Growing up, our family rule for vacation packing was simple: “If you can carry it, you can bring it.” Which meant I could – and did — stuff all the clothing, full-sized toiletries, and just-in-case jewelry I could find into my suitcase, without giving much thought to what I’d actually wear when I arrived. But while this last minute, throw-it-all-in packing style may have worked for annual trips to the same beach house every year, broadening my travel horizons means I always seem to end up missing a key piece — for example, forgetting any kind of hiking shoe for a Caribbean vacation that included a jungle hike or that time when I showed up with a different cardigan for every day when temperatures never dropped below 70. That’s why I’m so inspired by travel and fashion bloggers who can pack for days or weeks with just a few pieces, by coordinating their list of must-haves by event and weather — including accessories beyond the earrings they wear on the plane — and keeping it all in a small, easy-to-lift bag.
Since I would probably pack nine pieces in every clothing category for seven days in Rome, Into Mind blogger Anuschka Rees’s uber-minimalist vacation wardrobe looks completely brilliant. She uses a three-step process that works for any destination or trip length to figure out which outfits she needs for which activity, how many pieces she can mix and match, and exactly when she will wear each outfit — for example, the same long-sleeved shirt for Monday’s trip to the Vatican and Thursday’s day at the beach. Her best tip: Don’t waste precious vacation time deciding what to wear. “Remember: You always have the option to change your plans and wear something completely different,” she writes, “but chances are, some days you will have better things to do than think about your outfit, so it’s good to have a few go-to looks prepared.”
Rome is still on my to-see list, but I can’t begin to count how many beach vacations I’ve packed for. It should be easy enough – a few bathing suits, a cover up, a few tanks and pairs of shorts – but the capsule collection from blogger MK at Outfit Posts takes it to a higher level, mixing brightly colored and patterned pieces paired with neutral cardigans, jeans, and a simple dress to guarantee you never wear the same outfit twice. In some cases, it’s even as simple as pairing the same green dress with a white cardigan, colorful jewelry, and a bright bag one day then wearing it again later for a night out by adding a black cardigan, simple gold jewelry, and heels. The end result is a list of 16 pieces (not including jewelry or shoes) that create 40 different outfits. Her best tip: Your favorite clothes on vacation are probably going to be the same pieces that are your favorites at home. “I try to pick my favorite go-to clothes,” MK advises. “Clothes I know I wear over and over. The ones that go with almost everything. For me, this usually involves laying out my favorite jeans, basic shorts, and a pair of super comfy wedges.”
If packing light for the summer seems difficult enough, what can you do in the winter when clothes are bulkier, shoes take up half your bag, and heavy coats are a requirement? Lauren Smith of Seventeenth and Irving put together a collection of 24 pieces (including accessories and bags) that results in 14 different outfits ready to make it through days at the office, holiday parties, and time with family. She includes two pairs of boots, several sweaters, and even a parka — and still packs it all in a carry-on. Her best tip: Leave the bulkiest stuff at home; instead, pack multiple, lighter pieces. “The easiest way to stay warm when traveling during colder seasons is to layer,” is Smith’s advice. “Three thinner layers are always warmer than one bulky layer…For trips this time of year, I love cashmere sweaters layered with chambray button-downs and for really cold trips, a long sleeve tee underneath that’s whisper thin and traps in your body heat.”
I may never be an inspiringly minimalist packer, but at least I have a better chance with these smart tips. And I would add another from one of my most well traveled friends: It’s always cheaper to do laundry at the hotel than to pay to check a bag. Now all I just need is two-week vacation.