Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

How to pack perfectly

(Courtesy of Nicole Hanusek/Flickr)
(Courtesy of Nicole Hanusek/Flickr)

Would you rather pack or unpack? They both have their downsides, but I dread packing more than unpacking because of the decision-making process involved. On the back end of the trip, the traveling is over and emptying the clothes out of your suitcase can be disappointing. However, for an indecisive person, choosing what to wear for the next week or so can be stressful. And although I’ve done quite a lot of traveling in my lifetime, I still don’t have packing down to a science.

It is likely you’ll take a long weekend off of school, or take a vacation during winter break. The Boston Globe articles, “Lighter carry-ons help take a load off,” by David Lyon, and “10 strategies for packing light,” by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright, give some great packing tips and explanations as to why they work.

First, you need to think about your means of transportation. If you’re driving, what you bring is not as big of a deal, as long as you can fit everything in the car. However, when you’re traveling on a plane, or even a bus, there are limitations you must abide by. Airlines have limits on dimension and weight of carry-on and checked bags. If you don’t follow these rules, you’ll have to either rearrange the items within your luggage or pay crazy fees.

I always overpack, but at least I recognize it. That’s the first step to coming up with a solution, which can affect your packing process for the rest of your life.

Some bus companies have policies similar to those of airlines, except rather than paying for extra weight, you won’t be able to ride. On one Megabus trip I took, the weight limit for the big luggage that goes under the bus was 50 pounds, but there was no limit for carry-ons. I thought this was interesting because passengers can just put things in different bags, and the same amount of weight will still be on the bus, just distributed differently throughout the vehicle.

A woman in line for the Megabus had a 75-pound bag and was not allowed to get on until it weighed 50 pounds. There she was, scrambling around in line 15 minutes before the bus was able to leave, taking out textbooks from the big bag. After much apparent anxiety, she was free to board the bus with her 50-pound bag and 25-pound carry-on.

While packing for trips, I tend to think and rethink my clothing choices, often choosing to pack items that I’m not sure about. However, the Globe articles emphasize the idea that “less is more.” Of course, the items packed depend on the season, but the key is layering different clothes on different days to create different outfits.

While you’re struggling to choose what to bring, think about lugging that heavy bag across an airport, down a street or all over who knows where. Do you want to hold up the group? Or be too tired by the time you get to the hotel to enjoy the day? Or you could be “that guy” at the airport who struggles to take out clothes and items and holds up the line, only to pay the overweight fee anyway.

In 2013, airlines collected $3.5 billion in baggage fees, according to Blair and Wright. And small additions to your bag can really add up.

Blair and Wright first suggest a light bag, since bags themselves can add unnecessary weight. When choosing clothes, they advise to pick “items you can get maximum mileage out of” and “think double duty.”

Be creative, too. “Samantha Creed, a writer, actor, and production assistant based in Marshfield, has worked out a versatile, creative travel wardrobe. ‘I turn a tank top and high-waisted skirt into a dress, and I’ve worn a giant scarf as a skirt,’” Blair and Wright reported.

Although this may be a little excessive, think of all the possibilities. Men can bring one suit jacket and two pairs of pants. People won’t notice if you wear the same clothes several times. Make different combinations of items into outfits for multiple days. Re-wearing clothes is key.

On one of my trips, one girl paid a $70 fee and planned to buy a duffle bag so she could bring back some heavier items as a carry-on. I was surprised to hear she brought so much, but when she opened up her suitcase, I understood.

She had at least one type of clothing for every type of weather and situation, such as hiking, clubbing, attending a fancy restaurant, a casual day out and more. Her bag exploded with clothes that she would “maybe wear.” Travelers feel like they need to have options, but there are easier ways than packing everything you own.

After you lay out what you want to bring, take out one of each item that you have multiples of. Can you wash some underwear and socks in the sink during the trip? Do you really need five different types of shoes? Instead, bring two pairs of shoes that serve multiple purposes and are lightweight. Forget the “what ifs.” If you need something, you can always borrow it from someone you’re traveling with, buy it or deal with what you have.

When you become the packing master, all you have to worry about is fully enjoying your trip.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    Lady Light TravelNov 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    I think one of the biggest problems is that people can’t see reusing items from one activity to another. A black tank top may be used for hiking, or under a blazer, or with a beautiful scarf. People think “outfits” when they should really think “wardrobe. If you pack pieces that mix / match / layer then it is very easy to pack lightly. Another think people don’t do is decant their toiletries. You don’t need the whole bottle of shampoo for a one week trip! Decant your toiletries ahead of time. Since you’ve pre-packed you’ll be less tempted to bring everything.