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Travel-Pro: Plan & Pack Like A Stylist

Debra Schwartz June 2023 2

Signature StylingThought Leader: Debra Schwartz

Summer is here, and for many of us, that means some type of away-vacay.

Whether you’re getting away for a week or a weekend, these stylist’s top packing tips, from PLANNING to PACKING to TOOLS, will take the stress out of the packing process, ensure a travel wardrobe that works, AND have you showing up looking great wherever you go.

The Planning:

1.Make A List:

Think of where you’re going and what you expect to do each day and evening. You do not need a new outfit for each day and night (unless you’re on a cruise, in which case, bring it all!) And it’s not just clothing, but toiletries, meds, etc.

“Dress for the destination. You don’t want to look like a tourist, do you? Then think about the local vibe.”

2. Dress For The Destination:

You don’t want to look like a tourist, do you? Then think about the local vibe. If you’re touring the French countryside, leave your high heels and tight dresses at home, and opt for comfortable shoes and easy breezy dresses instead. If you’ll be visiting a city in Europe, leave the shorts and tank tops at home and opt for more sophisticated solid pieces that can be layered and go from day to evening with a simple change of accessories.

3. Cultural Do’s And Don’ts:

Take a moment to learn the cultural do’s and don’ts that you must adhere to, like dressing more modestly in Muslim countries (always carry a light wrap that can be used to cover your arms when visiting a house of worship there).

4. Pack Practically:

Make sure to wear outfits that are comfortable and suitable for walking all day. Your trip should be about the scenery, not the clothes you wear. Leave home the linen and silk, and opt for microfibers, cottons, and knits that will wrinkle less, and won’t require dry cleaning. Hotel laundry services are a particular pet peeve of mine. I’d rather spend the money on anything else!

5. No New Shoes:

Never try out a new pair on vacation. Nothing worse than blisters on day one to slow you down. Try to limit yourself to three pairs of shoes. They take up awkward packing space and are typically unnecessary.

A pair of sneakers/trainers, a pair of flat sandals or boots (climate-dependent), and a dressier pair of flats or mid-heels for dressier evenings generally do the trick. Also, think about those leisurely after-dinner strolls when choosing these. And check the weather (see above tip) so you’re not caught wearing sandals in a storm.

6. Layering Is Key:

Global warming means uncertainty, layering means versatility. Think light layers that together add whatever warmth you’ll need. They should be as thin as possible so you can fold up and put in your backpack/tote. The top of the mountain could be twenty degrees cooler than the bottom! And as warm as the beach is during the day, when the sun goes down, the chill sets in in many locales.

7. Limit Your Color Palette:

Start with a few neutrals and work in one or two accent colors for interest. Texture is also a great way to add some umph. The neutrals will give you that universal low-key luxury look, especially in a monochromatic outfit. I love to use cream and black as my bases, add denim and a color like cobalt, red or even yellow. Bringing color into an outfit through accessories especially adds punch.

“Keep them on a file on your phone for easy reference.”

8. Check The Local Weather:

Check, both forecast and the typical temps (and amount of rain or snow) during the time you’ll there. Keep a watch out up until the day of travel, so you can pop in an umbrella and raincoat.

9. Preplan Outfits:

Create (and try on) your outfits before you pack. This helps ensure that you like how everything looks and fits before any vacay surprises. For instance, those denim shorts from last year might be in style but might not make the cut. Lay everything out and take photos as a record and outfit “crib sheet” to use while you are away. Keep them on a file on your phone for easy reference. I find that if I review the photos after putting outfits together, I will invariably eliminate a few pieces that didn’t “play well” with the majority. You will use the outfit photos for future trips as well.

10. Wear Bulky Items During Transit:

If you’re going somewhere cold, wear your bulky coat, scarf, and boots during the commute to save space in your luggage. A down coat can double as a pillow or blanket on the plane. I bring an old pillowcase, stuff it with the coat, and plan on a window seat for those longer flights. Wear your bulkiest, yet comfortable shoes, too.

Leave the bling behind. Keep safe by featuring faux jewelry, costume is even better. Prevent yourself from being vulnerable to theft or loss. If you must bring fine jewelry, use the hotel safe when it’s not being worn.

The Packing:

11. DON’T Overpack:

We all have those “should-have-packed” moments when the perfect piece was left behind. But extra is typically excess. Next time you return from a trip, count how many pieces you DID NOT end up wearing. Personally, I get extra creative when I’ve limited my travel wardrobe. Packing with will-power (or won’t power, as it were) is liberating! So edit ruthlessly.

