BY: Elissa Ruffino
Believe me, it can be done! Losing one’s luggage and trying to be cheerful without your “stuff” for more than 24 hours has been a never-ending fear of mine. Fortunately, it has never happened to me because I refuse to check anything. I will go so far as to layer my travel outfit or eliminate shoes and outfits. As a former public relations director, I traveled across the Atlantic numerous times with board members or friends whose luggage never even left the point of departure or landed in another country.
It really puts a cloud over the start of any adventure. Everyone becomes immediately consumed with dealing with your unfortunate situation and airport authorities. Carrying on your luggage allows a speedy exit. It’s a real time saver when unpacking, too! Long story short—here’s how to avoid unnecessary angst!!
Where to start!
Hang everything you plan to pack outside of your closet to VIEW and PREVIEW. It’s amazing how quickly you realize how you may have too much of the same or how many possibilities exist with one skirt and a top that you had never worn together. Hang it all up and start eliminating items to get down to six outfits that are versatile enough for the day and evening. Don’t forget to put out the accessories— scarfs, belts, bracelets and earrings. With everything in full view, you now can begin to see the myriad possibilities. Also note, that you want to bring jewelry that can bend and fold. When you pack tightly, you would not want a hinge to snap or necklace that adds weight to your carry-on bag.
Placing items in the suitcase!
There’s no need to roll clothes, just fold and stack on only one side of your suitcase. Why? That’s all you are allotted for your clothing. Also, pack one week prior to departure to allow items to settle.
Reserve the other half of the suitcase for your shoes, sandals, sneakers and more. You will not need more than two pairs of shoes plus the pair you will wear on the plane. Wrap the two pairs individually in tissue paper and stack them along the sides of the suitcase not designated for clothes. Now, you have room for your jewelry, make-up bag that has been paired down to essentials; your toiletries; bag of creams, toothpaste, and hair products in travel-sized containers. YOU are good to go and just remember, you are still allotted a personal item (i.e. tote bag) which you can carry your hand bag.
My chosen six outfits!
It’s always nice to look your best on your flight—even if you will be travelling “over the pond” throughout the night and don’t get a wink of sleep. Upon arrival, you will be exhausted but at least you will be wearing something interesting that makes you feel good. Also when checking into your hotel, you might want to make a positive impression for a possible upgrade or room with a better view or floor.
Most recently, I travelled to Italy for 42 days to teach a marketing course at a university in Rome. As my first venture teaching abroad, I had no knowledge about what facilities or equipment I would find, eg. computers; copying machines, staplers, clips, post-its, paper, and pads. Therefore, I needed to use my space wisely in my tote bag and bring my laptop, copies of my 24 lectures, three textbooks; 20 handouts and articles; all wires; and external hard and thumb drives. I also chose a tote bag with a zipper so I could minimize the appearance of the bag’s size and avoid raising concerns with the airport authorities.
Now that I had my tote packed, I had no idea what one would wear in the classroom. I scoured the school’s web site for what everyone was wearing to get an idea of the dress code. I then decided as a visiting professor for the summer session, that I did not fall in the same category as a tenured professor who could probably dress anyway they thought appropriate.
For the classroom, touring at my leisure and going out in the evenings, I decided to take three different skirts; two dresses and one pair of pants. I chose versatile skirts – a black and white polka dotted pencil skirt, a multi-colored slim skirt, and a totally fun, silk skirt with small sequin circles. To dress up or down the skirts, I brought six tops in various colors and sleeve lengths to interchange with the skirts. Two straight simple dresses that could be accessorized went into the suitcase along with a new pair of colored jeans for the weekends. (For the winter months, I would switch out the skirts for slacks, take two dresses and one skirt.) I find that a brand new and first-worn item when travelling looks better and is more durable throughout one’s stay. My travel outfit consisted of a new pair of jeans, a long sleeve blouse, camisole, and a stylish blazer and my sneakers. I also draped a scarf round my neck and wore a statement (bold) necklace. Since I was unsure about temperatures in the evenings, I found a light puffy down jacket that could be stuffed into its own tiny bag. That item hung from the handle of the suitcase along with a baseball cap.
The Last Question!
What room did I have left for my purchases from the “Eternal City?” Earrings, rings, prayer cards and small painted treasures were my target. Although, I was in love with all the Italian fashions, I would have to make room for any new purchases. I knew that I could always donate to a charity or give away an item that got a “bit” snug, or has seen better days (out of fashion) to have it return to my home closet. And that’s what I did!!!
My choices of outfits, shoes and accessories worked well during unexpected meetings and evening events, touring the city, and in the classroom. I was never disappointed when opening the closet to choose something to wear.
Carry on…….it’s the only way to travel and can be done with style!
Elissa Ruffino teaches at area universities in Washington, D.C. and abroad. She is the former communications director and chief brand officer at the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) , and recently awarded a 2017-2019 education grant from NIAF.
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