How To Pack A Suitcase

“Here’s a subject/question: travel. More specifically, how do you decide ahead of time what to bring with you on a trip? I decide so spur of the moment that I often end up over-packing. How do you pack when you are unsure of occasions you might hit or moods you might be in?”

This is a great topic, since today I booked tickets to my hometown for my mother’s 60th birthday! I have been thinking about it myself: how cold it will be, what kinds of things I’ll get up to, & how much room I’ll need in my suitcase for new things I’ll purchase when I’m there!

Luggage is a bigger consideration than you might first think. It needs to be the right size for all your stuff, it needs to be easily identifiable & it needs to be cooperative! No wiggly wheels or stubborn locks, it’s more grief than it’s worth really.

I know a girl with marvellous taste who surprised me on a trip to Australia when she climbed into the taxi with a huge vintage suitcase. It was a fabulous shape & she had pasted pictures of Bettie Page all over it. I was so jealous & regarded my little grey suitcase with pity — until I watched her battling with her fantastic creation. It was heavy & didn’t have wheels, only a little handle. Even worse, the clips that kept it shut were old & sometimes sprung open with minimum warning. She’s a small girl & the suitcase really had it in for her. I think it would have been happier to limp off to luggage heaven. Or luggage limbo. Or whatever.

Choose your luggage carefully. While vintage Louis Vuitton suitcases are very stylish, they are also a prime target for thieves — but on the other hand, using a generic black bag is a great way to end up with someone else’s clothes.

Eley Kishimoto for Globe-Trotter.

I am IN LOVE with Eley Kishimoto’s designs for Globe-Trotter, though I can’t tell if they have wheels. They might have cute little ones built-in, but then… Maybe not. Buy them if you have a slave of some description. (Mark from Eley Kishimoto has since written to me saying that they do, indeed, have small wheels. This, then, could be the perfect suitcase!)

if you can’t afford a new suitcase but you’re perturbed by the fact that every time you go to the baggage carousel, everyone else seems to have your bag, either buy a cute luggage tag, tie a ribbon on the handle or put a big bright piece of tape across the top. It really depends on how stylish you want to be. (Tragic as it sounds, the better the luggage, the more likely you are to be upgraded to first class — though good manners & a generally charming demeanour go a long way here too.)

Another thing worth looking into is just buying a good holdall (which is an American term for “really big bag”) instead of a suitcase. I mean, it depends on how long you’re going away for, of course, but if it’s just a weekend & not much is being demanded of you, a good, big bag might be all you need! (Of course, there is that whole no-liquids-on-the-plane fiasco which is such a NIGHTMARE for anyone who likes to take care of their skin, & means everything needs to be checked-in… when is this whole issue going to be resolved?!)

What you actually pack is, of course, going to be dictated by the weather in your chosen locale & the circumstances. Fashion week in wintry London will require different duds to visiting your Great Uncle Milton in Vermont. However, a couple of days before you fly out is really the time that you realise the importance of owning some good basics.

Even if you really don’t know what’s going to happen on your trip, if you plan before you throw things into your suitcase, you’ll probably find that you’re quite well-equipped.

I am a mad Virgo so I always pack in advance (& it drives me batty to be around people who pack at the last minute). It’s a good approach to take, since that way you have lots of time in case something needs to be washed or your friend is borrowing something & you have to get it back.

Check the weather for the time you’re going to be there. If it looks like it is going to be even slightly nippy, be sure to pack something that will keep you warm. There is nothing more miserable than being cold & away from home. Conversely, if it’s going to be hot, you’ll probably need a swimsuit, a hat & sandals.

Here is my (very) basic clothing packing list, & of course this will be altered slightly depending on the season:
A good coat
A versatile dress (one that can be dressed up or down) — sometimes it’s good to have two, but you can usually get away with one
A comfortable pair of shoes (I usually wear my heaviest/fanciest ones onto the plane, with baggage allowances, & baggage handlers, being what they are)
Dressy trousers
A few different t-shirts
A knit sweater
Long cardigan

The dress can be worn alone, or with a t-shirt over the top, or with the knit sweater over the top, or with trousers underneath, or with the cardigan or the coat. Sure, by the end of the week you might not want to wear the dress again for another month, but it will definitely get you through. On days when you just can’t stomach the dress, wear the trousers with either a t-shirt or the knit sweater. I would always take way more than this, because I am kind of an excessive packer myself & a major clothes geek, but anything other than these things is just extra, really, & may not even get worn.

Other stuff to take:
Toiletries — I try to slim this down as much as possible because they’re such a pain to pack & then you have the risk of explosions. I would typically take cleanser, toner, moisturiser, cotton pads, primer, foundation, concealer, a couple of eyeliner pencils, a couple of eyeshadows, mascara & an eyelash curler. Also, one bottle of perfume, deodorant, tweezers, & shampoo/conditioner if I was staying more than a few days (otherwise I would just cover my manky wig with a headscarf).
Accessories — I don’t really wear a lot of jewellery these days, but I would definitely take a pair of sunglasses, a couple of headscarves, maybe a hat depending on the weather, & a belt. Don’t forget lots of pairs of stockings & socks!
Lingerie — a couple of bras & as many pairs of underwear as days I was going to be away, plus one! (I don’t know why I always bring the extra, maybe I figure I’ll lose a pair, but being down one pair is infuriating!)
Entertainment — Macbook, iPod, digital camera (& spare memory cards), video camera, cables & spare batteries for everything, & maybe a book, magazine or newspaper if I was feeling lo-fi. Geek ahoy!

Then I would also take everything that usually lives in my handbag — wallet, keys, Moleskine, index cards, eye-drops, cellphone. I sometimes take two handbags with me, but that might be overkill.

I love to get on the plane with bags of candy & other assorted junk, it always makes me feel better. I can immerse myself in a world of sugar & before I know it, I’m at my destination! It’s a good approach to take.

Bon voyage!