Is there an Alton Brown packing for travel scheme?

elizabeth10029May 17, 2007

Celtic moon's idea to write down what you wore immediately when you get back from a trip is brilliant. (I wrote down everything I ate but I know what I didn't wear is probably more useful.)

Two weeks, two cities, two climates. I thought I was organized with 4 black pants and tops in four different weights with a few bits of color to relieve the boredom. Wrong. I only wore half of what I brought because only two of the "weights" were comfortable and so there were more dirty clothes issues than I intended.

What are other ways of packing? I think my major flaw was that the "weights" were too narrow -- for very hot, medium hot, cool, and cold. I bought some new clothes for the trip but they weren't helpful. What weight / kind of fabric is the most flexible? I need to re-think my whole approach. I always take too much and don't wear half, but I never know which half to leave at home.

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Here's a site I like for packing light...I'm sure there are others out there.

Here is a link that might be useful: What to pack.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 9:19PM
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thanks. Alas I'm never going to find myself backpacking -- only traveling in cities. I never thought to just google packing and see what's out there. Still I am hoping to get those personal tips that never appear in the general advice.

Do I dare admit that I hate doing hand laundry at the end of a long day but that is one way to pack lite. Mainly I just don't have the right things to take and so my question is really what to buy that is "all weather" and looks smart at the opera and wandering around the historical monuments.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 10:35PM
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Claire, thank you for the article, enjoyed it greatly.

In the 1970's I traveled in Europe for 4 months with a small rucksack sized bag. Wore a long black wrap skirt or grey pants, "sensible shoes" and leotards and tights (3 sets). Had a black and white checked jacket and bought one sweater. It was great to travel so light. And no one figured me to be American, so I could move easily alone and was treated pretty well.

Now and again DH and I go on a motorcycle trip of a week or two. His bike has side bags but no tourpack case on back, so we are pretty limited. And the rain gear, safety stuff and leathers are the priority. You do get used to wearing the same clothes. And laundromats are always an interesting break.

Oddly, given those successes, I do have a terrible time packing for a "normal" trip. Take way too much. Because I can. And if it is a single destination, the shlepping the bag(s) there and back isn't so bad. It is the moving around trips that are harder. That is where the light packing is so helpful. Come to think of it, I haven't done much traveling/touring in a long time that wasn't on the bike or a single destination. Huh.

Elizabeth, was it the heavier weights that were unneeded? I would imagine mid weight (like khaki or a weave that is a bit porous would be the best bet (except in extreme hot or cold). Maybe 2 pants would do? And a longer skirt? Layers? Did you take too many different tops - when you could have just worn the same thing repeatedly with a tweak or a rinse? You have me curious what you could have done without.

With a two week trip, I'd figure on one laundry stop - that immediately cuts the problem in half! And some washable items (undies, tank layer, socks) for a quick wash every few days.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 11:05PM
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I take two or three five day trips a year. I keep all my toiletries,toothbrush, hairbrush, Q-tips , make up, etc. in a zip-loc bsg in my bathroom. When I'm packing I just grab and go. With the new airport screening rules, I can even put this in my carryon bag.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 5:32AM
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As far as weight of fabric and which is the most comfortable, I always think knits are the most versatile since they pack extremely well, don't seem to wrinkle as badly and transition easily from casual to dressy with the addition of accessories. It also depends on what you're going to do while you're there. Did you take things you could layer? What were the clothes that were most comfortable to you? Were they mid-weight? I'd like to know so I can file away some information for myself!

I always seem to need a second pair of shoes so I can give my feet a break. Comfortable footwear seems to be the most important part of any trip for me.

I know we don't all backpack, but I find that sometimes (just for me) I pack smarter if I take a smaller bag; it's a personal challenge to take only what I need and I always feel more freedom not schleping so much stuff around.

Elisabeth, what about the things you took were working for you?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 10:54AM
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Do I dare admit that I hate doing hand laundry at the end of a long day

remember that nearly every hotel has a coin-op laundry. I've taken to using them often.

Also, for chillier areas, don't forget UNDERSHIRTS in your layering scheme. They don't take up that much space, but they really add to the warmth factor. So you could slip them under a medium-weight top to become a warm one.

