How to Pack Like a Pro

I’d like to thank @VanessaSw for giving me the idea for this post. I’ve attended dozens upon dozens of conferences and used to have the same problem- how do you pack efficiently when you want to have options?

I’m the girl who once went on a three day cruise…with three suitcases! Granted at the time I felt totally justified filling one large rolling case with clothing, a smaller carry-on with shoes, and a small duffel bag filled with makeup, hair products, purses, accessories, and anything else I thought I might possibly want and/or need from home. I did not bring any gadgets other then my cell and digitial camera- and I still managed to pack a suitcase a day. When you’re sharing a standard cruise room with two roommates, there is just not enough space for such packing standards. It took me awhile, but I finally learned how to tone it down.

Tip #1- Don’t Start With Your Suitcase

If you start by putting all of your stuff in your suitcase, by the time you fill it, you realize that you don’t *really* need the formal evening gown you stuck in when you started, but it’s at the bottom so you might as well bring it.

Put the suitcase aside and lay out everything on your bed/desk/ floor/ whatever. Outfit by outfit so you can see each piece- then if you change your mind or realize you have 8 pairs of shoes for 1 dress, you can easily change your mind and put some stuff away.

Tip #2- Be Realistic

When I used to pack, I would throw everything in my suitcase I thought I might need on a trip. Usually my favorite everything would end up in my suitcase- including pillows and blankets. Do I really need them? Would there be any reason why a hotel wouldn’t provide such items? No! If you absolutely don’t want to sleep on a hotel’s stuff, first assess why you’re staying there in the first place, and second, bring the pillowcase and a top sheet, not the whole damn bed set.

Think about what is absolutely essential and go with that. If you’re going to steal the shower necessities the hotel gives you anyway, why not use them instead of bringing your Costco sized conditioner?

Tip #3- Pack Backwards

This is a really simple one and will help you from bringing everything but the kitchen sink. If you start with the last day of your trip and make that the first thing in your suitcase, you

A) Will be more likely to plan out what you need without throwing random items in a bag

B) Will be far more likely to see that pair of shoes 3 matches outfit 6 and skip packing yet another pair of shoes (which take up way too much room)- especially if you followed Tip #1

C) Won’t have to dig around your suitcase, making a mess, and having to re-pack everything and be late everywhere because you can’t find what you’re looking for. If I’ve done it (the shirt I want to wear is in here somewhere…rips everything out of suitcase and dumps on the floor), so have you. And for some reason, we all know the law of physics: whatever fit in the suitcase at the start of the trip will not all make it back in at the end. So do yourself a favor and do an evening/day wear, daily assessment. And stick to it when you get when you’re going!

Tip #4- Coordinate Yourself

You want to look your best on your trip, so you pack your best stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s for business or pleasure, if you’re a girl, at least, you’re bringing your favorite outfits even if it means packing one extra, teeny-tiny little suitcase right?

Don’t do it! Most people tend to have one basic color tendency in their wardrobe- and it’s black. It might be brown, but let’s go with black in this case. If you find yourself packing 13 black dresses but you just have to wear the brown one- which means bringing an extra two pairs of shoes (heels to look good and flats when your feet hurt), accessories, purse, makeup kit…stop! Stick with one color combination. Trust me, no one else cares if you wore black 30 times in a row. They didn’t notice and if they did, who cares? 99% chance they did the same thing.

Tip #5- Focus on the Small Stuff

If you’re going on a three day conference, odds are you don’t need to bring five pairs of jeans (yes, I’ve done the one pair for Monday AM, one pair for Monday PM thing, too). Bring two. Yup, I said it, bring less pairs of jeans then there are days in the week. For several reasons:

A) You’re not supposed to wash your jeans every day, it fades the dye. Use this tip at your discretion as I’m not advising you to wear jeans with cranberry vodka stains on them.

B) If you’re dressing up at night, which you most likely are, you won’t be wearing jeans all the time. You also won’t be wearing them to sleep (I hope- not to say I haven’t done it before)- so it’s not necessary to bring them everywhere.

C) With the exception of some color differences and acid washes, all jeans look the same. So no one in their right mind (I’m calling you judgmental people out) is going to know or care if you wore the Seven for All Mankinds Monday AND Wednesday when you hop on a 7am flight.

Instead of bringing 12 different cardigans, 5 different pairs of jeans, and other bulky items, pack 2 sweaters- a black one and an X-colored one that will go with most, if not all, of what you brought. To ‘change up’ your look, bring accessories that take up far less room and are far easier to swap. And for !@$$%@# sake, pack enough underwear and socks/stockings. They take up no room and are way more essential then, say, your silver strappy whatever.

Tip #6- Make it Work

Did you ever think you could fit one more outfit in if only you could sit on the suitcase with four members of your family and your pet to help zip it shut? You know what’s a lot easier? Using the space you have.

Since you’ve already laid out everything in advance (somewhere other then your suitcase), and grouped it together by day into outfits, you realize that there’s some empty space in your shoes- put stuff in them. And, oh yeah, you brought a purse the size of a suitcase and except for your iPod and wallet (because even though we all have giant laptop cases, purses, carry-ons, we don’t really use the space), it’s pretty empty. Put stuff in there, too. Basically, use all the little side pockets, hidden zippers, and mesh organizers instead of employing an army to get your bag past airport security.

Tip #7- Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

Let’s say wearing the same jeans twice in a row grosses you out. However, you bring a black skirt to wear to ____ (the exhibit hall, meetings, touring Italy, whatever). You pack a dress for that same night- so now you have a skirt, a shirt, a dress, two pairs of shoes, accessories, blah blah blah…you see where this is going, right? Re-use the skirt. Recycle your outfit. Bring 1 different shirt that will coordinate with everything else you brought for that skirt- or vice versa. Use the same top and throw on a skirt instead of the jeans. Recycling items you wore earlier in the day reduces the amount of space in your suitcase.

Tip #8- Don’t Add More Just Because You Have More

This one is as easy as it gets. If you have 8 outfits for 8 days of travel, but your suitcase is only half full- STOP PACKING! Put the stilettos DOWN! If you’ve put everything you need- not want, but need- in your suitcase, you’re done. Don’t bring that extra sweater ‘just in case’. You have three already. You’re also equally likely to buy more crap you *need* when you’re gone. Or pick up all the free swag you can stand at the conference- and praying airport security doesn’t count your purse, laptop bag, and shopping bag as too many carry-ons because you’re sure, if you *really* had to, you’d be able to fit one into the other. Fingers crossed!

Side note: This never works, I’ve tried it, and have actually had to choose between going to buy another suitcase to check (hello, baggage fees) and throwing out some stuff. If it does work, you will be running late and will miss your flight trying to fight with the TSA over what qualifies as a ‘carry on’.

It sounds like a dramatic adjustment, but it’s really not that hard. Out of every 20 trips you take, how often can you say you used every single piece of clothing and jewelry in your bag?

If you’re smart enough to be getting sponsors for your blog, selling eBooks, and selling your consulting services, you clearly have the brains to know that your shoe collection isn’t what’s making you successful- it’s just one of the perks of being that successful- so pack accordingly.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. VanessaSw
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 18:50:47

    Loves it. You ROCK, Dina! All of my packing dilemmas are now addressed. Looking forward to not sucking at my conference or biz trip.

    • Dina
      Jan 26, 2011 @ 18:54:07

      Haha do I sense some sarcasm there? For you, I am available for individual consultations- for everyone else, they just get the post. We will ‘slim down your suitcase’ is the new ‘move that bus’!

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