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Destination, culture are keys to packing

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There's an art to packing for a trip that I rather naively thought I'd mastered a few years ago.

An early Stylephile column was about my packing skills and how a trip to Mexico became the greatest expression of that talent. When I read the article now, the tone in it strikes me as a trifle smug.

The problem is I'm going on vacation to Zanzibar, which is off the eastern coast of Tanzania in Africa, and I had absolutely no idea what to bring with me.

Normally, I can take a few carefully chosen pieces on vacation and transform them into a virtually endless array of outfits, but this trip has been challenging in a variety of ways.

Issue No. 1: The 20-hour journey just to get there, and I'm not even including the layovers in various airports.

My outfit has to be comfortable but not sloppy because, well, you never know who you might run into in the airport. It also has to be warm but with layers that can be removed if necessary. Oh, and finally, it needs to be made up of pieces that can be incorporated into the rest of my vacation wardrobe.

What I've decided to wear is a pair of J. Crew utility pants, a lightweight V-neck sweater with a long-sleeve henley underneath, denim jacket, oversize scarf that can be used as an extra layer on the plane if I get cold and a pair of cute sneakers.

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Issue No. 2: The fact that I don't really know what I'll be doing in Zanzibar, so I need to bring pieces that can be versatile and work in a number of situations.

With that in mind, in addition to the utility pants, I'm bringing two pairs of chino shorts and a mix of T-shirts, tank tops and nicer short-sleeve tops. I'm also taking two bikinis and my gladiator sandals, which will be sturdier than the toe thongs I briefly thought about bringing.

And Issue No. 3: Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, so my clothing choices have to be respectful of the culture.

I'm taking a smocked strapless tunic that I plan on wearing as a beach cover-up but that also works as a longer skirt. Between that and the pants, which I can pair with any of the tops that cover my shoulders, I should be all set.

And because with my luck, my checked baggage probably will end up in Singapore, I'm taking a pair of shorts, a top, the tunic and a bikini in my carry-on just in case.

Rebekah Bradford is a freelance writer based in Charleston. Reach her at rebekah.bradford@gmail.com.

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