Annslie Bigbee of Briggs & Riley luggage company provides suggestions to ease packing panic at a recent clinic at Clare Swan in Montecito’s Upper Village.  (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from Clare Swan’s clinic.]

As I prepared for a short trip to Paris and London this summer, my usual case of “packing panic” set in. My home closet looks like a small women’s department store, but I know the idea is to not take the whole closet with me.

Lucky for me, the timing could not have been better to attend a packing clinic at Clare Swan’s, a store by the same name in Montecito’s Upper Village. Over the past 17 years of ownership, more than Clare’s hairstyle has changed. Once just a destination for fine luggage and leather goods, Clare has complemented those and added high-quality collections with apparel and accessories for both men and women.

An avid world traveler, her hands-on, no-nonsense approach and her visual displays make shopping at her service-oriented store an educational and entertaining experience. Stopping by after many lunches at Via Vai, we’ve discussed business, kids, politics, boyfriends and parents, and her latest travel adventure with her daughter, Stella.

Clare Swan has always been my favorite go-to shop for all things travel. And with airline surcharges and restrictions, being organized and efficient has taken on new importance so the packing workshop was an ideal opportunity for me.

Stepping into the door of her shop, the late afternoon “happy-hour” crowd and the champagne were both bubbling. The guest “packing maven” to help educate our town’s frequent travelers was sales executive Annslie Bigbee from Briggs & Riley luggage company.

A world traveler, Clare understands from her decades in business about the difficulty of packing — thus the idea for the how to pack a carry-on bag for a 10-day trip was hatched. Carry-on bags can not only carry your favorite travel pillow, comfy socks, books and magazines, but can also carry days’ worth of clothes. This can save you valuable time getting out of the airport rather than getting dizzy watching the luggage carousel go around at baggage claim.

Although the crowd was mostly women, who seemed to be the most “packing-challenged” group, there were men in attendance, as well. Most were hoping the clinic would provide tips that could help keep them from the chiropractor’s table from all the heavy lifting of their partners’ luggage.

In under an hour, Bigbee provided valuable insight and tips, whether you’re flying on a short commuter, coast to coast or internationally. Starting off with an interactive format, audience participation was great. The disbelief of what that woman could get into a carry-on bag was an eye-opener for all present. The six items that were on her list of musts were:

» 20-22 inch, two- or four-wheeled rolling packing case.

» Pack-it folders. Two sizes, 15 or 18 inch, made of ultralight nylon that can accommodate up to 12 garments and fit on one side of your packing case.

» Shoe packing cube. Fits up to five pairs of shoes.

» Gusseted cosmetic bag packed with 3-ounce toiletries.

» Gusseted pouch for bathing suit and/or undergarments.

» Bag in a bag packable tote for return-trip purchases. Pack in main bag outside zip pocket.

After the clinic, I was determined to lighten up my load and did a pretty respectable job with my carry-on. As I began my packing odyssey, I started the hard job — for me — of making choices of what I would want to wear in Paris and London and realized that editing myself was going to be difficult. Could I live without my favorite ballet flats and white jeans? Would heels work on cobblestone streets? Would it be hot or unseasonably cold? In the end, I determined that I still needed — and wanted — my big-girl bag and skycap services. For now, I wanted options and efficiency!
Clare Swan is located at 1495 East Valley Road, Suite 12, in Montecito. Click here for more information, or call 805.969.1746. Click here for Clare’s new blog-based website.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at The opinions expressed are her own.