I travel on average every two months between having lived in two different states prior to my current residence in Colorado, family stuff, weddings, and pleasure. Since I'm a budding expert in the field, I thought I'd share my insights and tips that I've learned along the way. I hope you enjoy and hopefully bookmark this post to refer to for any future travels you may be going on, because I believe it to be thorough and comprehensive!
I actually kind of love to pack for a trip, probably because I love clothes and styling outfits so much! Whether it's a long weekend or a two week trip packing gives me a chance to organize ideas and look forward to wearing some of my favorite (or new!) pieces.
Step 1: Within a week or two prior to your trip, start setting aside clothing you think you'll be bringing.
This will ensure that you don't accidentally wear a shirt and then run out of time to do laundry before your trip. It also helps you eyeball how much you're possibly bringing and what else you need to set aside last minute (like shoes, hair accessories and jewelry that may be an everyday part of your wardrobe that you can't set aside just yet). This also saves you from rummaging through your closet and drawers the night before packing, therefore eliminating (some) of the stress you could experience before a big trip.
Whenever you can match up the accessories you want to bring with the clothes so you don't accidentally forget something....
...and sometimes you can set accessories aside in advance and grab them as you need them leading up to your trip. (Just remember to put them back when you're done!)
Step 2: Two days to the night before your trip (schedule permitting) load up your suitcase(s) with all the clothing you desire to bring-with the shoes you want to bring nearby too.
This helps you decide what's too much. I always lay my suitcase out in the middle of my family room with all my clothes laid out on my oversized sofa chair or on my coffee table. Then I start to put things in a pseudo organized matter (it's just a test run after all) into my luggage. This process makes it extremely easy to weed out what you don't need. Do you really need the skirt with the thicker fabric taking up a lot of room? If not, put it back on the chair! Do you have too many colors that will require too many shoes? Streamline from there! Make sure you're packing what you realistically need and are making sure there's room for toiletries or any non-clothing items you may need to bring.
If you can't lay out undergarments yet because you will need them prior to your trip, make a list of what you need. Different dresses require different kinds of bras (strapless, more padded, less padded, nude) and the same goes for underwear. Make sure you're thinking about bringing what you need!
*It's worth noting that you should start with the items you absolutely must bring, like a dress and shoes for a wedding and all other important events or any other outfit that you'll be wearing for the reason you're taking the trip.
I'm not bringing all of these things. Duh. But this is a great visual way of trying realize what's too much, what's not enough, and etc. It's easier than you think to lose track in either direction!!
Step 3: Pack!
This one sounds obvious (I suppose it is!) but here are the packing tips I've learned along the way:
- Put your most valuable and sentimental items in your carry-on. If you're bringing a carry-on suitcase (the actual luggage kind you can only fit in the bins above your seat) pack your most valuable or irreplaceable items in that one and not the checked bag. The dress and shoes you're wearing to the wedding? Put it in your carry on. A one of a kind vintage dress? Place it in the carry on. The out of production Bernie Dexter dress or PUG skirt (read: a very hard to replace favorite piece of clothing)? Carry on! Valuable handbag that you're not carrying on the plane? Yup, put it in the carry on please. This way it'll be in your hands until you reach your destination city because sometimes checked luggage does get lost. While it's often found and shuttled to your destination, horror stories do happen. Depending on your budget and where your destination is (NYC versus a rural town) you may not have the money or be in an environment to shop for another dress to wear to the event you're attending. Plus, losing your most important pieces can lead to awkward and stressful moments-if not heartbreaking ones! Also, putting a few pairs of underwear in your carry on is always a good idea just in case your checked bag does get lost.
- Use your additional handbags as storage bags. If you are bringing a handbag that you won't be carrying around the airport consider putting your hair accessories, jewelry, or even clean underwear (maybe in a plastic bag regardless) inside the handbag to save space. I wouldn't recommend make-up or liquids since flying can do a number on those, but stuffing a handbag with socks helps save space and prevents the bag from being smushed and losing it's shape.
- Pick a color scheme. This is a tip I personally don't use, but my mom often travels according to color scheme. In an effort to not have to bring excess shoes and handbags, she'll pack all black and white outfits and accessorize accordingly or she'll do all dresses and skirts with red in it so she can accent them with red shoes and a red purse. Because I've never met a color I dislike, I'm a little bit more high maintenance with this and have to narrow it down to a few colors! But I think it's still a good idea worth passing on!
- Wear a layer on the plane. Wear a cardigan that goes with most outfits on the plane (planes can be cold and even if it's not you can take off the cardigan). This saves some room in a suitcase. Even if you're traveling to a tropical place, overly air conditioned restaurants still may make you wish you brought a light layer or two if you didn't. And if you absolutely need more than one cardigan, at least one less in is in your bag.
- If possible, wear your clunkiest shoes to the airport instead of packing them. Boots, wedges (unless your feet will dying after trotting through several airports all day), or sneakers...just wear them to airport saving room for smaller heals, flats, or flip flops for your suitcase.
