When I was young my family traveled—a lot. And I always remember being surprised at the way my mother packed. She brought a carry-on for a two week trip to Italy while my sister and I were each lugging around two massive bags, purses and coats, sure we would need an outfit for every occasion. But half the things packed were never used while my mother looked chic every single day—all from whatever was packed into that tiny, magical bag. And since it’s the holidays—that dreaded time of crowds, family trips and delays—you need to make sure you’re also packing light. Minimizing your wardrobe, accessories and beauty products can make a huge improvement in your seasonal travels. Plus you need to have enough room to get all those new presents home with you.
Plan Outfits Ahead Of Time
I cannot stress this enough. Procrastinators this one might be hard to wrap your head around, but oh-my-gosh will it make your life easier. What will the weather be like? What’s the occasion? Are there any events or activities you’ll need to dress for? Spending Christmas in Australia with your sister is very different than heading back East to see your folks. Decide on how many outfits you’ll need and head to your closet. You want to bring as little as possible, so try to choose pieces that will pull double duty. (Plus if you’re anything like me you’ll end up shopping at your destination and likely come back with a new handbag and a couple sweaters anyway.) Does that shirt go perfect with your favorite jeans, under your wrap dress and with your midi skit? Pack it. A few major pieces that you can mix and match will give you more outfits with less clothing. Remember jewelry, scarves and accessories can be total outfit changers and don't take up too much space. If you’re not sure how your new Acne jacket will look over your most versatile DVF dress, try it on before you throw it in your suitcase. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination and realizing all your pieces don’t quite match.
Use Every Single Tiny Inch of Space
If I’m going to spend any longer than 2 weeks in a location, I don’t usually mind packing a large suitcase. Sure I don’t want to deal with checking it, but in that time span I’ll usually be participating in quite a few different activities so the extra wardrobe may be necessary. Anything less than that and you can get it in a carry-on. While it's not a favorite because of the wrinkles it creates, rolling clothing is a huge space saver. (But unpack immediately upon arriving at your destination to allow wrinkles to release.) Lay larger items, or those you don't want wrinkled, along the bottom of the suitcase and pack over them. Items like shoes and handbags can be stuffed with socks, hosiery or jewelry cases. Scarves and small accessories can put into those odd little nooks that don’t fit anything and hair styling tools are best wrapped and tucked along the edges of the suitcase. Shoes always go in the bottom and along the sides.
Edit Down Your Makeup Bag
What do you mean I can’t bring two foundations, four palettes, nine lipsticks and my entire skincare regimen?! This can easily be the hardest part of packing, especially since every piece can seem so small. If you’re ok with popping out the pans of all your makeup and consolidating your favorite blushes, eye shadows and face powders into a master palette, then give it a go. If you like your packaging and intend on keeping everything in its original container, then it's time to edit. Take a look at the clothing you’re bringing and choose the most suitable eye shadow palette to match with everything. Take only the essentials and try to limit your lipstick to two or three colors (kudos if you can manage less). For skincare, mini travel containers are a lifesaver, plus you can use this as an opportunity to try any samples you've collected. Tiny packets of SK-II cleanser, Shiseido moisturizer and Origins serum are perfect for travel. Remember that lotions, foundation and nail polish are all liquids and need to be in TSA compliant, clear, plastic bag.
Your Purse and Travel Outfit
On the flight, wear the bulkiest things you plan on bringing. Those motorcycle boots, boyfriend jeans and camel colored overcoat won’t fit in a carry-on, but they sure do make for a stylish travel outfit (besides those airplanes can get cold). For your personal item always bring something small enough to carry only what you need onto the plane. (You’ll see why it's best to carry such a small bag in the tips and tricks below.) For everyone this means something different—a magazine, neck pillow, laptop—personally I take a small handbag with my essentials, which includes staples like a phone, wallet and keys, but always include a book and headphones. Not to mention moisturizer, lip balm and giant sunglasses, good weather or not; these can help you look good even after a five hour flight.
Tips and Tricks
For all those extra little things that you think you won’t need until you find yourself in that situation—
- Hotels have all the necessities for a sartorial emergency, but during the holidays, more often than not, family insists you stay with them, so things like Tide sticks and sewing kits can be a life saver.
- Know your rules for traveling as far as liquids, electronics and what you can and cannot bring (especially if you're traveling overseas)—believe me, the TSA agents will snag that $500 face cream right out of your bag, and toss it away in front of your eyes. It is not a pleasant experience.
- Bring a foldable tote. Something you can stuff in a corner of your carry-on but unfolds to a decent size. This can help you bring home presents, souvenirs or any extra things you picked up on your trip. On the way back use this as your personal item and store your small handbag in your suitcase.
- If you are checking luggage do not put anything in it that you would be devastated to lose. Find room in your purse for your great grandmother’s pearls or wear your favorite fur coat. If you can’t take it with you in a carry-on—don’t bring it—no amount of money, ranting or raving can bring back an item of sentimental value.
- If you’re traveling with your significant other, friends, family, or even the kids and have to check your bags—split clothes up. It may seem like a hassle, but if one suitcase is lost at least that person is not left without until you can find the nearest Bloomingdales.
- If you’re going to be staying at a hotel (or your family doesn’t mind doing your laundry) this can severely cut down on the amount of clothing needed on your trip. Grab a few key pieces that can be easily washed and wear them a few times over the course of your vacation.
- Most importantly—bring what you want. All the tips in the world are utterly useless if you get everything into one suitcase but you’re desperately regretting toting along your Alexander Wang heels and Thakoon dress. If you want it bring it. It’s a vacation; you should enjoy yourself, even if that means you need an entire suitcase of shoes.