I am going to first off assume you are familiar with the idea of a capsule wardrobe. If not, you can easily google it. Basically, you want your items to mix and match in a bunch of ways so you can minimize the amount of clothing you need. Not every person finds this appealing in their day-to-day life, but it definitely has its merits when traveling. I don't subscribe to the capsule wardrobe personally, but it's the only way to pack for something like 5 weeks of travel. I can not possibly cram 5 weeks of outfits into an international carry-on bag otherwise. OMFG I could rant for days about the strict size requirements and child-size seats of international airlines. They make Southwest Airlines (the Greyhound bus of the sky) feel like spacious first class luxury.
My tips are all based on living out of your carry-on bag, and not just a standard carry-on bag, but one that is small enough to meet international carry-on standards as well (measure your wheely-cases, ladies; you will be surprised how small your luggage needs to be if you've never flown internationally before. Baggage fees are hefty on international flights). I'm sure I have more tips than this, but this post is already going to be long, so I'm keeping it to my Top 10 packing tips. I'm also dividing this post into two parts because it's just way too long for one sitting.
Tip #1- Make sure all of your tops can be paired with all of your bottoms.
"But Tracy, won't my outfits all be painfully boring? God, all those plain solids. Blarf."
Yes. Probably super boring. But unless you want to have all of your photos look eerily the same because you're wearing the same things on rotation, pick things that are easy to mix and match. You will get tired of wearing the same pairings over and over again. Trust me on this.
Tip #2- Jazz up your boring ass outfits with accessories. Jewelry is relatively small and easy to pack, and can make a big difference in making your clothes look and feel different so you don't feel like you've been wearing the same thing for 5 weeks. Bring at least one statement piece of jewelry. You won't regret it.
Scarves are another great accessory, by the way, and that brings me to...
Tip #3- Scarves, scarves, scarves! Pack a few scarves. Unless they're all giant blanket scarves, you shouldn't have issues fitting them into your suitcase. If you do want to bring a blanket scarf (a blanket scarf... notice I used the singular, and that was on purpose), make sure you wear that one on the plane. Not only will you not have to pack it then, but it can actually double as a blanket on a long flight or a red-eye. Otherwise, leave it at home. Too bulky.
Scarves are also an easy way to bring in a pattern. Because you want your clothing items to easily coordinate, chances are that you'll have a lot of solids and neutral colors. Pair those with a bold or printed scarf, and you instantly elevate your look. And it works for all seasons, not just winter. For warmer climates, pack lightweight scarves, like silk. They can be used as shawls as well, or even beach cover ups (I will be doing a future post on unique ways to wear scarves). For winter you'll want to opt for wool or cashmere or a similar synthetic/acrylic. But I tend to wear my silk scarves in the winter as well. Both of these are from my recent holiday in Europe, where it was rarely over 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm wearing the same coat in both photos, but these are two very different looks because of accessories.
Tip #5- Only bring 1-2 pairs of pants, and one skirt/dress MAX. No, really, I'm serious. Even for my 5 week trip, I only packed 2 pairs of pants (a pair of slacks, a pair of jeans), and I actually decided to ship the slacks home because I was really only wearing the jeans. I washed them of course and wore a skirt or dress while they were being cleaned. The photo at the top of this post shows a dress and 2 skirts, but one those skirts I bought while I was in LA, and the other I ended up shipping back home with the pants because I never wore it. I wore the dress instead on the occasions where I was dining in Michelin-rated restaurants and felt like I should dress up a bit.
I know people who will bring 3 pairs of pants for a 5-day trip and I just wonder what's wrong with them. Unless you're profusely sweating in everything or constantly spill things on yourself, you can wear your pants more than once before they need to be washed. One pair of casual pants, one pair of dressy pants, and some sort of dress or skirt that is easy to dress up or down. Done. Most of what will get gross and dirty are your tops, not your pants.
Tip #6- Be realistic, not idealistic. Are you REALLY going to hit the hotel gym when you're traveling? Are you REALLY going to floss on vacation when you barely do that at home? You know you better than anyone, so be honest with yourself. Don't pack your sneakers and gym clothes and waste all that valuable space if you really aren't going to use them. If you don't use mouthwash, don't pack mouthwash. If you only curl your hair for special occasions, don't pack your curling iron. Be realistic about what you are actually going to use daily. Don't pack things for one-time use, or think that packing it will make you want to use it (like with exercise gear). You'll just be angry you can't fit your souvenirs because your tennis shoes take up a third of your carry-on. Leave it at home. Especially if it's a short trip. Even if you exercise regularly, you're not going to suddenly be a lard-ass if you don't hit the treadmill for a week. Enjoy your vacation.
Tip #7- You don't need more than 2 pairs of shoes. Trust me, I wore the same pair of leather ankle boots for 5 weeks, and then occasionally wore a pair of black heels for nicer restaurants, but 90% of the time, I was in my ankle boots. I initially packed 3 pairs of shoes, but I never actually wore the Converse tennis shoes except for one day, so I shipped those back home. No point wasting space in my suitcase that I could fill with European chocolates and wine, right?
Just make sure that at least one of those two pairs of shoes are really really comfortable to walk in. All of the places and cities I visited outside of the US had these cobbled, paver stoned, uneven "roads" and "sidewalks" if you want to call them that. And remember that flats take way less space than heels, and to wear the larger, bulkier shoes when in the airport so that you can pack the smaller pair.
Seriously though, all the sidewalks and roads are bullshit. I had to roll my suitcase through this nonsense. I'm surprised I didn't lose a wheel.
"Whoa, Tracy, that's a little extreme. Why the F would I do that?!"
Um, duh, shopping!
You're on holiday. You ARE going to buy things. Clothes, chotckies, souvenirs, all sorts of things. But... where are you going to PUT THEM if your suitcase is already stuffed full to bursting? Do you REALLY want to end up buying another bag too, and then paying the fees associated with that? I mean, that's your prerogative, but I prefer to just travel with a half-empty suitcase, and come home with it busting open full of new things I acquired from the cool place(s) I just returned from. If you know you're going to shop, leave space for it. Or plan ahead and bring an extra bag and budget for the additional costs of that baggage.
Tip #9- If you find that you DID overpack, and noticed that there are things you haven't actually worn, put those in box and ship it home to yourself. If it's international, I recommend paying for insurance and priority shipping. I did that in Iceland, and it was still way less than paying baggage fees to keep those unused items on me. If it's domestic, then it's way cheap and a great way to avoid having tons of bags in the airport and fees. (Note: A lot of airlines will also WEIGH your bags, so even if you manage to fit everything into the right size luggage, you might be subject to an overweight fee. They just keep on finding new, creative ways to punish us for having stuff and things).
My final tip!
Tip #10- Pack clothing that is made of fabrics/materials that don't wrinkle. I know this is an obvious one, but I am often surprised at how often people bring things like cotton point collared shirts and linen pants, that instantly look like hell after a plane ride, or get peeved that they are ironing while on vacation. Stretchy polyester blends, people. I know they're barely what I would call "fabric", but I'm wearing ALL OF THAT SHIT while on vacay.
Also, synthetics tend to dry quickly, so if you do need to handwash something and hang it up to dry in your hotel bathroom, they'll be ready to wear again quickly, whereas cotton will take several days to dry completely.
I know that was a lot of information, which is why I divided this post into two parts, so tomorrow I'll show you the actual contents of my Travel Capsule Wardrobe, so you can see what all those tips actually look like in real life. See you tomorrow! ****To skip straight to Part Two of this post, click HERE!