10 Packing Mistakes to Avoid

Packing is more than a mere function of traveling; it’s a creative process that can make or break your trip. Here’s how to be perfectly prepared for the destination ahead.

1. Using the wrong bag

My first order of business is the bag: Depending on the destination, I go with a duffle (Orvis Battenkill, pictured, and Filson are stand outs) or a roller (Rimowa, ZERO Halliburton, TUMI, and Eddie Bauer all make great models). And despite what others may recommend, I almost always check my bag—I’d rather spare myself the maddening competition for overhead space and settle in.

2. Overpacking

You always want to leave some packing space to bring more stuff home—because you will. Choose your luggage based on this: Take a bag that’s big enough, but leave some room in it so you can accommodate those souvenirs and flea-market finds.

3. Leaving the swimsuit behind

There is always a pool, hot tub, or sauna that is worth dipping into when you travel, regardless of climate. There is nothing worse than the scramble to find a suit when you are presented with the opportunity for a good soak or swim—especially after a long flight.

4. Ignoring items that do double duty

I never leave home without at least one cashmere sweater (mine is a V-neck). They’re warm and easily dress up the most casual outfit when needed. Furthermore, they make excellent impromptu travel pillows on long-haul flights.

5. Not taking enough underwear

Packing for four days is not much different than packing for a week: everything can be recycled and worn more than once, except your underwear. Make sure you carry plenty of them.

6. Only packing light colors

Light colors show wear and soil the easiest so invest in some dark-colored items, specifically shirts. Denim is also a good choice for pants: It’s versatile, resilient, and can be dressed up or down. (The RRL Selvedge jean from Ralph Lauren, pictured, is a good choice.)

7. Being underprepared for weather changes

Always check the weather for the week ahead while you’re packing and leave room for changes while you’re there. Pack a rain jacket along with a mix of cool- and warm-weather clothes that can be layered or worn separately.

8. Not bagging your shoes

Most good brands include shoe bags upon purchase, so use them. They protect everything in your bag from being exposed to the street grime, sand, or dirt that ends up on well-traveled footwear. Plus, you can pack extras and use them to wrap fragile items you want to bring home.

9. Packing too many options

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of packing too many clothing options, but if you establish a uniform of sorts, you will get more mileage out of your items and can therefore pack more efficiently. Just stick to what you’re comfortable in and what looks good that can also be worn in different scenarios, from the business lunch to the hotel bar. For example, I always pack some type of blazer or jacket that can be dressed up with a knit tie or a pressed shirt.

10. Carrying a bad attitude

The most savvy travelers know that anything can happen despite your best-laid plans, so pack some tolerance and good humor and be prepared to roll with the punches. Make lemonade out of lemons; lost or delayed luggage is a great excuse to add new items to your wardrobe.

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