As we enter vacation season, I thought I'd propose some tips to make packing easier.
1. Make a list of items to pack about a week before you have to pack. As you do laundry, put the clothes you want to take in your bag, to avoid the last-minute laundry rush. If you go on the same or similar vacations every year, consider writing or typing a master packing list. For example, if you go to the beach for a week each summer, make a list of items such as "4 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, toiletries bag, camera, sun block," etc. You don't need to be specific, but be comprehensive.
2. Keep a great toiletries bag or Dopp kit. Instead of running around gathering supplies at the 11th hour, keep a small toiletries bag year-round. Check it a few weeks before traveling to see if anything expired. Most drug stores and supermarkets have travel-size toiletries, but visit Bed Bath & Beyond for a great selection. To find your absolutely favorite soap or shampoo in a travel size, try www.minimus.biz. If your toiletries bag is overflowing, consider removing anything you hardly use, anything that a hotel may provide, or anything you can easily buy in the hotel shop or drug store when you get there.
3. If you're flying, check the restrictions in advance. The airline rules for liquids change often, and airlines have their own size limits for carry-on bags. A few weeks before your trip, visit your airline's website for baggage guidelines. Most airlines request that you keep your liquid toiletries in bottles/tubes three ounces or less, and that they all fit together in a one-quart (sandwich-sized) plastic zip-top bag.
4. Bring extra plastic shopping bags. They are great for dirty clothes, shoes, wet swimsuits, food, etc.
5. Put heavier items at the bottom of the suitcase. Put shoes and your toiletries towards the bottom-where the wheels are on rolling cases-so the suitcase isn't top-heavy when transporting.
6. If you're traveling for more than a week, don't be afraid to plan to wear things twice. Skimp on packing extras of items you can wear twice, like pants, sweaters, shoes, etc. Don't skimp on underwear, socks, and undershirts. Pack basics that can be mixed-and-matched. Remember that most people who see you when you travel will not see you twice. Plus, unless you're going somewhere like the Hamptons, not many people will remember what you wear anyway. (Sorry!)
My mother and I went to Italy for a week with only two small carryon duffle bags. When everyone else was waiting at baggage claim and lugging big suitcases through the airport, we were onto our destination quickly and easily. We had more than enough to wear, and nobody was the wiser!