You can always pick up a piece or two along the way. Best type of souvenir!

12. Choose Just-Right Luggage:

Too-large bags will create wrinkles, plus add weight and the excuse to take way more than you need (if there’s space, you’ll be tempted to fill it).

Too-small bag will ALSO create wrinkled clothes, the anxiety of trying to fit it all in, and you’ll be left without room for souvenirs/shopping. Use luggage with structure and compression features – and save the duffle bag for camping or college-bound kids. And find a bag with hidden zippers or inaccessible compartments – these can help prevent theft.

13. Rolling vs Folding:

It’s a matter of preference. Some swear by the Mari Kondo-esque rolling technique where every garment is rolled tight and lined up inside your suitcase. Looks pretty, and helps prevent wrinkling, but once you get where you’re going, you have to UNroll.

“You can always pick up a piece or two along the way. Best type of souvenir!”

I prefer the folding method, along with compression packing cubes. I’ve been known to wax poetic about packing cubes. (Some luckies have even been gifted a set from me!)  Packing cubes, with a double zipper, allow you keep your clothing far-less wrinkled, by reducing the space between each, via the compression zippers. AND you can slip the opened cube right into the hotel/Airbnb drawers and keep everything neat and organized.

And there’s bundling: one more option is to “bundle” a full outfit (sans shoes). Think of an open-faced sandwich, where the largest clothing item is the bread, and you work your way “up” with smaller and smaller items including underwear and socks.

Fold the whole thing (or roll if you prefer) and you’re super-organized for that day’s outfit. I love this packing procedure for kids because it makes finding and dressing so easy – and chances are they won’t be repeating their clothes aside from outer layers.  But for us, it’s not practical since you will be mixing and reusing pieces throughout the trip.

Extra Tip If You Are Traveling:

14. Bottom-heavy:

Pack the heaviest items at the bottom- bottom. That means closest to the wheels or base of the bag. Prevents tipping luggage and, again, wrinkling when gravity takes over and the heavy items smash into the lighter ones.

Mind the gap: Stuff the spaces with small things like rolled belts, glass-cases, flipflops (you’ll want for showers and spas).

15. Carry-on Is Key:

Lost luggage is a real thing and will put a deep crimp in the start of your vacay. Pack not only the necessities, like your medications, jewelry, travel documents, electronics, and smaller toiletries in your carryon, but also a change of clothes. Add whatever you like to sleep in! EXTRA TIP: if you are traveling with a partner, pack a change of their clothes in your luggage and vice versa, so if one of your bags is lost, you still have another change of clothes.

The Tools To Pack Like A Stylist:

  • Compression cubes: Get ones with double zippers: the inner to close the cube and the other to compress it.
  • Garment Steamer: Leave the linens and thin silks at home, but if your trip demands some higher-maintenance pieces, take along this tool for handy touchups…and a hair straightener can be used on collars in a pinch!
  • Tissue paper: a MUST for resisting wrinkles. Place on garment and fold around it. Use to line drawers when unpacking.
  • Satin pillowcase: A mini luxury saves your skin and your hair – extends your blowout, too! Make sure to get one in COLOR (I learned this the hard way after leaving a few white ones behind in hotels).
  • Quick-dry microfiber towel: For shortening hair-drying time as well as hand-washables
  • Luggage: Make sure the carryon is airline compliant. Note: International carriers allow a smaller carryon size than here in the US.
  • Clothing folder: For a uniform folding, especially helpful when you use compression cubes [like the stores use, or make one yourself from cardboard]
  • Lint roller
  • Ziploc bags: For keeping dirty laundry and wet bathing suits and such separated from the rest of your things.

Now enjoy stylish (and safe) summer traveling! For more resources check out my bio below.

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About the Author:

Debra Schwartz, of CRUSH.STYLE, is a stylist and designer with more than three decades in fashion, cosmetics, corporate design, branding, and digital media.

As a Confidence-Creator, an Amplifier of Self-Image, and an Architect of Empowerment for women her goal is to have you show up with confidence and style in chapters two, three, (or four!) of life. “My passion and mission is to bring elevation and joy to women through signature style… and reclaim your fabulousness”.  

Check out my catalog of curated travel finds: https://hueandstripe.com/catalog/1037H&SVmCD?s=571518 For more tips and a packing checklist, contact me at [email protected] and visit http://www.crush.style

Find Debra on Instagram @crushstylenow. Visit http://www.crush.style to learn more about Debra and how her signature style services can elevate you to the next level.