I recently took my first trip in almost two years. My last travel experience had been in October 2019, when I went to Lake Tahoe (Nevada) to visit my family and celebrate my brother’s fiftieth birthday. My recent trip was also to Tahoe, this time for my nephew’s high school graduation. I was originally supposed to be gone for just five days, but I ended up staying an additional three days to help my mom with a few things. Since I was out of practice with traveling, I agonized over what to pack, especially in terms of my clothing.
Before I left for the trip, I spent my final pre-travel “sit in the chair” session writing about the difficulty I always experience when deciding upon which clothes, shoes, and accessories to pack for a trip. (I’m still writing for at least an hour a day, although I take one weekend day off now and didn’t write while I was away.) I originally planned to publish that essay prior to leaving for my vacation, but I ran out of time, so I’m sharing a slightly edited and polished version now.
Packing – The Struggle is Real…
I know many of you can probably relate to the difficulties I encounter with packing. While there are some people out there who seem to have packing “superpowers,” that’s definitely not me! I’m notorious for overpacking and often packing the wrong things. I’ve improved over the years, but I believe that packing is a “muscle” that can atrophy when it isn’t being used. Because travel was placed on the backburner for most of 2020 and the first half of 2021 (for pretty much all of us), I’m having to rebuild that underused muscle now. And let’s face it… I wasn’t exactly using my packing muscle all that much before the pandemic anyway, so I still have lots of room to learn and grow in that arena.
In my next post (which will go live in a few days), I’ll debrief how I did with packing for my recent Tahoe trip, but for now I invite you to read the thoughts I had as I was preparing to leave. I’m putting these musings out there for the same reason that I share much of what I post here: to let those who are struggling know that they’re not alone. If packing is something you dread on a very deep level, I’m right there with you!
Other than leaving my kitties behind (and this time, my husband as well), packing is my least favorite part of traveling, even ranking below navigating crowded airports and being squeezed into an airplane like a sardine. It’s a necessary evil, though, and despite some “hiccups” along the way, it usually works out okay. At the end of this post, I’ll reveal a few of my packing mishaps, but first, here’s what I was thinking on the eve of my Tahoe trip.
Pre-Travel Thoughts – Late June, 2021
I leave tomorrow for my Tahoe trip and I’ve already spent hours trying to figure out what to pack. I’ve been to Tahoe many, many times, and I even used to live there for a year and a half before moving to San Diego nineteen years ago. However, it doesn’t really matter how familiar I am with the place I’ll be visiting; I always seem to struggle tremendously with packing.
It doesn’t help that June weather in Tahoe can still be variable, and I’m also out of practice with getting dressed in out-and-about outfits, especially for warmer weather (we’ve still have “June gloom” in San Diego). Whereas I used to put together out of the house ensembles three or four times each week, it’s been much less often over the past fifteen months due to the pandemic and “sheltering in place.” I’ve grown even more accustomed than usual to wearing mostly loungewear, and I’m not at all certain which clothes I enjoy wearing enough to take with me on my trip.
When I have places to go at home, I usually manage to put together outfits that I’m at least reasonably happy with, but I have my entire closet to work with in those instances. When I travel, I’m always so nervous that I’ll pack the wrong clothes, end up hating what I’m wearing, and enjoy my trip far less as a result. For travel and at home, I want to be able to get dressed, feel good in what I’m wearing, and basically forget about my outfit and get on with the activities of my day. I’m not always successful in this pursuit, but I stand a much better chance when I have the option of trying on a number of pieces before settling on my look for the day. When I travel, I’m working from a small capsule wardrobe, so there’s a lot more hinging upon my making good choices for each individual piece.
Which Black Pants?
As one example, I’m not sure which pair of black pants to pack, and if I should perhaps take two pairs instead of just one. The same is true for my black toppers and black shoes. I always wear a lot of black, but I rely on it even more so when I travel because it pairs well with pretty much everything. But because I wear so much black, I own a lot of black pieces, including multiple choices in many wardrobe categories.
I agonize over which pieces to pack in general, and since I haven’t been wearing most of them very often for many months, I don’t have as much information available to help me make the best choices. I can’t remember which items are comfortable, which may be “fussy,” and which have me feeling most confident. I struggle a lot with confidence and body image issues, so there’s a lot hinging upon my clothing selections.
Another issue I have is that I almost always overpack, mostly because I’m a “mood dresser” and like to have as many choices as possible. But I also worry about potential weather changes (it can snow in Tahoe virtually any month) and uncertain activities. I like to be prepared for anything that may occur, but I also know that’s not really possible. I always keep an eye on the weather forecast leading up to my travels, and I also consider the types of activities I see myself doing, but I can’t be completely certain about either of these variables before I leave my home.
Contributing Factors to Packing Stress
I can’t help but think that this would all be much easier if I had a smaller wardrobe. I would at least have fewer possibilities to consider and it would be less overwhelming. I cursed my moderate to large-sized wardrobe multiple times over the past few days, but I also cursed my body and the fact that it doesn’t look the way it used to. It used to be so much easier for me to get dressed back when I was slimmer, firmer, and younger. I used to like the way I looked in clothes so much more than I do now.
