Pack Attack

My Favorite Packing Hack


“Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”

            -Clark W. Griswold

It seems like just yesterday we were dreaming of a white Christmas and binge-eating gingerbread …  then I blinked and BOOM! Here comes Spring Break. Anybody taking a road trip?? 

Around the time we got married, my husband and I decided it would be fun to visit all 50 states together as a married couple. After painstakingly planning out how we would travel to one state every year until we were 80, it dawned on us that we are mortal humans that a) might not live long enough to make it to our 50th state and/or b) might not be super interested in the grotesque misadventure that would be visiting Alabama at the tender age of 77. That’s when we hatched a plan to knock out several states at a time through a series of five road trips (excluding Hawaii and Alaska, clearly). We’ve done two so far (WY, SD, ND, IA, MN, WI, IL, MO, NE in one trip; then KS, OK, AR, TN, MS, LA, TX, NM the next), and they have been spectacular! You really see what a state is all about when you drive through it as opposed to spending a few nights in just one or two major cities. Highly recommend.


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I love the sense of adventure and freedom that comes with the open road, sleeping in a different city every night, seeing different terrain and meeting different people every day … but the hyper-organized part of my psyche has struggled with the packing situation for this type of trip in the past. Multiple destinations mean varying weather conditions, all sorts of different activities, and it hardly makes sense to unpack everything since you only ever stay at one place for a night or two, but then you’re digging in the suitcase and dirty clothes are getting chummy with clean ones, you get home and you can’t tell what’s been worn and what hasn’t … oh, the horror!

Before our last road trip, I figured out a better way. I devised a system that works perfectly, and forever takes the packing/unpacking/repacking hassle out of those multi-stop trips so my desperate need to remain organized is satisfied and all my energy is preserved for having fun. Or worrying about how far it is to the next bathroom break. In any case, I’ve saved valuable time so I can get moving on to such exciting attractions as the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument (yes, it’s real and yes, I have seen it!) post-haste, sanity fully intact. 

Facing a similar plight? Check out my simple, fool-proof plan …

  1. A little planning goes a long way. Figure out what you want to wear for each day/activity. If you need help visualizing all those different looks, try an app like Stylebook.
  2. Pack in reverse order — the sooner you plan to wear an item, the closer it should be to the top of the pile. Remember to roll softer items and fold stiffer ones. If you aren’t already doing that, there’s a little how-to here. Keep shoes separate. I like to keep shoes on one side of the suitcase in a zippered compartment and clothes on the other with a hanging toiletry bag in between.
  3. Pack an extra shirt or two. Unforeseen circumstances do crop up, and you don’t want to be forced to wear dirty clothes (or buy a sweatshirt emblazoned with “1995 Kansas City Renaissance Festival”). Also, toss in a wet bag for swimming suits that haven’t had time to dry before it’s time to hit the road again.
  4. Here’s where it gets interesting! Throw a laundry bag on top - old dry cleaner bags work great for this. I knew I was keeping those for a reason!
  5. As you wear items of clothing, fold them up and pack them into the laundry bag. Leave out items that you plan to wear multiple times.

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That’s it! By the end of the trip, all the dirty stuff is already in the laundry bag and you never once had to unpack/repack your whole suitcase. I hope this tip serves you well and helps make this your simplest and most magical spring break adventure yet. Safe travels, and happy packing!


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