Not quite a spoonful of sugar, but almost as good…

So lately I’ve been doing a heap of traveling–yay!–and schlepping my bag–boo. For the book tour, there was no way around using a proper, albeit small, suitcase. There was a 70-degree temperature fluctuation from Phoenix to Nashville, and I needed lots of layers and a parka in order to stay comfortable. I did my level best to streamline what I packed, and I was quite pleased with myself.

Until I met up with Lauren Willig straight off her flight and she was carrying nothing more than a tote bag. It was like Mary Poppins herself had appeared in front of me. Lauren was conjuring everything she needed from that single small bag. Granted, she was traveling for a single night, but it was LIFE-CHANGING. I immediately started to brainstorm how I could work this magic in my own travel life, and this past weekend, I made it happen. Here’s how:

1. Get a uniform. It doesn’t matter what your uniform is. Lauren always wears dresses and I have opted for black skinny jeans, black t-shirt, and black jacket. This means you don’t have to pack CHOICES.

2. REALLY think about what you’re packing and leave off anything the hotel can reasonably accommodate. I checked the hotel website and discovered Frette robes in every room. Good enough! A comparable hotel is also going to have everything from body lotion to Q-tips. Chuck those out of your bag and don’t look back.

3. Plan to rewear what you can reasonably repeat. In my case, it’s jeans and jacket. The t-shirt and underthings need to be fresh, so that’s what I packed. I folded them into teeny piles and put them into a gallon ziploc bag. I threw in a handkerchief sprayed with my perfume so they wouldn’t smell “plasticky”.

4. Make kits. I have small zippered bags for each of the following: cosmetics, chargers and earbuds, miscellaneous, food. A clear quart bag holds my liquids. And this is where it gets really good. Everything that I usually pack into travel containers? I downsized into sample containers. Enough for 2-4 uses which is perfect for an overnight trip, even if you get stuck on a layover. The miscellaneous bag holds emergency goodies that I’d have to find a drugstore or call housekeeping to replace: stain wipe, tiny lint roller (black clothes, y’all), orange stick, floss sticks, the tiniest nail file imaginable, two safety pins, two pieces of Hollywood tape, band-aids. They pack down to almost nothing but can really make a difference if you have need of them. The food bag holds a protein bar, some chocolate, a small bag of mixed nuts. These are for STUCK ON THE TARMAC FOR NINE HOURS-type emergencies. Or if I check into a hotel and somehow miss out on room service, which has happened twice in the last few months.

5. Find garments that do double duty. My favorite jacket is a black Cynthia Rowley waffle-weave blazer that has a zip-in grey sweatshirt hood. When this is in place it looks like I’m wearing a hoodie under the jacket, casual and warm. When I zip it out–which takes about two seconds–polished professional. It is GENIUS. I will sob when it wears out. If I’m going anywhere that might be below 50 degrees, this is the jacket because that hood is WARM. Otherwise, I have a few other black blazers in various weights, including unlined. If the temperatures will fluctuate, I also pack a long, wide Indian wool scarf. It’s scarlet and appliqued with green and black and turquoise paisleys, so it goes beautifully with the all-black travel outfit and it is perfect to use as a wrap, neck scarf, or lap robe.

6. Go digital. Okay, this one was hard. But I didn’t bring a physical book. (I know. GASP.) I packed my mini-tablet which is the best for reading or streaming movies, and my back-up in case of disaster is my phone. I also knew I’d be traveling through airports with bookstores if the worst happened. All it required was one extra cord–the plug is the same I use for the phoned–so it was much lighter than bringing a book.

7. Bring a “statement” accessory or two. I put that in quotation marks so you’d know I was speaking with tongue firmly in cheek because it sounds pretentious to speak of STATEMENT JEWELRY. (What does it say, one wonders?) In my case, this means large silver bib necklaces. I have five. I rotate them when I travel, and my one bit of excess is packing an extra one in my cosmetic bag just in case one breaks. (I bring the lightest one as a back-up and since I did have a heavy one break a few weeks ago, it makes sense to me to carry along a spare of the one element that really brings the outfit together.) My other distinctive item? Footwear. Throughout the winter travel, I’ve worn my purple motorcycle boots and they are perfection. Comfortable, a little edgy, the perfect pop against the black outfit. The only other color is the red lipstick I always wear to events. (Red brightens your face and counteracts the effects of jet lag like nothing else.)

8. Bring products that can pull a double shift. L’Oreal makes a mascara with the primer built into the other end, and petroleum jelly (I know. Gross.) will take off your eye makeup and work as a lip balm.

With a little planning, my own Mary Poppins bag worked like a charm, and I am a convert. I could never make it for more than two nights traveling like this, but for short trips, it is the very greatest thing. And if you REALLY want to feel like a queen, sit serenely on the flight during boarding when everyone around you is going full Thunderdome for the last overhead bin…

I’ll be bringing my Mary Poppins bag to Myrtle Beach this week! Don’t miss the Moveable Feast event on Friday courtesy of Litchfield Books, details on the Appearances page. See you there!

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