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Expert Packing Tips for Labor Day Weekend

5 years ago
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Labor Day weekend means a lot of people are hitting the road and the skies for a last-ditch summer getaway. Unfortunately, a tiny little trip always comes with a great big chore: Packing.

All modesty aside, I'm a world champion packer.

Below, some tips I've learned to ease the burden.

I acquired my Olympic-level packing skills over several years of working for the U.S. Secretary of State, which included overseas travel every other week.Often, these trips would literally take us around the world -- i.e., we'd head west from Andrews Air Force Base and return across the Atlantic.

So I needed clothes for a week of official meetings, various climates, war zones, and long plane rides. As this was work travel, I also needed to remember to pack electronic chargers for the cell phone, BlackBerry and iPod, not to mention notebooks, pens and files.

After the first couple trips, and some really cold plane rides without socks, I developed my time-tested, scientific Packing Template.

The Packing Template is a document with a check list of all the items I need to pack from home and office.

Before each trip, I adjusted the Packing Template if necessary to account for extreme hot weather (Iraq) or cold weather (Moscow) or cultural differences (Saudi Arabia). Then, I printed out the template, methodically put each item on the list in my bags, then checked them off the list.

One rule of template list packing is you have to eyeball the item in the bag before checking it off the list. Several times I checked things off my list, thinking I had packed them, only to arrive in a hotel in, say, Pakistan, to realize I forgot to bring a belt.

Also, beyond clothes and work gear, the biggest annoyance when it comes to packing is toiletries. Just because you're in the Third World doesn't mean you have to have frizzy hair or dark circles under your eyes.

And, makeup and beauty products are my favorite possessions. If there was a fire, I'd grab my makeup bag before my clothes. So, I'm not flexible about using hotel shampoo or being without my Trish McEvoy makeup, much less my Laura Mercier under-eye concealer.

So when I was traveling constantly at State, I made a permanent toiletry bag that was ready to go on each trip. I used the Container Store's leak-proof bottles (and bought the clear labels to differentiate the products), and re-filled them immediately when I get home from a trip.

I also bit the bullet and splurged on doubling up all my makeup and tools (even the pricey Shu Uemura), and so never had to show up to a press conference at the Elysee Palace with – horrors! -- uncurled eyelashes.

So, back to packing for Labor Day weekend, vacations and work trips. First, forget all those useless guides in the magazines that tell you to take only neutral colors, multi-functional pieces, etc. No one packs like that in real life.

Plus, isn't it more stressful to figure out how to use yoga pants to go out to a fancy dinner than to just pack a black dress?

And really, we need to eliminate the term "over-packed" from our vocabulary. It's easier to over-pack than to get somewhere and be too cold/hot/wet. It's also cheaper than buying the same cell phone charger you left at home.

Of course, the over-packing ban can't be applied to makeup and toiletries when traveling by plane. Those horrible people at the TSA will still try to abscond with your Chanel lip gloss at the last minute, so beauty products need to be limited to the small versions.

BTW, except for that one terrorist with a liquid bomb, has Homeland Security ever found another reason that my Kiehl's hair straightening cream is a threat to national security?

Send your packing ideas to Emily via Twitter.
Filed Under: Woman Up
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