Why Did I Simplify My Packing Routine?
Whether it’s flying between the states, Europe, Asia, or South Africa, flights ranging from 13 hours to 16 or more have become my specialty.
When I first started flying, I had no problem packing anything and everything I wanted. I was often the person unloading their suitcase at the counter but—at the direction of my mother—always had a spare tote bag in the outer pocket. So I’d load up the tote bag with all the items too heavy to make it in my checked luggage and drag it onto the plane with me.
It says 2 personal items, right?
After flying between Seattle and Ithaca for 4 years of theatre schooling, I started to hone my skills so my flying experience was a little less chaotic and a little more efficient. Though it wasn’t until I toured the country for a year with a Broadway show that I started to care about what I was packing. We were in charge of taking our own suitcases up and down staircases, and after the second hotel without an elevator I started to size down. The second leg of tour, I stuck to packing only one suitcase!
My next gig was aboard a ship. Unlike tour, I would have my own bedroom that I could fully unpack in! Score! Fast forward to opening the door to my new cabin. All the blood drained from my face as me and my neighbors stared at our new homes. I had a room the size of a closet, filled with a bed, a desk and a bathroom. Imagine being able to touch two opposite walls by holding your arms out to the sides. I could take 3 full steps back and forth from bed to door. I could not open the door to the bathroom without it hitting the desk. My closet was just wide enough for my shoulders to fit nicely inside.
Do you feel claustrophobic yet?
I did a few different contracts like this, and started to get smarter about packing. I could never be sure how big my room would be, and who likes traveling with multiple pieces of luggage anyways? Then on one particularly unfortunate contract, I filled my free time researching how to create your own capsule wardrobe.
I noticed that even though I had packed a million different daytime clothing options (evening wear excluded), I was only choosing a handful of items in my always-stuffed closet. I habitually returned to the same 10 or so items. The pieces that made me feel good about myself and that mostly fit in similar color schemes.
I had a 3 week trip to South Africa planned. It would be a 12 hour flight and then another 9 hours with a 4 hour layover in between. I was determined to test my skills in the packing department and go ONLY with a flight-approved carryon and my personal little backpack.
3 weeks. Different cities. Varying weather. Go.
It was a South African winter which means layers, leggings, boots, and hats. I am going to lay it all out for you in hopes that you can make next packing experience is a little simpler.
My suitcase contained:
3 pairs of shoes (flat brown boots, black heeled booties, rainbow sneakers)
2 pairs of leggings
1 pair of black jeans
2 flowy long-sleeved t-shirts
3 short sleeved t-shirts
1 lighter jacket
1 heavy rain jacket
1 small toiletries bag
Small leather purse
My small personal backpack held my computer, chargers, and other carryon must haves (post about my carryon forget-me-nots coming soon).
My trick with all these items is to stay in the same general color palette. I stuck with burgundy, green, grey, black, brown (boots) and then had 2 scarves with rich multicolored designs that could go with any top or jacket. Almost every top could go with almost any bottom. I could use one outfit for daytime wear, and then add a different scarf with my black heeled booties and it would look totally different!
This worked for me in the confusing South African weather. We faced hot days, freezing nights, high wind, and moody showers in multiple parts of the country, so packing for a variety of temperatures was a must. Some might think that having so few clothing options makes things difficult, but I’ve found that is not the [suit]case! Whether I’m touring the US, backpacking Europe, biking in Asia, or camping in South Africa, I can pack for it all. Not having to worry and knowing anything will match when I pull it out of the pack makes every day way less stressful and way more fun!
A few things to ask yourself if you want to try capsule wardrobe packing:
Does this item go with at least 4 other items of clothing? Or better yet, can I fit this item into 4 or 5 other outfits?
Can I wear it more than once, and is it for day or night wear?
Does it wash easily, and is it wrinkle proof?
Is it comfortable and can I spend an entire day in it?
If you answer yes to at least 3 of these (preferably more), that item can go in the suitcase/backpack/carry on, etc!
This is one of my favorite puzzles to solve before I go on a trip. Packing this way requires a little bit of plannin,g but ultimately keeps me less frazzled and more focused on the amazing places I’m seeing!
What about you? What are your best simplified methods for packing?