Last-minute packing is a way of life

by Сашка

I look forward to my chaotic late-night ritual before a travel day

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At 1 a.m. the night before a childhood trip to Hawaii, my bed was strewn with shorts and dresses. Shoes lay on the floor next to a stack of paperbacks I had yet to narrow down. Socks littered the floor like rubble. Down the hall, my mom fussed over my brother’s empty suitcase. My sister’s room resembled mine, and even my principled dad — who maintains a strict 9 p.m. bedtime — was meticulously folding swim trunks by lamplight.

You may think that this chaos resulted from a one-time lapse in judgment. You would be wrong: We were simply engaging in the LeKachman family tradition of last-minute packing.

Although embarking on vacation sleep-deprived from late-night scrambling is most people’s travel nightmare, waiting until the night before to pack is my paradise. Not only does it eliminate the inconvenience of living out of a suitcase days before travel, but also there’s nothing like a flight in the morning to pressure you to finally get it done.

In my house, last-minute packing is a bonding experience. Some of my funniest travel memories begin in the early hours of the morning, with my family bumping into each other in the kitchen as we deliriously rummage for Ziploc bags and trade progress reports. Running on nothing but adrenaline and laughing at our own folly, we down coffee and say, “But really, should we stop doing this?” The answer is always a resounding “No!”

Eleventh-hour packing wasn’t initially intentional. It began in third grade. My mom had a hectic week, so she ran around on the eve of our Europe trip cajoling me and my siblings into collecting gear for three different climates. Secretly enjoying the mayhem, my sister and I giggled as we raced around gathering hiking boots, ponchos and earmuffs.

As I grew older, I resolved to pack in advance, but the plan inevitably unraveled. There was my high school’s Disney World trip, when I submitted an assignment at 11:59 the night before my flight and consequently packed until 2 a.m. Then during the summer before college, I crammed my schedule with so many plans with hometown friends that my suitcase lay empty until hours before a road trip.

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Eventually I accepted that waiting until the last second is how I pack. Abandoning the expectation to pack in advance helps me enjoy the days preceding travel. Plus, I look forward to my late-night ritual; I feel a certain release knowing I can afford to stay up late because I can sleep on the plane tomorrow.

I have my three-stage routine down pat. The first portion includes joyfully bingeing my favorite shows as I wash and organize the clothes I’m bringing. When I tire of that, I call a friend so that the energy of our conversation overrides any exhaustion that’s setting in. In the final stage, I whip around like a tornado, hyper-aware of my impending flight and motivated by a special momentum that kicks in when the rest of the world is asleep. Or maybe it’s just delirium.

Prompted by concern for my sleep schedule or their own anxieties, people try convincing me to change. But as a public school teacher who is always prepared, I delight in allowing myself to be disorganized for once. I view my packing practice as treasured me time, and I encourage you to do the same.

Jacqueline LeKachman is a New York-based freelance writer and English teacher. She can be found on Twitter: @JacquelineLeKa.

More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness. Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare, including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

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Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas, including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed. Submit your question here. Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

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