little paths so startled

living, decorating, and eating in hattiesburg, mississippi

pro packing*

with 6 comments


I’ve been traveling quite a bit these past couple of months, and I have two more trips (this week and next) before my schedule settles down.  That means I’ve been doing quite a bit of packing, and as someone who actually enjoys packing (!), I thought I’d share my strategies for packing efficiently.

First of all, this: I always carry on: whether it’s a two-week business trip, a week and a half in Europe, or a weekend island get-away.  (Yes, I packed a carry-on for a two-week business trip, and I never repeated an outfit.  True story.)  I haven’t checked a bag in six years; the last time was when an airline lost my bag on a weekend trip to Chicago.  I realize my fear of lost luggage is a bit disproportionate to the reality, and I certainly don’t judge people who check bags.  It’s just that carrying on – no matter what – has become something of a game for me, a challenge I enjoy.

The Gear:

Good luggage is worth the investment.  I invested in two pieces by Longchamps: an expandable duffel (pictured above) and a tote (pictured below, last photo).  I do own a roller-style carry-on, and I did use it for the two-week business trip, but here’s my rationale for the duffel: because I live in Mississippi, I fly on lots of tiny commuter planes to get to larger hubs.  No matter how tiny the plane (and I mean you, little prop plane that seats, like, 10 people!), that duffel fits in the overhead bin.  I never get pink-tagged.  It’s part of my game.  The expandable portion is my safety net: if, during my trip, I happen to acquire more than will fit in the standard size, I can un-zip and check a substantially larger version.  The tote is delightfully roomy, and it has a zipper top – so I don’t have to worry about spilling my stuff across the floor of the airplane when I tuck the bag under the seat.  In fact, that tote is also my work bag, so it gets A LOT of use.  The canvas fabric is tough and washable.  (If I had it to do over again, though, I’d get black; as much as I love my color, it does show marks.)

The Theory:

My theory of packing has four main components:

  1. I am a firm believer in the wrinkle-preventing powers of tissue paper.
  2. I roll my clothes, rather than fold them.  I have found that rolling clothes is both space saving and wrinkle preventing – thus completely worth the extra effort.
  3. I choose outfits that mix and match basics, and, especially on longer trips, I work within a complementary color palette.   My closet organization app, Stylebook (also seen here), is immensely helpful in the planning process.
  4. I save space by packing fewer shoes than I’d like.  I love all my shoes, but only the most versatile ones make the packing cut: I make sure there no duplicates (i.e., one pair of dressy heels, one pair of flats, one pair of sandals).

This means packing takes time to plan and time to execute, but I’m always glad I did it.  These photos, including the first one, are from my most recent trip to a conference.


As the collage above suggests, efficient packing means a place for everything and everything in its place.  I like to layer shoes (in shoe bags, of course) on the bottom to create a flexible structure for my otherwise-soft bag.  Because heels especially create little gaps, I stuff them with workout clothes or other items that aren’t a wrinkle concern.  Then I layer on clothing items, lining the sides with thicker (and less wrinkle-prone) items like a pencil skirt in heavy cotton.  Super-wrinkle-prone items, like a silk-ish blouse, go in the middle.


I am meticulous in my rolling, especially with wrinkle-prone items.  (Tissue paper to the rescue!)  Hasty rolling means wrinkled clothes.  Trust me.


This is the blazer trick – part of the mix-and-match component of my theory.  I pack just one blazer (even for that two-week business trip, which, fortunately, was mostly business casual), and I usually wear it on the plane, at least on the flight there.  It has to be versatile enough to go with several outfits and dress up or down.  This lightweight, drapey one from Anthropologie (a hand-me-down from my sister!) fits the bill.


The Personal Item:

Because my carry-on is working hard, my “personal item” has to work hard, too, as the photo above illustrates.  (Not pictured: the 15″ hunk of aluminum [my MacBook Pro] that also ended up in the tote.)  I have two criteria for this bag: 1) stuff I need quick access to on the plane and in the airport and 2) stuff I have to get out for the security checkpoint.  My essential are as follows (clockwise from top right):

  1. The quart-sized bag for liquids (which also doubles as my toiletry bag).  Spring for a sturdier, reusable version.  It’s worth the few dollars.  (N.b., I keep my makeup in a separate bag that usually gets carefully stowed in the middle of my carry-on, but sometimes that bag also ends up in the tote.)
  2. Snacks and gum.  ‘Nuff said.
  3. A bag with all my jewelry – even the watch that’s a permanent fixture on my wrist.  It’s not worth shedding layers of bling in the security line; just wait until you’re through the checkpoint to put on the essentials.
  4. An über-paired-down wallet/wristlet.  Again, just the essentials – and in a handy container that also holds my iPhone and doubles as a clutch.
  5. A pouch that functions as an organizer in my otherwise pocket-less tote and doubles as a clutch.
  6. Sunglasses and a sleep mask – in their own clever pouch, of course.
  7. Another pouch for the miserable tangle neatly stowed charger cords, dongles, and earbuds.  (That pouch goes to work with me every day, in fact.)
  8. The emergency kit: the meds this asthma and allergy sufferer can’t travel without, as well as a tiny Tide-to-Go pen and a tiny lint roller for wardrobe exigencies.
  9. Cozy things: a pashmina and socks.  Because you never know when it will be freezing on the plane.
  10. iPad.  I love this case for several reasons, not least of which is the set of interior pockets that are perfect for stowing boarding passes and other travel documents.  And I usually have a fun book loaded in my iBooks library because, you know, it feels luxurious to read for fun on a plane.  I’d love to be one of those people you see pounding out spreadsheets, blazing through files, poring over dense theory, and looking generally important every moment they’re allowed to have their laptops out.  But I’m not.
  11. A print version of something fun to read.  (See above.)  As much as I love having my books and magazines (including InStyle magazine, in fact) in digital form on my iPad, print magazines don’t have to be stowed from the close of the boarding door until 10,000 feet.  That, in my opinion, is a crucial time during which I need to be occupied (distracted).
  12. (Not pictured) My laptop: only when I have to.  It feels a little ridiculous carrying my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro – but sometimes it just has to be done.  Usually, though, the iPad will suffice.

So there you have it.  What are your packing tricks and essentials?

*I mean the title in both possible senses: I am definitely pro-packing, but I also aspire to packing like a pro.


Written by Ann

March 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm

6 Responses

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  1. I stand in amazement. Very impressive. I need to clean my closet this spring – that’s the plan anyway. I’ve got stuff that hasn’t been touched in years. I’ll be channeling you.


    March 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

  2. Ohhh, we do a lot of things alike. I use a travel pack, so end up bundle wrapping my clothing. I must admit that you are far more daring than I on clothing, and I am very envious! The pumps are amazing.

    I can make one comment on your electrical cords though. Did you know that anything made after 2007 has a current limiting device in it? That means that you can charge your iPhone using your iPad charger (but not the other way around, as iPad needs 2.1A). I would suggest using this dual voltage plug to charge everything:
    One less plug. And it is dual voltage, so the only thing you need for overseas is a plug adapter. In the US I usually bring an automobile power port too, also dual USB.


    March 27, 2013 at 1:10 am

  3. This is inspiring!


    March 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

  4. This prevents everything from broken wheels to torn handles.

    Most owners of any luggage set actually use them infrequently.
    Don’t let your holiday travel plans be stopped as a result of your fear
    of suffering from movement sickness.


    September 19, 2014 at 7:48 pm

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