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Friday, June 14, 2013

The Zen Traveler...

"I travel light. But not at the same speed." ~ Jarod Kintz
Yaaaay! It's vacation time!! Time to squeeze far too much in to an impossibly small bag(s), right? Wrong. 

I'm by no means what can be called a 'seasoned' traveler, but I've traveled enough to have learned the hard way how to pack for my needs. I always seem to wind up at the hotel that requires a long walk up a steep, windy road after a 10 hour flight, so I learned quickly to pare it down. Plus I'm way too cheap to pay for extra luggage on a flight. So I have learned The Magic Combination to packing for travel. It takes a little planning, but done right, you'll look impeccable your whole trip, and you'll still have an enviably small and neatly packed bag. 

First comes the simplest part. Pick a color to use as a 'base.' My guess is most of us will pick black- this 'base' color needs to go with everything else you'll pack, be good for casual and dressy, and not show dirt.  Pick whatever color works for you, but I can't think of a better color than black for our purposes here. On to part two.

Now it starts to get tricky; you need to pick basic pieces in fabrics that can be dressed up and dressed down, and in styles that are almost 'nondescript' enough to also be dressed up and down. As an example, a very plain pair of black pants, no embellishments, in the best quality, sturdy stretch knit fabric you can get your hands on.  In black, they go with everything- if they're very plain then you can wear them on your flight with sneakers and a comfy top, wash them out, and wear them out the next night, all dressed up. Add to this a very plain, good quality stretch knit skirt. It can work during the day with simple sandals and a casual top, and then go out at night with strappy stilettos, dressy top and sparkly jewelry. As with the pants, make sure you can wash it out in the sink and hang to dry- if it's synthetic it'll most likely dry in a very short time. To some, jeans seem like the go-to for casual dressing on a trip- but jeans aren't as versatile as our basic, black stretch knit options, and folded up they're a lot more likely to take up more space in a suitcase- and they're a lot heavier. If you go to wash your jeans out and hang them to dry they can take days to dry- I know, I've done it.  Ok, now add a plain, black jacket in a not too casual or too dressy fabric- better if this is free of embellishments as well- and fitted enough to be worn a little bit dressy. During the day, with the black knit pants and sandals or sneakers it's casual. Change to the skirt, add some nice pumps, and you're off to a business meeting. Change over to those strappy stilettos, skirt or pants, add a pin to the jacket, sparkly earrings and you're ready to go out at night. If you'll be going out at night a lot you might add a long skirt- like the other two pieces, good quality, very plain, thin black knit. Depending on the situation and other variables you may almost be able to pull this into a true 'evening' look. 

Take those three or four above pieces and add some personality with tops. Keep most of the tops in a thin fabric, and you'll still only take up a tiny amount of space in your bag. If they're synthetic you'll be able to wash them out in the sink, hang to dry and wear again in no time. Keep in mind that the plainer the tops the more you'll be able to dress up/down or change the personality of the outfit. 

What if you're traveling in the winter? If it's cold, see if you can get away with layering- often times 2 thin layers will work as well as a sweater. If that's not enough, pack a sweater or two- again, in as thin a fabric as possible, and preferably in styles and colors (again, black?) that are simple enough to be  versatile.  Also consider silk long underwear- they're very light, very thin, and may add that perfect layer of warmth.  If you just need more than this, add a dress or two- make sure these are also able to be dressed up or down- and the requisite thin, synthetic fabric if you want to make life easier for yourself.

And here's the part that makes all this stingy, minimalist packing work: the accessories. You can take any outfit in any direction with accessories. Shoes, jewelry, scarves, and even a few small bags- thin, or very flat. Start with your shoes- obviously, you'll still want to be a bit stingy here. If you get really good at this you'll be able to pare down the shoes to 4 pairs or so, wearing 1 of them (comfortable, walking shoes) on the flight. If you bring heels you might want to make them real 'personality' pieces. Or not. Depends on you and your plans. Bags can be bright, sparkly, colorful, chic- whatever makes you happy and makes a statement- just so long as they're light, thin and/or flat so they won't take up much space.The place to really cut loose is with your jewelry. It's small, and light, and can be the bulk of the personality of an outfit. (Well, that and makeup, right?) It doesn't need to be the good stuff- costume jewelry can be an excellent option here. Just keep in mind that the jewelry you take along needs to really have that personality because the clothes are so minimal. 

My experience was that, with a bit more or less accessories, when packing this way you can pack pretty much the same amount for a 5 day trip as for a month long trip. Of course, during a month long trip you might well get sick of your mini-wardrobe, but when it comes time to pack and haul your gear around you'll be glad. And if you have multiple destinations within that month you'll be really, really glad. 

Happy travels, and 
Happy Dressing!