Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tips on packing less (and choosing what to pack).

If you would like to see all my travel posts, including recaps, tips & recommendations and packing guides, please visit my travel page.

Every time I do a packing post, someone says something about not being able to do it, or they wish they could, or they need help.

Now - if you do not want to just use a carry on, there is a red X up there in that corner that you may click. Really, no pressure. I just want to help if you actually want to pack less.

Pack things that are easily mixable and matchable.
This is like #1 on most lists and for good reason. Now, I personally don't just pack all black or neutrals and I'm not good with choosing basics first and then throwing in a pop of colour. But, I won't bring a striped skirt that I can only wear with one top, or a top that only looks good with black jeans.

See below - not everything can be mixed or matched but not everything needs to match, I just like to have options. I didn't include shoes in this. Of course I could have made way more outfits, but my goal is just to use everything at least twice.

// black tee //tank top // striped top //
// denim jacket // cardi // denim shorts //

The above links are affiliate links, meaning if you click, I get like 2 cents. Thank you!

Plan your outfits.
I know this is tedious and a whole new level of 'planner crazy' but actually planning my outfits is ridiculously helpful. Because when I plan 50 outfits for a 2 week trip, I realise I have too much and I can get rid of a few things. I can also see that I'm only wearing this top once, or I favour these jeans over those so do I really need both?

Try your outfits on. 
Things look different on polyvore than on a person - unless you are 100% positive you know how everything looks on you, try it on. Taking photos is helpful because then I can refer back to the photo, but even just trying something on to make sure it doesn't look horrible is better than nothing.

Think about where you are going.
The weather is most important of course, but so are the culture and 'rules'. What you'll pack for Paris will be different than what you'd pack for Italy or India. Does it rain often? Is their Summer more like your Winter? Probably need an extra jacket rather than the bikini. Should you be mindful about showing skin? You'll need a light cardigan for covering up. By finding out what you need, you eliminate what you don't.

Know what you're doing.
Further to the above, I look at our itinerary. Do we have a 'fancy dinner'? Are we hiking, going to the beach? Are we walking or biking 10 miles a day? Knowing what we are doing helps me put the heels back in the closet, grab a dress that can be dressed up or down and make sure I have some comfy shoes. Knowing what we're doing also means I know what we're not doing, so I can eliminate things again.

Take the smallest bag possible and don't extend it on the way there.
I use the Mother Lode Weekender Convertible from eBags. It extends, which sure is handy. When we went to NYC because of all the sweaters and stuff, I had to extend it straight away. Should have been a red flag. I swear, things expand on the way back because I brought back less, and still had no room. So don't extend it on the way there. If you need to extend it, you need to take something out. Also, you will fill up whatever bag you choose. So if your stuff fills up a smaller carry on, no need to grab the bigger one 'just in case' because then you'll start throwing things in 'just in case'.

Small personal item.
I catch myself thinking 'if I use a tote bag for my personal item, I could pack more!' which is dangerous. So I just use a crossbody purse that fits the absolute necessities so I am not tempted to throw in something here or there. The reason for this is because some airlines do not allow you that 'personal item' and I need to be able to fit my personal item into my suitcase / backpack.

Critique your fabrics.
I have these tops from Gap that I love. But bloody hell, they wrinkle like it's their job. So they never go on a trip with me, unless I wear them there. I layer in the winter instead of grabbing thick chunky sweaters that take up a lot of room. I leave the top that needs an extra cami, the dress that gets crazy static clingy, or the jacket that looks more comfortable than it actually is and takes up a ton of room. Everything - except a big coat - must fold up small. That bag fills up fast.

Ask yourself why you are taking something.
If it starts with 'just in case...' then you need to leave it behind. If the Queen invites you to tea, you can buy something.

Don't buy things specifically for the trip.
I've done this a thousand times but I am getting better. I still buy things but they are less specific and can be worn again. For example, I bought a white tee and a grey tee for Europe. I wore them both and will continue to do so. I bought a snowflake sweater for NYC. I wore it once, you couldn't even see it, it's now in the eBay pile.

