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Savvy Packing Tips to Keep from Unraveling While Traveling

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Dear fellow travelers, lately I have been doing quite a bit of lecture, book tour and pleasure traveling, and I think we can all agree that getting from point A to point B can be inherently stressful.  Let’s face it, much of the anxiety around travel is due to lack of control.  I see just one aspect that we can completely control – and that is PACKING.  So let’s own it!  Stylishly!

Here I share my tips and tricks with you, and as an added dimension, I have taken a quick packing recommendations survey (thank you, friends!).  Their contributions are stellar! I have interwoven their responses with mine.

Pack (waaay) in advance  ~  Over the course of the week leading up to a trip, I place the “definites” in a suitcase, and beside it a “maybe/if there’s room” stack.  A day or two prior to the trip, I review all the “definites” and decide if any of the “maybes” make the trip.

Fold vs. Rolled ~ When packing, I roll versus fold my clothes. It makes for items fitting nicely in your luggage and it allows for a neat and less wrinkled wardrobe!

The two bag rule is in effect ~ One cross body purse for important items (phone, passport, wallet) plus one oversized tote which magically carries everything else (laptop, reading material, snacks). I have my eye on two bags from Burberry: ‘Peyton – London Leather’ Crossbody Bag and ‘Medium Maidstone’ Leather Tote, both available at Nordstrom.

Shop in style  ~  A friend currently traveling in Europe shares, “I love to shop, but I make it a point to always travel with everything I need. If you intentionally leave something out that you intend to buy at your destination, you may spend more time searching for that particular item while missing out on culture or sightseeing.”   I wholeheartedly agree!  Bring what you need and shop for extras –I travel with an expandable, soft-sided shopping bag.  I place it in the bottom of my suitcase on each and every trip.  This Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Travel Bag is quite chic and can be found at Neiman Marcus. The bag unzips and then unzips again, to grow and accommodate more shopping (and then more shopping).

Consistent placement  ~  The overarching travel goal is to decrease stress.  A gentleman friend, who travels regularly for business, highly recommends being religiously consistent with your things.  For example, after printing out your boarding pass, always place it in the exact same location.  The same goes for your passport, phone, id, etc.

Carry-on vs. Check-in  ~  If you have flight connections and you plan to check your luggage, please be sure to place a change of clothes in your carry-on, just in case your bags don’t make the connections. Pack toiletries as well – especially the almighty toothbrush!

Mission accomplished: The perfect scarf FOUND  ~  Planes can be downright chilly.  And there will be no snuggling in an airline blankie.  Layers always work for me and this  gorgeous Chan Luu scarf works on so many levels (as evidenced by these lovely jet-setting starlets). This silk cashmere scarf is available in a number of soft, luxurious colors at the chic boutique Laura Jean on Bellevue Avenue, Newport.

Boots and flats and heels – oh, my!  ~  I, like many of my shoe-loving sisters, enjoy having shoe style options while traveling.  But there is no way the soles of my shoes are going to nestle in my suitcase, rubbing up against a cashmere sweater.  No, thank you.  Shoe bags are a must.  This Henri Bendel Shoe Dust Bag Set of cotton twill bags includes three sizes.

Toiletries: Beware of (wicked) leaks ~ Always pack toiletries in seal-able baggies. They can leak due to changes in air pressure and luggage contents shifting.

Unmentionables = Untouchables  ~  That’s not all seal-able plastic bags are good for!  (Once this enters your mind, I bet you’ll be on board.) Place your undergarments in a separate plastic bag; if TSA searches your luggage, no worries, no strange hands will have touched your unmentionables.  Speaking of undergarments, I always slip a soft cotton teddy into my underthings; they’re a blessing as they take up next to zero space but come in handy if the weather gets chilly.

An open and shut case  ~  I recommend a travel jewelry case with structure to it, so your jewelry doesn’t get crushed while luggage contents shift.  This case (in point) from Tiffany,  is a gorgeous blue (of course) textured leather with ultra-suede lining.  Case closed.

3 top coat options

We’re down with this compact jacket  ~  How fantabulous is this jacket for packing and traveling?  This  color block, warm, ultra light down jacket by Uniqlo is so incredibly thin (drum roll please) that it folds and rolls to a compact size to carry easily in its attached pouch.  Yes, please.

Merci, Henri  ~   Doesn’t ‘practical’ feel like a big ole drag?  Trying to avoid wrinkles and being ready for unpredictable weather?  But Henri Bendel tackles both challenges, all the while making practical feel stylish with this packable trench that is both water and wrinkle resistant with a removable hood.

Uber-organized overcoat  ~  A world-traveler friend, shared this link with me, saying she’s long thought of getting one of these pocketed coats from Scotte.  (This image depicts half of the coat with an x-ray version showing pockets for handwarming, phone, identification, lipstick, and even an ipad, and more.) I’m not quite sure…I might feel like Inspector Gadget.  Your thoughts?  Just the ticket, or pocket overkill?

Hi vs. Low Tech  ~  

  • EBooks, Kindles, Nooks and alike are lighter than traditional books and magazines (space and weight savings here). And they double as a movie screening media device.
  • Don’t forget to charge everything before you leave home and pack those power cords (all organized in their own little carry case).
  • Music is a must for long distance travel.  It soothes the soul.
  • Non-tech idea from a voracious reader and traveler: if you aren’t feeling techie, bring books you don’t mind giving away to a fellow traveler when you are finished.  It is a kind thing to do and it means less to bring home (and more room for purchases).

First class snooze  ~  Phew…after all this planning and packing, you’ll need a nap.  May I entice you with this super-chic-even-while-napping ‘Aviators’ Sleep Mask? It is available at Nordstorm.com  (p.s. at only $16, I think I smell a stocking stuffer.)   Below that, another option for first class napping, also from Nordstrom. ‘Important Note’:  You’ll have to tell the flight attendant whether you are actually serious about being woken up for champagne.  Your choice.  Cheers!

Now, I know so many of you are travelers to the Nth degree.  I invite you to share your packing tips and tricks in the comments section.  Looking forward to hearing and learning from you!  Until we meet again, happy (low-stress) travels!

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

9 thoughts on “Savvy Packing Tips to Keep from Unraveling While Traveling

  1. Many great ideas, Bettie! Most of my travel is related to business. I pack my folded (not rolled) outfits in extra large ziplock bags. Since all of the elements of the outfit are in a single bag, when I arrive I can quickly change into appropriate attire. This works well for multiple destinations in that you do not need to disrupt your entire suitcase each time you arrive at a new hotel. I also limit my color palate to minimize accessories. Scarves are the lightweight key to give a few outfits a new look. With this strategy I rarely check my luggage.

    1. Fabulous idea. Jill, and no one knows how to keep from unraveling better than you!

    2. Fabulous idea,Jill, and no one knows how to keep from unraveling better than you!xo

  2. Thank you for all useful travel tips. For me packing my toiletries and make up had been a challenge. So I have my make up bag stocked with sample size items from my favorite brands. For example I have Lancôme eye and make up removers in sample sizes ( some times I get a them as gift with purchase) .This way I have at least a few necessary items already packed and time saved.
    Another thing I cannot do without is my own personalized packing list. I have put together a list of what my needs are from various sources and printed a few copies which I keep with my travel bags.
    Of course your ideas are certainly being added to my list. Thank you !

    1. And yours are being added to our list for an update!
      One challenge I struggle with is not being able to find small “travel sizes.” Somehow the manufacturers don’t realize how much we all want them.

  3. Am printing this! All great info. I do most of it anyway but always good to brush up just before travel. Stress takes away the memory cells!!!!
    Thank you!

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