luggage_homespun_8_19You know you shouldn’t do it. You tell yourself it will never happen again. You’ve learned your lesson. Next time will be different.

And then? Those good intentions fizzle, and you’re back at it: Hauling heavy luggage that turns you from a happy traveler into a beast burdened by your possessions. You’ve packed loads of clothes you don’t need, and you’re stuck waiting for your luggage, hauling heavy bags all over the place or rooting around in your carry-on for the one thing that you cannot find.

“Most people do overpack,” said Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale’s fashion director. But Solomon has a system (as do other successful travel packers), whether she is packing for a weekend getaway in the car or the trip of a lifetime overseas. With just a few basic guidelines, you can eliminate the hassle of overpacking.

Choose one basic color
“Pick a palette. A basic, like black. Add two colors and stick to it,” said Solomon, for instance, “black, white and red. Period.” Gregg Andrews, a Nordstrom national fashion director, agreed: “You need to think about looks that are strongly color coordinated. What is your neutral? Is it black? Is it brown? Is it navy? Then play off it. Pop it with other bright colors, so it all makes sense.”

Pack a few versatile basics
“If you can only wear something one way, one time, don’t pack it,” Andrews said. “It’s about how many outfits you can make with a few pieces, that’s the key to great packing.” Solomon’s musts are a basic black dress, one pair of black trousers “that fit you sensationally” and a black cocktail dress. If it’s coat weather, a classic trench in black or tan can work in any setting, “including evening,” she said. These few pieces with some tops, accessories and shoes - a max of one dressy pair, sneakers, flats and flip-flops - “will take you through a month, and you’ll always look very cool and chic,” Solomon said.

Let accessories change the look
“Costume jewelry is very important. Shoes are very important- the ultimate touch,” said Nicole Fischelis, Macy’s fashion director. She also suggests a standout belt or a “bold” jewelry statement, either a single piece or an armload of bangle bracelets. Solomon said a cardigan or jacket in the accent color is one way to ensure “you’re not dull.” Solomon recommends leaving expensive jewelry at home, but if you do take it, wear it continuously, never pack it, and don’t leave it unattended.

Avoid wrinkles
Skillful packers of both genders choose jersey and knits that can be rolled up rather than folded. Or put clothes in dry-cleaner bags before layering flat in luggage.

Smart moves
Flip-flops are a must to use as bedroom slippers, beach sandals and shower shoes. And, pashminas can do multiple duties as a plane blanket, beach coverup, evening wrap or colorful scarf accent.

Size matters, and so does weight
“Only pack what you can carry. If you cannot lift your bag yourself, you have too much stuff,” Finney said. Even if your suitcase rolls, you will need to hoist it up steps, onto buses or into the trunk of your car. If you’re buying new luggage, consider the weight when empty. It’s not a bargain if it’s already heavy before you put anything in it. Make sure wheels and pull devices operate smoothly. Check airlines for maximum carry-on dimensions, generally 45 to 52 inches (height plus weight plus length). Similarly, check for weight restrictions and charges for checked bags.

(c) 2009, Ellen Warren, Chicago Tribune.