The Packing Equation

It’s finally here.  The books have arrived, the homework assignments are rolling, tickets are booked, and now it’s time to think about what is going into that bag.  No matter how many trips I’ve taken, foreign or domestic, work or pleasure, packing always seems to be a guessing game.  And if you’re the woman who has everything, well, the challenge increases exponentially.  What do you pack when you are going for a little of everything above?

I by no means have it down to a science, but through many years of Goldilocks packing, I have found a happy medium where there is always good balance.  With post after post about what to bring, how many suits, what type of shoes etc, here is my brief take on packing.

Ladies, let’s start with you, because let’s face it, the shoe selection alone may take a day’s worth of planning.  One thing I learned through years and years of 3-4-5 travel schedules is how to mix and match your wardrobe so you can reuse the same basics in lots of ways.  A trick I’ve learned is that people don’t typically pick up on re-wears if they are not back to back.  To get the most out of a re-wear you want to use the same basic as many times as possible right?  The formula I stick to is to have a 2 pairs of slacks of different colors and one skirt or dress.  Gents, back me up here, if a lady wears black pants on Monday, tan pants on Tuesday, a skirt on Wednesday, and then re-wears the black slacks on Thursday, did you know they were the same ones?  Gents, be reaalllyyy honest, if a lady re-wore the same pants two days in a row would you notice?  After losing several bags of luggage my male co-workers have assured me that they don’t.  We ladies are more sensitive, but simply by changing your blouse you’ve gotten a whole extra outfit.  Dresses are also another great way to save space.  They are a whole outfit in one garment.

Now admittedly, my experience with packing for the opposite sex is limited to explaining to my younger brother that a suitcase is not a laundry bin.  Since I know men have their own version of the formula above, this next tip really applies to everyone.  We have a lot we are trying to cram into a small bag.  Some of you may even be trying to do a carryon (you darn over-achievers).  By starting with your slacks and draping them over the edge of your suitcase then packing shirts on top you will decrease creases as well as save on space (see the video link to better illustrate what I’m describing).  Rolling shirts, socks, and delicates also saves space rather than conventional folding.  If you must fold, try to follow the seams of the garment so creases and packing size are minimized.

Ok, now it’s time for the shoes.  Yes, let’s face it ladies, here is where the puzzle really begins.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rearranged a bag to make sure I was able to get that new pair of stilettos in.  There are a few things you can do to help yourself out.  First, think about your travel outfit itself.  If you can, try to wear one of your heavier/larger pairs of shoes on the plane.  Of course you want to get through security quickly, so maybe leave those thigh highs.  In general if you’re packing running shoes or hiking shoes, that is always a good option.  They are comfortable for the walking you’ll be doing and also save on size.  I also pack a pair of flip flops in either my carryon or front pocket of my checked bag so I can switch out if I feel like it on arrival.  So there are two pairs of shoes right there.  The other tips is to pack your shoes just like you find them when you open up a new box.  Inside you can also put your socks and other small toiletries.

Toiletries?  Start small.  I know everyone has their own favorite shampoo or hairspray, but we’re saving for suitcase real estate here.  I suggest getting the sample size or travel size options.  Most of the nicer salon brands already cater to business travelers, so if you can drop in to your local salon you may just be surprised at what you find.  If not, suck it up and go generic.  Your delicate locks will not suffer from a week or two of generic.  How much do you pack?  If you’re being super economic go with one and purchase a domestic brand when you’re in residency if you run out.  (You might be surprised that many of the domestic brands you find abroad are better than our own).   Don’t like that idea, two small bottles is better than one big one.  If you can get a bottle of Head and Shoulders into your Steve Maddens then we’ll have a conversation so I can improve my technique.

Lastly, what else besides clothes do we pack for this residency?  Clearly we must have our books.  You are responsible for your own paper, pens, and other supplies.  Business cards are a good idea.  I’m planning on bringing enough for classmates plus any in country contacts we meet.  Don’t forget your converters and surge protectors.  A computer and camera might come in handy.  A collapsible duffle bag is a must for anyone planning on doing shopping while there.  You never know if you’ll need an extra bag, and you would much rather pack one than try buy one there.  When traveling in Asia I usually bring some meal bars, that way if my  palette needs a break or my stomach isn’t handling the local cuisine well I can go back to something my body can handle and still get nutrients.  On that note, pack some Emergen-C or Gatorade drink mixes.  Those help if you are dehydrated for any reason.

Sphew….wow….now remind me again how we are going to fit all of this into one bag?  I think this guy has it down.  Happy packing!

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