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Do You Love to Travel but Hate to Pack?

Going on vacation sounds lovely, right? That is…until you open your suitcase and start to pack. Figuring out what to bring can make even the most enthusiastic traveler pause and wonder if the trip is worth it!

The truth is that being on vacation is wonderful. Preparing for vacation, on the other hand, can be stressful and exhausting. When you keep the vision of yourself on the beach, exploring museums or visiting friends and family (or whatever your favorite travel entails), the effort to pack makes it worthwhile in the long run.

But…wouldn’t it be nice if at least one part of the preparation was easier?

I’m talking about packing.

Deciding what to wear while you’re away doesn’t have to be a painful experience and you don’t have to take everything but the kitchen sink with you.

With a little planning it can be a breeze as Carol Takvorian shares, “Last night I packed for south beach. It was easy and didn’t take long because I had the right items. What a change. It’s all fantastic!”

The focus is not necessarily on the specific trip, although that is important and does, of course, figure into your choices. The focus is on preparing your wardrobe ahead of time so, as Carol mentioned, you have what you need and can easily pull outfits together.

Here are 3 steps you can take to help get you on your way to packing success!

1. Create a Common Color Theme

If you have every color of the rainbow in your closet, getting dressed becomes much more complicated and can easily lead to overwhelm, frustration and, worst of all, unworn clothes. I’m not suggesting you just wear black and white or feel bored with a tiny selection of colors. There’s no joy in that!

It’s also true that not every color looks good on everyone. It’s exactly why I’ve driven a red car for more years than I can count! I look hideous in a true, bright red, but I like red. So, I drive a red car and keep red out of my wardrobe.

When you choose only the colors that make you sparkle, you get the added benefit of having them mix and match well together.

Dorothy O’Connor has found the value in this as she shares, “I thought of you as I packed for a short trip. I was able to bring just a carry on for a whole week due to your help with my “capsule wardrobe.” I can’t believe I have had so many choices each day as everything goes with everything. Not only that but I can dress things up or down depending on accessories. Your help is SO appreciated!”

It’s important to note that Carol and Dorothy look best in totally different colors so there is no one ‘right’ choice. It depends on what colors look best on you.

EXERCISE: Take a peek at your wardrobe. What colors are in there? And what nuances of color? Blue is not blue is not blue. If you look good in a vibrant cobalt blue then it’s doubtful that you’ll also look good in a dusty pastel blue. Or, do you have a wide variety of neutrals in your closet including black, gray, navy, camel, white, beige, etc.?

No one looks good in ALL neutrals and mixing and matching with too many neutrals can make your mind spin! Refine your wardrobe to your best neutrals. If you’re unsure, start by choosing a neutral that is similar to your hair color. Or, if you have blue eyes, navy is a good option. Avoid light gray unless you’re absolutely positive it’s a remarkable color on you – it’s one of the hardest colors to look good wearing – it will make most people look washed out. Choosing your best neutrals will help you look great in your choices and create outfits with more ease.

(If you need help creating a capsule wardrobe like Dorothy, check out my 2-hour on-demand class here:

2. Know What You Need for Your Destination

This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget about it until you open your suitcase 2 days before you leave on your trip. Then panic sets in. Plan ahead so you aren’t scrambling and creating extra stress at the last minute.

Consider the weather, activities, purpose of the trip and any possible variables. For instance, if you travel to New England almost any time of the year, the weather can be unpredictable. We’ve been known to have the temperature drop 40 degrees in a matter of hours. Or go from sunny to wind-driven rain in a few minutes. Or, if you live in a climate that is very humid and are going to a dry climate (or vice versa), it’s a whole different ballgame. 70 degrees and humid will feel very different from 70 degrees and dry.

I fell into this trap during a trip to the beach. As you can probably guess from my pale skin, I am not a beach person. Many years ago, I went to Provincetown during the summer (terrible idea for me!). There was no escaping the sun (even off the beach) and I was woefully unprepared. Even just walking around town was relentlessly hot and sunny. I should have had a hat and long sleeve top that protected me from the sun without being stifling OR even a parasol, but I didn’t. Of course, part of the problem was the location (off-season is a hundred times better for me!), but I also didn’t think ahead about what I needed to bring. This experience has always stuck with me and reminds me to plan ahead.

In my case, some of my kitties (Percy, Kodi-bear and Millie) want to oversee the packing!

EXERCISE: Have a travel/packing list handy. Start now creating one and add to it as you think of things (and if you need a draft to get you started, email me and I’ll be happy to send you mine). I’ve used a self-made planner for many years – even if I’m just going to visit my mom. I adapt it in seconds to reflect my needs for that particular trip and then cross things off as I pack them. I never have to worry about forgetting my toothbrush or underwear!

3. Make Time-Tested Complete Outfits

Jill McDaniel says it all: “When I went to pack last night, it was super easy to pull two outfits…one for a business dinner and one for an art event. Normally I have a hard time deciding and take more than I need “just in case.” But I could easily see what I had and since we had talked about certain outfits, I just went to my closet and pulled two outfits together zip zap. I felt confident in the outfits, jewelry, shoes, etc. to take with me. It was very liberating!”

Like Jill, you want to be fully prepared for whatever activities you’ll be doing…this includes all the clothing AND accessories you’ll need. In addition, make absolutely sure you have everything AND, most importantly, they really do work together.

If, for instance, you’ve never worn a top with a particular pair of pants, don’t blindly assume they will work well together (I say this gently and because I’ve done it in the past with NOT good results!). Try them on before you pack them. This is called giving the outfit a ‘dress rehearsal.’

Ignore this step at your own peril!

As I mentioned, I made this mistake once and never again. When I was packing, it seemed obvious to me that the pair of pants I was taking would work perfectly with the top and shoes I was bringing. The colors worked and the styles made sense. But I didn’t try them on together ahead of time. As a result, as I was getting dressed for an important meeting, I discovered that the pants were too long for the heels I had brought with me and they dragged on the ground. Ugh! I didn’t have an extra pair of shoes so it meant I had to scramble to pull together an outfit that looked okay, but it wasn’t what I had wanted to wear.

A quick try-on (or pack only tried and true combinations) will circumvent any potential problems.

EXERCISE: If you’ve never worn a particular complete outfit before (even if you have worn the items separately), never assume they will work. Give them a quick dress rehearsal so you don’t discover when it’s too late that the cardigan you planned to wear over the dress looks horribly frumpy or the pants are tighter than you remember and uncomfortable and now you’re stuck wearing them anyway.

Do these steps take a few extra minutes? Yes.

Is it worth it to save you hours of discomfort or unnecessary shopping or frustration while traveling? Absolutely!

Whatever the reason for your travels, you want the experience to be positive and easy. The three steps above will nip most problems in the bud and give you a capsule of clothing so you can get dressed quickly, feel confident in your choices (without overpacking) and enjoy your time away.

Happy travels!

Do the frustrations in your closet go beyond packing for traveling? If you’re stuck and need help, join the next ‘Create Your Personal Style in 6 Weeks’ class where you learn all the tools you need to create a fabulous wardrobe (whether staying home or traveling) AND you can get my personalized support along the way. Learn more here: Create Your Personal Style.

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.