Learn how to pack for any trip, even when you can’t seem to stop overpacking!
Recently I asked on my Instagram if y’all wanted a post on how I pack for trips and y’all said yes! So here I am. I just got back from Mexico and I really wanted to be able to fit everything in a carry-on. I didn’t want to deal with checking a bag when I knew my boyfriend will be able to fit all of his things in a tiny duffle (ugh, men). I wrote a post similar to this a few years back, but I wanted to give y’all a more in-depth look into how I actually decide what to pack, not just how I fit it all in.
This process can work for any trip, no matter how long or short or for whatever climate. It’s definitely made for those of us who, erm, feel like they need to take every item in their closet. (I’m looking at myself here, clearly.)
Create a Mood Board
The first step to packing actually starts weeks to months before your trip. You need to create a mood board. This might be literally cutting out outfits from your Vouge and sticking them on a piece of cardboard, or you might be more like me and prefer to use Pinterest. Maybe you just create a collection of saved Instagrams. Whatever works for you. You just need a place to collect images of the vibe you’re going for on your vacation. Why do you need a vibe? That way everything in your bag will mix and match, therefore eliminating non-matching items. This will also help you visualize potential outfits you want to bring along. For this trip to Mexico, I wanted to go with a similar vibe as my current Instagram aesthetic right now – oranges, reds, and then neutrals. To eliminate unnecessary shopping, choose a vibe that you already naturally sway towards. For example, I wear black and white almost every day. Like it’s pretty rare for me to wear color, but I find that if I am wearing color, it’s usually red or orange.
Create a Wish List & an Owned List
Once you have your mood board done, you probably have a good idea of outfits you want to bring along. Maybe you own some of them, but maybe you need to buy some. The good news is that you’re weeks ahead of your flight, so you have time to shop! The earlier you note what items you want to purchase, the earlier you can be on the lookout for sales! For example, I knew that I wanted to buy an orange swimsuit I had my eye on for the trip, so I added that to my “owned” list. On the other hand, I knew I had a white tee I wanted to wear, but I already own that. This is also a good time to think about the activities you’ll be doing on your trip. I know I’m going to be spending a majority of my time on the beach, so swimsuits were a necessity. If you’re going somewhere you’ll be doing hiking or something more adventurous, factor those clothes in here, too.
Pull It All Out
Weeks later, once you have everything purchased, pull it all out. Put it all on your bed or on your floor. Make sure it’s all together so you can look it over. Is there something that just doesn’t fit? Either color-wise or style-wise, if you don’t think it works well already, put it aside to return to your closet. Now is the time to try on. You definitely want to try on your new items, but you also want to try on the outfits you’ve thought up using your mood board. Maybe a shirt you thought would go so perfectly with your new shorts is a major fail. Better to figure this out now than when you’re at your destination! After you’ve tried things on you’ll want to do is try mixing and matching outfits. Maybe you’ll wear a white tee and leggings on the plane, but then you want to re-wear that tee with a skirt to go sight-seeing. Try on as many combinations as possible with each top to make sure it can be worn more than once, if possible. This will seriously limit the about of items you bring and will allow you to pack in a carry-on! If you want to remember what items worked with what, use Stylebook! I talked about it in this post, but it’s seriously so helpful to visualize outfits ahead of time.
If you still have too much to pack, it’s time to seriously prioritize. If you haven’t worn it in months, or ever, why would you suddenly wear it now? Do you have two items that are very similar – like two pairs of ripped jeans – pick your favorite! Another thing that I personally struggle with is the fear of being photographed in the same item multiple times because let’s be real, I take way more photos on vacation than I do in real life. To mitigate this fear, I bring items I can switch up easily. For example, a white tee can be tucked into some jean shorts one day and then tied in a knot with a long skirt the next. No one will notice, I promise!
Roll It Up & Pack It In
Once you’ve solidified the items that have “made it” it’s time to make it compact! The best way to pack most things is to roll them up, and then use packing cubes to organize further. The only exception is thicker items, like bulky sweaters or thick jeans – these you’ll fold. You’ll be able to fit more in and pack up easier to come home. (I also talk about all of this in this post) Once everything is in their rightful cube, put your shoes in the suitcase first. (Hint: put your heaviest items – like boots- in the bottom/near the wheels to avoid it from tipping over!) Once your shoes are in, fit your cubes in! Don’t forget to leave room for any toiletries or hair tools you might need to add. Viola! You’re all packed up without overpacking!
That’s it! It all seems easy on paper (er, internet?) but not so easy when it’s actually time to pack, I get it! Just remember to be super realistic with yourself and keep your priorities in check. And let’s be honest, you’re going on vacation for the memories, not for a fashion show (unless, of course, that’s literally what you’re packing for…). Now that I’m back from my trip, I easily could have gone another week with what I brought, just by mixing and matching items! Now that’s what I call a win.
I’d love to know your feedback! Comment below or let me know on Instagram or Facebook if this helped you! I love helping y’all travel more efficiently. I’m also working on a post on my trip to Mexico, so be on the lookout for that!