Stick with what you are comfortable.
On top of not buying things specifically for a trip, don't pack that maxi skirt that you never wear, or the bright red tee even though you're terrified of wearing red. I bet you can find a photo of yourself in an outfit that you weren't 100% comfortable in - you can tell by looking at the photo, can't you? Who cares if you are comfy in jeans and a tee. Rock it. Comfort is the most important thing, and you'll be happy and happy people don't shoot their husbands.

Limit your pants and shoes.
Shoes are the hardest for me because I want to be comfortable more than anything. I have learned that lesson, and I know Nikes aren't that cute but I've just gotten to the point where I don't care. They are comfy and that's all I need. I also normally throw in a pair of cute - but still comfy - flats for 'dressing up'. I rarely wear heels so that isn't a problem for me. As for pants, unless you are going somewhere in the winter for like 2+ weeks and you really like bright coloured bottoms, stick with the basics. I normally pack my beloved black jeans and a pair of blue jeans. If it's winter, I might throw in some leggings. I could pack 4 pairs of jeans, but they all start to blend together after a while and it's silly. Instead, pack more tops. They take up less room and in my opinion repeat bottoms are less noticeable than repeat tops, if that makes sense.

Think about how you will look in photos.
Yes, I realise how vain this sounds. Here's the thing - I take a lot of photos when I travel. So I don't want to wear the dress that clings, or the shorts that make my thighs look huge (to me!). I also dislike that every picture from NYC looks like the same day because I wore the same coat and beanie everywhere. So next time I go away during the winter, I'll pack 2 coats and an extra beanie. Is it the end of the world? No. Does it help me decide what to pack? Yes.

Get over yourself and who cares?!
This is the hard truth, friends. I learned it from Helene and I have to remind myself of this. I don't need my whole makeup bag, just the basics. I don't need all my hair tools. How much I enjoy my trip is not tied to what I am wearing. I know it sounds obvious, but it's true. I want to look decent in photos, but at the end of the day the fact that I am on the trip is way more important than how many times I wore a certain top or pair of jeans. I mean, do I look like I care about my outfits in any of these photos?

Unfortunately, no matter how much you plan, shit happens. Check out Megan on her last trip - we planned meticulously but she had to switch up some outfits because it turned out to be way colder than she expected. She still looks fabulous and she still had a blast! Plus, that gave me the heads up about how cold it was in Dublin so I could change my packing accordingly.

Just remember to have fun and you'll be fine!

Anyway - to wrap it all up, if you don't want to use a carry on, don't. If you do, but don't think you can - I hope this helped you.


  1. I tend towards the overpacking, so using a carry on is a very good discipline for me. Really, I don't need half the stuff I think I do. I've refined my list through trial and error, and am currently doing a week on business with a small carry on. I didn't even fill it up! (Mostly because work insisted I lug a huge projector with me too, but that's by the by.)

  2. I love these tips. I tend to overpack and often only wear half the things I lugged all the way around the world with me, which is just ridiculous. I think packing things that lend themselves to mix and matching is the biggest one for me - it gives you so many options if you do it right!

  3. i'm a packing whiz and if i know the place i'm going has a washer and dryer? my bag is nearly empty and filled with detergent/fabric softener. i usually fit both my and kayla's stuff in 1 bag. last summer, i fit both of our stuff in a carry on when we went to disney!

  4. Such great tips! I'm the worst about overpacking so I'll definitely be trying out a few of these tips!

  5. I ALWAYS overpack but recently took just a small weekend bag for a long weekend in Montreal, and now I'm determined to cut down for my Punta Cana trip! One thing that really helped me was limiting jewelry - I used to bring tons of different costume jewelry (like big, heavy statement necklaces) but this time I stuck with just one basic gold bar necklace and it did the trick!

  6. Awesome tips gurlie! I never thought about trying everything on first, that is a fantastic idea! Because I'll pack thinking I'll like an outfit together, get there and not be a fan :-P

  7. I tend to always over pack and regret it. I am definitely coming back to all of these points next year when I plan my trip to Colorado!

  8. I love your last bit of advice! Get over yourself, nobody care. Perfect! I'm a minimalist by nature so I've never over packed for a trip (I have wished I brought more though!). I think "Get over yourself" about a lot of people in the fashion blogging world, and here in Dallas. I also love the whole mix and match thing for a wardrobe in general. It makes getting dressed everyday so much easier.

