packing

Photo: Angela Tiffin, History Buff Traveling Mom

As I anticipate an upcoming trip to France I start to worry about what to pack. In the past my goal has always been to pack light. In my youth I was a seriously low-maintenance girl who once backpacked across Mexico without shampoo and only one pair of shoes.

As I’ve matured, I’ve come to require more maintenance and like creature comforts. I’ve also learned a lot—that one pair of shoes eventually gave me a blister and I had to get a shot in the butt because it got infected. Yet on every trip I still manage to under-pack and find myself too cold, under-dressed or over-dressed and uncomfortable.

I have no problem packing for my child but for myself I constantly find myself at a loss. So I decided to gather the best packing wisdom of TMOM’s and other travelers to see if they can help me be a more efficient packer.

Here are the “Best Of” packing tips that I found:

1.  Packing Cubes

These have gotten a lot of media attention in the last few years. The gist is you pack more efficiently when you are more organized and compartmentalized. The most practical ones are made of mesh so you can see what is inside. The best use of these would be packing your delicates so they won’t fall out in public in the event that your suitcase has to be opened. They also may be a good idea for long trips with multiple children so you can color-code your kid’s clothes.  These cubes come in different brands and seem like a great idea but they are not for everyone. I will leave them as a last resort, since they can be pricey.

2.  Rolling Clothes

This method is supposed to allow you to pack more because the clothes will generally be the same shape and size after being rolled. It is also supposed to prevent wrinkling or creases in the wrong places. It’s also free! I am going to try this one.

3.  Take Pictures of Your Outfits

This one may be a little too high maintenance for me. I can’t imagine ever having time for this but maybe it becomes a time-saver later on. The idea is to lay out all the outfits you plan to wear including accessories and shoes. Next, photograph them so a) you don’t forget to pack the matching shoes, and b) once you are traveling the choices are already made and you don’t need to start finding something to wear.

4.  Zip-loc Bags

This is the number one universal solution that crosses cultural and economic boundaries.  Everyone packs with these budget-friendly travel helpers.  Expert travelers use these to pack everything from toiletries to lingerie, shoes, snacks and even scented oils. They can even do double duty on the way back for wet bathing suits and dirty clothes.

5.  Packing Chronologically

I got this tip from a seasoned luxury traveler.  If you have multiple destinations or have a specific schedule of events or activities planned then this may be a great idea. My upcoming trip involves a long flight followed by what is essentially a road trip throughout the south of France, so I don’t think I will bother trying this one out but will definitely keep it in my roster of new packing tricks.

6.  Packing Shoes at the Bottom

This is a no-brainer that I never thought of before. You always tend to pack your clothes while your suitcase is laying flat but what happens as soon as you pick it up? I’d never thought to pack shoes and other items that won’t wrinkle at the bottom (to the right).  If all the heavy stuff is at the bottom that leaves more room at the top.

7.  Wrap in Plastic and Tissue Paper to Prevent Wrinkles

This is one that I have followed for years when packing suits for business trips. I got this travel tip from the organizational guru, Martha Stewart. Many people blog about this but I could not find any scientific reason why plastic or tissue paper would prevent your clothes from wrinkling during travel.

8.  Don’t Pack for the Worst-case Scenario

I am including this because, although I don’t want to under-pack, I also don’t want to over-pack. This little tip comes from budget travel writer, Rick Steves, who I don’t normally consult about what to pack (no fanny packs allowed!).  He makes a good point: pack for the best-case scenario and simply buy yourself out of any jams. Another good tip: bring layers rather than take a heavy coat.  The only drawback to this is that sometimes you are somewhere where everything is overpriced and/or not your style.  I’ve yet to find something in a resort store that I would have bought normally.

Luckily, before my big trip to France, I will be taking a short trip next week (staying at the El Conquistador and the Hilton Condado Plaza resorts in Puerto Rico) where I can test some of these theories out.