It’s been a good eight years since my last major solo international trip. I was 21, fresh out of uni, and on a mission to see as much of Europe as possible – with luggage to match. And instead of packing what I wanted to wear, I packed what I thought I should wear; so rather than a closet full of clothes with nothing to wear, I had a suitcase full of clothes I wish I’d left at home.
These days, I’m all about traveling light, even if it’s just to leave a teeny tiny bit of space in my suitcase for the odd souvenir… And with just a few hours until I jet off to Dallas for a whirlwind four-day trip (and the first overseas trip on my own since my early twenties), I though I’d share what I’m planning to take with me, all of which fits neatly into my carry-on suitcase!
I – unsurprisingly – decided to play it safe and keep my colour palette as neutral as possible; even though I’m only away for a few days, if you’re a girl who likes to have options, then this is definitely the way to go.
Aside from the casual trousers from Grana that I’ll be wearing on the plane, I’m taking a couple skirts and a pair of jeans with me, opting rather to mix it up with some tees, camis and a punchy bandana so I can get the biggest bang for my buck.
I’ll be heading to a couple of evening events so I’ve packed three dress options, which range from more relaxed to formal cocktail attire. Realistically, I’ll probably only find myself wearing two of the three dresses, the maxi from Tobi and the Acne Studios Paloma dress both pack down small so I reasoned that it would be silly not to, right?
I typically always struggle with narrowing down my shoe options (I think I took SIX pairs with me to Europe last year), but given the lack of space, I’ve cut it back to three pairs, which I figure will see me through any situation I find myself in. There’s the dressed up kitty flat, for getting lost in central Dallas in, a low heeled two-tone pump which are perfect for dressing up some distressed denim, and a strappy black sandal for evening events and cocktail parties.
If there’s one thing that is pretty much guaranteed, regardless of how long I’m travelling for, it’s that a quirky pair of flats will find their way into my suitcase. Wardrobe typically follows suit of some denim, a striped top, a sweater or cardigan in case in gets a little chilly, and my favourite midi skirt. Three years of capsule wardrobes have essentially taught me the fundamentals when it comes to packing.
Beauty on the other hand, is another story. The drawers of my vanity are bursting with some of my favourite eyeshadow palettes – I can never pick just one – and the shelf on my bathroom seems to have more facial cleansers than I can count. So when it comes to a short overnighter, or two-night stay away, I’m often at a little bit of a loss as to where to start, particularly where my skincare routine is involved.
In just two days Luke and I will be hopping on a plane for a long-awaited holiday travelling around Italy and the US. To say I’m excited is an understatement; it’s been a good four years since I’ve travelled beyond Australia or New Zealand, so this trip away has definitely been a long time coming.
We are spending just shy of four weeks abroad, and it probably comes as little surprise that one of my biggest concerns is: what do I pack? Or perhaps more importantly, how much should I pack?
I’m definitely not planning on being as optimistic as the time I took a mere 13 items away with me for a six week holiday (let’s just say that a lot of shopping was necessary), but I also don’t want to overpack. While I might not be planning on doing much shopping, if at all, the last thing I want is to be standing at the airline counter worrying about whether my bag is going to be a lot heavier than it should be.
I’ve had the good fortune of taking a number of extended vacations in the past ranging anywhere from 3-6 weeks away, so I wanted to share some of my top tips for packing your suitcase like a pro for a long trip abroad…
KNOW WHAT KIND OF WEATHER TO EXPECT
Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s counterproductive – to say the least – to not have some semblance of what kind of weather you’ll be facing once you reach your final destination. I recommend adding all the cities you’ll be travelling to your phone’s weather app so you can keep an eye on the weather trends in the lead up to your trip. This will help you to plan and map out exactly what types of clothing you’ll need to bring with you, and help you to avoid any situations where you find yourself without a jacket or a pair of shorts right when you need them.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOUR HOLIDAY IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE…
Will you be spending most of your time by the pool? Sightseeing? At the shops? Hiking through the bush?
