Packing Light: 5 Tips

Sarah Miller, Lucky magazine

I don't understand why people bring so much crap with them when they travel. What is the point of travel if not to loosen the ties to home? Even if you're traveling for business, or another equally annoying reason, you can lessen your resentment by lightening your load. I can fit everything I need for a month-long trip-this includes a laptop, footwear, and a winter coat-into a carry-on. Is it because I'm amazing? That…and because I follow these five simple rules.

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1. Don't feel fat before you leave, and if you do, do not plan on getting thinner before you arrive. You do not have room for two sets of clothes-say, "fat pants" and "goal pants." The addition of Lycra to cotton is a wonderful development in fashion, but it will not save you. As remarkable a skillset as Lycra has, "makes your muffin top disappear" is not on it. Accept the weight you are and pack for that weight. Bring no item that makes you think hopefully about how Jackie Kennedy would weigh herself everyday, and, if she was above a certain number, allow herself only consommé for a few days until she returned to "normal." Remember, Jackie was dealing in ounces, not pounds. Also, you can't get thin by not eating on a flight, even if you are going to Australia.

2. You already know not be afraid of wearing the same thing two days in a row. Consider extending this lack of fear to three days, or even four. When people cancel plans on her claiming "I have to pack," my friend Deirdre says, "Go upstairs. Put what you're wearing in a suitcase. Then put in what you wore yesterday. Now put on what you were going to wear tomorrow. Go out, like you were supposed to before you came up with this stupid packing excuse. Sleep, get up, put that same outfit on. Add anything you wear for exercising and a toothbrush, zip the thing, and leave."

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3. Wear one pair of shoes and stuff the other ones with your socks and underwear. I run (see #1) so one of my pairs has to be sneakers. If you don't need sneakers you can bring two pairs of shoes, which, as far as I'm concerned is one more pair than you need. How do you only bring one pair of shoes? By wearing the same pair of shoes you already wear every day anyway. I wear Frye boots everywhere. That might not work for you. You need another solution. Hint: the solution is not bringing more shoes.

4. Toiletries take up a lot of room when you allow them to and very little when you have to fit them in a baggie, which, if the security people are in a mood, they will insist you do not exceed. Think about what you can't live without. Here is my list: Davines Conditioner, Cetaphil Moisturing Cream (I use this as a day cream and a body cream when I travel. Yes, I have more stuff at home. But it's fine for a few days.) I put these in small plastic jars. Floracopeia Nectar of Immortelle, which comes in a nice, tiny bottle. Garnier B&B cream, the light and dark shades mixed, again, in a small jar, a toothbrush, a small thing of toothpaste, a Neutrogena lip balm in Posey that doubles as a blush (I got this tip from Hayden Panetierre's makeup person Amy Oresman, who is very nice and keeps it simple) and Covergirl Eyelights mascara for blue eyes. You don't need to travel with soap or shampoo. They grow everywhere like weeds. You don't need all your makeup. Unless you are actually a man, it doesn't really make you look all that different anyway.

5. Remember your basic goal. Your goal is to look good. Your goal is not to wow people with a different outfit every day. I travel with two pairs of pants, one dress, one skirt, four tank tops, a long-sleeve T-shirt, three sweaters, one pair of black tights, five pairs each of socks and underwear, two bras (one cute, one hard-working) and running clothes. You can do it too. You already know the three things you always wear that look best on you so just bring them and forget about the silly fear that you need anything else. If you really want everyone to think you look great be in a good mood, and, if this is not an option, pretend. And wear mascara.

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Now I will answer some questions from the audience:

I'm staying with people. What about gifts?
Children don't need gifts and adults don't want them.

What if it rains?
If you are anticipating rain in addition to cold, replace one sweater with a raincoat.

What if someone says to me, "Oh my God you like, wear the same thing every day?"
You have somehow ended up in a middle school. Find the exit.

Sarah Miller writes for Lucky and Grist.org and is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She is from Massachusetts and lives in California. Her most recent favorite item? Degree Sexy Intrigue Body Mist Fragrance. Follow her on Twitter: @sarahlovescali.


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