- Space and how many days you're traveling depending, bring at least an one extra change of clothes if not 2-3. Why? Stuff happens. It could rain. You may feel gross being in humidity all day and want to change clothes. Sometimes you have an outfit in mind for an event you're attending, but then after scoping out the environment and culture you're in you decide it's too casual or too fancy. I have personally forgotten a top to go with a skirt and I was super glad I had a backup sundress. Stranger things happen! This is a fine line because you don't want to go overboard and overpack, but speaking from personal experience I have both been thrilled when I brought an extra outfit and I have also found myself wishing I did have something extra on times I did not have something extra.
- Light on the pajamas, heavy on the underwear, consider and then reconsider the gym shoes, and bring a bathing suit anyway. You likely won't need several different tops and bottoms to sleep in and will be just fine vegging out in the same thing every night (especially if it's a shorter trip). I feel you can never go wrong with extra underwear and it takes up the least amount of space so over pack that in case it rains, it's overly humid and you want to change, you're changing out of bathing suits in a rush and not showering after every time, etc. Also certain outfits occasionally require different styles or nude colors so just do it. Less is not more here. In regards to the sneakers, I'm a runner and a gym rat. If I know I'm going to have access to doing either I'm always very tempted to bring my gym shoes. But if it's an action packed trip, I don't get around to running more than once. Sometimes even if it's a lazy trip, well, lethargy becomes me! If you're training for a marathon and will make the time then bring the shoes. If not, be really honest with yourself and your trip's circumstances and make an educated decision. They take up a lot of space if you don't put them to use. In regards to bathing suits, the first time my mom and I came to Colorado for a visit we didn't bring suits. Why was this a problem? Well, for one it was July and 100 degrees! For another our hotels had both indoor and outdoor pools. Luckily we were right by a Walmart so we could get cheap suits and enjoyed sitting in the indoor hot tub at night. Being such a beach + pool family it stupidly never dawned on us to bring suits to a landlocked state in the middle of summer. But lesson learned! A bathing suit takes up .06765 room in your suitcase and you'll be glad to have it. ***If you're traveling to a place where you know you'll need a suit, don't forget an appropriate coverup and shoes to get to you back and forth:
When I had to improvise a pool cover up... Yes, the boots were necessary and not just for comedic effect (indoor pool could only be reached by walking outside and it was the dead of winter). Don't let this happen to you!
Accessory and non-clothing packing ideas:
- Do you need hair tools? Most hotels supply hair dryers. But whenever I fly to a humid culture I bring my straightener because a hair dryer isn't always enough to tame my hair! Ask yourself if you'll be needing a straightener or curling tools for where you're going.
- Consolidate medicines. I can get pretty gnarly headaches so I always bring Excedrin Migraine. And I often have trouble sleeping, especially if I'm changing time zones, so I bring Tylenol PM as well. Instead of bringing both bottles, I put x amount of each kind in the kind of baggie you bring through security. This way it saves space, is easier to put into a purse for when you're out and about later in your trip, and most over the counter pills have different sizes and colors so it's pretty hard to mix them up.
- Bring band aides. Sounds random, right? But you never know if you may need them from a first aid stand point. But also, they're my quick fix blister problem if the shoes I'm wearing give me an issue. As you may know, I love my heels and wear them pretty much on the daily. Heels never bother me, but sometimes changing climates and being dehydrated from traveling can cause different water retention levels, therefore impacting how my shoes typically fit. Walking around Miami last May my pink Nine West Flax that I have literally ran in before began to give me an issue while walking 4(!) blocks from my friend's place to a restaurant. I had band aides in my purse and was able to cover the blistered areas in the bathroom and was perfectly fine walking around the rest of the night.
- Weigh out what you may need versus what you could buy there and which way is more convenient. I was in Miami again in November and forgot to bring my sunscreen. On one hand that was good because my bottle is the larger bottle that sprays out the lotion and given that I was only checking a bag I may not have been able to bring it anyway. But staying right on South Beach all of the drug and beach stores sold sunscreen for $2-$8 more than I could have found the same bottles at a Denver Target. Especially since I was only there for 3 days, paying $20 for sunscreen kind of blew but I knew I didn't want to get burned either-especially before a black tie wedding. Think about these travel conundrums before traveling, especially if you're flying to a different weather system that will require different toiletries than your usual every day use at home.
Tips to help you prepare to travel back:
- Save any plastic bags you get from shopping. If you're using a pool or going to the beach, you're not going to want to mix in your swimwear and cover-ups with your other clothes and have the whole suitcase smell like salt water or chorine. The bag you used while grabbing some soda and water from the drug store down the street can be put to use again here by putting swimsuits and dirty clothes in it. (Tie it up when it's full.)
- Wrap souvenirs around clothes- especially breakables. I collect mugs and I have yet to have a mug break that I buy while on vay-cay. I take a tee shirt or skater skirt and wrap it around the mug like you would newspaper. And then I burry it in the middle of the suitcase with other clothes padding it. I still preferably take it on my carry on so I know how the luggage will be handled, but even when I have been forced to have a mug be in checked bag it's been fine if I wrap it around clothes.
- Packing to go home is easier. I always put handbags and vintage in my carry-on both ways, but the clothes you needed for the event can go back in checked bags on the way home because you won't be (as) screwed if you lose them as you already put them to use. Since a lot of your clothes will be dirty, a lot of your clothes can be more carelessly thrown in