Whether for work or for play, it’s time to take the stress out of packing for your next trip

By Laura Rubeli

Those of us who are confident in our everyday style can become frazzled when it comes to packing for a trip and traveling with effortless style. I know many people who are so excited to go on vacation or that business trip and day before the trip, they haven’t packed yet. We come home from work; we’re leaving the next day and still need to pack. That’s stressful. So the all-important question becomes: how can you prepare to travel with a minimum level of stress?

I can’t promise you truly stress-free packing, but I promise packing will be easier if you have a plan. Here are five things to think about before you attempt to start your packing. I call these “The Five W’s of Travel.”

1. Who? Who is going on this trip? Is it just you or are you responsible for packing other family members?

2. Where? Where are you going and how many days will you be gone?

3. Why? Why are you going on this trip? Is it a weekend getaway? A family vacation? A business trip?

4. What? What activities will you be doing and do you need to pack special clothes?

5. Weather. Check the weather for your destination to make sure you are dressed appropriately.

One rule of packing that never changes—no matter where you’re going—is to travel with as little as possible. If you can’t lift your luggage by yourself, you’ve packed too much. Try making one carry-on or one checked bag your max.

Planning what you’re going to take with you, and even more importantly what you’re not going to take, is usually where the stress begins.

Before you put things in the suitcase, I suggest staging everything. Staging is your dress rehearsal prior to packing. Pull out the items you think you want to take and put them out in full view, along with the accessories, shoes and handbags. Always make a final check for missing buttons or anything that you won’t be able to fix while away.

Many people start to protest once I talk about staging, saying it takes too much time, but what about all the time you’ll spend rifling through your closet stressing over what to pack? Or the time and money wasted shopping for things you think you might need? Think about the stuff you’ll bring that you won’t wear—it’s now wrinkled and needs to be thrown in the laundry again or ironed … now that adds up to a lot of time.

Now that you’ve staged everything, organize your outfits in a daytime and evening schedule. You’ll start to see your entire wardrobe for the trip and maybe even eliminate a few things by seeing what mixes well with what. You may even be able to leave a few pieces behind after realizing you can mix and match certain pieces together. Look for as many opportunities possible to repeat or reuse the items you’re bringing.

By applying these tips and techniques, you will be able to travel confidently and enjoy your trip to the fullest.