I must confess: I do not pack lightly. For forty-seven years dear Charley has complained that I bring my entire closet when we travel. Suitcases with wheels saved our marriage.
As "snowbirds," we transfer residences from Florida to Massachusetts and back twice a year. One year I shipped five cartons of shoes, sweaters, purses, shorts, tees, and tennis clothes. Oh yes, I threw assorted paperbacks among the boxes as ballast. In the car are the ESSENTIAL items - computer, cameras, tennis rackets, golf clubs, jewelry, pants, blouses, outerwear, dresses, medical and personal files, and, of course, the manuscript I'm working on.
It's not that my outfits are complicated. It's just that if I don't pack everything, I'll be missing something - probably a belt (forgot to mention those in the list of boxed items above) or shoes or a purse to go with a favorite outfit. My personal style could hardly be called "backwoods flannel" or "minimalist."
I do not brag about the fact that I pack too much. However, if I wore two pairs of black pants and one tee for a two-week stay in European capitals, I wouldn't brag about that, either. There's nothing enchanting-looking about a Pashmina tied twelve different ways over the same black outfit.
When we go overseas, I begin packing two weeks ahead. First I put essential medical supplies into the big suitcase that I will check - creams, ointments, sprays, gauze (with tape), Band-Aids, drops, and pills in case we come down with poison ivy, bronchitis, diarrhea, pink eye, asthma, altitude sickness, sore throat, sun poisoning, or swimmer's ear. In fact, these items stay in their own cosmetic bag and never leave my suitcase. The clothes, underwear, nightclothes, jackets, and belts have to fit around the medical supplies and small makeup kit. Shoes go in the side pouches, along with Woolite in a baggie. One time we ended up paying an extra $50 just for my suitcase to get on the plane with us. That did not make for a pleasant ride.
My overnight bag contains other essentials, in case my big bag never arrives. That's what happened in Hong Kong, and Hong Kongers' feet were not my size when I had to shop for walking shoes! In fact, nothing on Hong Kongers' bodies was the same size as mine. Since then I started carrying an extra set of underwear, an extra shirt, as well as travel jewelry, meds, travel-sized Woolite, deoderant, toothbrush and paste, hairbrush, and a pocket-size Canon with battery charger in my overnight bag. Also walking shoes and socks. I don't bother with makeup in the overnight bag, since there are liquids involved and I usually don't know anyone at 7 a.m. in a foreign city, anyway. There is no fee for this bag, but sometimes I can't lift it into the overhead compartment and have to wait for a nice person to offer, unless Charley is right behind me.
I attended a demonstration once to see how a stewardess packed. She carefully rolled the flimsy stuff, like underwear, nightclothes, and tee shirts, then stuffed them in the corners of her suitcase. She put all socks into the shoes and only brought three pairs - how could she survive? Then she hung half the long pants, jackets, dresses (does anyone travel with dresses anymore?) out one edge of the suitcase, and the remaining half out the opposite edge of the suitcase. She began folding each group into the suitcase, alternating so there would be a cushion in the middle of the fold, where a crease might appear. Very clever! But when I do it, some of the fabrics still get creased. She forgot to tell us she buys only wrinkle-free.