The Art of Packing Light

Written by admin on March 13, 2006 – 4:05 pm -

One of the most frequent questions Bonjour Paris readers pose is what they should pack when traveling. There are no hard and fast rules except that less is better. And that takes substantially more planning. If you’re able to survive with a carry-on suitcase, (and do check the airline’s specific regulations), traveling is, hands down, easier. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Your baggage is lost;
  2. Air-handlers are on strike;
  3. You have a tight connection;
  4. It’s impossible to get a porter or even a chariot (cart);
  5. Hopping on and off trains is much easier if you’re not overburdened;
  6. Hearing the conductor announce that when you stop you have only two minutes to disembark, can strike fear in a loaded-down travelers’ heart. It can look like a Marx Brothers’ replay as passengers toss suitcases from the train onto the quai in a race against time.

In order to be efficient, you need to plan ahead:

If you’re Paris-bound, don’t count on the weather. With the exception of summer months, pack a set of silk underwear that can be worn under everything. It takes no space in suitcases, and is often a blessing when the chill factor sets in.

Assemble a “mix and match” wardrobe. Each item should coordinate with the others, to be dressed up and down. Squelch the urge to pack a knockout dress that can only be worn once.

Select clothes you know and love and ones that don’t wrinkle. Although you can always borrow an iron (or have items pressed), there are so many “travel-perfect” clothes being manufactured these days. If you’re a frequent traveler, they’re worth the investment.  Bonjour Paris highly recommends the clothes offered from Magellan.

Color coordination is essential. For women, it means wearing the same shade of clothes with a few accents. I’m always comfortable in black or beige. A city wardrobe can consist of two skirts or dressy pants, a pair of casual pants, a jacket to be worn with all of the above, and three shirts or sweaters which can be made to look dressy with different costume jewelry or patterned silk scarves.

I always wear a colored shawl over the coat that I wear on the plane.

Pack a small fold-up umbrella. More than likely, it will come in handy.

Men are less “packing challenged.” If they’re traveling on business, one dark suit is invariably enough. Add a navy blazer, a pair or two of gray pants, three dress shirts, plus a couple of casual ones, and call it a day.

When it comes to shoes, it’s not a good idea to buy new ones unless you’ve had sufficient time to break them in. There’s nothing more miserable than not being able to walk.  Bring a maximum of three pairs: a pair of casual ones, good walking shoes and a dressy pair for evenings.  Wear the heaviest ones on the plane.

Many people pack more underwear than they’ll ever need. Bring three pairs of light ones that dry quickly. You can wash them and hang them in your bathroom overnight. You don’t need to sport detergent. The hotel bath gels do the job. Ditto when it comes to nightgowns, robes and pajamas. If you’re staying in hotels, check to see whether or not they offer robes.

Another suggestion:  Invest in a selection of different colored plastic bags. Pack your “essentials” here.  They can be squeezed into a suitcase and identified at a moment’s notice. If you’re running short, use every-day plastic kitchen bags as a supplement.

Not having to grope for socks and/or stockings, underwear, ties or scarves, medications, bathroom amenities, etc., facilitates unpacking and makes life more orderly.

The choice of a suitcase is another consideration. Hard-sided ones with rollers have been extremely popular. But they’re not as flexible and weigh more before placing an item inside them. Recently a new variety of duffle bags with rollers has come out, and they are definitely worth a look-see.  They are more pliable when it comes to fitting into an airline’s overhead bin.  But do clothes end up more wrinkled?

Some people swear rolling clothes is the way to go. Others, most especially men, swear that method spells disaster.  You might want to include a (light) travel iron in your suitcase to be on the safe side.

For serious packers, pack two days before your departure and resist the urge to stuff anything more in the suitcase.  That’s the real challenge!

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