How to Pack in an Hour

A suitcase--not an entire apartment--in a flash

I love last minute trips. While traveling full-time last year I monitored flight and train schedules and pounced on flash sales. Sometimes that meant traveling within 24-48 hours of booking my transportation. And then I had to spend my time figuring out where to stay, what to do, and most importantly, what (and where) to eat when I arrived. In short, I had no time to stress about packing. Here’s how to pack, without forgetting too many things, in about an hour. If it’s a just a weekend trip, throw it all in a carry-on in like 15 minutes. Use the time saved to sip an extra cocktail at the airport.

Make a list

Before you start pulling apart your closet, make a list of the clothes, electronics, and accessories you want to bring. The process will go much quicker, I swear! On paper, you can see if you are adding too much of one thing–like five pairs of jeans but only a few shirts. It’s also more efficient to plot it out on paper and then cross things out. Don’t take more than 5 minutes on this step. Not sure about what clothes are best for your destination? Two of my favorite blogs for packing hacks and destination-based clothing tips are Travel Fashion Girl and Her Packing List.

Check the weather

The weather is the ultimate packing spoiler. Cool temps won’t ruin a summer vacation if you’ve got the right gear. Sometimes, though, the forecast is all over the place. If in doubt, bring layers. You can always add a sweater or jacket over a breezy sundress on cool days, and then bare your shoulders when the sun makes a surprise visit. The clock is ticking. Give yourself 5 minutes.

Pack by outfit

When it comes to packing clothing I pick a few foundation pieces and then add items that can be worn together. For India, it was 2 long skirts, 3 dresses, a pair of long cotton pants, a few shirts that matched all of the above, and two scarves. As a side note, I knew I was going to buy long tunic tops (to wear over yoga pants) so I limited tops. When I spent a summer in Italy, Croatia, and parts of the Balkans, I packed two types of outfits; active and urban clothing. For hiking, it was running/yoga pants (or shorts) with loose fitting t-shirts. On days spent in cities, my choices included 2 skirts (one black, one gray) 3 summer dresses, 2 pairs of jeans (one blue, one black), one pair of shorts, a few loose-fitting tops to wear with jeans or skirts, one long-sleeve button-down shirt, a cardigan sweater (for cool nights), a heavy sweater, hoodie, underwear, and swimsuit. When it came to colors, it was all black and grey, with the occasional colorful top. This way it all mixed and matched.

This is where to spend the bulk of your time. Try really hard to keep this to 20 minutes.

How to pack

Roll it up

There are lots of internet tutorials about how to roll your clothes. Honestly, I don’t think it matters how you roll as much as that you do it instead of folding. You’ve got 15 minutes to do the manual work.

Limit your shoes

Shoes are heavy and they take up far too much space. Pick a comfy pair for walking and a cute pair for going out (but never heels unless you really need them for a work trip). I don’t really count flip-flops as shoes, as they can be easily tucked in a pocket. Here’s how the fashion experts advise you pack your shoes. Pro tip, always put them in bags!

Fill up the carry-on

Your last 10-15 minutes are for all the items you know you’ll need on the plane. Put your laptop, phone, chargers, headphones, camera, book, passport, wallet, medication and cosmetics in the bag. Then add some snacks. And don’t forget to pack an extra outfit–just in case the airline loses or delays your luggage. I stuff in one change of clothes (top, underwear and lightweight skirt) in a gallon-sized zip top bag. Squeeze out the air to save extra space.

Check your list

You’re almost done. Did you leave anything off? If you did, do you really need it?

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