top of page

Panic Packing or Relaxed Readiness?

Tickets bought, plans made and the departure date is quickly coming up. When should you pack?

I get asked that question on a regular basis and my answer never changes. People should pack when they want to as there is no set timetable as to when one should start filling up their suitcase or bag. I only advise that people ensure that there is sufficient time in their schedule to actually get the packing done in event that there is a roadblock tossed into their life just prior to their trip.

There are many good reasons to pack in advance, such as being able to organize everything exactly as you wish and ensuring items you want to bring are ready. There are also good reasons to leave packing to the last minute such as a lack of space for the suitcase or a pet that may have great interest in the contents of the bag. For example, our cat considers an open suitcase the most desirable of sleeping locations.

I have friends who spend weeks packing, unpacking and repacking for a vacation. They enjoy planning what to wear, what to bring and how to put it all together in their suitcases. Some lay out each outfit and marry up the accessories with each one before placing each outfit into individual plastic cubes and labeling them. Others carefully roll each item to avoid wrinkling while several use packing techniques garnered from various internet videos. I was never one of those people. I traveled extensively and frequently so I had adopted a rather blasé attitude toward packing, preferring to pack a few hours before a trip. I usually had an idea of what I wanted and needed to bring and it was simply a matter of placing it all in my suitcase. An hour or two on the day of departure is all that was usually needed.

Leading up to a trip, I simply ensured the necessary clothes were clean and the toiletries were topped up. On the day of the trip I would make decisions regarding shoes and other accessories as I packed the clothing I had chosen. I was the master of the quick pack and I had achieved a certain skill in ensuring my clothing arrived at my destination wrinkle free and ready to wear.

In 2015, we decided to enjoy a transatlantic cruise with a group of friends. The cruise left from Civitavecchia, the port near Rome. Having been to Rome a number of times, my husband and I decided to head to Germany for a pre-cruise visit to Bavaria. Packing to jaunt around castles in Bavaria and packing for a cruise required two distinctively different clothing considerations. For example, we were going to enjoy a minimum of three formal nights on the cruise so evening wear was a must. There was also a requirement to wear ‘smart casual’ outfits for the dinners. Had we only been vacationing in Germany, casual clothing would have dominated our apparel choices. Because of our itinerary, we recognized in advance of the trip that packing would require careful consideration.

As usual, I left my packing to the day of departure knowing that I would have a full six hours or so to prepare my suitcase and carry-on bag. I cover that day in detail in my book, Postcards to Alice, so I will not revisit what transpired, but suffice to say that unforeseen events overtook the day and I was left with zero time to pack. I ended up taking five minutes to throw clothing, accessories and other assorted items into a bag and in reality, I did not have those five minutes to spare. By the time I opened my suitcase to pack, I was already in perilous danger of missing my flight.

Normally I would have ensured that my carry-on bag contained sufficient clothing to see me through a minimum of three days if my checked bag was waylaid but on this trip, clothing was tossed willy-nilly into the bags with no thought as to what went where. The cat's toy was scooped into the bag while only one sandal made the trip. My same day packing system was an utter fail due to the time constraints fate imposed upon me.

I confess that this was a one-time incident and that I had decades of same day packing experience with absolutely no issues. But once was enough. I now ensure that at a minimum, I start to pack the day before I leave on a trip (unless it is only a two or three day business trip). I still go through the ritual of thinking about what I might need and want to wear, well in advance of the trip, so that clothing is ready to go when I want to start packing, but placing items in my suitcase begins the day before I leave.

For those who prepare well in advance, I applaud your planning and organizational skills. For those who, like me, now mostly pack the day before, we should be fine if something unforeseen arises and we have given ourselves wiggle room in case of problems. For those who pack on departure day, I wish you a day with no issues and zero surprises. Happy traveling.

If you have any comments, tips or travel suggestions, please feel free to comment here or contact me at:

bottom of page