Packing Tips (from a Last Minute Fashionista)

By Erika, Resident Fashionista


We have a long-weekend coming up and lots of us will be going away for some fun (crappy weather along the east coast be darned!).  And, lots of us are probably last-minute packers.  I am a notorious last-minute packer.  I regularly wait until the morning of my flight, train, or bus to put everything into my suitcase and go.  It’s so bad that for my Twelve in ’12 one of my goals was to pack at least 2 days ahead of my trips.  In 2012 that happened about 50% of the time.  In 2013 it’s happened exactly never.

But here’s the thing, just because I do not actually pack until the night before or morning of departure doesn’t mean that I’m throwing any old thing into my suitcase.  It’s actually the opposite.  I’ve already carefully planned for my trip, so it doesn’t really take much to get everything into the actual suitcase.  Once I started to use a few methodical tricks it made packing a breeze – which has only fueled my ability to wait until the very last second (the very last one) to pack.

If you’re a last-minute fashionista like me try using some of the tips below to make packing (whether last-minute or well-planned) a breeze!

1. Plan your outfits ahead of time.  Packing at the last-minute isn’t what gets most people into trouble.  It’s a lack of a game plan that gets you into trouble.  If you know what you’re going to pack it takes very little time to actually fit it into your suitcase.

Sticky Notes

2.  To help you plan ahead, use sticky notes.  As you can see, I use one sticky note for every day I’ll be away.  On the note I’ll write the temperature (only in the spring and fall when it could go from way hot to way chilly in a matter of hours).  Then, I’ll write down each component of my outfit for that day.  When it comes time for you to pack you can cross it off as you pull it from your closet.  You don’t actually have to wear the clothes on the day – the point is to have an outfit (or 2 if need be) for each day.

Sticky Note Close-Up
Yes, I write that neatly. Everyone makes fun of me for it.

Along those lines, make sticky notes for any special items you’ll need as well, like beach wear and accessories and workout gear.  And dear lord don’t forget your PJs!  I’ve done that a time or two!

3.  Pick complementary colors and pieces.  I love shoes.  And, at one point in my life, I used to have a pair of shoes to match every single outfit I brought on a trip.

Don’t worry – the madness stopped when I went to Europe with an ex-boyfriend and we literally had one suitcase full of nothing but shoes which got delayed for a full day and almost caused me to go into cardiac arrest in Barcelona. 

Shoes: Sperry Top Siders
Shoes: Sperry Top Sider

Now, like the smart cookie I am, I pack outfits that work together so that I can reuse the same pieces (i.e. shoes, jackets, hats, scarves, jeans, etc.).   For my jaunt to NYC this weekend, I’ve packed my grey Sperry Top Siders and Gold Sandals and picked outfits that can be worn with those shoes.  I also stashed a navy military jacket that can be worn with 2-3 outfits.  My fave jean jacket matches two outfits.  And I’ll recycle my jeans.  Every outfit is unique but they’re in the same color family and use common pieces.

The outfits above use the same base color (navy blue) so that the same pieces (a navy military jacket and orange cross body bag) can be utilized with both outfits.  Jeans: Avenue I Shirt: Old Navy I Dress: Joe Fresh I Scarf: J Crew
The outfits above use the same base color (navy blue) so that the same pieces (a navy military jacket and orange cross body bag) can be utilized with both outfits.
Jeans: Avenue I Shirt: Old Navy I Dress: Joe Fresh I Scarf: J Crew
Jacket: Dress Barn
Jacket: Dress Barn
Bag: H&M
Bag: H&M

4.  Roll your clothes.  This is strictly about getting as much use out of your space as possible.  I roll pretty much everything except for jeans.  It saves room and keeps things wrinkle free when rolled tightly. That means you’ll have to pack roll friendly clothing.  Which should be a part of your strategizing.

Rolled Clothes
Items rolled in my suitcase for maximum storage.

5.  Wear your bulkiest items.  You’ll notice that I’m bringing a jean jacket with me.  But it won’t go in my suitcase.  It gets worn on the trip to NY and the trip home.  This way, that leaves me extra room in my suitcase for other items.  In the winter, wear your heaviest sweater on travel days and layer up.

Jacket: Gap
Jacket: Gap
Jacket: Gap I Dress: Caslon
Jacket: Gap I Dress: Caslon

6.  Stuff socks in your shoes and accessories in your hats.  Every little bit of space helps.  So I try to stuff socks in my shoes and, I almost always travel with a hat.  If I’m not wearing said hat, I lay it in the suitcase with the opening facing out.  I pack items around it (like t-shirts, PJs, etc.) and then I fill it with things like belts, scarves, etc.  This will a) keep your hat from getting crushed and b) keep your hat’s shape.  You’ll thank me when you arrive in Panama with your Panama perfectly in tact.

Sneakers: Puma
Sneakers: Puma
Hat: My own

7.  Travel cases are your friend.  I keep a travel case stocked with all of my travel sized essentials (lotion, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, contact solution, etc.).  This way, I never have to unpack and repack it.  I just store it away until it’s time for my next trip.  I also have separate travel cases for hair items, make-up and jewelry.  I especially love my Thirty-One jewelry case because I can roll it or lay it flat to fit.

Thirty One Jewelry Case
Jewelry Case: Thirty One

8.  Leave room for your dirty stuff.  I used to pack an empty bag for my dirty close and then stuff my suitcase to the brim.  Dumb idea.  That bad is going to be full when you leave.  Most of us aren’t folding and rolling our dirty stuff, so at the end of the trip we’re trying to figure out how to stuff a bag of stinky everything into our suitcase.  It almost never fits on the way home.  Now, I try to pack little to nothing (usually it’s little) in the front zipper pocket of my suitcase and I save this for dirty clothes.  I also roll them tightly when I put them in there.

9.  If you pack something bulky (think sneakers, boots or jeans) wear them on the way home.  It’s rare that we come home from a trip empty handed.  Ok, well, it’s rare that I do.  So, I tend to pack bulkier items (like jeans or sneakers) with the plan to wear them on my trip home.  You’ll be amazed at the extra space you’ll get my removing one pair of jeans and a bulky item like sneakers or hard-bottomed shoes.  Enough room for a couple cute tops and some new sandals!

10.  Pack you expandable bag “unexpanded” (is that word?).  This is another trick to help you if you come home with more than you left with.  Your bag will be fully packed, but you’ll gain some wiggle room when you expand it for the trip home.  Win!


Bonus tip: if you’re flying, keep a stash of travel sized toiletries, an extra pair of “unmentionables,” and a fresh top to change into just in case your suitcases don’t arrive when you do. 

It took me exactly ONE (very stinky) time to learn this lesson the hard way.  The very, very hard way.  In a foreign country. Now you know why I almost went into cardiac arrest. 

So, my last minute fashionistas – any more tips to make last minute packing a breeze?  And, for my well-planned packing divas, do you have any tips to share?

You know what to do!  Weigh in below!

Your Chic is Showing,

6 thoughts on “Packing Tips (from a Last Minute Fashionista)

  1. Fantastic tips! You are so cute with your little sticky notepads! While I don’t write things out, I do the same mental planning, thinking about temperature, what I can mix and match, etc. One thing I started doing years ago that has saved me tons of time is to keep pre-packed bags of my toiletries, hair supplies, and even my little 1 quart bag of liquids. That way all I have to worry about is my clothes and accessories.

    Hey – are you going to FFF Week???

    1. Hey dollface!! The little baggies are a great idea!!! I’ll have to add that to my strategy.

      I won’t be going to FFF week. I have another commitment. Though, a couple naughty imps are trying to get me to rearrange some things, so you never know!

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