I’m asked this question all the time. Packing is an art form, but my motto? When in doubt, leave it out. Depending on where you’re going and what you plan to do, here’s my advice.
Research the laundry facilities at your destination.
Does the Airbnb have a washer/dryer? Is there a laundromat around the corner? Does your cruise ship offer free laundering perks? Access to a laundry room can halve the amount of clothes you need to bring.
Everything must match.
Identify a colour palette and stick with it so that absolutely everything in your suitcase goes together in as many different combos as possible. No one, particularly strangers you see only fleetingly, is going to notice you’re always wearing navy.
Pack neutrals, plus some punch.
White shirt, powder blue shirt, tan pants, dark pants, navy shorts, plain skirt, beige shift — you get the picture. Versatile neutral clothing can be dressed up with (inexpensive) jewellery and colourful accessories that weigh next to nothing. Just don’t get carried away: If you’re not going to wear something at least twice, leave it at home.
Pare down shoes and outerwear.
Take only one of everything: one dress shoe, one casual, one runner, one sandal; one blazer, one sweater, one zip-up. Make sure at least one pair of shoes is waterproof. Any more than this and you’ll have trouble closing your suitcase — and will definitely have to check it.
Include a few items on their last legs.
Then, just wear and toss — socks, smalls, T-shirts, yellowing polo tops, frayed dress shirts, et cetera. Doing this makes more room in your suitcase for treats and souvenirs.
Streamline the “stuff.”
Pack the point-and-shoot and not the SLR, or maybe even just your phone will do. You don’t need both a laptop and a tablet. Travel steamer, hair dryer, coffeemaker, wireless speaker, selfie stick, portable tripod, luggage scale, travel blanket, your favourite pillow — these are all a little too precious for the serious traveller. If you want to take something useful, pack an umbrella, a universal power adapter and a braided clothesline.
Don’t be last minute-y.
Slap-dash packing widens the margin for error considerably — you will pack too many items you don’t need or not enough of what you do need. Get your suitcase out a few weeks before your trip, throw seasonal stuff in right away, then keep adding to the pile as things occur to you. Make a separate list of essentials you need to buy.
Embrace the zippered packing cubes — in different sizes — and make sure you buy the ones with a little stretch.
Do you have a travel question?
Doug has the answer! Email your question to email@example.com and it may appear in an upcoming issue.