Adulthood fail: I’m terrible at packing. On trips where a carry-on should suffice, I pack two bags to the gills and only end up wearing four items. When traveling for longer periods I never, ever have enough clothes—or worse, have the wrong kind of everything for the climate. From the looks of the luggage carousal at IAH, I doubt I’m alone. In a city full of travelers—many for business, others for fun—there have to be others struggling with this seemingly easy task.

Ready for adventure—and wearing my bulkiest layers on the plane to save suitcase space!

Image: Max Dunlap

I recently embarked on a three-week vacation, which was the perfect excuse to develop this elusive skill. I scoured every resource I could get my hands on and found some simple wisdom to save some hassle while packing, not to mention a baggage fee or two. 

  1. Go Visual 
    From finding inspiration on blogs like Travelista to scouring Pinterest (Summer travel outfits, anyone?) for outfit ideas, seeing is succeeding when it comes to packing like a pro. I took this tip to heart, even creating a visual map for my packing adventure.

    My visual packing list, which was completely scrapped three days before the flight.

    Image: Sarah Gabbart

  2. Edit Ruthlessly
    Ask yourself “Do I really need this?” Then ask again and again throughout the packing process. To make your edits easy, choose a wardrobe color palette and stick to it—your travel wardrobe should mix and match very well, giving you plenty of flexibility. 
  3. Pack Multi-Purpose Items
    Pick basic bottoms (pants, shorts and/or skirts) and tops that can do double duty. My personal favorite (and trip MVP) was a light-colored chambray Oxford shirt that could be worn as a top or a cardigan.
  4. When in Doubt, Leave it Out
    Remember that most destinations will have a place to pick up something you regret leaving behind.
  5. Organize Your Loot
    Christina Uticone, frequent flier and fashion writer for the Houston Press, swears by packing cubes (sold locally at Whole Earth Provisions and The Container Store). I purchased a few based on her advice and they did a bang-up job keeping my clothing compartmentalized—making it easy to find exactly what I was looking for.

How did my experiment turn out? See for yourself in the slideshow below.  

 

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