A question I often get asked in my Beck and Call newsletter is how/what to pack for a long trip! The key, at least for me, is to be able to repurpose items for mixing and matching with the other items I’ve packed. While a lot of times this means packing a bunch of solid, versatile neutrals, you can also incorporate some really fun prints and more “statement” type items if you plan properly. Below is a step-by-step checklist I go through when planning for a long trip and what to pack! Keep in mind I’m often shooting outfits for blog/Instagram content, so I’m particularly meticulous and you might not need to be.
CHOOSE PIECES THAT MIX AND MATCH WELL
Look through your closet and pull pieces you think you want to pack. I usually set these aside or on a separate rack to keep them organized. As I mentioned above, solid neutrals are super easy to mix and match with. I definitely start my outfit planning around those pieces, I make sure that everything I pack can be worn at least twice with different things! If an item can only be used one time, I don’t pack it. Once I’ve got the base pieces figured out, that’s when I add prints and more fun pieces to the mix. For example, I plan to take this printed top with me to California. I’ll wear it daytime one day with white jeans and flat sandals (or sneakers!), then dress it up for dinner another day with blue jeans, heeled sandals and a green utility jacket. Once you’ve decided on the basics, this will help you determine which prints and statement pieces will work with what you’ve picked!
CREATE AN OUTFIT ITINERARY
I typically make this list in Google Docs once I have an idea of the pieces I think I want to bring! I’ll list out the days we’ll be there and then put the outfits I’m planning to wear that day right below the date. I like to be able to compare it with whatever itinerary I have (sometimes even combining the two in an Excel spreadsheet!) so I can plan out what outfits I want to wear on which days. For example, if there’s a day you’re going to be on your feet all day exploring, you’ll want to go with one of your more casual, walk-friendly looks. This helps to get an idea of what kinds of outfits you’ll need for the trip, and also if you’ll want/need to change for dinner on certain days. I haven’t created an outfit itinerary for my Carlsbad trip, mostly because I’ve been going every year since I was little and it will be very relaxed! But I do this for every international trip I take. It helps so much!
TRY ALL OUTFITS ON AND TAKE PICTURES!
Once you’ve got a solid outfit itinerary, try everything on (accessories included!) and take pictures of each outfit. This seems a little extreme, but I swear it makes it so much easier to pack!! I try on every outfit with the exact bag and shoes I plan to wear it with. This helps identify unnecessary pieces so I can weed them out! It’ll keep you from overpacking and it’s nice to have a visual list to go through when getting ready on your trip! You won’t forget what outfits you packed and it will remind you exactly how you wanted to style it.
KEEP ACCESSORIES TO A MINIMUM
I try to limit the number of shoes and bags I take, as these items tend to take up so much space in both my checked and carry-on pieces. I’d much prefer more clothing options than more accessories/handbag options! Only pack the most useful styles! This is where trying on outfits really comes in handy. You’ll find out which of your bags and shoes look best with the most outfits, which will allow you to trim down what you thought you might take. Where you are going and what you are doing will totally determine what kinds of shoes and handbags you bring, but let’s take a walkable trip like traveling around Europe for example. The only time you are likely to wear heels is to dinner, so I would not waste good luggage space trying to fit in multiple pairs of heels. Figure out which pair of heels looks the best with most of your outfits and stick with those! Instead of that second pair of heels, you’ll have room for a second pair of cute sneakers or flats you’ll be able to wear all day – since this is how you’ll be spending the most of your time, you may want more options for comfy, flat footwear than you would for high heels.
ROLL AND HANG
When I actually get to packing, I do two things: roll and hang. For my workout clothes and more casual clothing (read: t-shirts, sweaters, jeans), I roll each individual item as opposed to folding them flat. This method gives you way more wiggle room with luggage space, allowing you to fit more in! For more delicate pieces like nice tops and dresses I plan to wear for dinner, I’ll hang them in a garment bag. I like the layer of protection from catching on other items in my luggage, and it’s a way to guarantee hangers at your destination! Sure, it adds some weight, but I find it worth it for those few special pieces I want to protect and hang properly. I’ll usually place the rolled pieces on one side of the checked luggage, and the other side will be dedicated to the garment bag, and any extra handbags and shoes (in dust bags). I should note I never check designer bags if I can help it! I can usually fit a couple bags in my carry-on with my laptop and camera, and then of course wear another as my handbag on the plane.