  9. Love the Legally Blonde reference!

    This will be super helpful when I am packing for my next big trip (aka MY HONEYMOON). ;) I will still probably check my bag, mainly because, I hate the TSA and if they touch my shampoo I will not be happy. But I always overpack. So this will help remind me not to. And maybe D and I can share a bag and only check one!

  10. Oh man, I definitely packed some things just in case like a dressier dress and flats that I didn't end up using, boo. Did you say you brought back less and it still expanded?! I've done the taking things you don't care about and throwing them out but is that how you did it? IF I do more traveling I need to look into a backpack. I have a small roller carry on I use for all my trips and I would love to be able to strap it on my back.

  11. Each trip I try to (and find myself) packing less and less - it's just too annoying to have more than you need. Trying outfits on before, taking photos and having a set outfit for each occasion have helped me so much! And taking less shoes - such a space saver!

  12. First of all and I say this all the time you are queen at packing!!! I have to say we weren't expecting it to be as cold in London as it was last July, but thank god for my jean jacket and scarf or I would have frozen to death!!! I think shoes were the hardest part for me too - I always bring sneakers thinking I'll workout but never do so it's just an extra pair I should have brought!! I bought these gladiator sandals from Marshall's last year thinking they would just be for Europe and they are hands down the best shoes I've ever bought - i still wear them almost every day in the summer! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  13. Great post, wonderful tips and thank you for the link to your bag. I ordered it. I need to practice for Europe next year. Pinning this to look back on then my wise friend!

  14. These are such great tips! I'm a notorious overpacker!

    Lauren Elizabeth
    Petite in Pearls

  15. I love that idea the most - WHO CARES!!! :) Heck, I'd wear the same thing every day if it meant I could hop on a plane & end up in Disney World right now.

  16. This is so incredibly helpful - even though I try everything on and plan out my outfits in advance, I always still end up throwing things in "just in case", and I'm definitely guilty of bringing half my makeup vanity with me. You're right - it's about the trip, not how you look necessarily!

  17. You are seriously a genius though, you know that? I have such a love/hate with packing. If it's just for a weekend, and I'm not staying in a hotel (at someone's house) I pack at the last minute and just throw this and that and that and this. I usually end up not using half of what I pack because I pack for the just in case. If I'm driving and will have access to my car the whole trip, I can get ridiculous with the unnecessary crap I'll bring. I haven't flown in a while and likely won't until the fall, but I 100% will be consulting all of your tips when I do because this gal ain't paying extra baggage fees.

  18. Since we are staying in a camper van on our next trip, we will probably take a checked bag to hold all our camping stuff, but this is still very helpful. I am definitely thinking comfort and only bringing things I plan to tramp around in and rewear a lot. Haha I will try to keep the 'just in case' thing in mind and not bring those types. I am guilty of that.

  19. I love that Amy quote!! I also love these tips. I feel like every time I read one of your amazing packing posts, I'm one bag away from actually doing it. :)

  20. But the queen almost always invites me to tea, Kristen!!! Hahaha! I admire your packing game, seriously. I packed several outfits to the beach this weekend and only wore two of them. I mean, who leaves the beach? Right? haha! But if I were flying I would have been more mindful of my space, that is for sure. Love that Amy quote! So true!!!!!

  21. Awesome advice girly! I am so bad about buying new things for the trip, but it's usually because I don't have enough clothes I like. ha. (I need to adopt your closet clean out goal!) I love the idea of taking pictures of your outfits. That would be so helpful when your suitcase is a heap and you can't remember what you had planned!

  22. Great tips! I've never had to check a bag (something I'm very proud of). When I'm traveling, I don't really care about re-wearing clothes or not having a huge selection. I'm perfectly happy doing that if it means I have less bags to lug around and don't have to worry about my luggage going missing. Love this post!

  23. Super helpful tips, reaaaally. I should remember that next time, I'm selecting my make up stuff!

  24. A very well thought-out post on the topic! And you make some solid points. I am a very bad packer and I know this. I swear that I try but it just bites me in the butt every time. I like the idea of trying on every outfit and getting over yourself, lol. Both good tips. I should give that a whirl!

