Professional packer Kathryn Neale shares her easy tips for maximising your space and wardrobe.
I’m pretty much a professional packer. When I was an editor, I packed racks of clothes by looks for fashion shoots. As a stylist I would pack a designer’s collection, in order of looks, for their runway. More recently, I pack actors’ looks, after their fittings, and send them to the wardrobe truck on set.
You have to stay focused with this kind of high pressure packing. It’s all in the details: the right belt, the correct undergarments, the comfort sock, as well as the on-camera sock. The clothes always travel in a clear garment bag, with a separate compartment for the shoe, and even smaller compartments for the jewellery. They have big, shiny brown tags pinned at the shoulder where every detail is noted. In an ideal world we would all travel with clothes so thoughtfully organised.
But in reality, we all have to squeeze as much into our luggage as we can. Because packing reminds me so much of work, I typically try to avoid doing it for my family. My husband is an adult. He can pack for himself. My kids are old enough to pack for themselves, and they enjoy it. (It’s the unpacking at the other end where they get lazy.)
If I am feeling incredibly generous, or there are serious weather implications, then I will pack for my children. My latest family pack is ambitious and requires some thought and consideration.
We travelled to Minnesota for Thanksgiving, an extended family event. The Minnesotan quotient of my husband’s family are all doctors. I would describe the dinner as a formal family sit down. From snowy Saint Paul we travelled down to a dude ranch in Tuscon, Arizona.
My husband always raves about his glorious childhood holidays at various Dude ranches. This is an attempt to recreate that experience for our children. Personally I don’t actually like horses. Luckily I found a ranch with e-bikes for the horse averse. This means we are going to need serious snow gear for Minnesota, coupled with an ensemble fit for camp lunches in the desert. And of course something formal for the Thanksgiving table.
The criteria reminds me a lot of packing for the classic NZ summer road trip. Lots of clothes for hot summer days, something warm for the crisp NZ nights, and something snazzy for the family Christmas lunch.
For my trip, I am laser focused on coming up with ingenious ideas to maximise my wardrobe capacity. Nothing will go in the bag unless it serves a dual purpose. Underwear will be counted, socks will be turned inside out and reworn. I’m taking old, slightly too small turtlenecks with the intention of lopping off their sleeves in the desert. I’m considering all options with this pack.
Here are some of my best travel packing tips that can help everyone manoeuvre that one extra look into their suitcase as they hit the road this summer.
Dual purpose only
Lay the clothes out first. Put tops on the bed and then pull out a pair of pants. Evaluate the pants with each top. If the pants only work with two out of four tops – lose the pants. All the components need to work seamlessly with each other for maximum output.
Burrito your clothes
The Burrito Bundle is a pretty ingenious way to arrive with wrinkle free clothes. You start with a core of underwear and socks. Then you lie each additional item flat creating a starfish. Collars on the vertical, pants on the horizontal. Drop the core back in the centre and start wrapping. Fold the clothes flat around your core. Because the fabric stays flat and not folded, there are no wrinkles. There are a ton of Youtube videos on this in case you’re finding my instructions hard to visualise.
Pack two days before
I pack two days before the trip, and I zip that suitcase right up. I let it sit overnight and it compresses – in my imagination it compresses. The next day when I think of one or two extra things I have decided to add, I simply add them to the compressed clothes and rezip. This always works.
Utilise the small spaces
I usually stuff my shoes with perfume bottles. Then I stuff my husband’s shoes with mini shampoos in case they leak. I keep a small pile of “maybe” items until the end and if there are any tiny cavities in the suitcase I stuff my extra items in before I zip up.