I’m often amazed when I hear about women packing lightly, or even watching Billy throw a few essentials into his suitcase the day of travel. I’m not someone who’s ever been able to go on a trip with just a few necessities. This week I’ll be leaving for a three-week trip to the East Coast for a family reunion/beach vacation. About a week before I start to plan what I’m going to bring with me. Packing for a vacation can be very overwhelming. Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of travel miles which has taught me how to simplify my process. Yes, I still “overpack,” but who’s to say there’s anything wrong with that? When I arrive at my destination, I like the assurance of knowing that I have an eye-catching outfit to wear each day and night (these are some of the things I’m bringing with me). I also like to know I won’t be inconvenienced on my vacation by having to do laundry because I’ve run out of clean clothes. Here are my packing tips from the initial planning (creating a list, photographing my clothes), to organizing my suitcase so I can fit the most into it. I’ve also included a list of my must-have travel essentials.
Before You Start
Make A List
I use the same packing list that I created in Google Docs and I’ll revise it for each vacation. As I place each item in my suitcase I’ll check it off. This is essential because the day before I leave, I’ll refer back to it and make sure each item has a star* next to it. Then, about an hour before I leave, I’ll look over it once more to be certain everything has been packed.
The categories I use are carry-on, clothing, accessories, shoes, gym gear, beauty products/toiletries, and miscellaneous. Under each heading, I’ll make a detailed list of specific items or products. I also create a category of things to buy before I leave.
If I’m vacationing in a tropical climate or some place warm during the summer, my packing list will look a lot different than if I’m traveling during the winter. I always check the weather before I leave. I learned the hard way when I was in New York City in 2015 and there was a heat wave in the middle of December.
Decide What To Bring
Here are some essentials you should consider packing based on the climate and where you’re headed:
- Clothing: sundresses / skirts, shorts, lightweight tops and tees, bathing suits, cover-ups, jeans, lightweight jacket, and a hoodie.
- Shoes: flip-flops, water shoes, mules, slides, slingbacks, sandals (in various styles / heights), and sneakers.
- Accessories: beach bag, a hat to wear to the beach or pool.
- Miscellaneous: fold up cooler bag, underwater camera, SPF, and bug repellent.
- Clothing: sweaters / cardigans, winter coats (dressy and casual), leggings, jeans, tees, dresses, tights, warm bathrobe, hoodies, and thick socks.
- Shoes: boots (in various heights and styles), booties, snow boots, sneakers, and a pair of heels.
- Accessories: beanies, gloves, and scarves.
- Clothing: skirts / dresses, blouses, dress pants, blazers, jeans, and a neutral-colored tops.
- Shoes: loafers, slingbacks, ballet flats, sneakers, boots, and heels.
- Accessories: simple jewelry
- Miscellaneous: business cards, pen and pad, USB flash drive, your laptop and a charger.
No matter where you’re headed:
- Carry-on: prescription medication, wallet, passport, itinerary, laptop, cell phone, chargers, headphones, book or magazine, sunglasses, eyeglasses, contacts, keys, pain reliever, hand sanitizer, breath mints, gum, snacks, and a mini travel kit.
- Essentials: underwear, slips, socks, pajamas / loungewear, and slippers.
- Accessories: jewelry, sunglasses, headbands, hats, purses, belts, and a shopping tote.
- Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, shower cap, styling products, brush, styling tools, face wash, moisturizer, toner, body lotion, razor, manicure kit, toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
- Makeup: primer / setting spray, foundation, concealer, blush, contour palette, highlighter, eyeshadow, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, eyelash curler, faux lashes / glue, lipstick, glosses, lip liner, travel size brushes, and makeup remover.
- Gym gear: workout clothes (tops, shorts, pants, jacket), gym bag, towel, sneakers, and packable equipment (resistance bands, ankle bands, cell phone holder).
- Rain gear: raincoat, waterproof boots, and an umbrella.
- Miscellaneous: water bottle, supplements, eye mask, perfume, agenda/planner, and a small steamer.