Before you actually start packing your bag, thinking about how you will be spending your time. If you’re by the pool most days you’ll want to make sure to bring at least a couple of swimsuits with you. If you’re planning on going on the occasional hike, pack some leggings, a loose fitting singlet and some sneakers to get you by. A little like how I would plan my capsule wardrobes, I’ll get a broad idea of what my holiday will entail and then pack accordingly.
ADOPT THE 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 PACKING STRATEGY
A while back, I stumbled across this packing concept on A Pair & a Spare, and I have to say, I think that the inverted triangle concept works perfectly for anything from a week to an entire month (or more!) away. What I love about this concept is that it helps you to maximize your options, while increasing the functionality of what you’ve packed away in your suitcase for your trip.
This means packing more tops than bottoms, more bottoms than dresses and shoes, more dresses and shoes than swimsuits and bags, and more swimsuits and bags than other accessories (think hats, sunglasses and watches). Trust me when I say, this, works. As you’ll spy from my own ‘packing list’ below, I’ve adapted it for the length of my holiday.
START WITH THE BASICS
When I’m mapping out my vacation packing list, I always find it easiest to start with the basics; pieces like a staple pair of jeans, lightweight tees, a loose sweater, a comfortable pair of shoes and a light jacket. By approaching packing this way, I can plan the rest of my holiday wardrobe around those essential key pieces that I’ll be reaching for first, more often than not.
I find that this is also a great time to start planning your travel outfit. I tend to work in layers to make sure that I’m not doubling up (while making the most of my precious suitcase space), and I’ll always pack an outfit to change into for when I land.
BUILD IN SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE PIECES
Next, I’ll start to build in items that are seasonally appropriate; if you’re travelling to a country that is in the throes of winter, you’ll be packing things like chunky knit sweaters, sturdy leather boots and an oversized scarf. At the opposite end of the spectrum, for a summer vacay you’ll want to bring along denim shorts, pretty sun dresses, swimsuits, and a pair of sandals.
This is also where I’ll think about any statement pieces that I want to bring with me, and work it around the theme and colour palette which has organically presented during this process.
And if there’s one thing I can’t recommend enough, it’s to make sure that you pack at least one nice going out dress. Even if all you have planned is a week sitting by the pool, you never know what’s going to happen when you’re on holiday and I figure it always pays to be prepared.
RATIONALISE YOUR ACCESSORIES
You all know I’m addicted to shoes, through and through, so I find this the hardest part of packing for any holiday. For four weeks away, I’d typically pack about 5 pairs of shoes – this gives you enough options so you won’t get bored, and you can switch up your footwear if you start getting even a hint of a blister.
Take the time to also think about how many bags you’ll need; will you need an evening bag for going out? Do you want to take a small crossbody for exploring? And also whether you’ll be bringing along any jewellery, scarves, sunglasses or hats. I try to keep these to a minimum where possible – accessories (and my travel beauty kit) tend to weigh down my bag the most!
KNOW YOUR GO TO LOOKS
This is one of the more fun parts of packing… trying everything on! I like to have a few go to looks that I can just throw on; my main focus while travelling is to get out and explore, so I don’t want to be stuck in my hotel room fussing over what I’m going to wear. Take a couple of photos so that you can then refer back to the ‘looks’ while you’re travelling.
PACK YOUR MUST HAVE MAKE UP
As someone who used to travel with just a bronzer, eyeliner and mascara, I know all too well how much a bulging make up bag can weigh you down. Where possible, pack multi purpose products – like a cream blusher you can also use as a lipstick – and try to narrow it all down to the bare essentials. My weak spot is hands down eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks – I always have a hard time trying to settle on my absolute essentials for a trip ahead.
One tip; bring along a bold red lipstick – it’s one of the few beauty products that I can’t leave behind and easily dresses up even the simplest of looks.
ORGANISE YOUR TECH
The final thing to organize – aside from your passport, itinerary and currency, of course – is your tech. I always tend to travel a little tech heavy; as someone who shares part of their life online, it’s hard to avoid. I find that the best way to narrow it down is think about what you can’t live without, and pack accordingly. Also, don’t forget to make sure that you’ve picked up the necessary plug converters for your final destination – that’s something that you definitely don’t want to forget.
