Friday, 19 March 2010

Vacation Packing Problems ......

Hello everyone, it’s lovely to be back! I’m home from my vacation (ten days in sunny South Beach, Miami) and, as I’m busy unpacking, I felt moved to say a word or two about the perennial packing predicament!

We’re coming up to that time of the year when all the fashion magazines do their piece about packing the capsule wardrobe for your vacation. You know the kind of thing …… how five perfectly judged pieces of clothing and a pair of espadrilles can be mixed and matched to provide you with a fabulous wardrobe for a ten day vacation. Yeah, right! Unfortunately for me that is so NOT doable.

Here’s what I took with me: 4 dresses, 2 skirts, 6 dressy tops, 7 knit tops, 2 hooded zip up velour tops, 1 lightweight rain jacket, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of cut off jeans, 6 cardigans, 2 sweatshirts, 5 pairs of shoes, assorted swimwear plus, of course, underwear, cosmetics, toiletries, hair equipment, various accessories and the clothes I travelled in.

I know that it was too much because not everything got worn. We’re told that when packing we should lay everything out on the bed then cut it in half. But here’s the problem - which is the half I really don’t need and which is the half that is absolutely essential for cutting a fashionable figure down in fabulous South Beach? Or, forgetting fashion, what do I need to keep me cool, warm, shaded from the sun, dry or whatever? Also, there is a bit of me that says, “I have all these nice clothes, a lot of which I’ve spent time and energy making myself, so I want to have them available to me while I’m away?”

I do, however, have one essential packing tip, particularly for this time of the year. Put aside an hour or so and try on every single item of clothing that you propose packing. It’s been a while since I put away my summer clothes and it’s really quite extraordinary what happens to them in the intervening period. Things that I could swear looked really lovely last year have now, mysteriously, become quite hideous. Also think in terms of outfits – try on clothes together. Have you ever arrived at your holiday destination and realised that you have plenty of clothes but nothing that works with anything else in terms of colour and proportion. I know that I have!

For anyone who wants to streamline their packing, I must pass on some words of wisdom gleaned from reading Tim Gunn’s wonderful book – A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style.

Tim suggests picking a narrative as a way of streamlining what you are going to pack; he says “If you are going for ‘Urban Sophisticate Visits the South of France’ you will not bring your ‘Hoedown Elegant’ outfits as well.” And he warns “You may be tempted by the packing theme of ‘Person Who Wears All the Things in My Closet That I Never Wear’. Resist this. If that kimono top doesn’t feel right in Berkeley, it won’t feel right in Berlin, either.” Excellent advice!

Looking at the pile of brightly coloured clothing in my suitcase I think my theme was ‘London girl, normally starved of sunshine, goes tropical crazy’.

What about you? Are you well organized, do you travel light or do you pack for all possible eventualities? What would your packing theme be and have you got any great packing tips for me?


  1. Eugenia I travel a lot on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle and have a surefire packing strategy. Space is certainly limited so I pack at least one week in advance. I pack everything I even remotely think I'll want to wear. I leave the bag or bags open and in a spot where I am almost tripping over. Each time I pass by the bags, I take a thing out. By week's end I am down to only what is absolutely necessary! It works every time.

  2. Welcome back Eugenia. Hope you enjoyed your sunny vacation. Thanks for the book reference, I'll have to check that out. I love the way you described your South Beach theme--LOL!. As far as packing goes I tend to be very thorough. I start with a list of what I need and begin the gathering and grouping process. I always like to pack items that are interchangeable which cuts down on alot of luggage bulk. I try to plan far enough in advance to avoid forgetting anything and I always pack a little extra just in case. And if I'm going somewhere unfamiliar, I try not to wear anything too flashy so I don't stick out too much!

  3. Welcome back Eugenia! I'm the one that want's to bring my whole closet. I can never decide on what to wear, and I love having vacation time to play with outfits I may not normally wear. Then add the accessories and the shoes. Oh, good gravy, I always overpack. I love the picture at the beginning of the post, but I especially love her black tote bag!

  4. I embarrassing learned to scale it back on my first business trip a few years ago. I had never really traveled for work before so I was used to packing as if I was going away for 2-3 weeks in a very large suitcase. Well, the week before my business trip I had my husband grab the suitcase out of the attic to find that the seam near the bottom of the bag had bust. Well my parents were away on a shopping-vacation weekend event at the time called the Longest Yardsale...its a multi-state yardsale in the Southeast US. Anyway, they called to ask if I needed anything so I said YES, a new piece of luggage for my work trip... they came back with an suitcase you could stuff a dead body into that was made out of a fabric with a black background and hot pink lips all over it. They thought it was cute...I thought it was tacky but didn't want to seem ungrateful. Well, I was mortified when my business associate picked me up from the airport the next week. Here I am lumbering around with this hot pink lippy travel trunk, you should have seen the look on his face...when I got to the hotel I took a cab to Target and purchased a much smaller, more appropriate for business travel suitcase sans lips and proceeded to stuff it to the gills with as much as I could get into it and left the bag in the hotel with a "free to a good home" note on it. Since then I've traveled a lot for work and its taught me a great deal about traveling lighter. Hope you had a lovely vacation! Glad you're back in blogging action :)

  5. Overpacking is GOOOOOD (that from a chronic overpacker). Isn't it delicious to have a choice for all those what-if moments, even if they don't always materialize? Anyway, you ;-) look FABulous in that yellow swimsuit & hat - very chic.

