Friday, June 22, 2012

Pack Your Bags: for Vacation!

Plane, train, automobile, boat, bicycle – it seems that we have some innate need to get out of town as the mercury rises.  When my family and I hit the road, it almost looks like we’re moving out; truthfully, when we just go out for the day, it looks like we’ll be gone for a week, so you can imagine when we actually go away for a week.  I’m bad at packing – I’m very indecisive (what do I want to wear, what shoes match) and feel like I need to pack for every possibility (what if some other thing comes up and I need a formal gown). To pare down to a manageable load, I turned to a friend for packing tips. 

Dr. Quinetta Roberson is a professor, who teaches, speaks at conferences, and vacations around the country and abroad.  I’m pretty sure she’s on track for a platinum Frequent Flier card for every airline and a Golden passport.  This month alone, she’s touching down in at least 5 countries and 3 continents, with 1 suitcase!  Here’s how she does it.

Yes - all in 1 bag!
I prefer not to check bags given that you never know what kinds of airport shenanigans will occur (especially with a layover that is less than an hour), so I usually try to fit everything in a carry-on. However, when I am doing two cities and/or have various events that require different fashions (e.g., teaching, black-tie, causal, etc.), I will take the larger suitcase and check it.

Pick your clothes & shoes
My rule of thumb: grab everything I want to take and then cut the amount of clothes in half. Also, I try to pick a color scheme (e.g., black or brown) so that I can limit my shoes to a few pair (e.g., heels, flats, formal, etc.).

Steam your clothes before you pack
I hate ironing. I especially hate ironing when something I iron is going to end up wrinkled after a long trip. The packing envelope does a good job in keeping garments in pretty pristine condition, but they have to start in pristine condition. Given my distaste for ironing, my mother bought me a steamer last Christmas ... and it is my new lifesaver. I can wash, steam, and pack the night before a trip and still look professional and put-together when I get to my destination.

Pack compactly with a Container Store packing envelope
This packing envelope from The Container Store changed my life two years ago. I was going to a formal wedding in Barbados, teaching for two days in Milan, and then going on vacay for two weeks in Madrid and Barcelona. However, I only had 45 minutes layover between international flights (enough time to get through customs and get to the gate), so, I needed everything to go in a carry-on. The premise of the envelope is that it helps to pack garments compactly so they take little space and don't move around in the suitcase, yet stay in presentable condition. This medium envelope is supposed to hold 10-12 items, but I was able get about 18 things in it.  This is now my must-have when I am traveling for any length of time.

Keep clothes on their hangers
I keep professional and formal wear on plastic hangers so that after the clothes are dirty, I can just fold and put them into the suitcase and discard the hangers (a good space-saver).

Organize your electronics
Several years ago, I came across this electronics carrier on Because there are six individual compartments in the carrier, I can keep my cameras, international cell phone, chargers, etc. separate and easy to access. A pet peeve is leaving a charger or adapter in a hotel, so this helps me to keep track of everything.

Pack it all in!
Shoes first.
I typically put the fancier pairs in shoe bags.
Optimize space by putting underwear 
in the spaces between the shoes.
After the shoes etc., the packing envelope fits in one side of a large suitcase (it fits across the whole width of a carry-on), thus leaving room for the electronics carrier, purses, jewelry envelope, etc. on the other side.
The hangered garmets go last 
(so they don't get smushed)
Done and ready to head to the airport!

Thanks, Quinetta.  That seemed easy, right?  I plan on using some of these tips later this summer when I go on a trip all by myself for my sorority’s conference - yeah, me! – but I know that limited number of shoes things is going to get me.

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