Ana Veciana-Suarez

Striving to become a better packer requires practice, more travel

The inside of a packed suitcase speaks volumes about a traveler.
The inside of a packed suitcase speaks volumes about a traveler. Dreamstime.com

“You know they have stores there?” The Hubby said, as he watched me pack for a recent trip. “We’re not going to some remote wilderness.”

“But what if it rains?” I countered. “What if we have a couple of fancy dinners?”

“Stores, remember?”

“And what if I’m cold? I need a nice sweater and my jean jacket.”

As it turns out, I returned from the six-day trip with two tops I never used and a pair of slacks I could have done without. The sweater never left the suitcase, either. Blame my profligacy on the fact that we decided to check in a bag, an unusual (and pricey) move that afforded us a lot more space than our usual carry-ons.

Packing — the skill of fitting your clothes and toiletries into a suitcase — is a fine art. Though I travel regularly, both on short jaunts across the state and days-long vacations across the country, I have yet to master it. But that’s not my only shortcoming.

I also succumb to self-deception. For instance, I always, always pack gym clothes, hoping to squeeze in a half hour in between sightseeing and eating. (Actually, it’s usually more eating than sightseeing.) Knowing I’ve brought them along makes me feel in control, a woman who knows how to balance indulgence with the recommended 150 minutes a week of cardio. But the truth is my exercise attire hardly ever gets used when I’m on the road — yet more proof that good intentions don’t always translate into worthy action.

When it comes to packing, I envy men. Or, at least, I envy The Hubby. I’ve never seen him stress over shoes, suffer through frustrating mix-and-match sessions, or worry about the availability of a blow-dryer. I’ve also watched him load his bag in 10 minutes, including expertly rolling dress shirts and pants into militaristic formation.

After our last trip to visit a son in Atlanta, I’ve given some thought to the many ways we prepare for journeys. It occurs to me that there are different kinds of packers, and their methods say a lot about their personalities. In other words, the inside of a packed suitcase speaks volumes.

The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink packers can’t help themselves. They want to be prepared for every eventuality. What if it snows? What if my allergies flare up? What if I’m invited to the queen’s ball? Their suitcases become movable closets.

Minimalists, on the other hand, can survive for weeks on one pair of shoes, two bottoms and three tops. Makeup is optional, and they like hotel rooms where they can string up their sink-washed, wrinkle-free items. They’re space-maximizers with a penchant for versatile clothing and a butcher’s feel for cutting the fat. They don’t mind going au natural.

Many of my friends are what I call fashionista packers. They select their outfits and never fail to include matching accessories. I admire their organization and foresight, as the romance of travel seems to inhibit the miniscule sense of style I can claim.

One woman I know plans her packing with all the finesse of a private equity CEO strategizing a company takeover — in color-coded patterns, no less. Days before she leaves, she sets up a staging area to lay out what she will wear each day. On her last trip to the Caribbean, she even managed a straw hat to protect her from sun damage.

I’m definitely not a fashionista packer, and suspect that I swing between the minimalist and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sinker, depending on the size of the suitcase and how much supervision I get from the gimlet-eyed husband. I’m not worried about this, though. The great thing about striving to become a better packer is that it requires practice. And you get that only by traveling more.

Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at avecianasuarez@gmail.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.

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