The Science of Smart Packing

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Packing Made Easy

Smart packing is a science. With skyrocketing plane fares added to the new trend in charging fees for checked luggage, it makes good sense to pack all your travel gear in a carry-on. It not only saves time, but also ensures that you and your luggage arrive in the same city at the same time and, best of all, it gives you peace of mind!


Since I am an inveterate traveler, both for business and pleasure, I have learned through trial and error the art of maximizing a minimized wardrobe. Being an organized packer is key. Once you have that down pat, you can pack your bag and be up and away like a free spirit.

Here’s the formula that works like a charm for me.

Clothes: Count the number of days you will be away from home, divide the total by three to get the number of tops you will need. Then, divide the total days again by four for the number of bottom halves–including pants and skirts. Just for fun, toss in an extra top. I refuse to do laundry while on vacation, so I pack 12 pairs of panties (plus an extra one just in case…) and six bras. That’s it!

The next important element is that your travel wardrobe should be based on two colors. I like black and white as it makes it much easier to accessorize. I usually throw in a third color like a red top and skirt to add a bit of dash and dare, but 90% of the wardrobe is black and white.

Outerwear: choose a water-resistant hooded shell that you can scrunch into your handbag to keep you warm during the flight, as planes can be chilly.

Bags: select one large handbag with a shoulder strap, preferably lightweight and not fragile. Inside the bag place a small leather purse with a wrist strap for all your personal items such as your passport, cash, credit cards, driver’s license, lipstick and mirror. Not only will this help you find your personal items in a flash, but it also can be your back-up purse and serve you well for an elegant dinner or show.

Carry-on suitcase: I personally have a preference for bags, versus suitcases.

Shoes: Wear one pair of comfortable but elegant walking shoes on the plane and pack an extra pair of flats and a pair of heels if you intend to party.

Jewelry: Keep it to a minimum. Take only the pieces you love and wear all the time. Add a couple of fabulous earrings. Et voila!

Toiletries: As you well know, all liquids, gels and creams must be carried in three-ounce containers. Not a problem if you know that three ounces of toner and makeup remover are enough for 12 days of a daily skin care regimen! (So no excuses!) The same amount is needed for multi-purpose contact lens solution. As for moisturizers, eye cream, and serum, you will need about one ounce of each. Place makeup in a separate Ziploc bag.

Stuff shoes with socks and underwear, place each shoe in a plastic bag and pack the shoes in the corners of your carry-on. This way the weight will be balanced and the corners of the bag re-enforced. Place heavier clothes at the bottom of the bag. It is very important to button all tops and fold your clothing perfectly. That way they will be ‘pressed’ by the weight on top of them and, if you have folded everything precisely, they should be wrinkle free when you unpack. Make sure to fill every single little space in your carry-on with small items.

Before you leave, make a photocopy of your passport and keep it in a separate place. In the event you lose this precious document, you can present your copy to the passport agent at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in whatever country you are visiting.

On board the plane, dress comfortably but elegantly. One never knows whom you may meet! Remember my constant refrain about the impact of a first impression? Crew members too, judge passengers by the way they are dressed.

EXTRA: On a recent trip, I discovered a great tip: I placed my shoes inside my husband’s and saved a lot of space!

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Michele Benza
Guest Writer

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