11 August 2014

Style Dilemma: 10 Steps to Packing for Vacation

Those of you following on twitter, Instagram, and facebook know we're about to head East to Europe. It's been 14 years since I've been to the part of the world I consider a second home, and it'll be the first time for the Beans.

The last time I was in a German-speaking country, this is a shot from German-speaking Italy, up in Tirol.

Needless to say, we're all a little excited.

This will be our view for 3 days of the trip, my host parents' place in the Alps.

We're in the final throes of preparation. We all have our passports, and we have friends picking up our mail. We test-packed a month ago to see what luggage it really made sense to take. You see, if it were just H and me traveling, we'd pack the morning of our trip. With two Beans in tow, though, it's a different story.

This past weekend, then, we started packing for realz.

Let me set this straight: I am NOT a pre-packer. My MIL will start packing for a trip a month in advance. I pack that day. I cannot, usually, get over the idea that I have certain things out of commission while I pack, and there's always one thing I have to use up until the Very Last Minute that prevents me from closing the suitcase.

This time, though, I want to be done, no worries, no rushing, just hop in the car with at least 5 separate devices (2 cell phones, a Nook, a laptop/tablet, and the Beans' 2 cameras - maybe 3, if I take the plunge), and get to the airport with more than enough time to let the Beans get excited about the airport and the things we adults think are boring.

I'm also a little panicked about the packing. For, despite my friends' Allie (Wardrobe Oxygen) and Rosana's (DC Style Factory) advice, and Chelsea's faith (The Chelsea Chronicles) that I've got it altogether in the packing department, I'm worried.

Will I take enough?
Will I take too much?
Will I take the right weight clothing?
Will I take the "right" clothing?

That one? That last one? That's my panic. As a 17 year old heading not only away from home but overseas for the first time ever, I had no worries and no real inkling that there was a thing called "looking like an American." By the time I finished my year in Austria, my German was fluid enough that I was mistaken for native. Fast forward through a college year in Germany, then trips back and trips to Romania and Greece with H, well, I'm hyper aware, now, of That Phenomenon.

And I don't want to be Those Americans.

Despite accepting the fact that we are, after living years in Europe, decidedly in the Tourist Camp this time around, I just can't bear the idea. Of course, we ARE Americans, and we're proudly so, but you know the stereotype traveler.

So in addition to guiding the Beans in their packing, I'm selecting my wardrobe carefully. We want to step it up a notch from what we might schlump around in here on a weekend. For the Bean, she happily paired her skirts with blouses and ditched her favorite shorts for a tennis dress. For No.2, who will happily wear a suit to church, he won't even don a polo shirt on a regular day. We picked their things out last night, and we'll see how that goes.

As for me, my packing goals are two-fold:

1) Efficiency - everything in there has to be multi-purpose, and dress up or down
2) Anti-American - 'nuff said. I tried on a few pieces last night and that was the H-test: "Do I look like an American?" He chortled, and humored me.

So here's how I'm doing it, step by step:

1) Know your trip - We're going somewhere slightly more formal, even in casual wear. Where are you going? Is there any variation?

2) Color-Coordination - I picked one color story, to borrow Rosana's term, then pulled easy pieces out. For me, it's grey/black/navy/white. It all goes with everything.

3) Easy, but fitted fabrics - the easiest way to look schlumpy in any language is to be a slouchy mess. You know me, I'm a sucker for a good deliberate slouch, but I made sure to pick pieces that fit well AND are comfortable. Predictably (and is does this mean I'm old?), there's a fair amount of jersey and pique in the mix, with a few light synthetics.

4) Cross-training - I laid it all out on my bed, and tested each top with each bottom, making sure I had at least double-use out of each piece (I did the same with the Bean, to teach her).

What I thought I was bringing - 5 weeks ago. It hasn't changed much, but I have thought through it more.

5) The Pre-Pack - my new tool. With my first run laid out, we put it all in the suitcase to see if it would fit. With that information, we know not only which luggage works, but whether or not we have any wiggle room. (I'm a roller, by the way. H hates it, but I swear by it.)

6) Time - I checked IG. I posted the pick of our "pre-pack" 5 weeks ago. Since then, I've thought and considered, wondered whether I had the right things, and even bought an item or two to round things out. I should be writing it all down, as I'm a habitual list-maker, but maybe the pre-pack took its place this time (only so many grown-up, organized things a girl can do at once).

The Bean's pre-pack. Note the print-on-print-on-print pattern mixing and her own color story. When we swapped out a few things last night, we tested each of them with the others to make sure they work. There was nothing to which she said "No." Brave fashion girl.

7) Pull - Make like your own stylist and pull the items you intend on packing. Last night, we all pulled the actual clothing we're packing. I still have a consideration or two (whether to buy a pair of shorts in case we hike up an Alp).

8) The Plane - Pull the pieces you're carrying with you - we're only taking one change of clothes on the plane in case of the luggage disaster, but for the little one, we need to take more. Those, along with our outfits for the plane (all considered in the packing selections), are all set aside.

9) Don't touch the pile - The Beans and H are under strict orders not to touch the things we're packing. That goes for me, too.

10) Pack - It won't be tonight (I still have to stop at Target for those shorts I think I'm packing, and there's a load of laundry today), but by two nights prior to our trip, the suitcase will be zipped.

And the most important...

If we get there and don't have the right stuff? No worries. Go to the store and fix it. While we don't want to buy loads, we aren't going somewhere obscure. If we forgot something, we can pick it up or do without.

I promise a pic or two of my actual selections and their logic, but for now,

How Do You Pack? How do you decide what to bring? When do you zip up the bag?


Alison said...

Great post, I can't wait to hear the recap! I always think of a trip K and I took to Paris and Norway, I didn't pack perfectly, but it taught me I didn't need as much as I thought, and it made me a forever fan of matte jersey (took a black shell, skirt, cardigan and pant combo and wore the HECK out of it!). Thanks to that trip I pack fewer things but make sure to have a Tide to Go pen (or 3) and a bar of ivory soap for hotel sink hand washing!

DC Celine said...

Alison, it's so true. I look at my pile of clothes vice the Beans', and it's tiny. We *will* be able to do laundry, which helps, but they need extras we don't necessarily.

Good reminder on Tide to Go and a bar of soap (I'm a huge fan of soap leaves, too, less messy in the luggage.)

[Runs to Amazon to order in time]

Suzy S said...

Not even one pair of jeans? Any scarves?