpert from "The Office." And three-day weekends. And, of course, my mom.

But, I also really, really love taking trips. The only downside being that every trip requires a suitcase and every suitcase requires packing and packing is not something I do well. I am, among other packing flaws, a chronic over-packer (we're talking hair dryer on a Lake Powell houseboat), which is both cumbersome and embarrassing. Not to mention that wearing smashed, wrinkled clothes for a whole vacation is, well, less than ideal.

Hopefully I am not the only one with a getaway in my future, so here are some tips to easy, breezy packing success.

1. Before you fold one single thing, determine what kind of clothing you'll need for your trip, and how much of it. Will you be gone for a week or a month? Are you going to the beach or the Arctic Circle? Is laundry an option where you're going?

2. Go light on the toiletries. Depending on how long you'll be gone, you probably don't need every single personal care item you own, or even every single thing you use on a daily basis. To keep things condensed and organized, and to protect everything else in your suitcase from a possible spill, pack toiletries in sealable plastic bags.

3. Also before you take anything out of your closet or drawers, make a list of all the things you think you are going to want on your trip. Then go through the list and start crossing off non-essential or repetitive items. Also remember: if you forget something, or get to your destination and realize you actually do need something you left behind, chances are you can buy it there.

Once you've gone through those steps, you're ready to pull out what you need and start packing it in. I find it helpful to spread out everything I want to take on my bed or the floor so I am sure not to forget anything. There is nothing worse that trying to cram a final, unwieldy item into an already perfectly-packed bag. And how to pack a bag perfectly, you ask? Here are some methods that might help.

The Rolling Method

• Lay each item of clothing you'll be packing out on the floor. Partially fold each item. (For example, fold pants in half lengthwise, and fold shirt arms neatly to the back.
• Starting from the bottom of the item of clothing, roll tightly until you reach the end. You should end up with a collection of clothes-cylinders that can then be arranged in your suitcase. All the Tetris finally pays off!
• Place heavier items, such as pants and jackets at the bottom of your suitcase and layer lighter shirts and skirts on top.
• Roll up socks and underwear as well, and place them inside shoes, which can go on the sides or at the bottom of your suitcase.
• Delicate or unrollable items, such as blazers or ball gowns, can be placed flat at the top of the suitcase, or packed in a separate garment bag.
• To prevent crushing bras, place softer items inside the cups and nestle the bra in the corner of your suitcase.
• Leave room at the center of your suitcase for your bag, or bags, of toiletries. Placing toiletry items snugly between cylinders of clothes should prevent squashing and spilling.

The Stacking Combo

• Start with your shirts. Stack unfolded items on top of each other, starting with the most easily wrinkled and moving up. 
• Fold all the sleeves together towards the body of the shirts.
• Now take all the bottoms of the shirts and fold them together towards the top. You should end up with a large rectangle of shirts that fits easily in the bottom of your suitcase.
• If you're packing dresses, lay them down in the suitcase over your rectangle of shirts. For now, let the dress bottoms hang over the edge of your suitcase. (Don't worry. We'll get to the bottoms later!)
• Take pants and skirts fold them in half lengthwise, individually.
• Now stack your pants and skirts in the same wrinkly to not-so-wrinkly order.
• Fold the entire skirt-pants stack in half lengthwise again. Set that large rectangle of bottoms on top of your rectangle of tops. If you packed dresses, now is the time to fold the bottoms over the pants-and-skirts-rectangle. (See? Told you we would get to it!)
• Shoes, which should be stuffed with socks and underwears, as well as toiletries, should then be nestled in any open spaces.

One A Day

• If you prefer to pack in ensembles (I find that this works better for shorter trips than longer ones when it's better to mix-and-match), decide on a full outfit for every day that you'll be traveling.
• Pack each outfit in its own re-sealable plastic bag. The rolling method usually works best for this packing style.
• Place each plastic bag in your suitcase, followed by shoes, toiletries and accessories.

And then, my dears, you will be ready for the trip of a lifetime! One other things that helps me is to keep my packed clothes as organized as possible while I am traveling. If you'll be unpacking and packing several times while you're away, it's definitely worth it in the long run to pack carefully every time.

Finally, a word of caution. I have a dear friend who packed oh-so-carefully and conscientiously for a Mexican beach vacation and then departed for the airport in a rush, leaving her suitcase behind. That's right. She forgot her suitcase. And didn't realize it until she arrived south of the border. So, once you've put in all that packing work, just remember to take it with you. M'kay?


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