  6. I've had jobs where I had to travel lots but I became quite adept at keeping my wardrobe veerrry multi task-able by keeping my wardrobe all in one color story and not vearing off course. All make-up and toiletries were edited down to the most effective and essential and when possible the gift with purchase sizes. Of course you can't plan for everything and weather is something that simply happens so if you must make a purchase have it be something you will enjoy for a long time with it's happy memories - not some garish tunic or cute at the moment Carmen Miranda sandels. But I have traveled almost exclusively with my belongings in one wheelie bag in the overhead. Yeah, you read that right, I carried all that in the overhead bin with a laptop in my purse - you would not believe how much stuff I could fit in that little wheelie and the other thing? The second you get to your room, hang all your clothes up and then plan to iron before bed, yes rolling it up is better than folding and you get a lot more in there but after any long flight there's always the wrinkly reality to deal with.

    The other side is that I have for years when I have more than I can comfortably carry I ...
    FEDEX a box to my destination!!!

    Try it it's fabulous and I can't believe people are only now beginning to do this. It is the best thing since sliced bread, air conditioning, artificial hair colour and massages.

  7. Packing for 10 days in a sunny place:
    4 dresses,
    2-3 cardigans,
    2 pairs of high-heel sandals,
    1 pair of leather thong sandals,
    3 bathing suits (3 tops & 3 bottoms, all in the same color combo for mix-and-match),
    1 board skirt,
    1 pair of shorts,
    1-2 cover-ups (tunic, light sweater),
    lingerie to suit.

    I travel lightly. Not a fan of TSA and long waits at the luggage carousel.

  8. I tend to overpack and take items for all scenerios. I have gotten better now that we have to include bags for all three boys. I
    just don't have as much room for my stuff!
    Hope you had a wonderful trip!

  9. One time, and one time only - I have packed correctly and that was a weeklong trip to Iceland! Other than that - I have NEVER packed correctly - and I frequently travel for business - I agree with you - Miami is difficult to dress for - it's hot and muggy and has had a very cool winter. . .

    I bet you looked fantastic - hope you post some pictures - and Welcome Back!

  10. Welcome back! Hope you had a great time in Miami!

    I'm actually a decent packer. We went to Italy for 10 days on our honeymoon 2 years ago, and I brought everything in a carry on! (I did end up buying a rolling case in Naples, however, because we bought too much pottery and limoncello on the Amalfi Coast!).

    I try to pack mostly neutral pieces (in either the black or camel color family) that can be worn over and over. I'll wear a top Monday, then the same top Wednesday. I noticed that in Europe it is acceptable to wear the same outfit a few times during the week, so I've tried to adopt this un-American approach!

  11. Welcome back! I hope you had a great time.

    I like to travel really light. I think it is because I am from the tropics. When I go back to the tropics, I realise all the things that I just won't need. (Jacket, boots, waterproof, jeans, etc.) My husband, from England, insists on being prepared for all eventualities. I think this is because he is used to the variable weather of Britain, where you need to be prepared for cold windy picnics on the beach and a stiff upper lip!

  12. I also hope you had a great time on your vacation. No tips. I just tend to pack light and rewear things, but we've always traveled with children and I wanted to keep the luggage light. We go to child friendly places and I guess more casual. I'd like to hear your thoughts on any ideas you might be formulating on packing and a travel wardrobe for your future trips.

  13. Oh man, packing is always a problem. My formula is to bring half as many outfits as days, planning to wear each twice, and only two pairs of shoes. I was in Spain for two weeks; I brought seven dresses and two pairs of sandals, plus a sweater, a denim jacket, a scarf, and several pairs of footless tights. I think I actually got it perfect, for once!

  14. I've gotten much better at packing as I've gotten older, but I still tend to want to bring my entire closet. I'm just better about paring down to a minimum now. ;)

    I couldn't agree with you more and the "try everything on before you leave." My husband rolls his eyes when it takes me two hours to pack for a short trip, but at least by the end, I know that everything looks good and will work together well once we get to our destination.

  15. After 5 years at a job that requires frequent travel (vacation travel, too), my packing is very streamlined (practice makes perfect, as they say). My largest suitcase is small enough to carry on, and I can travel for 2 weeks with it.

    As someone else mentioned, frequent travel affects my shopping - my wardrobe is full of "versatile and travels well" pieces. Also, I don't stress about every possible weather pattern or social scenario I may encounter. If if is unseasonably cold or the Queen invites me to dinner, I'll buy something there!

    I hope you had a great time on your trip!


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