I have had many requests for a packing post, and have had fun putting this one together. I take about 20-30 trips a year between personal and work travel, so packing is something I have gotten good at, as a result! Below are my tips for efficient packing.
Plan Ahead, and Pack by Outfit
I usually try to pack about two weeks prior for a big trip and about a week ahead for a quicker trip. You want to start soon enough that you have time to order anything you are missing, and ensure you can wash and dry clean anything you need.
I realize this is going to be a lot for some, but I use the notes app on my phone and type out all of the days and evenings I’m traveling and list everything I need for those occasions. I suggest typing out literally everything you’ll pack, including jackets, bags, etc. This way, you have everything you need and nothing you don’t!
There’s nothing more annoying than struggling to stuff everything back into your suitcase at the end of a trip only to realize you didn’t even wear half the clothes you brought—or, that you brought tons of things but none of them actually work together. That’s why I started strictly packing by outfit—not individual items— and I only pack things that are on the list. I hate checking a bag but love clothes, so being realistic and planning ahead is key.
Streamline Wardrobe Colors
I check a bag only if going on a trip for more than five days. For five days and under, I don’t check a bag. The suitcase I use is the Monos Carry On. In terms of how to maximize a carry on, think of what you are packing in terms of a capsule wardrobe with a specific color palette. I always start with a neutral (usually black or blue) and then build outfits around those colors. By having your clothes generally work together, you can most likely then wear the same jacket, belt and shoes with things—so it has a downstream impact. You can always can change things up with jewelry, scarves, and other lightweight pieces.
Minimize the Shoes
The worst packing mistake is definitely packing too many shoes. For any trip, you really shouldn’t need to bring any more than three pairs of shoes. The location and season will, of course, affect which shoes you bring, but it should be a relatively similar formula. A nice pair of heeled sandals or pumps for evening, boots or flats for during the day, and a travel sneaker. Find neutral shoes that go with everything—my go-to “packed” summer shoe, for example, is a nude block heel sandal. If you are running into outfits that require a different pair of shoes than the three you have packed, then rethink your outfits. Minimizing your shoes is the key to being able to pack in a carry on!
Keep a Pre-Packed Toiletry Bag
Keep the essentials packed and ready to go! There is nothing worse than arriving to your destination and realizing you have forgotten your toothbrush or hairbrush. I keep a pre-packed toiletry bag ready to go, and it stays in my suitcase. After each trip, before I put the suitcase away, I take note of and replace anything that needs replenishing. That way, when I pull it out for the next trip, it’s ready to go.
I am loving my new toiletry bag and matching makeup bag by Kushi. They are roomy and cute with extra compartments and a full unzip for easy access. I also use the snap-in brush holder, which is fantastic.
I was gifted a set of Cadence capsules for the holidays and have loved them! These have’t fully replaced everything in my toiletry bag, but they have replaced a lot. I use them to carry shampoo and conditioner, serum, sunscreen, face cream, makeup remover and more. They will even fit a few days’ worth of vitamins.
Convert to Cubes
I’m a packing cube convert. For the longest time, I didn’t believe in the hype, but since investing in a set of packing cubes, my packing has become more organized. Depending on the trip and what I’m bringing with me, I’ll either pack designated outfits together or group similar pieces (like t-shirts) together. I also pack my shoes in cubes. At the end of my trip, I’ll use one cube for dirty laundry, which also makes unpacking simple.
Separate Your Jewelry
Tangled jewelry costs precious time on a trip where you are always on the go. A great jewelry organizer can prevent this and help to keep everything visible and organized. I am currently using this organizer for my travel. I searched for a long time for a great fit, and am loving this one!
When Finished, Eliminate
Along with everything above, I’ll do a version of the famous Coco Chanel quote: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.’ That means I’ll put everything in the suitcase, and decide which one or two items I can leave behind, especially if I can use the space.
Track it All
I unfortunately learned this the hard way—AirTag your stuff! I AirTag both my suitcase and my jewelry case, separately. That way if you are separated from your things in any way, you are setting yourself up well to find them.
One final packing tip for those who tend to procrastinate. Unpack as soon as you arrive! Yes, it’s tempting to drop your suitcase off and head straight out, but you’ll spend more time getting rid of those wrinkles later on, as well as trying to work from a packed bag. Take five minutes, hang up your clothes, and then enjoy an organized, wrinkle-free vacation.