Brace yourself because the dreaded word is coming...
When I decided I was going to study abroad in England I knew I would be faced with a triple threat challenge: packing light for cold weather for 6 months. I knew this would be tough because I need heavier jackets and bulky boots in order to not freeze to death but had to keep in mind our spring break travels. Packing itself is a horrid thing, but when you know that the next 6 months of your life depends on what you pack in 2 bags, it's rather terrifying. It's not the fact that you have to pack. It's what to pack.
It's safe to say that I'm the world's worst at overpacking. I like to be prepared for most any scenario by just sticking my hand into the magical Mary Poppins bag and pulling out whatever anyone needs at the moment. Well for this trip, I knew that I could be no Mary Poppins. I had to learn to pack following some key rules...
Rule #1: Choose the right luggage.
This means checking then double checking the luggage requirements You don't want to be faced with any extra fees at the airport. As far as buying luggage, I don't see the sense in getting anything with too high of a price-tag. You may take one photo with it when you leave, then it's going to get banged up as soon as you get to the airport. I bought a set (check bag and carry on) for $170 at Marshall's. Another great time to get luggage is just after New Years at Dillard's. They have insane discounts for the best luggage.
Whether you go for hard or soft top luggage doesn't make a huge difference. A hard top check bag is a good idea for protection but I personally don't think there's a difference in capacity.
Getting spinner wheels is a must when buying luggage. It will make your entire trip much more enjoyable, especially if you are as disfunctional as I am in-between terminals (hence the almost missed flight in London). Also buying a suitcase that says lightweight on it can make a difference of 4-8 pounds. It's worth it.
Rule #2: All clothes must go together.
Here comes the hard part. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I love bright colors and unique patterns. I tried to avoid this tendency while packing this time... with the exception of one of my favorite dresses (the green one). I upgraded my wardrobe just before I left for England after about 5 trips to Banana Republic. It was so worth it. I feel like I got the perfect wardrobe for this trip: warm, good quality, and fashionable.
Above: 2 SCARVES: maroon (NY & Company), blue & maroon wool w/ triangles (JCrew), 3 JACKETS: grey long sweater (Anthropologie), black jacket (The North Face), green jacket (Gordmans) 1 DRESS: emerald green (Forever21)
4 TOPS navy button down (Banana Republic), plaid button down (Ralph Lauren), black fringe (Madewell), emerald green (Banana Republic)
Vineyard Vines scarf, yellow beanie, mittens, tennis shoes, North Face hiking boots,
and lots and lots of thick socks!
Rule #3: Choose a color palette.
Take a look at your closet and you may notice something. You probably keep to a lot of similar colors and may have never even noticed. I stuck with neutrals and earthy colors for this round of packing. This is a plus for me because I love these colors but they aren't as memorable as bright or patterned clothing. When you're short on packing space, go for clothes you're able to wear over and over again without it being obvious. You'll regret packing that neon shirt when you develop photos at the end of your trip and you can spot it in 50+ photos at a glance.
Having clothes that are all interchangeable also makes choosing outfits pretty easy each morning. Literally everything works together.
Above: 4 SHOES- black rain-boots (Bass), black ankle boots (Cole Haan), black riding boots (Born), brown riding boots (Jessica Simpson) 5 SWEATERS- maroon (Banana Republic), emerald green (thrifted but from American Eagle), white w/ black trim (Banana Republic), navy blue (Banana Republic) black sports hoodie (Lulu Lemon) 5 PANTS- black leather pants (Banana Republic), black denim (Madewell), 2 pairs of blue denim, dark & faded (Madewell), maroon pants (Banana Republic), grey hat w/ fur (American Eagle)
Rule #4: Pack small
Rolling your clothes is the way to go to save space. I could not believe how I didn't even have to try to fit my clothes in my luggage.
A few other tips...
Put heavier items at the edges of your suitcase! - (i.e.: shoes, camera bag) This means more space. More stability.
- Plan/pack ahead. I may sound like a nerd but I literally practiced packing. When it came down to the day I had to leave, it was a breeze and I actually enjoyed it. Just put on your favorite music and admire how organized you are. :)
- Pack layers. This goes back to making sure most all your clothes work well together. This rule is super important in my case with it being winter and and snowing here. Layers are my best friend.
- Dryer sheets are great to put in between your layers of clothes to keep them nice and fresh!
- How to weigh your luggage... You don't need some fancy luggage scale to do this at home and avoid charges at the airport. I feel that most everyone has a weighing scale in their bathroom. I just weighed myself on the scale and then weighed myself again holding my luggage one at a time. I then just subtracted my original weight from the larger weight to find out if I made the cut. This is a lot more acurate than setting your luggage on the scale by itself.
Hopefully this serves as a helpful guide and helps any packing problems you have. I'll be doing a packing guide for backpacking when spring break comes around in a month or two!