compendium to over packing

words & images rawan hadid 

a travel editor’s black & white compendium to over packing – warm weather edition

First things first – traveling light is overrated. People invent all sorts of vacuum packing tactics and devise new strategies to rolling and multi-tasking to “pack light” so that they are … missing essential items? I don’t know about all that but I think that traveling comfortably is paramount. I hate being stranded. Go for it - Over pack. It’s why suitcases have wheels. Sure, I live in a Manhattan walk up and usually have to bribe a passing deliveryman or bike messenger into helping me bring my luggage home, but I almost always have the right shoes when I’m on the go, and am never want for q-tips, cotton balls or a nail file. Yes they are available at every corner shop in even the smallest and most remote villages but what about when I arrive late at night? Yes, I travel all the time and maybe I could have a constricted system that does not require a monumental investment of time, space and sanity, but I would argue that mine is as efficient as any – vacuum packing sounds equally, if not even more, tedious.


Your carry on must be dedicated to the absolute essentials – electronics [regular camera, go pro camera, laptop, iPad, iPhone and emergency backup iPhone], little jewelry and accessories wrap, mini first aid kit, a scarf, two magazines [one serious, one light reading] and a toiletry bag which we will get to discuss later, hand sanitizer, snacks, wallet, passport and in-flight socks. Any Duty Free purchases do not figure in to this tally. There is room for them that miraculously finds itself when you’re rushing to the gate.

You need three toiletry bags, and all of them will have only TSA approved 4 oz. or less bottles – one main bag for shampoo, conditioner and any relevant hair and skin products, q-tips, cotton balls, teeth retainers, nail files, etc. The secondary bag is smaller and is designed for make up, nail polish [because they don’t have nail bars on tropical islands and you’re a city girl at heart so palm trees will not get in the way of grooming], perfume, face and hand cream, while the third is reserved for your carry on – here go the essential oils, water spritzer, emergency polish, tooth paste and other vital items already conveniently packaged in travel-friendly containers. Do not confuse the American 4 oz limit as equivalent to the global 100 ml limit because that security officer in Athens will take away your 120 ml, 4 oz bottle of hypoallergenic sunscreen no matter how much you cry that it’s 4 oz in Amehruka and that you had to buy it on Amazon because you have sensitive skin and absolutely need a zinc based sunscreen and you will pulverize your skin in Symi without it. 

You do, in fact, need 6 pairs of shoes for a three-week trip and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Allow me to explain – loafers for long walks, sneakers in case you ever make it to a gym [you won’t, but you need the sneakers because you packed the rest of your workout gear – also, hiking happens], flip flops, light toned sandals and dark toned sandals to go with different outfits, one pair of formal shoes, usually a heel of some sort. This is, of course, a plan for a warm weather trip; we haven’t even started imagining the possibilities for a winter scenario. May I suggest you don’t go nuts with the purse situation – it is really not necessary, one every-day bag [right now that would be a bucket bag], an evening clutch, and a clever, structural, bag pack should do just fine. 

You will need a few books, and definitely those magazines for in-flight. If you are in a non-English speaking country, the airport shop will most likely sell only local magazines, and photos alone are not enough to distract from turbulence. You always, always, need scarves. They are the most versatile item in the fashion world, functioning as head wrap, a sweater in cold weather, protection from the rain, stylish addition to a cute outfit as well as towel/cover up when necessary. Don’t think that means you only need one. Just because they are versatile, this does not distract from the realities of color and fabric so you will likely need four.

As a rule, I usually keep it to 4 sundresses, 2 jumpsuits, 1 romper, 1 pairs of jeans, 1 skirt, 5 tops and that workout/hiking gear. Don’t forget PJs. If you are like me and are likely to feel cold at even the slightest breeze then you will need a denim jacket and two sweaters. It is summer so don’t be silly and forget your hat. All of these need to be slowly ROLLED one by one into your hard back suitcase. The ones with zippers and pockets are in fact much more practical but the hard cases look more put together, and that’s more important. You will attempt to close it by sitting on it, jumping on it, calling your husband for help, feeling abandoned when he gives up, calling your neighbor and feeling rejected when she sheepishly shakes her head and makes a lame excuse about how she hurt herself last time and makes a run through the rear exit, and then eventually, mercifully, removing those hats and grain free granola you packed because they don’t have gluten free where you’re going and you’re a New Yorker with food allergies goddammit, and inch that little lock shut. At this point you will see a large bag filled with gifts for your mother, but alas, you will be forced to abandon those too because opening the bag again is a health and security risk and you can’t pack more than one suitcase – not because of the extra charges, but because it interferes with the aforementioned put together look of your hard case. You can’t pull off large sunglasses and a sundress while lugging two suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse, no matter how hard you try. Celebrate with a well-earned mimosa and try not to miss your flight because uber is on surge pricing and the taxis all disappear at 430 pm, which is when you have to leave for the airport.

Have a great trip!

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