I've tried more than a few times to reform my packing habits. I chalk it up to the fact that most of the time I pack for a trip less than 24 hours before the airplane leaves the tarmac. But there have been many occasions when I arrive at a destination to find I spend the entire vacation in two to three outfits and that half the items I pack go completely unworn.
Since I live on a fourth-floor walk-up and carrying my own suitcase up and down the stairs has become the lowest point of every vacation I take, I decided that the time had come to finally address all those overpacking habits and try to master vacation packing once and for all.
It sounds easy enough, but the truth is that it's a process that still takes me more effort than I'd like to admit. My overpacking has been reformed in many ways, but I still find that I come home with a stray unworn top or pair of sneakers that I swear I'll wear during my trip.
Streamline the Shoe Selection
Since shoes can take up more space than just about anything else, it's best to be extremely picky about which pairs make the cut. I tend to keep it simple—one pair of fancy shoes, one pair of sneakers, and one pair of sandals or boots (depending on the season and locale). Then to make sure there's room, I nestle them in a yin-yang pattern.
Don't Pack Optimistically
So I know this sounds pessimistic, but I've learned that packing pieces I would ideally wear but have never actually put on is a big mistake. As much as I'd love to wear those strappy stilettos on vacation, chances are that it won't happen.
Cherry-Pick the Statement Pieces
While you want your outfits to pop on vacation (and in those Instagram photos), a suitcase full of statement clothes does nothing but cause frustration. Instead, keep things simple by packing mostly basics, then add a handful of statement items that can easily be integrated with the rest of what you brought along.
Don't Test Out Something New
It's not unusual for me to hear friends list the things they need to buy before their next vacation, but I've learned a lesson to steer clear of pre-trip purchases. When being strategic, the key is to pack items you know you'll wear, but new pieces are unpredictable. Shoes might pinch, and dresses may ride up. In the end, I'm all for sticking to what already works.
Plan in Outfits
As a last-minute packer, this has been one of the trickiest changes for me to master, but it has made a world of difference. Instead of simply hoping that the things I pack will work together, I try to consciously think about the outfits I'll wear on my trip. This way, I can easily scale back on the items I won't actually need.
Shop Pieces You'll Definitely Wear on Vacation
My tip: Wear your jacket on the plane to save space in your suitcase.
Available in sizes 1 to 3.
A colorful sweater easily mixes with jeans, trousers, or a pretty skirt.
Available in sizes XS to L.
A simple shirtdress is a staple you can dress up or down.
Available in sizes UK6 to UK14.
When on vacation, a comfortable pair of walking sneakers is a must.
Available in size 40.
If you're packing carry-on only, opt for a style that has built-in charging capabilities too.
If you end up out taking a hike, you'll want to make sure you have a sports bra handy.
Available in sizes 1X to 4X.
Statement boots are an easy way to add spunk to a simple outfit.
Available in sizes 6 to 8.
Try a basic short-sleeved blouse for warmer destinations.
Available in sizes XS to L.
A wrap dress easily transitions from day to night.
Available in sizes 2 to 8.
Swap a basic white tee for something with a bit of flair.
Available in sizes S to M.
I always make sure to bring along leggings just in case I end up working out (yes, on vacation).
Available in sizes XXS to XXXL.
This pretty top can easily go from day to night.
Available in sizes XS to M.
For warmer climates, a floaty dress is a must.
Available in sizes 0 to 20.
Pick one great pair of jeans and keep it at that.
Available in sizes 24 to 32.
If a leather jacket is too heavy for summer travels, try a denim one instead.
Available in sizes XS to XL.
A lightweight long-sleeve top is a great transitional piece.
Available in sizes X to 4X.