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My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.

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Thursday
Jun072012

Tips for Packing: Clothing

I am heading off to Panama for a little getaway with my sister this evening and can't wait. As I was filling up my suitcase I thought I would share some of my strategies for packing clothing.

Confirm the weather
This is a pretty obvious tip but really important. I check what the weather should be like typically and then check the weather report right before my trip. This helps plan what I'll actually need instead of over packing for too many weather scenarios. It is also important to check each location that you will be in. Just because it is going to be sunny and gorgeous at a sea level town doesn't mean that when you head up to the mountains it won't be rainy and cold.

On the occasions when I made assumptions instead of checking the reports I've often had some issues. Exhibit A: Me hiking up Kurodake in Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido, Japan during a cold rain storm wearing shorts. The cheap raincoat was a loaner from the park visitor center (I love that about Japan!) and I was able to rent rain boots from the base station for 500 yen (about $5) instead of proceeding with my flip-flops. Other people would have realized that continuing on was not a good plan. I was not that smart but I did have a lovely view of fog from the top of the mountain.

Check local customs
Different countries have different expectations for dress code and I think it is important to try to be culturally sensitive. Additionally, some places, particularly religious sites, will not even let you in if you are not dressed appropriately. Shorts are not allowed some places so in warm months I like to wear knee length skirts that are acceptable but still cool when it is hot out. Another thing to check about is whether it is okay to have your shoulders exposed or not. If you plan to visit a mosque during your trip, pack a scarf to cover your hair before going in.  In Japan many places require you to take off your shoes when you go in. After a day of taking on and off shoes it is really easy to see the value in wearing slip on shoes.

Taking a few minutes to check out local customs will save you time and hassle on your trip. I have sometimes been caught unaware (like having to slip a loaner skirt over my jeans to visit monasteries in Meteora, Greece) but being prepared to meet local dress codes means you have more time to see the sights and less time trying to find a clothing solution on the fly. 

Color coordinate
If you coordinate so that any of your tops go with any of your bottoms you can maximize the number of outfits you have with minimum pieces of clothing. To do this I tend to stick to solid colored clothing with a few patterns for fun. As a general rule if a piece of clothing can't be a part of at least two different outfits I don't pack it. The exception is that I always pack a wrinkle free dress in case I have occasion to dress up.

Pack layers
Having layers is key for me being comfortable. I can get cold pretty easily so having a cardigan on hand that I can slip on when in a chilly air conditioned cafe and then take off while walking the streets under the blazing sun is important. I'm also prone to being cold on planes so I like to layer up before boarding which also reduces how much clothing is in my luggage. 

Minimize your shoes
Shoes take up a lot of valuable luggage space so I try to limit the number I pack. The best way to do this is make sure that your outfits all go with either black or brown and then stick with only one color shoes. Typically I go with black and pack a pair of comfy black flats (slip-on, of course!) for everyday walking around and then a pair of black heels in case I go out to a nice dinner. If it is summer I will often pack a pair of flip-flops and if I am going to go hiking I will pack a pair of sneakers or hiking shoes. While minimizing is important do take care to have the necessary footwear for any of the activities you are planning on during your trip.

One time when I was visiting Northern New South Wales in Australia I decided to climb Mount Warning. That sounds reasonable except that I had only packed a pair of flip flops and a pair of heels. Deciding that heels would be ridiculous I proceeded up the mountain in my flip flops which was only slightly less ridiculous. Needless to say I had issues and although I made it to the top one of my flip-flops broke on the way back down. Luckily my travel companion leant me a shoelace and I was able to tie it onto my foot for the rest of the hike. 

As I wrap up this post I realize that I have pointed out many of my past mistakes and oversights in packing. So in closing, be smarter than me! Don't climb Mount Warning in flip-flops!

Do you have any good tips for packing clothes for a trip? Have you ever climbed a mountain in inappropriate footwear? I am slightly embarrassed to admit I have done it more than once. 

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Reader Comments (3)

I hope you and your sister have a wonderful visit/holiday together. Great travel tips. The shoe lace for hiking is #1 on my list - I had always packed big thick elastic bands for that very reason - sandal blow out. The shoe lace will probably wear better and does give the sandal a whole other fashion look :-) Wishing you safe, restful and fun travel.

June 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary-Lou

My tip is to roll your clothes rather than simply folding them. You can fit your items into a much smaller space. I try to travel with just a carry-on because of baggage fees and lost luggage.

Have a great trip!! I'm so excited to hear all about it when you get back.

June 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRene

Mary-Lou- We did have a wonderful trip together (just got back today!). Thank you!

Rene- I also usually use only a carry-on for my traveling. It is so much easier and definitely reduces your chance of lost luggage.

June 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterLisa

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