I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately and with every trip I
take I pack a little lighter and with more confidence. Looking back
to one of my first major trips, a semester in Europe when I was in
college, I laugh at some of the traveling mistakes I made.

Granted, back in the early 1980s there weren’t the fantastically
light luggage options we have today, though anything would have
been better than my wheel-less, oh-so-heavy Samsonites. I
practically dislocated my shoulders lugging a couple of those bad
boys around Florence looking for a cheap room (I hadn’t made any
reservations). I have learned volumes about travel and packing
since then.

Recently, I took two of the easiest trips to pack for: a business
trip to New York City in the fall and a trip to a beach in

The big city

The New York City business trip is easy to pack for because the
clothes you’ll need are pretty obvious. Notice I said I was
traveling in the fall — summer in New York can be sweltering and
it’s tough to pack a business-appropriate wardrobe that can also
stand the heat. Winter is snowy and cold, which means packing
heavier, warmer clothing, and you will probably need to check a
bag, even for a short stay.

My main tip for city packing is to either go black or brown, not
both, for your shoes and accessories. Also, as for almost all
trips, pack layers. My new favorite thing to wear to the city —
sorry guys, this is a girl thing — are long cashmere “duster”
cardigans. These look great over pants or skirts and are thin
enough to fit comfortably under a coat.

During my four-day trip I wore the same black pants but just
changed the top and jewelry each day and evening. New York is a
place I do travel with jewelry; most of the time I leave it at
home. I feel very safe in big cities, but use your judgment.

The other great thing about traveling to a big city, especially New
York, is that you can get anything you need most any time of day or
night. There’s a Duane Reade drug store on practically every corner
in midtown Manhattan, and I picked up single serving packets of
everything from bath scrub and Tylenol P.M. to a deep conditioner
for my hair. They even sell eye shades and ear plugs, items I never
travel without.

The beach trip

The beach trip is another easy one, but there are some good
organizational tips to remember. First, often you’ll be taking off
from a cold airport and spend some time on a cold plane before
reaching your tropical destination. There’s no reason to spend any
of that time uncomfortably; again, layers are the answer.

You may be taking only one pair of pants, so obviously, wear those
on the plane. You can pile on T-shirts and a light sweater under a
big cotton scarf that can double as a blanket on the plane and a
sarong at the beach. If you want to just pack one pair of shoes,
and those are sandals, just wear them with a thick pair of socks
that you can slip off after you land.

The beach vacation is a perfect candidate for a carry-on only trip.
As long as you can buy a big bottle of sunscreen at your
destination (since you can no longer carry that on board), you’ll
be fine. Swim suits and sun dresses don’t take up that much room.
If you take a hat, make sure it’s the type that can scrunch up in
your bag.

The one thing that is a big drag to forget on a beach vacation is a
pair of sunglasses. These are often expensive, and you’ll want the
pair you love with you. The thing to leave at home for a beach trip
is jewelry. I’ve heard several stories about women who’ve lost
their wedding rings in the ocean. Also, if you’re traveling to
beaches in countries like Mexico or southeast Asia, a lot of bling
is not appropriate — you don’t want to attract that kind of

Here’s your homework: As you pack for your next trip, make a list
of what you’re taking. Keep it with you on the trip and make a note
of things you forgot or wish you had. Also note things you brought
that you never wore or used and make sure to leave them at home
next trip. Keep the list updated; you’ll probably want one
checklist for city travel and one for beach travel. Soon you’ll
have a customized travel list that will give you packing