Yes, I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember, but it mostly hasn’t been as bad as it is now. I never used to worry about the way my arms looked; that was a part of my body that I was happy about and liked to show off. Whereas it was previously just my lower half that I fretted about and endeavored to hide, it’s now pretty much my entire body that I’m self-conscious about. That makes the whole getting dressed and packing for travel proposition that much harder.
It Will Be Okay…
I know that I’ll figure it out, and I also know that it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t make the absolute perfect packing choices. I’ll have clothes to put on my body that will work for my activities, and I can even repeat outfits if necessary. I know the people I’ll be with don’t care all the much what I’ll be wearing, and they likely won’t even notice my outfits. Even if they do, they probably won’t remember what I was wearing by the next day. I often remember other people’s outfits, but most people aren’t as obsessed and concerned about clothing as I am. It’s kind of my “thing,” and other people have their own things that I likely don’t pay much attention to.
My rational mind knows that it will be okay and will all work out fine. That part of my mind is happy that I’m taking packing seriously, as we all tend to fare better when we plan for things. I’m probably overdoing it, but that’s better than the alternative in this situation. I remember years ago when my husband challenged me to pack for a trip in fifteen minutes and offered to pay me $100 if I could do it. I had given the whole thing some thought prior to accepting the challenge, but I actually rose to the occasion and earned the reward. My packing for that particular trip wasn’t exactly stellar, but I was able to dress myself decently while I was away, and I was also able to enjoy my time with my friends (I had taken that trip with one friend to visit another friend). The world didn’t end because I may have forgotten a few things or packed a less-ideal pair of black pants.
Past Packing Mishaps
The above were my thoughts prior to my recent Tahoe trip, but I promised I’d end this post with a few past stories of packing mishaps. Believe it or not, I actually had two occasions when I forgot to pack underwear when going away! Both of those trips were to Tahoe, which made the situation more challenging than it might have been if I had journeyed to a metropolitan area.
While there are a few boutiques in the small town (Incline Village) where my family lives, the nearest mall is about twenty-five miles away over a winding mountain pass. So, it wasn’t exactly simple for me to pick up a few pairs of underwear at the store. Fortunately, the Tahoe air is very dry, so I was able to wash my one pair of underwear in the sink each night and they were dry and ready for me to wear in the morning. I couldn’t believe that I forgot to pack underwear a second time just a few years later! Why didn’t I learn my lesson the first time around? I guess I devoted so much attention to selecting my other garments for those trips that I let my undergarments be an afterthought… So far, I haven’t made this grave error a third time – and hopefully I never will.
Another big packing mishap I had was when my husband and I took an Alaskan cruise in 2005. In that instance, I didn’t dedicate enough time to planning which clothes to pack, so I ended up packing probably half of my wardrobe! I was stymied by the fact that cruises include a wide array of occasions to dress for, such as formal dining evenings, shore excursions, and various on-board activities. I was lucky that my husband and I flew to Seattle, where the cruise embarked from, in a small plane (my husband has a private pilot’s license and is part of a flying club), so I wasn’t beholden to standard luggage weight limitations. But it was pretty ridiculous how much I packed for that trip, especially when compared to my husband’s more minimal and sensible travel wardrobe.
The last mishap I’ll share today goes back almost twenty years ago, when my husband and I took a belated honeymoon to New Zealand. We got married on July 4th, 2001 (yes, we celebrated twenty years of wedded bliss two days ago!), but we delayed our honeymoon until February so we could experience New Zealand during their summer season. What we didn’t realize was that summer in the land of the Kiwis isn’t as warm as it is in California. We ended up needing to purchase warmer clothing during our travels, as our shorts, t-shirts, and sandals didn’t provide the insulation we needed in many parts of the country.
Don’t get me wrong… I loved our time in New Zealand, and I still consider it my favorite place I’ve ever visited. But I wouldn’t call it a warm place, at least not that year. Much of what I packed for that trip wasn’t worn much, but we had to lug it all around the country for a full month! Yes, I have some photos of me wearing shorts and t-shirts on my honeymoon, but there are just as many pictures of me bundled up in warmer clothing.
New Zealand Memories
Just for fun, here are a few photos of me (and one with my husband) in New Zealand back in February 2002. I highly recommend visiting New Zealand (post-pandemic, of course), and I hope to make it back there again someday myself. I have many, many fond memories of the month my husband and I spent in that gorgeous country (shout-out to my Kiwi readers!).
I hope you enjoyed reading my pre-travel thoughts, and I hope my past travel mishaps made you smile or chuckle. I also hope you liked seeing a few photos from my New Zealand honeymoon. It was fun looking back through those images almost twenty years later!
I’ll be back shortly with a recap of my packing for my recent Tahoe trip. I’ll share what I packed and how well it served my travel needs. In the meantime, if you want to chime in with some of your own travel mishaps or offer a packing tip or two, you’re welcome to do so. Feel free to also share your packing challenges and/or commiserate with my experience. If you have a trip coming up, good luck with your packing! I know that it can be frustrating and challenging, but if I can make it through two trips without extra underwear, I’m sure you’ll be fine.