The Awkward Girl’s Guide to Packing a Suitcase
Packing a suitcase is a very under-rated life skill, isn’t it?
To know how to pack a suitcase, for instance, you have to have a mind analytical enough to be able to look at your wardrobe – like, ALL of it – and instinctively know which of those hundreds of items you’re going to need for your trip. You have to take into account where you’re going and what you’ll be doing (obviously), but you also have to be able to predict what the weather will be like when you get there, and which things you MIGHT end up doing that you haven’t actually planned.
It’s a nightmare, in other words. Which is why I basically tend to ignore all of the articles on how to pack a suitcase, and just take ALL THE THINGS. For instance, here’s the received wisdom on how to pack a suitcase, and why I ignore it…
HOW TO PACK A SUITCASE – ADVICE I SHOULD TAKE MYSELF, TBH
SELECT A COLOUR SCHEME TO FORM THE BASIS OF YOUR OUTFITS
Sound advice, which allows you to basically create a capsule wardrobe full of mix-and-match pieces, which you’ll be able to use to create countless different outfits, and never get bored. If I were to take this advice, I’d probably go with a red, white and blue palette (as I did in my post on packing for a beach holiday): classic, nautical-inspired colours, which all work effortlessly with each other, and which I own plenty of. Easy, right?
BUT. If I take red, white and blue clothing – and ONLY red, white and blue clothing – that totally fails to take account of my obsession with mint green, doesn’t it? Green doesn’t really go with red (or not unless you actually ARE one of Santa’s little helpers, anyway…), so that’s at least ONE item that won’t go with EVERYTHING in my suitcase, and then what about that yellow dress I always like to wear on holiday? The pink skirt? And, you know, I haven’t worn those purple shoes in a while, and they’d look AMAZING with that new black skirt I bought, so now I’ve got it down to red, white and blue… and also pink, yellow, green, purple and black. Awesome.
PLAN YOUR OUTFITS IN ADVANCE
All of the advice I’ve read on how to pack a suitcase advises taking a day-by-day approach and, once you have your colour scheme sorted, putting together an outfit for each day you’ll be away. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a totally different outfit for each day (you’re all about the mixing-and-matching, remember?) but if you make sure you have enough items to create an outfit you’re happy with for each day of your trip, you’re sorted, yes?
BUT. What if I want to wear more than one outfit per day? Like, what if I go sightseeing in the afternoon, then out to dinner in the evening? I’ll obviously want to get changed out of my sweaty-tourist clothes before dinner, so that’s TWO outfits I’ll need for that day. And what if I spend the morning at the beach, before going sightseeing? I wouldn’t want to go sightseeing in the old shorts I pulled on over my swimsuit, so now I need THREE outfits for that day – and I guess I should probably make sure I have three outfits for EVERY day, just in case. For my three-week trip, then, I’m going to need a total of, let me see… 63 outfits. And that’s not even including the next part of the ‘how to pack a suitcase’ law…
ADD SOME EMERGENCY ITEMS
You might be travelling somewhere hot, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever rain, or that the evenings won’t be chilly. Also, air con in stores and restaurants is often set to OMGFREEZING, so the received wisdom is that you should include some warmer items, too, just in case.
BUT. What if you get a whole WEEK of cold weather? Or two weeks? That HAS happened to me, and I ended up spending a small fortune in the local ZARA when I realised my shorts and tank tops just weren’t going to cut it. So now I take more than a couple of emergency items: in fact, I should really take a whole week’s worth, shouldn’t I? I mean, let’s go back to step two, and assume that all of those 63 outfits I planned so carefully are all-of-a-sudden totally impractical due to unseasonably cold weather. (IT CAN HAPPEN, PEOPLE!) I should therefore make sure I have alternatives to all of them, shouldn’t I? So now we’re up to 126 outfits, and I need an extra suitcase. Also a private jet, and someone to carry my luggage, thanks…
IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING THROUGH YOUR DAY AS YOU PACK YOUR SUITCASE
When I pack my suitcase, I like to image myself going through my day, so I can make sure I don’t forget something. So I imagine waking up, first of all: I’ll immediately want to clean my teeth and wash my face, so I pack the items I’ll need for that, then proceed through the day, packing everything I’ll need for my morning shower, the clothes I’ll wear (imagining getting dressed for the day ensures I don’t pack everything except underwear, for instance…), and so on and so forth, right up until I go to bed at night, which reminds me to pack nightwear, eye makeup remover, etc. This is a pretty fail-safe way to make sure you don’t forget to pack anything essential… (See also: why I pack my travel makeup bag DAYS before I travel...)
