Packing Dry Run

I get ideas about what’s essential when packing my suitcase. -Diane von Furstenberg

With our upcoming move to New Zealand, there’s surprisingly little we’re taking with us. Because we’re renting our home here in Delaware in mostly-furnished condition, thankfully we do not have to pack all of our belongings into storage. Unlike if we were moving to New Zealand for good, we pretty much can leave the majority of our earthly belongings in our house or in the safekeeping of friends.

We will live the first four months in NZ on the South Island city of Christchurch, a city of about 370,000 people (and New Zealand’s third most populous city after Auckland and Wellington). Most people have heard of Christchurch because it made world news because of several large magnitude earthquakes in 2010 and 2012. From July to October James will be teaching at the University of Canterbury, which is putting us up in a three-bedroom house right off campus.

A great deal of my energy preparing for our move has gone toward the related tasks of minimizing what we own and deciding what we will take with us: mostly clothing.

I just completed a practice pack of my own clothes and oversaw Evelyn and Charlotte pack. I also packed Calvin’s clothes. While there are a few things we still need to purchase, for the most part I think we’re in pretty good shape. If we suddenly had to leave tomorrow it wouldn’t be pretty, but we’d be okay.

Here was the packing process I took, in 8 steps.

  1. Donate or pitch all clothes that don’t fit or that I don’t wear. If I don’t like them here, why would I take them thousands of miles with me so that they can feel rejected in NZ?
  2. Pack away items that aren’t going to be practical hiking, traveling, sightseeing, and living daily life in NZ. For example, I have a solid professional teaching wardrobe, but because I won’t be teaching while in NZ, it doesn’t make sense to bring them.
  3. Choose athletic/fitness/hiking clothes. I’m bringing my favorite running shorts and leggings as well as 3 short-sleeved and 3 long-sleeved running shirts and 2 pull overs and 1 vest. Because we plan on doing a lot of outdoor activities these will need to do double-duty as my fitness clothes as well as hiking gear.
  4. Lay out bottoms (shorts, pants, skirts) and choose favorites among them. I did this by season (see below).
  5. Lay out tops above the seasonal bottoms to make sure each item can be worn multiple ways and to create different outfits. For summer I am taking 6 bottoms and about 10 tops; for winter, I am packing 3 pairs of pants and 4 shirts with 3 sweaters.
  6. After choosing the main capsule pieces, I then added in pajamas, tights, 2 swimsuits (one athletic, one for relaxing), and leggings/underwear/bras/camisoles.
  7. Select accessories (in my case, 3 pairs of earrings, 3 simple necklaces, and 2 watches: my Garmin for hiking and running and a gold and leather one for normal use.).
  8. Pack into suitcase and weigh.
Fitness gear
Fitness gear
Summer clothes
Summer clothes
My suitcase
My suitcase

So let’s talk packing allowances. Our airline carrier allows up to 23 kilograms per person, or about 50 pounds.

My practice pack came out to 25 pounds. No doubt the weight will increase with last minute forgotten additions (a beach towel, contact lens solution, medication, etc.), but it feels pretty good to have all of my clothes packed and to be so far under the weight permitted.

Having gained confidence with my own packing experiment, I coralled the girls and we tackled their dressers. I took a similar approach with them, with similarly positive results.

Char's summer clothes
Char’s summer clothes
Char's winter clothes
Char’s winter clothes
Ev's packing list
Ev’s packing list

Finally, I did not even ask Cal’s opinion. I just packed.

Cal's winter clothes
Cal’s winter clothes
Cal's summer clothes
Cal’s summer clothes

Now, a few questions I’ve answered in person:

Why don’t you just ship things to yourselves in New Zealand?

The big reason is cost. For example, the cost to ship a 30 pound box from Delaware to Christchurch at the economy speed and rate is $705.30. A 15 pound shipment would cost $516.67. It’s PRICEY.

How are you packing for three seasons?

I’ve read about capsule wardrobes, where you try to only purchase items that can be mixed and matched with other clothing items you already own. The idea is to maximize the possible combinations while keeping the number and types of pieces low. In short, we’re going to be creative with less, meaning layering and reusing pieces instead of trying to take tons of stuff.

In addition, our winter arrival may sound rough, but winter temps in Christchurch are not nearly as cold as our winters. We’ll layer leggings and pants and shirts and sweaters, and we’re all taking a real winter coat. But it’s not supposed to be brutal. In fact, the 15 day forecast (including the first day we’ll be there!) shows day temps mostly around the upper 40s or lower 50s and nights around 30 degrees. Lots of clouds, some rain, but no snow.

Summer temps can be warm but aren’t usually sweltering, so shorts and tank tops should be fine. Evenings can get cool again, thus the long-sleeved layers.

How many pounds of luggage do you get to take?

Each ticket includes a checked bag of up to 50 pounds.

Why don’t you take minimal amounts of things and just buy what you need there? Wouldn’t that be cheaper and easier than trying to take everything with you?

After consulting with several people who are either from New Zealand or have lived in New Zealand in the past, we found that clothes and shoes are quite expensive there. Everyone encouraged us to buy and take what we think we’ll need. And unlike here, Amazon Prime shipping won’t be nearly as cheap or convenience in Oceania. While I fully expect we’ll need to purchase some unforseen or replacement items there, we’re trying to minimize those expenses.

Who is the best packer in your family?

Me, of course.



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