Packing 101 – Think Like A Stylist

One of my closest friends is a stylist and costumier, so when I was having a mid-packing, mini-breakdown before a last minute trip a couple of years back, she kindly stepped in (after I phoned and begged her) to save me from repacking my case for something like the seventeenth time, offering up some expert packing knowledge.

Travelling to shoots and sets, she’s used to having to lug around a massive amount of stuff and knows how to get more into a case than anyone I’ve ever known.  She is also a master at making sure that you don’t forget anything you might possibly need, having had to second guess in advance what a photographer/director might expect her to magically produce at the last minute. The night of my packing breakdown, she gave me some invaluable tips and tricks that I have (to her delight) used every time I’ve been preparing to go away since then…

Roll it…

Packing 101 - Rolled

This might not be news to you, but it definitely was for me. I couldn’t believe how much more you could fit into a case by rolling rather than folding. And, as a bonus, it’s stops most items from getting creased (I pretty much refuse to iron anything…ever…I hang everything I can up to dry and hope for the best!) The only items I tend not to roll are thick jumpers, jackets, underwear and anything particularly heavily embellished (rolling is not so great for keeping beadwork looking it’s best – so tissue wrap or plastic bag these). Now, thanks to my lovely stylist friend, I roll everything in order of what type of garment it is…dresses, tops, jeans etc…next to my case and then pack the rolls as if they were building blocks, using them to pad and protect other items…more on this next…

If you’re good at Tetris…

My packing guru told me it’s all about smart use of space – just like playing Tetris! So once you’ve got everything rolled and ready, start packing from the most rigid items up. I usually have a small, hard-case travel jewellery box, washbag, and at least a few pairs of shoes and a couple of bags (obviously there is a difference between packing for a beach holiday, exploration trip or city break but the basics are usually the same) that I pack first.  I start with the washbag and jewellery box in the bottom-middle of the case and then build everything around them, padding them in at the sides with my rolled up items. I use jeans and thicker jumpers near the bottom and work up to the thin layers on the top. Shoes are a bit trickier, and most people already know that it’s a good idea to stuff them with socks/underwear to save space but I tend to put them into the case first and pack them with these afterwards…that way, with a pair of heels for example, you can still lock the two of them together, saving space. For winter travels (and those, like me, who can’t live without over-the-knee boots, no matter how much room they take up) I lie them flat on the top of everything else, except for jackets.  I’d also recommend that anything really thick you lay as flat and as wide as you can across the top as there is no point in trying to roll this – it’ll waste space rather than save it. I don’t use the inside netted pocket much, apart from for summer shoes (it’s great for flip flops), accessories and last minute things that get added, like extra socks or scarves. If it’s a backpack rather than a case I’m packing, it’s pretty much the same idea – roll it, make like a game of Tetris and pack shoes/boots with other items. The only difference really is that I try to put hard items, like shoes, towards the middle of the backpack so you don’t end up with something uncomfortable sticking into your back (backpacking around Greece taught me, the hard way, this is the last thing that you want).

Sort Out The Small Things…

Packing 101 - Clear Bag

The clear carry-on liquid allowance bag and your a washbag in your checked luggage are two things that are important to pack right – otherwise you’ll end up not having enough room for what you really need at hand on the plane or when you’ve stopped over somewhere. I try to be strict with what I take on the flight, but it can be hard if you want to arrive looking fresh or you’re heading straight from the airport out somewhere. My take-on essentials are perfume, dry shampoo, mini-makeup wipes, toothpaste and a few make-up bits (concealer, mascara and lip balm).  I can usually fit all of these into a clear liquid allowance bag and, depending on the size of the perfume, maybe a couple of extra bits, like a cool-spray too. Anything other than that goes into my main washbag in my checked luggage. It’s not always easy to think in advance what you might need on a stop-over, long flight wait or as soon as you arrive at your destination, but if you have a vague idea (i.e. pass out in the hotel or straight out to a club) it’ll make choosing what’s hand vs checked a lot easier. It’s also good to think in emergency terms in case (because unfortunately it does happen) the airline misplaces your checked bag.

List It…and Stick to It…

Packing 101 - Checklist

Make a list of everything you’ll need and stick to it. I like to think about it in order of what I use every day and then how many days I’m planning on being away for, plus a couple of extra days’ worth, just in case. So I usually start with underwear, socks, bottoms, tops…right the way through to pyjamas etc… Once you’ve got everything on your list, including any important non-clothes items like adapters, chargers…try to really stick to it when you’re packing your suitcase or backpack. When I was younger, even going on a beach holiday, I would end up buying things last minute and trying to squeeze them into my case. Chances were, I never wore or used the stuff anyway and all it did was put the weight and price of my suitcase up. The lighter you can pack the better, the less you can survive with, the better! I’m definitely learning this as time and my experience of travelling goes on. The last thing you want, especially after a longhaul or particularly gruelling flight, is to be stuck dragging a massive and heavy case/backpack/rucksack around the streets of an unfamiliar city trying to find a hotel or a taxi (again, backpacking in Greece taught me a lot).

Hand Luggage is Key

Packing 101 - Hand Luggage

Your carry-on (and “personal item” – depending on who you fly with) can save your suitcase from being overweight every single time. This is where I pack my laptop, camera, books, gifts, notepads, magazines, pens/pencils – all of the little things that really add up in weight if you pack them in your checked luggage. When I was younger, I would take as large a carry-on as the airline would allow, but now I look for something that’s still a good size, but that keeps everything organised. I hate not being able to find what I’m looking for on a plane, especially if you’re jam packed on a budget airline and barely able to reach the overhead storage.  I like a bag that holds my laptop easily as well as everything else, but ideally one that also fits under the seat in front of me, to avoid having to put this in the overhead storage.

A Travellin’ Tale’s Pro-Packing Tips

Do…make a list first. Think in days and stick to the list…no last minute additions! You probably don’t need that emergency black tie dress or extra pair of heels that happened to be in the sale the day before you were leaving…

Do…roll as much of your clothing as you can. It saves space, and they won’t be as creased when you unpack on the other end (honestly, who has time for ironing?!)

Do…use your case space wisely. Try to ‘fit’ items into one another; shoes, socks, underwear…

Do…use your hand luggage for small but heavier items to avoid your check luggage costing you extra. If you’re travelling with wrapped gifts, put them in your hand luggage too, so they won’t be unwrapped if your case gets checked…

Do…have a friend that is a stylist/packing genius/generally lovely person to call when you physically can’t fit anymore in…they’ll more than likely tell you that you don’t need those extra five items…and you’ll listen eventually… Do you have packing tips and tricks you use when travelling? Leave a comment below…

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