Separate The Clothes You’ll Be Wearing On Your Day of Travel
After I’ve looked over my list and considered what I want to bring with me, I’ll plan my outfit for my day of travel and I’ll put it aside along with my shoes and accessories. I always wear flats to the airport because I’ll be doing a lot of walking. Another thing I’ve learned, no matter how hot it is outside, bring a sweater or sweatshirt on the plane because the cabin can get cold due to the high altitude.
Take Photos of Each Outfit With The Accessories You Plan To Wear
About a week before my trip I start to plan each outfit and photograph them. Depending on the amount of days I’ll be on vacation directly affects what I’ll bring with me. I’ll also pack outfits for specific events: beach day, sightseeing, date night dinner, exploring the city, etc. This may seem like a time-consuming step, but it’s well worth it. It assures me that I have accessories and shoes to go with each outfit and that everything I’m bringing will get worn.
Consider Using A Closet App
I started using the Finery app a few months ago and gradually I’ve been inputting everything into my virtual closet. One of the things I love about it, is that you can add an item as soon as you purchase it by using their plugin. Visualizing my clothing on my computer screen helps me plan out my outfits, and in return what I want to bring with me.
How To Get The Most Out of Your Suitcase
Clothing: After I pulled each piece of clothing out of my closet, I’ll put it on a clothing rack and bring it to my living room (where I do my packing). A space saving trick I’ve learned is to roll (not fold) my clothing, starting with my heavier and bulkier items first. To fit the most into my suitcase, I’ll use the main part to store my clothing, shoes, and hats. For underwear, socks, and swimsuits, I’ll place them in the inside zipper pouch. Then, I’ll use the front zipper pouch for my accessories, toiletries, makeup, and odds and ends.
Accessories: If you’re trying to pack minimalist and not bring a ton of clothing, I recommend bringing lots of accessories. They can switch up the look of an outfit in a few seconds. To securely pack my jewelry, I’ll separate my necklaces, rings and bracelets and place them in tiny ziplock bags that I purchase at Daiso (“the $1.50 store”). This assures me that I won’t arrive with a tangled mess. For my chunky jewelry, I’ll pack them in a sturdy zipper pouch.
Other must-have accessories that I bring with me are a few small handbags, belts (brown and black), a headband or two, a few pairs of sunglasses, and a couple hats (especially if I’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors). I’ll place my hats into my suitcase first and stuff them with socks, so they won’t lose their shape.
Makeup / Beauty Products / Toiletries: Recently I wrote about my favorite travel size beauty products which I like to stock up on because they take up less room and weigh less than my everyday products. Since I’m afraid of leakage, I’ll place any liquids into a ziplock bag and then I’ll put them in Bendels package zipper pouches that I’ve acquired over the years. (Here are a few options; Baggallini Clear Travel Pouches, and Ban.do Mega Carryall Set.) I’ll separate them by shower items, nail stuff, haircare, etc., so they’re organized and easy to find once I land.
As far as my makeup goes, I have a clear vinyl case where I pack my must needed items. I’ll also bring a pallet or two—I just purchased this Anastasia Beverly Hills eyeshadow palette with bright summer shades that I can’t wait to try.
Shoes: These are one of the more trickier items to pack because of their weight and the amount of space they take up. I’ll admit, there have been times where I’ve brought way to many pairs and only wore a few. My solution to that is making sure each pair has an outfit that goes with it.
Here’s a list of what type of shoes you should bring depending on where you’re going. If you’re packing minimalist I recommend bringing two or three pairs that will go with most of your outfits. Also, don’t forget to purchase shoe bags (this set has 15 and features a transparent window so you can easily identify them).
About two hours before you leave, look over your packing list one last time and make sure everything has been checked off.
Each airline has their own requirements for carry-on bags and checked luggage, although most require that checked bags do not exceed 50 pounds. Invest in a luggage scale and weigh your bag(s) before you leave so you won’t be in for a surprise at the check-in counter. I just purchased this TravelPro 29-inch suitcase and love the size of it. I can fit a ton of stuff and still have extra room to bring home purchases from my trip.
Pack liquids in ziplock bags so you won’t have to worry about them spilling in your suitcase.
Use luggage tags (not the paper ones at the airline counter because they can fall off during travel). Pick something that’s bright and stands out so when you’re at the luggage carousel you’ll be able to find your bag easily.
Have any packing tips you would like to share? Comment below!
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