  25. I cannot stand packing in a large suitcase and checking a bag because I am 100% convinced my luggage is going to get lost. I'm definitely getting better about packing well in a carry-on but I can use some improvement, specifically in the mix and match department but I'm working on it!

    I love your posts on packing. They're so helpful and informative and give me goals for my next trip :)

  26. So many great tips! I already utilize a lot of these in planning my capsules - so smart to use them for packing too! Taking photos really helps me too, I think I have outfit amnesia so I need those to remember how to actually put clothes together.

  27. girl. your 10 pieces - 11 outfits thing BLEW MY MIND. i am so bad at this this and this is amazing!!! the mixing and matching process of it all really is genius.

  28. I so admire your ability to mix and match outfits. Can you go through my closet and show me how to mix it up a little!

  29. I have a go-to striped top that I always pack with me. It works with so many outfits and is such a great classic. These tops are perfect for summer travels!

  30. I am sooooo bad with packing!! I really need to use some of your tips!! I always feel like I just need options just incase something comes up haha!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  31. Such good tips friend! I used to travel a lot for work & my clothes used to double for work attire AND for the evening dinners, so I used to pack like this. Now I just need to bring these tips into my travel packing ;)

  32. Wow. Those are some great tips. And I thought I was good at packing!

  33. I am SO bad about buying new stuff for a trip and you are so right, it only gets worn once and no one even notices it in the pictures, haha. Sticking with the classics is muuuch smarter. These are all such great tips - I swear you are the packing genius!

  34. I love that quote at the end! And I totally forgot that I bought the audiobook and need to listen to it so thanks for the reminder!!!

    Fantastic tips! I've never thought about some of this, but I wish I had. I'd have been so much more prepared for Europe. :P

  35. I feel like I do some of these things already (particularly planning outfits, trying on everything before packing it, and considering how it will look in pictures), which is good. The bad thing is that I still find myself saying, "What if ..." and then convincing myself I need at least a few extra things. I think I also need to work on the whole mixing and matching thing. That would help a lot.

    It's funny because I don't really consider myself a high maintenance person (though I know some people who know me in real life would disagree!). But when I pack, I'm a complete diva. I NEED everything ... Nothing can be left behind! What if I change my mind about what I want to wear? What if I pack on 5 lbs and that shirt suddenly looks awful? And the makeup and hair tools ... Good God. It's ridiculous. I don't even wear makeup (other than mascara and eyebrow pencil) to work, yet I feel like I need to have every makeup item I own with me on vacation. Ugh.

    I will admit, though, that I did a slightly better job when I went to Philadelphia for a week in June. I managed to get by without checking a bag, but I took a rolling carry-on and a backpack as my "personal item." I was still proud of myself for only packing one extra outfit (seriously, that's good for me!) and getting everything (including 3 books and a decently large purse) into those two small bags.

  36. I think this post made me realize my problem! Even when I try and plan out outfits, I don't pack things I can mix and match... which seems so obvious now, haha. And I'm totally guilty of the whole, just throwing things in because I have extra space.

  37. Oh these are great tips! I am the worst packer. The worst. I am the queen of "just in case"... It was weird for Alaska... because I had to pack a week's worth of professional clothes AND several days' worth of non-professional... can walk around and get sweaty in clothes. Which should not overlap for obvious reasons... haha It went ok. We ended up checking a bag... mostly though, because we knew work would reimburse us. Looking forward to giving it another try in Florida. :) XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  38. All good tips! I never over pack. I think i could pack my entire wardrobe in a carry on, if I wore my winter boots and coat on the plane. I went to Vegas for a bachelorette party - literally Thursday to Sunday - and the rest of the girls had suitcases. Yes, plural. I was so confused but they're southern bells who needed every dress and shoe and hair care tool you could ever imagine. I was like yeah... I'm gonna wear this black dress 2 nights in a row. No shame!

  39. I'm gonna attempt to get as much of my stuff in my carry on for Rwanda and these tips are all so helpful! I'm hoping I'm as successful as you! I'm not sure how much stuff I will be able to rewear though. Any tips for keeping things fresh?


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