December 31, 2009

Packing Light, Packing Just Right - Thursday Thirteen

Since my first solo trip, at the age of fourteen, where I had to pack and carry my own suitcase from start to finish, my goal has been to pack just right rather than just light. Granted my first solo trip was to a city two hours away driving. However for me this trip included a four hour bus ride, a thirty minute subway ride and then walking five city blocks - at fourteen. Cue ABC After School Television Special on runaways for the visual and of everyone who saw me along the way, the friendly and the too-too friendly.

The struggle to manage my bag left me determined to carry only what I knew would be used. No more cursing an overweight bag as it digs into your hands or strains your back every time you lift it. Besides, who needs twenty t-shirts for two weeks, unless you are menopausal and are having night sweats. How many shoes will be worn? Seriously, the average traveler only needs two pairs. My shoe cobbler (we still have them in San Francisco) told me to switch my shoes back and forth daily so each has a day to breath and retain its shape.

After long trips and short hops, here are my favorites that top my recommendations every time:
  1. A warm big scarf, like a Pashmina
  2. Wool gabardine slacks in black
  3. A big silk scarf in a rich pattern
  4. Khaki slacks
  5. White long sleeve fitted cotton blouse
  6. Black flats with cushion inserts
  7. White tee shirt
  8. Cardigan
  9. Casual shoes with a bit more support
  10. Trench coat
  11. Striped blouse with French Cuffs
  12. Tote with zipper closure
  13. Pullover Sweater

Let me explain how we got here. A big oversize warm scarf can be used as a blanket, a pillow and a scarf everywhere on the trip starting with the plane. My idea of wool gabardine for slacks is due to their versatility. They hold up well after you iron them and can be dressed up or down, and black goes with everything.

For me a great investment is a nice heavy silk scarf. It is a light weight version of the warm scarf but this also can go beyond your neck. With a twist, you can wear a silk scarf as a belt or as a really pretty hair tie. These are styles I have pulled off before and with great results for a dressy look.

The rest is about layers for warmth, occasion and wrinkles. When you layer your clothes, it is easier to hide wrinkles that you can’t get out, like using a trench to hide those stubborn pant creases. Also if your shirt is rumpled, folding a cardigan over your shoulders helps and keeps you warm. For a nicer dinner out, using the shirt with French cuffs tucked around the outside of a sweater always looks pretty.

So don’t think you can’t travel light and still have all the right stuff in your bag. And don't forget that a zipper tote will always be a good idea to keep thieves out of your stuff, and to keep your maps and notebooks in. I've had LL Bean canvas totes for years.

Get out there this new year and see the world, it’s worth it.


  1. that is some very light pakcing

  2. You know Matt it is! I try every trip to take less and all I skipped here were toiletries & extras like a book, camera and Moleskine.


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