Pack Like a Pro–or Be Packed by a Pro

16561168929_07b86aff3a_z (1)If you travel a lot, packing gets routine. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s still not fun—just elevated slightly from pain to annoyance. What if you could leave packing to a professional, a virtual valet?

A new company called Dufl promises to automate packing for the frequent traveler. Let’s say you know you always need certain business “uniform” items like cotton shirts, dress pants and jacket, khakis, etc. You ship your business travel wardrobe to Dufl in a Dufl-issued bag, where your travel wardrobe then resides in your “virtual closet.” For each trip, you use the company’s app to select the items you’ll need. Then Dufl sends the professionally packed bag to your destination hotel, to await your arrival (you hope). When you check out, leave the bag at the hotel front desk and it’s returned to Dufl, where your wardrobe is professionally cleaned, ironed and stored—ready for your next trip. The cost is not inexpensive, nor is it prohibitive if you consider the alternative of bag fees or the hassle of lugging a suitcase–$10 a month, plus $100 per round trip.

I will be curious to see how much uptake Dufl gets. I’m skeptical. It’s perhaps only slightly more foolproof than self-packing, though I’d love speeding through the airport without hauling my rollaboard behind. I do have a Dufl-like packing hack, though–one that I suspect most frequent travelers abide by.

My hack is to keep some items pre-packed in my carry-on, the most important of these being a toiletries kit. The rest is relatively easy and rather rote: I throw in x number of days work “uniforms,” add some accessories to dress them up for evening, then layer on my customary workout clothes. At that point I consider exceptions–if there’s an event that requires extra-dressy evening attire, or weather-related gear. Finally, I double-check shoe needs and conduct a day-by-day review of every piece of attire, to be sure I’m not missing half an ensemble. (What have you forgotten to pack? My worst omission was a pair of tights, and I learned that you can buy anything in New York at 6 a.m.) But all this takes very little time—maybe twenty minutes for a three-day trip.

I’ve also noticed that I gravitate towards wearing the same outfit (or a variation) every travel day, a guise based on comfort (stretch is good), TSA requirements (nothing complicated) and practicality (white pants tempt fate with turbulence spills). I’ve also used packing checklists in my more compulsive past—particularly when traveling with kids before they packed themselves.

Alas, Dufl and my hack only address packing clothing. I find more stressful the packing of tech gear, chargers, converters, power strips, and flash drives loaded with files. Throw in a paper file or two and a Moleskin notebook. Then there are snack essentials: I never leave home without a Kind bar, an apple and some premium tea bags in my tote. Forget any of these, and I’m heartbroken.

What are your packing hacks—or blunders? Would you pay for a packing service?

Photo: Flickr/Craig Sunter