BUT. What if life throws me a curve ball, and instead of going to the beach, or whatever else I have on my list of things to do on vacation, someone says to me, “hey, I know, let’s go rock climbing!” I won’t have packed anything suitable for rock climbing, obviously, so I should probably pack climbing boots, yes? And also BUY climbing boots, because seriously, AS IF I’d own something like that. And what if there’s a riding stable nearby and I have the opportunity to go riding? I should take my riding boots, shouldn’t I? And also my hard hat, because I know they’ll have them there, but I like to have my own, because I know it hasn’t been in any accidents. Hey, I wonder if my jodhpurs still fit me? I should buy jodhpurs, shouldn’t I? Hello?
So, now you know why I don’t travel light. At all. In fact, I just read an article on how to pack a suitcase which suggested packing your case, then removing half of the items, because you probably won’t need them. I, on the other hand, normally pack my suitcase then add around 50% more items “just in case”. (And I DO actually wear them, SO THERE.) Here are some packing tips I DO actually use, though..
HOW TO PACK A SUITCASE: AMBER’S AWESOME PACKING TIPS*
(*Packing tips may not actually be “awesome”.)
ROLL CLOTHES RATHER THAN FOLDING THEM
This not only takes up less space inside your suitcase, it also means the clothes don’t get as creased: win!
USE PACKING CUBES
Because they will change your life, not even joking. You’ll find an entire post about the wonder that is packing cubes here, but, in short, I have these ones, which aren’t exactly the best quality in the world, but which do help keep everything in my suitcase nice and organised.
DOUBLE-BAG ALL LIQUIDS
Because I once arrived in Athens to discover my fake tan had leaked inside my suitcase. The fact that nothing got permanently ruined is still one of the biggest miracles I’ve ever witnessed…
AND TAPE DOWN THE LIDS OF ANYTHING THAT MIGHT LEAK
I actually try to take as few liquids as I can, and just buy them when I arrive, but there are some products which I can only buy in the UK, so I just tape them closed, then put them inside a plastic bag, which goes inside ANOTHER one for luck. (Oh, and while I’m away, the plastic bags get used as makeshift laundry bags, so they come in handy, too.)
PACK SMALL ITEMS INSIDE SHOES
This creates extra space, and also protects more delicate items from getting crushed. Shoes themselves, meanwhile, go inside shoe bags, so the heels don’t snag on other items, and the leather doesn’t get damaged.
STORE LINGERIE AND SOCKS INSIDE BAGS
I usually take a small cross-body bag on holiday, so I don’t have to lug my carry-on bag around with me everywhere, and I’ll pack smaller items like socks etc inside it, to save space and help the bag itself keep its shape.
Hats are really awkward to pack, and have a habit of getting crushed out of shape in your suitcase. I’ve occasionally just carried them onto the plane to keep them intact, but if you can’t be bothered doing that, you can just stuff the crown with softer items, then put them at the bottom of the case, surrounded by clothes. One article I read on how to pack a suitcase suggested putting the hat upside down, but I prefer to leave mine right-way up, so the brim lies flat against the suitcase and doesn’t get bent out of shape.
And that’s how to pack a suitcase, Amber-style: by ignoring the first set of tips, following the second, and basically cramming as many items of clothing in as you possibly can. How do YOU do it? Give me your packing tips, people – it’s too late for me now, but hey, there’s always a next time! Or I hope so, anyway…
P.S. I haven’t actually packed 126 outfits and a pair of riding boots. It’s more like 105, and I’ll just buy the boots there if I need them…
Related: How to get used to wearing heels