I have a confession: I used to be a chronic overpacker. I’d throw just about everything I owned into a giant suitcase, and then get on vacation and have absolutely nothing to wear. I also tried to be something I wasn’t on vacation. You know, the super trendy and flashy version of myself that in no way reflected my real style? Yes, her. I packed clothes that I thought I wanted to wear, probably in the thought that they would impress someone, but I was never comfortable in. And then I’d go out shopping on vacation to buy things that I DID feel good in! It was a never-ending cycle that took me up until about a year ago to break.
What helped me the most? Honestly, it was reading this book and then switching my closet to a Capsule Wardrobe system. It turns out, having a closet full of clothes that all work together, with a similar color palette and uniform system, naturally lends itself to packing easily! Go figure;)
Packing has become for me, in essence, about creating a mini capsule from my larger capsule, that I then bring with me.
So how do I do this? It’s actually pretty simple, and I’m going to go over it step by step with you. Let’s get started!
Step 1: What you will pack obviously revolves around WHERE you are going. About 3-4 days ahead you’re going to need to look at a weather forecast and then start pulling what you’ll need. Depending on time, I like to start planning/laying out my clothes about a week ahead (I’m a list girl!), but you can definitely pack in less time than that. I also want you to think about how you are travelling (car/plane/etc…) and figure out what type of bag to pack. Will you need a suitcase? A carry on? How long are you travelling? Will you have access to laundry? I personally prefer to bring one bag or suitcase with me, because hauling around multiple bags is a PAIN, and I am usually helping my kids with their bags (another post…;)
Step 2: Now that you know the weather and WHAT you are packing in, it’s time to pull some clothes from your closet. When I travel I like to pick a very specific color palette and only pack clothes that fit in that palette. Just like my regular life! Each season I pick a color palette to stick to and 95% of my clothes fit within those colors.
For instance, for my last trip (Outfit Diary recapped HERE), I knew I wanted to wear denim, gray, white, black, with some pink and blush (basically what I wear all the time.) Super simple! Vacation for me, is not for experimenting, it is about feeling comfortable so I can experience it all. Once I have a color palette, I figure out what uniform(s) I want to wear. A uniform is an outfit formula I KNOW I feel really good in and that I can wear several different ways with different clothing items. For my last trip I chose ripped denim + tank + fun jewelry; a dress + fun sandals + jewelry; and cutoffs + simple tank + a kimono. Three uniforms that I could feel good in. Spoiler alert: these are my uniforms I wear in my regular Spring/Summer Capsule Closet, because again, your travel outfits will be a smaller version of your larger Capsule Closet. If I travel in the colder months my uniforms reflect those specific uniforms and color palette.
Now that you have some outfit formulas and a color palette, start pulling out pieces that will work within these guidelines. I always pull out more than I need, and then weed it out before I actually pack it. I have a clothing rack that I hang everything on (see above!), and that really helps me see what I am bringing as well as how it fits together.
Step 3: Now that I have some clothes out I like to make a list on paper with each day written on it, as well as what we are doing that day/night. I then write in what I think I’d like to wear for each day/occasion. What can you bring that works for multiple things? For instance, on our last trip we had a 6 hour drive to our destination, and I wanted to wear something really comfortable in the car (joggers and a tank!) I also knew that I could wear this outfit lounging around in our hotel room, or down to the breakfast buffet in the early morning. So, one outfit could be worn for several different things. I also had access to laundry, so I could wash things halfway through and rewear them.
I look at each day and pick out the outfit I will feel my best in, and then write it down. Vacation, for me, is not about trying out my most ambitious looks. I want to feel like myself, mostly because I am outside of my comfort zone while away and gravitate towards wearing my most favorite and comfortable things. The uniforms and outfit formulas within my Capsule Wardrobe really help me with this! I already know what I feel best in, what colors I like to wear, and because I document my outfits with pictures, I can look back on what I love the most, and then pack that.
Step 4: Now that I have a list of the days/activities we will be there for, I start laying out outfits on the floor. I’ll lay out my travel outfit for Day 1, then the outfit I’ll wear for Day 2 next, and so on. I also lay out my sleepwear, workout gear if I am bringing it, and extras like a swimsuit and coverup of we are going somewhere warm. Everything is in neat piles on my floor according to the days on our trip, and I check it off on my list as I go so I know I have all the days covered. On most days I will rewear things (shorts, jeans), so I’ll just leave them in one pile and add in the top for that day. I like to have it all layed out on my bedroom floor because I can very clearly see that I have all the days covered and I am not missing anything. #visuallearner
Step 5: After that I gather my underthings (I forgot to pack underwear for a trip once lol), and I gather my accessories and shoes. I really try to pack only 3 pairs of shoes for a trip, no matter how long or short. I like a pair that can be worn to the beach or casually (usually my rose gold Birk’s), I like a pair that look good for all the days, both with dresses and shorts (these sandals are an MVP for me), and a dressier pair (LOVE these espradrilles.) I also tend to bring a lot of jewelry on a trip (I have this jewelry case to travel with!) Because my everyday style is very neutral, I like to dress outfits up with my jewelry and accessories. This is really the key to creating fun looks on vacation, in my opinion! Jewelry is so easy to bring along and takes up little to no space in a bag! You can shop my favorite jewelry HERE!
I also make sure I pack a sweater and a jacket for unexpected weather. I have packed all warm things before for a vacation that turned unexpectedly cold, and it was awful! You can’t go wrong with an extra oversized sweatshirt or cardigan, seriously.
Step 6: As for toiletries, I try to keep a bag packed all of the time with trial sizes or travel sizes of my favorites. Then when I pack I just add in my makeup and a few products and I am good to go. (Eyeing this travel case for makeup and hair stuf!) I believe in bringing the same products you use regularly, because you will feel good using them while away. I have my favorite face products in a travel size, and love to have my specific scented lotion and shampoo and conditioner with me. It’s comforting!
Step 7: Lastly, I recently purchased these packing cubes and used them for the first time on our last trip. I loved them! The quality is great and they were really convenient for packing items together. I liked having my pajamas and comfy clothes in one, my underwear and swimsuit in another, and then my clothes in the other ones. We changed hotel rooms several times and I just left my clothes in the cubes all rolled up and they acted like a dresser drawer. I did find my dresses got pretty wrinkled, as did a couple of cotton tees. I’d just hang up the items next time to avoid that. I think I’m going to grab more of these cubes for my kids to help keep their clothes separate as well. I typically pack them together in one bag and these would be a lifesaver.
Note: With all this said, I still overpack a little. I DO like options! But because all my clothes coordinate with each other it isn’t a problem packing a little extra. I think I brought about 3 extra outfits with me on my last trip, but they didn’t take up hardly any room in my packing cubes and I was okay with that. I have underpacked before and that stinks, so I tend to be safe and pack an extra outfit or two!
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Cute Clothes and Accessories!
That’s it! I hope that helps you when it comes to packing for your next trip! If you need a little more help when it comes to refining your outfit formula and/or starting a Capsule Wardrobe, I have a free guide below that can get you started. I promise, it will give you the freedom to get dressed each day knowing that all you have in your closet is perfect for you.