How to Pack Smart and Stylishly for Any Trip
As I see it, there are basically three schools of thought when it comes to packing. Some people can throw some things in a bag, often at the last minute, and be perfectly content. Others like to pack practically everything they own and are not bothered by hauling extra luggage.
Then there are the rest of us. We want to have the right looks for our trips but we also want to travel reasonably light. It’s these women whom I hear from the most and the most common questions are “Why is it so hard to pack for a trip?” “Why does it take so much time?” “And after all that, why do I never want to wear half the things I brought?”
Well, over the past several decades of traveling around the world and packing a suitcase or two (or hundred!), I consider myself a master packer and I’ve perfected a packing process that has solved this conundrum once and for all. So if you fall into this third camp, this strategy will work for you too.
The Four C’s
The key to packing well is to consider what I call the four C’s:
- COLOR PALETTE
This not only helps you decide what to pack, it will help ensure you’ll be happy with what you packed once you’re actually on the trip. For every trip, I use a chart like this:
You don’t need a chart per se (you can just make notes on a sheet of paper) but if you’d like a blank chart to print, you can find one here.
First fill in the high and low temperatures forecasted for each day and make note of any precipitation because that will often dictate different outfits. I use both the Weather app and the AccuWeather app to get the most updated forecasts.
Then next to that, write down what you have planned for each day. I have sections for Day, Night, and Misc. but you won’t necessarily need all of them if, for example, you just have one daylong activity planned.
Next, fill in under each day (on the green lines) the exact outfit you want to wear, down to the shoes, bags, and accessories. Thinking in terms of outfits was the game changer for me. A lot of packing lists seem to tell you to pack a certain number of items then figure it out once you get there. But if you haven’t thought through the entire outfit, you will, more likely than not, be disappointed with your options. As for the outfits themselves, that is where the next two C’s come in.
First, consider the culture of the destination. Some countries call for more modest dress, some are more formal, some require you to cover up to visit religious sites, etc. so take all of those things into account. Respecting the customs of your host country is important. Also, some towns are more casual, some cities are more chic, and some may be more colorful. While we don’t necessarily have to adapt our styles to locations, it can be fun to experiment with our wardrobes in a new context.
Lastly, choosing a color palette can really help you pack smarter. Excess luggage is a nuisance so you want to be strategic. By having a color theme, you can mix and match pieces and get more mileage out of them. This is especially helpful when it comes to shoes, bags, and coats which take up the most room. The more you reduce the number of these bulky items, the better.
In addition to your outfits, I also recommend packing three other things: 1) some sort of a cotton scarf in summer to use as a wrap, turban, sarong…. or a shawl/pashmina in winter for extra warmth; 2) a white button down which can serve endless purposes such as a coverup, a sleep shirt, a second layer if it’s colder than expected, or a backup top if everything you packed ends up being too warm; and 3) one extra outfit in case of any mishaps, spills, etc. and also because you never know what your mood will be. 😉 And here’s my bonus pro tip: pack the extra outfit in your carry-on just in case of the dreaded loss/delay of your luggage. This way, at least you’ll have one change of clothes while your luggage is located.
Once you’ve written down all of your outfits, it’s just a matter of checking things off as you pack. Ever since I started using this method, I find that while packing still takes time, it’s something I actually enjoy doing as part of my trip planning. The goal is to not underpack or overpack and this method helps accomplish that. I hope it will help you pack smart and stylishly, and enjoy the process too!