Packing a suitcase seems to be part of my job description these days. Travelling the world is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but no matter how many times I do it, packing is a bit of a downer. Did I pack too much stuff? Is my suitcase too heavy? Did I forget something crucial? It’s maddening. I almost always lie awake the night before a flight, going over my suitcase’s contents in my head.
Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee you a good night’s sleep… But I can tell you my systems for making packing a little less painful!
MAKE A SPREADSHEET
Take it from a super-Virgo: this is how you do it (like Montell Jordan). This is really the only way to guarantee that you’ll never forget anything essential. About a week before you travel, create a spreadsheet. At the top, create different columns: carry-on, toiletries, clothing, etc., and then below each heading, write every single item you need to take. Even include the really obvious things like your wallet, passport, and any medication, because when you’re gathering everything up, it’s easy to forget something essential!
I keep my spreadsheet on my computer as a master list, and then go through and bold the items as I add them to my suitcase.
If you want super nerd points, print your spreadsheet, laminate it, and cross off the items with a whiteboard pen. Then reuse it next time. Ooooooh!
How many shoes is too many shoes?
REALISTICALLY APPRAISE YOUR AGENDA
Think about what you’re going to be doing on this trip, and what you’re likely to need. Be smart about this. In my case, I’m staying on Bondi Beach in Sydney, so yes, a swimsuit is in order… But we only have two free days in Sydney, so one bikini will definitely get the job done!
Other things to consider:
If you’re going to walk a lot, take sneakers! (Cute ones, y’hear?)
BYO luxury whenever you can. Air travel especially can be a gruelling experience, and when you’re surrounded by hundreds of people, you’ll really appreciate your lavender-scented pink velvet eye mask, for example. (Yes, I have one.)
Always take clothes you can layer, and don’t forget a cozy cardigan! Even if you’re going somewhere hot and fabulous, planes and airports are notoriously chilly. Be prepared!
VISUALISE YOUR OUTFITS
Think about what you’d like to bring, select those items, and then lay everything out on your bed. Put skirts/pants in a row along the bottom and tops in a row above them. This helps you to visualise outfits. Now, here’s the crucial bit: if a top doesn’t coordinate with at least 3/4 of the skirts or pants, don’t bring it!
This is another one of those moments where having a sort of “uniform” — and also wearing the same colours over and over again — really comes in handy. For example, practically everything in my suitcase is either black, white, grey, royal blue, or shocking pink. It all goes together, which makes my life about a hundred times easier.
If you find yourself choosing items you haven’t worn in a while, take a moment to try them on before you pack them. I did this with the dresses I intended on packing for my Australia/NZ trip, and I ended up leaving half of them at home! Sometimes you don’t remember why something has been languishing in the back of your closet until you try it on! I’m glad I left those dresses at home, because I know I wouldn’t have worn them.
GET PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE
Once you’ve whittled down the items, keep them laid out on your bed and take a couple of photos on your phone. This way, you can quickly glance at the photo(s) and know what you have, and what your options are.
This also prevents you from having late-night panic attacks the night before you go. Don’t lie in bed sweating, and don’t be tempted to rustle through your meticulously packed suitcase: simply have a look at the photos you already took. (Damn, you’re good.)
Now this is a woman who has never used a packing cube…
PACKING CUBES, MAMA
Packing cubes are definitely a case of function over form. They are not sexy, and in fact, are very unattractive and utilitarian. But they work, and that’s all that matters to me!
The point of a packing cube is to contain like items. I put all my skirts into one cube, my shirts into another, and my underwear into a third. It makes finding things a cinch, and it helps to keep your suitcase organised. I consider them to be essential for any trip that lasts longer than a week!