How to pack for trips so you don’t overpack but still always have something to wear?
Here’s how I do it. Depending on the place I’m going, I usually have some idea of either a certain style or a color palette that I want to wear. Then I take the following things into consideration:
– Weather forecast
Will it be warm or cold? How much does the temperature change between morning and night? Will it be raining?
– List of activities
Am I going to lie on the beach most of the time, walk around exploring cities, hike in the nearby mountains, or do all of the above, plus go to restaurants, theaters, and nightclubs?
– Are we going to one place or are we going to change locations?
Are there washing machines and irons available so we can take fewer clothes and wash them? If we plan to change locations and need to pack and unpack, then some easy-care/non-iron items are best to consider.
– How many times can I wear tops and bottoms?
For example, some people are willing to wear the same pair of jeans for the whole trip, while others prefer to have a clean pair every day. I normally wear bottoms up to four times and tops one to two times before they get dirty and need a wash.
My typical trips
– “Short city” (sometimes with a beach) – Four days on average, staying at one place (Bergamo, London, Paris, Thessaloniki, Zadar, Barcelona)
– Up to 10 days in one place (e.g., Tenerife, Reunion)
– Up to 10 days, changing location (Italy, Greece)
If I’m traveling alone and don’t plan on bringing souvenirs home, I can manage two weeks with only carry-on luggage!
So here’s how I apply all of the above to my packing.
I usually travel during warmer seasons—or if it’s winter, to warmer places—so I don’t need to take heavy jackets and thick sweaters. The last time my husband and I traveled in Europe during winter was around 2013–14, and I don’t really remember what I packed.
When it’s winter here in Sweden and I’m going to warmer places, layering is key. A t-shirt + shirt + sweater and a light jacket + big square scarf do the trick of getting me to the airport. Check out this post for more ideas for layering during cold seasons.
Spring and autumn in Europe may vary from +10 to +25°C, so again, layering can come to the rescue.
Lists of activities
My trips always include lots of walking, so I start my planning with shoes. They should be comfortable to walk around during the whole day, waterproof in case of rain (depending on the weather forecast, as it may never rain in some places), and go well with most of my planned outfits. I take at least two pairs so they can “rest” and get dry. If I’m wearing sandals, then I may bring more options as they don’t take up much space.
On average, I take two to three pairs of shoes for a short trip and four to five pairs for a longer trip.
Some other activities include beach days or evenings out. For the beach, I obviously pack a bikini (check out this post about packing for the beach), and I dress up my regular clothes with accessories and/or a pair of nicer shoes for an evening out.
Then, keeping in mind my preferable style or color palette, I plan the bottoms. If it’s a short trip and I don’t need to worry about the space in my bag, I can take up to one pair of bottoms per day. I would take about one piece for every two days for longer trips (10 days = 4-5 bottoms or 4 plus a dress).
The requirements for bottoms:
– The bottoms I travel in shouldn’t stretch on the knees and bum, nor should they crease or require much ironing.
– They should still be comfortable if I gain some weight on the trip, which is almost always the case.
– They should all be different in terms of shape and color. For example, if I bring four pieces, it will likely be a pair of trousers, a skirt, shorts, and culottes (not several pairs of black or blue jeans).
So I take out all the bottoms that suit my requirements and choose four to five pieces that are all different in cut and color and go with the shoes I’ve chosen.
Then I complete my packing with tops that go with the chosen bottoms. Since I’m a base wardrobe believer, most of my clothes go well together. Depending on the weather, there will be either lighter or warmer pieces but most often both—for layering and unforeseen weather changes. The number of tops is usually equal to the number of days, around one piece per day.
Then comes the outerwear. I typically bring – one to three pieces, depending on the season and expected weather fluctuations. Needless to say, these choices should go with the rest of your packed items.
Before the Polyvore’s death, I did all of this on the computer, which was super convenient. Now I use an app called “Your Closet,” but I’m not a big fan of their packing function. So if you have any app ideas to share, please do so in the comments below.
Now let’s get visual with some examples:
London, 4 days at the end of April
Weather: unpredictable – sun, rain + 15°C on average
Activities: city walking mostly, staying at one place
I felt like wearing a “schoolgirl” style capsule. (If you want to learn about different styles and how to use them in your wardrobe, check out my Personal Style Development service)
Here’s what I packed!
The key to easy packing is to have a well-planned wardrobe. You can start creating your foundation with the basic items (download the list of them here). These are like eggs and flour, the basics you can make anything from, so you’ll always have something to eat (or wear!).
If you want help, check out this info on Personal Style Development.
Feel free to share your packing tips and tricks below :)