Thanks to months studying abroad, family all around the country and years in a long-distance relationship, I’ve become an old pro at traveling—and packing to travel, in particular. For years, packing was something I dreaded. I’d take hours going through outfit possibilities, only to get frustrated and end up throwing a million things haphazardly into a bag. Once I got to my destination, I’d open up my suitcase to realize I had a bunch of clothes to wear, but no outfits I actually wanted to put on. But since I’ve started traveling more frequently, I’ve finally figured out how to quickly, efficiently and stylishly pack for any destination.
I’m heading home in the morning for Thanksgiving, and since there’s a good chance you may be traveling during the holidays, too, I thought I’d share a few of my biggest tips and tricks for painless packing.
1. Make a List
I’m a huge fan of making lists for everything, and packing is no exception. Keep track of what to pack by separating items into categories (like clothing, accessories, technology, etc.) and writing down each item you’ll need or want to bring. Because I’m a planner at heart, I even go so far as to detail every outfit I’ll wear on my trip, down to the jewelry, hair and makeup. This way, I know I won’t be stuck on my trip without the right coat or the cute necklace that ties my whole outfit together.
Like I mentioned, I used to pack a zillion items for every trip I took. But after having to carry just a small suitcase during my travels in Europe, I learned how useful it is to pack multipurpose items I can mix and match to make several outfits. For my upcoming trip, for example, I can wear a white button-down multiple ways, whether it’s on its own, with a cardigan or layered under a sweater. This cuts down on the amount of luggage I have to tote around, and it’s easy to use a statement necklace, a beautiful scarf or a bright belt to give each outfit life.
Rather than throwing all my accessories and jewelry together in the same bag or section of my suitcase, I’ve found it’s much less of a hassle to keep them separated. I haven’t been smart enough to buy a traveling jewelry case yet, so for now I pack my necklaces, bracelets and earrings in separate bags or pouches to keep them from tangling. I also keep scarves, belts and other accessories in a zippered section of my suitcase to avoid having to dig through my whole bag for the one piece I need.
Nothing’s worse than an overflowing suitcase, so keep things streamlined by organizing items when packing. I start by laying my shoes along the bottom of the suitcase to keep them from getting my clothes dirty. Then, I finish the bottom layer by packing up my pajamas and workout clothes. On top of that, I add shirts, sweaters, dresses and bottoms. Roll clothes rather than fold them to fit in as many pieces as possible, and lay bulkier or delicate items across the top of the suitcase (see below).
A carry-on is your saving grace when it comes to traveling, so it’s essential to pack it smartly. I always include an extra outfit—as well as jewelry, my computer, chargers and any valuable items—in my carry-on in case my suitcase gets lost (God forbid!). I also try to pack anything I might need during my flight, train or bus ride, like magazines, books, snacks and my purse.