Packing for Pack Rats

By Revekah Echols

There must be some genetic predisposition which determines whether one becomes an over packer.

It’s not hard to see why it’s tempting. Even the most seasoned jetsetters dread packing for trips: flipping through a mental catalog of clothing (that fits and you like and is clean), remembering what is at the dry cleaners or needs to go, what needs to be laundered, what you wore the last time you traveled, what weather-related events to prepare for. Eventually the fear of being unprepared drives any strategy or pragmatism out, and the only thing that quells your anxiety is suitcase hardware refusing to comply.

We are in the beginning of the summer travel season, so in addition to knowing what to wear with the high-waisted crop pants or mesh bodysuits or sculpted sleeve blouses (the neo-bell), we must now figure out how to pack them. And these days, vacations seem to be less about leisure and more about extracting meaning from events and experiences, so the spectrum of required clothing has broadened further. More still, we are often in charge of packing for other family members, so a task which started out straightforward has now become an overwhelming and time-sensitive maze whose outcome rests on our shoulders. Oh, and don’t forget all your outfits will be seen on Instagram.

So a few tips to get us going. First, try to pack two tops for every pair of bottoms. You are more likely to repeat a pant before you do a top, and most people get multiple wears out of a pair of jeans or chinos before they wash anyway. A good rule of thumb is to anchor your looks around a couple pairs of comfortable, neutral-washed jeans, peppering in shorts, skirts and trousers as needed.

Second — and this is no surprise — the color black is your best friend. It is not only chic, it is flattering, forgiving, and it is the color that most easily segues from day to night, resists soiling and hides wrinkles best. Sometimes black can get tedious, especially in the summer, but contrasting it with white or bright-colored accessories and counterparts gives black a more graphic, light quality.

Next, try taking dresses that are both neutral in color as well as occasion. If you score a dinner reservation or concert tickets, you have something a little more elevated on hand. And for longer trips, sometimes switching up from separates to a dress is enough to keep your wardrobe feeling fresh.

There are all sorts of tricks to packing, from rolling your clothes to sticking dryer sheets inside your suitcase to stacking underpinnings atop each other, but the one item that resists all form of manipulating is shoes. Shoes, of course, are often the sticking point in not only travel bags all around the world but the closets from where they emerge.

While there is theoretically the perfect pair of shoes for every outfit, we must bend to the reality that our suitcases are not bottomless. Very much like shoes, they have very definite boundaries which have very little flexibility. With that in mind, pick shoes that have the broadest utilities, like a pair of slip-on sneakers or Belgian linen espadrilles. Around that pair, prioritize your shoes in order of preference and allow space to decide what goes and what stays. All in all, you are looking to pack clothes that will cover the broadest number of scenarios possible.

And when time, circumstance or motivation gets the best of you, we live in a world where shopping is prolific and Amazon delivers faster in more places than you can utter, “Jeff Bezos is facing the most expensive divorce in history.” There’s no need to panic, for you are covered (literally).