Travel is often associated with stress. Anticipating the mound of work emails waiting for you upon your return, making sure you don’t forget to pack your swimsuit for the beach, TSA (enough said).
But traveling for a vacation should be exciting rather than taxing. Although many factors contribute to the complete de-stressment of travel, overhauling your relationship with one simple element can bring much of the fun back into vacation before even walking through the airport body scanner (now there’s a good time).
Luggage. A symbol of travel. An indicator of status. A small piece of the ultimate jet set lifestyle. And sometimes, your biggest foe.
Whether your luggage never seems to be the right size or have wheels that actually roll, it’s a necessary part of most vacations. It is the start and the end to vacations. And though it may not be immediately obvious, it plays a huge role in how you feel about your trip.
So if you find yourself saying that you need a vacation after your vacation, repair your relationship with your luggage in four simple steps.
Step 1: Find the bag.
If you look at your luggage as a necessary byproduct of travel rather than an accessory—as you would a handbag or briefcase—it’s time for new luggage. You’d probably rather spend your money on the vacation than the luggage, right? Good luggage doesn’t have to be expensive. Say you live in a big city. Stay in two Fridays in a row instead of taking a cab, eating out, buying drinks, and you can save up more than half the cost of a decent bag.
It’s important to find a good luggage that you’ll be proud to walk around with. If you own a pair of jeans that fits you perfectly, you probably want to wear them all the time. Similarly, if your luggage fits you perfectly, you’ll want to travel more. The excitement of travel will return, overriding the anxiety.
What is the ideal luggage? Eventually, you’ll want a matching set: big bags, small bags, bags inside of bags (e.g. cosmetics bags). Many companies offer classic collections that never change, so you can keep adding pieces as you need them without winding up with mismatched suitcases.
Start with two basics: a small bag for weekend trips and a larger one for longer travel. Preferably something small enough so that it doesn’t need to be checked (unless you’re traveling for weeks at a time, in which case you’ll need a bigger bag no matter how small you can roll your T-shirts). But make sure it’s a bag that wouldn’t cause you to shed tears if you do need to check it and consequently spot it being tossed around like a leafy salad.
Your luggage should look professional in case you wind up traveling with your colleagues for business, but it should also reflect your sense of style. Do you want to look sleek and savvy? Then your luggage should, too.
Neither women nor men need a luggage the size of a draft horse in order to fit everything (see step 2). Navigating your luggage shouldn’t make you feel clumsy. Vacations should make you feel good. If you anticipate struggling with your luggage, it’s not the luggage for you.
Step 2: Fill the bag.
While effective, there is more to packing than rolling clothes. When packing for a vacation, you’ll probably want to pull out all those clothes that you never wore that would be perfect for a European vacation or trip to Napa. To achieve this dream of the perfect wine-tasting outfit, you need to be able to see what you have.
If the space around you is organized and clean before you start throwing clothes onto your bed to pack, you’ll find that you’ll be less stressed. Decluttering your packing space will declutter your mind. You’ll be able to see exactly what you’re bringing, won’t forget things, and will probably realize that you’re packing entirely too many pairs of pants for one week. So, before unloading your closet, tidy up your room. That way you’ll know that whatever is out is what you’re packing.
Closet-to-luggage packing almost guarantees that you will overpack. Tried and true packing strategies such as choosing a color theme and bringing two shirts for every pair of pants won’t work if you don’t remember what you’ve already packed.
It’s not usually ideal to second-guess yourself, but it’s almost always necessary to do so when it comes to packing. How many times have you returned from a trip with entire outfits that you never wore? It’s wasted, weighty space. Travel light and you’ll feel light. Hauling heavy baggage on vacation—or anywhere—is something you can and should avoid by laying it all out beforehand.
Step 3: Unpack the bag.
Returning from a trip can be depressing. Returning to a clean house is less depressing. Waking up to an already unpacked luggage can be positively heartening—especially if you’re going straight back to work. Nothing can unravel leftover vacation bliss like digging desperately through your luggage for your toothbrush five minutes before you need to leave for work.
Most times the return trip feels long and tiring. By the time you’re home, all you want to do is put your feet up, or maybe go straight to bed. The good news is that it will take you no time at all to unpack, and you might sleep better knowing it’s done.
If you’ve packed correctly, your clothes will all be dirty. Straight into the laundry bin! Your cosmetics and/or toiletries will all be together in a little case that you can take straight into the bathroom—because after a flight, even if you do just want to go right to bed, you’ll want to wash the plane air off your face.
What’s left? Your phone charger, maybe some books or magazines, a few other random items, but not much. And why leave your beloved luggage lying in the middle of your bedroom floor because of a few leftovers? Take care of them right away, and you can be completely unpacked in five minutes.
Plus, you came home to a clean house, right? No reason to mess it as soon as you walk in the door. You can extend your mental vacation by a few hours if you don’t start cluttering right away or adding useless items to your to-do list like “unpack luggage.”
Step 4: Store the bag.
Even if you purchased a piece of luggage that you really love the look of, it will probably wind up in the back of a closet next to your yoga mat and other things that don’t always look excellent lying around an apartment.
But now that you’ve invested in it, it requires a space of its own where it can remain in good condition, with the rest of the set, and ready for its next use. Unless you’re really tight on space, don’t store things in it or on top of it. If you store things inside, the next time you go to use it, you’ll need to empty it first. Then you have random items sitting around your apartment, and you’ve added a step to the packing process.
If you store things on top of it, as silly as it seems, you’ll get frustrated every time you reach for your luggage and need to move things to get to it. Remember: viewing your luggage in a positive light will help keep your vacations relaxing rather than stressful.
The benefits of keeping your luggage storage space clean and clear extends beyond eliminating frustrations. Picture your luggage, which you are proud to own, piled high with other stray items from your life. And then picture it without the excess, neatly standing on its own in an uncluttered corner of your closet. The first image is a natural stressor.
This applies to anything that you keep in your closets. Just because the items in your closets are behind closed doors doesn’t mean that your mind won’t see through those doors and dwell on the disorganization.
When you love what’s inside your closets instead of just using your closets as receptacles for things you don’t want seen or don’t know what else to do with, you’ll feel better. You’ll use what you have because you’ll actually know what you have. Use more of what you have, and have less of what you don’t use.