Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Packing smart for a trip is an art: you can improve, lighten your load

Economize, pack light, think layers, develop a color theme

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

You'll want clothes that look stylish but don't weigh a ton.
TELLING SOMEONE what to pack is like telling college kids what they should take for first semester.
They'll wear what they want, thank you very much.
The point is to take clothes that make you comfortable,  that allow you to have fun, relax and feel properly turned out -- whether for fancy occasion or casual time.
THERE ARE many styles, many methods of packing. Invent your own, remembering that it's important to be able to carry your stuff. You can't always get help at the train station, the car rental, or maneuvering out of the airport.
Misha Minesinger looks "picture perfect" on the West Fork
of the Stillwater River, fishing for trout in "smart casual."
MY SVELTE Atlanta sister Misha travels large. She dresses up to go fishing, and she always looks like a million bucks.  She checks a big bag and hoists a large carry-on.  She's also an inveterate shopper, and has been known to buy an extra empty bag to schlep stuff home. She likes her clothes and accoutrements. Once on a trip to Europe right after my husband Bruce, died, I packed so badly it was comical.  No worries. Misha had wardrobes for both of us -- including a beach day and a formal night at the Lido!
ON THE OTHER end, my exercise pal Laurie travels light. She and her husband, John, put what they need in a pair of backpacks and have adequate clothes for a week in San Francisco or a couple weeks abroad. By Laurie's own admission, she doesn't pack baubles and silks. And she'd have to borrow opera togs.
Nora is sleeping inside the carrier, but Nick is having a look around.
I'M SOMEWHERE between these two opposite examples.  I like my clothes, but I limit myself to one large check-through Pullman, and a loosely packed carry-on. When I travel with the Yorkies, Nick and Nora are my carry-on, so I've learned to economize on "stuff." For a cruise, I pack a nice formal top but I no longer haul long formal gowns and sequined shoes, and Keller doesn't take tuxedo gear anymore.  (Those formal guy tux shoes and glittery girl heels are space hogs, and the black-tie gear gets worn only two or three times on a trip.)
MOST CRUISE lines and even the opera houses in Prague, Milan and Vienna no longer insist on black tie.  Ladies can blend in shipboard or at the Bolshoi with a nice little classic black dress or skirt and top with fake jewelry. My grandmother called that her "drinking and praying" outfit. For the guys, a dark blazer or sport coat and one dress shirt and tie will work for "fancy." You're set. No one cares about your shoes. True story.
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* BASIC THEME. Deciding on your attire really depends on what you do when you're there. Develop a theme before you go.  Do you consider yourself  "outdoorsy, active, casual" or "formal, fancy, elaborate" -- or like me, somewhere in between.  This little self-imposed categorization will help you craft a wardrobe that won't waste precious suitcase space.
If you're hiking in Scotland, Spain or Switzerland, or sunning in the Caribbean or Greek Isles, you'll need little more than casual -- cottons, denims, wash-and-wear. Throw in a pretty top and shawl for dinners out. The "layer up" edict is time honored. Start a cruise or tour morning with slacks, shirt, sweater and light jacket tossed over your arm. Strip away the lawyers as the sun warms the Earth.
* GET A color scheme going, too -- blues and greens, beiges and fall colors, etc.  Mix and match your clothing within loose color guidelines -- including scarves, jewelry, hats, sweaters and other accents. You'll save on space and economize on volume.
Keller is dressed for sailing, ready to lend a hand on deck. 
* I INCLUDE a pair of jeans, a turtleneck, two capri slacks, two or three lightweight tops or blouses, a dress jacket and nice skirt as part of my "uniform."  Keller packs five or six shirts and tops for a long trip: two short sleeve, two long, a Polo and sweat shirt.   Don't forget a rain coat and hat. Add a light sweater or wrap -- crucial on ships, trains and in theaters.  And we both like pockets.
* SHOES, FOOTWEAR. As mentioned, these are space hogs, so I've pared myself down to three pair.  A sturdy pair of comfy walking shoes is essential for city tours, hikes, shore excursions or a sail or boat trip.  Add a basic black pair for "fancy" or "resort casual" for dinners or brunches, theater outings, receptions. A pair of sandals, comfy loafers or slippers suffice for lounging, going to the beach, hanging out. Guys can sometimes get by with two pair -- casual for day and dressier for evening.
Next Wednesday's travel tips continue with shopping hints.
* UNDERWEAR, ETC. Take just enough underwear and socks for a week and plan to find a laundry once. If you're staying with friends or family, keeping clean clothes is easy. Ships have self-wash laundries and hotels and cruises offer laundry send-out. If you can afford it, let them to do the work.
On a month-long Asia tour years ago with 11 other delegates from International Women for Understanding, an attorney friend taught me to wash out blouses and undies and squeeze them inside a towel before hanging them up. They'll be dry by morning.

COMING UP: What else to pack?  Copy special documents,  get rid of the non-essentials, remember vitamins and plan to buy one unique gift for yourself -- so leave room for that!  Then dining well without doubling your dress size.  Remember to explore, learn, live, and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at: www.whereiscookie.com

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