A scarf is nice, too--bcs it adds a double layer around your chest and upper back and back of the neck--I found that I'm *never* cold in the air conditioning (OK, seldom) if I wear a scarf around my neck.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 11:02AM
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I just got back from a successful pack-light trip. I was in Chicago for 4 days with temperature variations from 50 deg F to 90 deg F. My best tool was 2 pairs of "zip-off pants" -- pants that zip off to shorts. These are available at REI, many sporting good stores, and in the LL Bean catalog. I also packed 1 shirt for each day, underwear and socks. The only extra clothing I brought was an extra pair of shoes (I could have done with one pair). I had a light fleece jacket -- with long pants it was sufficient at 50 deg F, and a light rain jacket, which could go on over the fleece for colder temps or instead of the fleece for slightly warmer temps.

My biggest problem when travelling is that I have a hard time not taking too many books. I'm always afraid I'm going to run out of something to read, and I have 3x what I actually go through. I did have too much on this trip, as usual, though I restricted myself to paperbacks. I thought I did well with clothing, so I forgave myself. ;)

Jean Marie

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 11:19AM
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Celtic Moon - I still think about your cost-of-electricity experiments (which I have not been able to duplicate) so here goes to tackle my packing errors in the hope I will get some good critique. (If I can't save $ on electricity, maybe I can on clothes.) Background: not much moving around on this trip. Laundry got done once. Two pair of shoes for foot comfort reasons, neither pair of which could be worn with skirts (hiking boots and sneakers). This old lady shoe thing compelled me to buy new clothes.

Poor purchases: 1) Good quality cotton velvet black pants. Right for one city climate, but too warm for the other city. Wore twice at night. (Wore them out to dinner yesterday in cool NYC weather. Perfect.)

2) St. John knit black pants and zippered sweater-- turned out to be not dressy enough for two functions (wore them anyway) and I felt too "dressed" for day time sight seeing, also too warm in second city. Not worth taking. (I expect to wear them plenty when not travelling.)

Poor choice: Pair of good quality, good condition wool khaki pants Wore once to opera on a coolish night where everyone else seemed to know that summer conditions prevailed inside despite airconditioning. Way underdressed which wouldn't have bothered me except for the sweating.

So what did I wear? 1) Old Travel Smith black tropical weight pants worked for warm weather in second city and wore them a lot. (Lesson here about Travel Smith) 2) Ten year old black cotton velvet pants which I planned to wear only on airplanes. These pants that broke the bank when I bought them still don't sag but noticed this trip that the crotch is just net, which meant I could only wear them with black underwear (had to micromanage that laundry) and hope no one noticed.

Tops -- took way too many -- different weights and colors with scarves (See thread: Way Too Much Stuff.) I wore:

1) New heavy Cotton crinkly/crushed fabric a super success. Right proportion on me; right fabric weight for warm city; not black. Could be squished in my purse. I will wear this jacket forever. (A bank acct. breaker.)

2) A new cheap colorful washable wool top I wore in the colder city for dinner every night for relief from my all-black day wardrobe. Right weight, but wrong proportion -- looks festive across a restaurant table. Probably will hang in my closet on a backwards hanger until I give it up.

3) Under both these new pieces I wore short sleeve black handwashable cottonknit ribbed scoop necked good quality shirts. If I had taken no other shirts I would have been fine but I took a whole slew of other unnecessary stuff.

I also took my own pillow, pillow cases and a light throw, all of which I loved having. I will never be a really "lite" packer. But I need to be smarter about all-climate travel clothes and hear some pep talks about disciplined packing. I pare down and then at the last minute throw three other outfits in. Sometimes it is one of those outfits I wear 50% of the time. There must be a better way to outfit oneself for vacation travel. (I have in my head the vision of a woman --now dead -- who arrived for a weekend wedding with just a briefcase and she looked smashing at every event. I want to learn to do that.)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 12:50PM
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I travel frequently, often on short trips, often on business. On my last two-day jaunt, I had small rolling computer bag -- 16 x 8 x 14 -- that held my laptop, a binder for the meeting I was attending, my cosmetics, pills, a second pair of earrings, a pair of pants, socks, a clean shirt, underwear, and a t-shirt to sleep in. That's it.

