I am an excellent packer. Perhaps it has something to do with all the travelling I did growing up. I loved packing my own bag and when you go on weeks-long vacations, it's important to make sure you've got all your best stuff with you! It probably has more to do with my Mother and her meticulous attention to packing detail that has stayed with me. Before every trip, my Mother pulls out the packing list from the previous one. I'm serious, she keeps them all! Any adjustments that need to be made are done prior to packing, then it's 1, 2, 3… packed! I do the same thing, though I usually forget that I've saved my list in my luggage so I end up stressing out while writing a new one only to find the old one right where I left it. Oh well, it's become part of the routine.
I refuse to check baggage. Period. The only time this may become a problem is if I ever went overseas, but I'm pretty sure my basic rules for packing would still apply. I have refused to check a bag since TWA lost then found then ran over our bags one summer. We were stuck in the middle of the woods with only what my mother had shipped ahead- primarily "just in case" cold clothes. This leads me to Rule 1: If you're gone for more than a week, think about shipping. With the cost of checking bags, heaven forbid you have more than one; shipping can be a good alternative. We, we meaning my family, only did this when we were spending weeks at my Grams in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The weather is so unpredictable that you have to plan clothing from 40-80 degrees. Shipping bulky, yet lightweight, sweaters and sweatshirts, etc. ahead saved time and money at the airport.
Rule 2: Leave it at home. Think about it- hotels provide shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Many have hair dryers. Your friends and family have all the same things, probably more. Leave it at home. I don't waste time packing shampoo, tooth paste, mouth wash, etc. I only bring my hair dryer if I'm visiting my Gram and that's only because I don't like my Mom's. The point is, think ahead and don't take what they have there.
Rule 3: Sample Sizes. Expert packers agree, sample sizes are the way to go. My quart bag contains travel contact solution, foundation, sample perfumes, lip gloss/balm, sunscreen, eye cream, travel moisturizer, and travel toner. I heart Clinique- their 3-Step skin care system as well as most of their moisturizers and serums come in travel sizes perfect for your quart bag. Other companies also offer travel sizes and they are worth it even if you only travel once a year. Other options involve a quick trip to The Container Store where you can buy smaller containers for all of your favorite products. If you're feeling posh, Bobbi Brown cosmetics sells a travel kit with empty bottles and funnel in a quart sized bag. I think the only thing I take with me that's full sized is sunscreen and foundation.
Rule 4: Pack for the actual time you are there. "I do this," you say. Then you would have never needed to check a bag. You don't need 3 pairs of shoes, 20 shirts, multiple pants. Come on. What would you normally wear in a week? I suggest bringing an extra pair of skivvies, socks, and t-shirt; that is all. Everything else should match the number of days your will be gone. A weekend? That's 4 shirts, 1-2 pairs of pants, and a going out outfit if applicable. One week? 8 tops, 2-3 bottoms, 1-2 going out outfits. Guys, you only need 1 pair of sneakers and nicer shoes if you will be going out in the evenings. Ladies, same is true for you. Flip flops only if you're going to a body of water. Don't forget to count what you're wearing on the plane- that's one pair of shoes, your jacket, etc. I don't understand this fear that you must have every article of clothing with you at all times. You will survive, I promise. Don't forget- you want to keep room in your suitcase for souvenirs right? See Rule 1 above.
Rule 5: "Tetris". I love the way Natalie described the art of packing the bag. Tetris is definitely appropriate. Flight Attendants roll their belongings- it takes less space and helps keep things wrinkly free. Just take your time. The inside of shoes is a great place to store socks/underpants. I took a pair of Wellies with me one trip (in addition to everything else I normally take and still had room for Tasty Cakes in my suitcase!) and used the inside of the boot to hold socks, underpants, flat iron, etc.
Finally, Rule 6: Carry on. Most airlines allow one carryon bag and an additional purse/satchel/laptop case, etc. So, get one and use it. In my weekender: my purse, magazines/books, iPod, make-up bag, my quart bag, hair brush, journal, camera, smokes, sunglasses, polka tot (I'll tell you all about him later). I usually use a cute tote bag for my purse when I travel. It can lay flat at the bottom of my weekender, and will hold any knick knacks I pick up along the way. Whatever I may need from my purse (smokes, keys, wallet, phone) all go in another make-up bag. Everything in its place.
So, next time you're travelling; take the time to plan ahead, think about what you don't need, and utilize everything the airlines will allow you to have. Oh, and remember to have fun and take lots of pictures! Do you have any great travel tips??