Planning a 2-week spring trip to Northern Europe? Prague, maybe Warsaw or Berlin? Fascinating, no? Such is the reality for a Twitter friend, Robin. And, she asked me to pack for her.
I approach Robin’s request today with enthusiasm. It turns out that the Use Case idea works extremely well for suitcase stuffing, with one caveat. In packing, one must think first not of the Happy Path, but of Risk Mitigation. In other words, rather than aim for an aesthetic, rather than matching beloved skirt to scarf and peep-toe platforms, focus on Avoidance of Distress. Your Travel Distresses may vary, mine are as follows.
Travel Distress #1: Foot Pain
Sturdy Gals, as we know, hate foot pain above all. So we start our packing with shoes. Bring two comfortable pair, in different heel heights, maybe board the plane in a third, slip on slip off. Luckily, ankle boots, oxfords, and ballet flats are all in style. Pack one, and only one, pair of “special event” shoes. Also known as Shoes You Can Hardly Walk In.
Travel Distress #2 The Cinderella Syndrome
Sturdy Gals, as we might also guess, hate showing up at a ball inadequately dressed, especially surrounded by Grandes Dames and Artsy Cousins in Chanel and thorn-studded bracelets. So I always pack one fancy outfit, something in which I will feel at home – as long as we’re not talking palaces. And rather than a little black dress, you might try interesting color. For example, a lavender dress with the red shoes above, audacious and luxe at once.
Travel Distress #3: Incorrect Internal Temperature
You’ll need the right coat. And scarf and gloves, if it’s going to be cold. As Robin’s trip is to Northern climes in spring, by far the best choice is a raincoat with removable lining. For the rest, I’d rely on my hot pink Loro Piana muffler, and Eric Bompard cashmere voile square. Michelle Obama has brought bright gloves to our attention, so why not add some recreational finger color too?
Travel Distress #4: Too Many, Too Few, Wash Me!
With those foundational layers in place, all that’s left is to pack enough, but not too many, pants, tops, and layers of warmth. Or skirts, dresses, and tights. A cardigan or two, or very lightweight jacket, if it’s going to be so cold that you need a substantive layer under your coat.
Make sure everything that um, I can’t say this any other way, touches your armpits, is hand-washable, so you only need 4-5 tops, and 3-4 pairs of pants or skirts. Wash at night in the sink, or, and I have done this, pay a king’s random to hotel laundry and enjoy the crinkle of paper as you unwrap your clean clothes.
By the way, I’m a shirt roller. Others lay their clothing flat. I’m not convinced it matters one way or the other.
You will find, if you stick to a mix of complementary colors, you won’t have to plan each day individually, which effort I find excruciatingly small motor and to be avoided.
Travel Distress #5: Suiting Your Cases To Your Style
Let’s assume you’ve sorted out whether you check or carry your luggage. I confess, I check. I’ve sweated over more airport merchant counters than I can number, stocking up on magazines, mints and water, bumping and thumping my poor old suitcase through its paces, twisting and turning my poor old body even more. So now I board with only backpack and cross-body; wallet and travel docs fore, computer and papers aft.
And with this I note sadly that my good ol’ Hartmann, seen here in the Antwerp train station, may be on its last legs. I covet some Rimowa.
Doesn’t the anticipation of travel enhance the trip itself? Think of packing as a predictive experience, a sense prophecy. Put out your suitcase 2-3 days before you go, and choose your gear at leisure, prompted by random evening thoughts and morning remembered dreams.
Safe travels, everyone.