I wore a gray suit and pink shirt on day one. Day two saw me in a clean white shirt and black pants with the same jacket and shoes.

I use many of the tips others offered above, but here are a few more:

1. Total mix-and-matchability. All clothes items must go well together. If in doubt, pack solids, not prints.
2. Black clothes can take me from the ballpark to a fancy restaurant.
3. One suit (solid color matching jacket & pants) and a contrasting skirt or pair of pants that can be worn with the jacket makes two outfits. One pair of shoes must go with both -- be sure they are comfortable.
4. Think in layers if the weather is changeable.
5. ALWAYS carry an extra pair of underwear in a carry-on.
6. A short black trench coat has served me well. It kept me from freezing while changing planes (on the tarmac) in a snowstorm in Munich and last January when L.A. was freezing. It was also comfortable on a cool Atlanta spring night.

I never carry more than 5 days of clothes with me (nearly all, if not all, washable) -- even last November when DH went on our honeymoon for 3 weeks. Dirty duds can get washed out in the sink with soap or shampoo and hung over the tub. Plus, as noted above, there are laundromats in many places.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 5:02PM
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After thinking about all this advice for a few days, I think I violated this rule:

"Total mix-and-matchability. All clothes items must go well together."

I had too many total black outfits chosen by fabric weight but the different weights didn't go together as well as they needed to.

Point taken. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 9:47PM
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Texture/weight! Yes, that would be a huge factor in recombining pieces to vary the look. I think that really nails the issue. A lot of black in different weights won't let you recombine pieces easily.

Could the answer be two neutrals? Black and tan, or black and grey, or black and khaki. Top (jacket or tunic) and bottom (pant or skirt) of each color BUT with the weight/weave allowing you to combine the four pieces in any combo. Add some patterned tops, maybe a sweater (red!), maybe jeans, one extra pair of shoes, undies, the perfect scarf and/or jewelry, - I believe you'd be good to go for a week or two, no problem.

And definitely doable with a carry on.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 11:43PM
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"New heavy Cotton crinkly/crushed fabric a super success"

Elizabeth, please tell me more about the above sounds like exactly the sort of thing that I would love to have!!!!
Most sincere thanks for any info!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 12:24PM
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Celticmoon -- I did take black knit sweater and tan wool pants. Nothing else went with tan pants except a tan sweater set. But the weather was too warm for either outfit--even though I wore both anyway. When I float around the home city, I am going to look for things I wish I had had with me. That may be the best way to correct my bad packing.

Jaybird -- As for that big success, I've worn it every day this week. It is Zoran -- good quality fabric, well made, one size fits all. (Came with a perfect pants but I don't need an all same color outfit in my life unless it is black or tan.) I expect it to last for a decade looking like it does today.

Here is a riff on my packing problems that I didn't post earlier because it seemed too much detail without a point, but if there is more to say on this thread mayb it will provoke from more hints.

My aging body no longer responds so quickly to temperature changes. I am taking my jacket off and on all the time and I carry a shawl in my sheppy purse if there is any chance of cool weather. So I do layer. But I declined to take long underwear as recommended by experienced travelers and didn't miss it. I did take an old sweater to wear over a night gown. I don't own any fleece. Maybe I should consider that material. I took a 20 year old black short light water repellant coat -- wore it two or three nights in cooler climate.

The issue for me is being able to coordinate an all-climate layered wardrobe that looks smart and dressy when needed but is very comfortable. I didn't have dressy enough outfits but the things I took were too dressy to wear in the daytime. There has to be a better way.

As for total weight/volume of luggage-- we took guides, novels about the areas, airplane reading. BUT we left a lot of those books in the apts. we rented. So I actually came home with less luggage than I began with as we did NO shopping. (It was eating well or shopping and I chose eating.) Our two medium size bags were under the weight limits and a neighbor who saw us come in after the trip commented how little we took for two weeks. It is all relative. (I confess 1 and 1/2 of those bags were my stuff. DH is much more disciplined -- but since he dislikes seeing me in an all black wardrobe day after day, he doesn't complain about using up more than my share.)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 10:43PM
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