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Secrets of…a master packer

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Hitha Palepu received her first passport stamp at six months old, was potty-trained on a flight from India to the United States and learned to pack her own suitcase before she’d graduated from training wheels. If all that doesn’t solidify Palepu’s status as the quintessential travel whisperer, then consider this: In addition to serving as the chief executive officer of a pharmaceuticals company, the New York-based entrepreneur is also the founder and editor of Hitha on the Go, a lifestyle site dedicated to simplifying the lives of jet-setting women. Last year, she published her book How To Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip, making Palepu the hyper-efficient Marie Kondo in her field of expertise.

“I was working in the pharma industry and craving a creative hobby,” Palepu says. “I was also traveling three weeks out of every month with my team who were all men and packed their items in backpacks or small suitcases. Over time, I created a fail-proof system that worked for any trip, from four weeks in India to a whirlwind trip around the country that combined technical meetings and business formal conferences.”

Palepu’s philosophy remains at the heart of her brand, which offers busy women the life hacks she’s honed over a lifetime of travel. “It’s less about how you pack and more about what you pack,” she observes. “If you pack the clothing and shoes that you reach for at home time and time again, you’ll be more comfortable and confident during your travels.” We asked Palepu to school us on the art of proper, painfree packing:

Take note: The most common mistake Palepu sees amateur travelers make is foregoing an action plan. “People overlook writing a packing list, and that’s often when they overpack or underpack,” she says. “Writing a list helps you identify what you need and the specific things to pack and eliminate the extraneous. Whether I’m packing for a weekend or a month-long trip, I always write a packing list.” Download Palepu’s personal packing list at

Roll out. Palepu’s book offers extensive wisdom on the mechanics of packing, but we asked her to simplify one age-old conundrum: to roll, or to fold? “I typically fold tops, roll bottoms and have a fold/roll method for blazers that minimizes wrinkles. I fold tops — especially collared ones — to prevent the collars from being crushed. I roll
bottoms to conserve space and prevent wrinkles. It’s also important to pack items in your luggage in a logical way: biggest and bulkiest items in first, smallest items last.”

Grooming on the go. Toiletries always seem to be an afterthought in the packing process, but some careful consideration can save time and space (and spare beauty blunder or two). “If I’m traveling somewhere with a Drybar location, I’ll leave my shampoo, conditioner and hair dryer at home and get a blowout at my destination,” Palepu says. “For skincare, I swear by TULA — their products are gentle and effective, and they offer most of them in travel sizes. I always have a few sheet masks packed in my luggage to revive my skin after a flight, and have a little jar of coconut oil on hand. It’s the ultimate multitasking toiletry — a moisturizer, a shave cream, for cleaning teeth and a leave-in conditioner.”

Always on time. For true packing success, Palepu advises adhering to a schedule. “I follow the same timeline for every trip, whether it’s a weekend or a month-long trip,” she says. “The only difference is how long each step takes me — for a weekend trip, it’ll take me a minute or two each day. For a longer trip, I can spend up to 20-30 minutes doing each day’s tasks.”

Bag of tricks. What’s the one magic item Palepu wishes everyone utilized? “Shoe bags! The soles of your shoes are disgusting, and I don’t want those germs and dirt near my clean clothing. Packing shoes in a shoe bag protects your belongings, and I’ll stuff some socks or hotel slippers in them for lounging on my trip.”

Well-heeled (and walkable). Shoes are among the biggest space-sucking items in any suitcase and so many never even make it to the pavement. So how many do you really need? “Two to three pairs for any trip,” insists Palepu. “For a business trip, I’ll pack a pair of heels, a pair of flats and sneakers for workouts. For a beach trip, I’ll pack a pair of metallic flat sandals and a pair of sneakers. I have a pair of Nike Flyknit sneakers that pack down nearly flat and pack them for virtually every trip. We recently went to Stockholm and I only brought a pair of Rothy’s pointed toe flats — I walked 10 miles a day in them and they complimented my casual day outfits and evening dresses perfectly.”


The sheer amount of luggage labels on the market is enough to make a traveler’s head spin! Here are some of Palepu’s favorites.

““AWAY is everywhere, and with good reason,” she says. “The suitcases are the same quality as the premium brands, but at a more accessible price point. I also love their thoughtful details — built-in compression, a laundry bag and the battery.”

“For weekender bags and totes, I love Cuyana. Their Le Sud leather weekender is my go-to bag for quick trips, and I always travel with their classic leather tote.”

“I also swear by Dagne Dover’s backpack; the neoprene is easy to clean and looks sleek, and it’s got a pocket or a section for everything you need.”

NOTE: One of the product pictures in Dropbox would not transfer to wordpress media library

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