How to Pack

Packing for a trip. If you are like me, this is one of the most dreaded fashion situations you can face. I’m really hoping someone will invent a way to teleport your entire closet with you wherever you go. In the meantime, here are my tips, tricks and past mistakes in hopes of helping you become a better packer!

1. Brainstorm.
On my recent trip to Europe, I spent at least two months planning my outfits in advance. That might sound excessive, but I was visiting a climate that was very different from the one I live in, wearing shoes I never wear (flats) and I also wanted to come up with cute outfits I could use as blog posts. ;-) You may not need as much planning as I did, but I still think that doing some initial brainstorming can really help with packing. Write down outfit ideas for your trip in the days and weeks leading up to your trip. Use inspiration photos and fashion blogs to get fresh new ideas.

2. Check the weather.
Leading up to your trip you’ll want to be checking the weather on a fairly regular basis. I recommend checking online, but also asking people you know that live there or have been to that region at the same time of year. I am notoriously bad at packing correctly for the weather. On my recent trip to Europe, I underestimated how hot Rome would be despite having checked the weather a gazillion times. If you are unsure of the weather or visiting multiple climates as I was, I recommend bringing an item from either end of the spectrum (both a warm coat and a pair of summery sandals, for example) *just in case.*

3. Pick your shoes first.
So… where to begin? With your shoes, of course! My #1 packing tip is to start with your shoes. These are by far the biggest and bulkiest items in your suitcase, so I always start there first. Often, I will pick either black or brown shoes and stick with that same color theme for the whole trip. Another tip: wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane (both directions) to save room in your suitcase.

4.  Pick your jackets next.
The weather research you do will help determine how heavy and how many jackets to bring, and I recommend picking them next since they are also one of the bulkiest items in your suitcase. Use the shoes and jackets as a guide, and then only pack the smaller items (tops, bottoms, dresses) that go with them.

5. Layer it up.
Even the best meteorologist can't detect quick weather changes, so whenever possible I suggest packing outfits that have varying “stages” like the one above, that you can be adjusted based on how cold or hot it turns out to be that day. This can also be a helpful way to pack if you are traveling from one very hot climate to a very cold climate in the same day, or if it's warm during the day and gets much colder at night. Try packing a cardigan that can go under each jacket you packed and/or a scarf or gloves that you can add to your outfits.

6. Pack full outfits.
To ensure that I don’t pack a single item I won’t use, I like to try everything on and pack full outfits, rather than bits and pieces. This method might not work for everyone, but it has been a huge space saver for me. (Bonus: if you take the time to snap a photo of each outfit, you can look back at the pictures to help you remember what's in your suitcase and choose which outfit to wear while you're on your trip!)

7. Reuse, reuse, reuse.
I try not to pack anything that I won’t wear twice, even on a short trip. Try to think of packing as a fun puzzle and challenge yourself to come up with a way to re-wear any given item more than once.

8. Evaluate.
At the end of packing, I recommend going through everything and do three things: 1. Count how many outfits you have. Make sure you haven’t packed too many outfits, or not enough. 2. Imagine as many scenarios as possible (museum, church, mountains, dinner) and make sure you have head-to-toe look for every occasion. 3. Pick which outfits you will wear on the plane in both directions.

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A Packing Case Study: What I Packed for Europe

My recent trip to Europe was 16 days, 7 flights, one train ride and three countries (England, France and Italy). This is everything I wore (minus two outfits, those photos were unfortunately erased). I packed: 

Three pairs of (cute) shoes.
  • My super-comfy flat Bakers boots that I’ve had for a year.
  • A new pair of Michael Kors loafers. I must’ve tried on 50 pairs of flats and these were by far the most comfy!
  •  A new pair of boat shoes. These are a great alternative to sneakers since they have a cushy rubber bottom like sneakers but are much cuter (in my opinion).
  •  My gym shoes. I had planned to work out at least 3 times, but only wound up wearing them once, on a run through the streets of Milan. I would consider leaving these behind next time, but then again that run was one of my favorite highlights of the trip, so it’s a tough call!
Four jackets.
  • Trench coat. (didn't use it, not pictured)
  • Wool navy coat. (worn 4 times)
  • Camel blazer. (worn 4 times)
  • Tan leather jacket. (worn 4 times)

Five bottoms.
  • Dark skinny jeans. (worn 2 times)
  • Black skinny jeans. (worn 2 times)
  • Camel wool skirt. (worn 2 times)
  • Red cords. (worn 2 times)
  • Striped skirt. (worn 1 time)

Seven dresses.
  • Light pink ruffles. (worn 1 time)
  • Polka dots. (worn 1 time)
  • Gray t-shirt dress. (worn 1 time, with leggings on the plane)
  •  Camel t-shirt dress. (worn 1 time, with leggings on the plane)
  • Sweater dress. (worn 2 times, not pictured)
  • Olive dress. (worn 1 time)

Eight tops.
  • Graphic tee.  (worn 1 time)
  • Blue collared shirt. (worn 2 times)
  • Plaid collared shirt.  (worn 1 time)
  • Striped t-shirt. (worn 2 times)
  • Mustard tank top.  (worn 1 time)
  • Red silk blouse.  (worn 1 time)
  • Leopard blouse. (worn 1 time)
  • Polka dot blouse. (worn 1 time)

One purse.
  • I brought one, large purse. It was big enough to stuff full on the airplane, but then small/lightweight enough to wear cross-body style while sightseeing. It usually contained a bottle of water, snacks, maps, and the usual stuff (wallet, lip gloss, sunglasses) for sightseeing.

Tons of accessories. 
  • The right statement necklace can dramatically change your look, but as I discovered they are also very heavy, so choose wisely when packing these. I wore my heaviest necklace (Stella & Dot Jacqueline) three times on this trip.

What I packed but didn't need: 
  • My trench coat (planned to wear it over the pink ruffled and polka dot dresses). It was much hotter in Italy than I thought it would be and I didn't need it.
  • Four cardigans/sweaters that I packed "just in case." I really overdid it on this part. I'm a wuss when it comes to the cold, and overall I just really thought it would be much colder than it was in Italy and France. I wish I had done even more research on the weather beforehand to avoid this! I also wish I had considered the other end of the spectrum - a super-hot day, and packed a pair of flat sandals. These would have really come in handy in the 100-degree heat in Rome!
  • I packed an "alternate" outfit at the very last minute that I didn’t wind up needing. I wore the other pieces, but not the cargo pants. Those were wasted space in my luggage!

Other packing tips for Europe:
  • Since I was checking a bag, I felt free to stuff it full. This was a mistake. It wound up being over 50 pounds, which meant I was removing items at the airport and putting them into my purse. Which then meant I was carrying the world's heaviest purse on and off the plane. We also opted to take public transit to and from the airport most of the time, which resulted in my lugging my own 50 pound suitcase up and down stairs all over Europe. Choose wisely.
  • Historical places like churches will make you cover your legs and arms when you enter. Since it was 100 degrees in Italy, I wore a breezy skirt and tank top and just covered up with a scarves (see photo above) as I entered the church.
  • I packed my straightener, but not my hair dryer since hotels usually have those. You will need converters for anything you want to plug in (like your phone charger) so make sure to pick those up before your trip.
  •  Don’t forget the snacks. I brought a jar of peanut butter that saved my life on a super-early flight. Nothing was open yet so that became my breakfast.

What are your best tips for packing?