As you’ll see from my own packing list below, I’ve kept things p-r-e-t-t-y neutral colour wise, adding in a bit of colour with my accessories.
Obviously there’s the odd piece missing, like my Nike Roshe Runs, my gym gear, and a couple of samples that I’ll be shooting while I’m away, but for the most part, this is everything that is coming along for the ride with me. The one thing that I couldn’t manage to cut down? Shoes. Let’s just pretend that there aren’t seven pairs of shoes sneakily stuffed into my suitcase. I guess we all have a weakness….
When it comes to long haul flights, comfort is king. Trust me, I’ve made the mistake of wearing a pair of tight fitting jeans on a 26-hour journey only to very quickly come to regret my decision.
This time around, I’m keeping things simple, and tying in what I wear on the plane, with pieces that I know I’ll wear while I’m away. For me this means…
A comfortable pair of leggings in a neutral shade – perfect for travel days and also great for hiking or if you can manage to squeeze in the odd run (which I’m definitely hoping to do!).
A loose fitting long sleeved striped tee (my favourites are from T by Alexander Wang) – one of my travel essentials (it’ll go with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g) and perfect for those cooler days, which I’m anticipating we’ll probably have in San Fran.
A super soft knit sweater – no matter the weather, this is worth it even if it’ll only get worn on the plane. I find it’s great to have something plain just in case it gets cool when you’re heading out in the evening.
A pair of trainers – if there’s one thing you’re probably going to be doing a lot of when you’re away on holiday, it’s walking. Usually a pair of trainers – if you have Nike Roshe Runs like me – can take up a lot of suitcase space, but they’re also typically one of the more comfortable pairs of shoes you’ll have with you.
A scarf or shawl wrap – planes get cold, and usually I find that the blanket the air hostesses provide you with just isn’t enough. I’ll always bring along a scarf or a shawl to double as a second blanket while on the plane, and as a scarf or cover up when at my final destination. This is a great piece to bring with you as depending on your destination, there can be cultural sensitivities and requirements at local temples, churches and the like, so it’s useful to have something to hand that you can whip out in those situations.
An oversized tote bag – I’m always the girl with a carryon suitcase and a bulging tote bag on my shoulder. I find it’s the perfect companion for all your in-flight essentials (think books, laptops, ipods, and beauty essentials) and doubles as an everyday bag while you’re on your holiday.
Lastly, if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, it’s how essential travelling with a spare change of clothes in your carry on is. After spending 25+ hours travelling, the first thing I want to do is shower, and put on a fresh change of clothes; it’s one of those little rituals I have that makes me feel re-energised, especially in situations when going straight from the plane to sightseeing.
Packing for any kind of holiday is downright difficult; be it an overnighter, a week, or a month away, there’s always that underlying question… ‘did I pack too much, too little, or just enough?’.
Last Wednesday, Luke and I flew to Wellington for a five-night stay to celebrate our engagement with friends and family, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a whirlwind trip – they’re always over too soon!
I’m the type that tries to fly with just a carry-on (and a very large shopper tote), so I try to narrow down my travel-drobe as much as possible. I managed to keep it to just the essentials (even if my make up bag was overflowing a little…), keeping in mind that what little I packed would need to be effortlessly paired together. I find that the most fail safe combination is a neutral palette of black, white, grey and navy, so I focused my suitcase heavily on those four colours.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the weather was *mostly* miserable – Saturday was the exception – so I tried to pack with this in mind. Which honestly, was a little tough given my Spring capsule is so heavily geared toward warmer weather. I ended up swapping out a couple of my shoes for two pairs which were a little more appropriate (my Acne jensens and Charlotte Olympia kitty flats), and packed a couple of pairs of stockings just in case.
The most useful things I packed? A HUGE blanket like scarf and a heavy leather jacket, which were truly a lifesaver against the bitterly cold wind you often get in Wellington. And what I could have done without? The Everlane silk tank I hastily packed and one fewer skirt – outfit repeating (or remixing) is 100% okay, especially when on holiday.
Do you have a formula when you pack for a trip away? Or do you throw the kitchen sink and them some into a bag and hope for the best? x