How to Pack Light for Holiday Travel

If you’ve ever packed way too much for a trip, struggled with your suitcase, or gotten to your destination only to realize you’ve left pertinent pieces behind, you may have wondered if there is a better way to go about packing.

The answer is yes, there is.

All you have to do is make a plan, assemble a clothing capsule, and put it in the suitcase. Once you get good at it, you can be packed and ready to go in about ten minutes.

Let’s look at these steps in detail:

1.    Make a Plan

I’ve known lots of women who insist on packing just about everything they own because they don’t know what they’ll “feel” like wearing on any given day of their trip.

Translation:  They don’t know what they’re supposed to wear so they take everything, hoping something will be appropriate.

What’s a better plan?

Ask.  Find out what you’ll be doing, where you’ll be going, what the weather’s like, and what other people will be wearing.  If you’ll be visiting friends or relatives, ask them.  If you’ll be speaking at a conference, ask the meeting planner.  If you’ll be vacationing at a hotel in the Caribbean, email the concierge before you go. It’s such a simple little thing, but so few people think to do it.  If you don’t know, ASK! It’s the quickest way to find your answer.

Once you have your basic itinerary, you can begin to consider what types of clothing you need to take.

2.    Assemble a Clothing Capsule

The next step is to figure out how to take as few pieces as possible yet still cover all of your activities.  You want to  minimize your losses if your bag goes missing yet maximize the number of possible ensembles for the greatest flexibility.

Sound impossible?  Not if you use clothing capsules. 

While I’ve reviewed capsules before and cover them extensively in WARDROBE MAGIC (complete with tons of pictures),

I’ll touch on it again because the information

bears repeating.  Once you master how to mix and match your clothes, as my seven year old has, you’ll be astounded by what you can do with the clothes you already own.

So here we go:

A clothing capsule is approximately 8-12 pieces of clothing that mix and match easily with each other.  They can be the same or complimentary colors, and in styles that work well with each other.

Let’s say that you’re headed to your Mother’s or brother’s for Christmas or Hanukkah.  You’ll be eating, shopping, eating, cooking, eating, going hiking, eating, going to the movies, eating, going to church or temple, and possibly going out to eat.

A good capsule might include:

White blouse
Red sweater
Blue long sleeve t-shirt
Black shrug
White and black scarf with red cherries
Black jacket
Black pants
Black skirt
Blue jeans

Now, for some sample ensembles:

*Christmas dinner:
White blouse, black pants, black shrug

Blue T-shirt, blue jeans, black jacket

Red sweater, blue jeans

*The movies
Red sweater, blue jeans, black shrug

*Church or temple
White blouse, black skirt, scarf tied at neck (or draped over shoulder or down back), black jacket

*Eating out
Blue t-shirt, black skirt, scarf tied at waist

See how easy this is?  If you stick with a basic color scheme and pieces that mix and match easily, you’ll not only have a variety of outfits, you’ll be able to come up with something instantly if you find yourself headed somewhere or doing something you hadn’t planned.

Another bonus?  You can cut way down on the number of shoes and other accessories you need to take because you won’t have to accessorize so many different outfits.

3.    Put It in The Suitcase

Once you’ve put together your clothing capsule and determined what accessories you need to take (jewelry, belts, shoes, handbags), stop for a moment to consider your undergarments.  Do you need a camisole or slip?  Special panties or foundation garments?  Pull it out now so you
don’t forget it.

Put everything in your suitcase.  Add nightclothes, slippers, and a robe.  Put in your underwear and footwear for however many days you need.  If you’ll be swimming or working out, pack those clothes as well.  Put heavy blow dryers and rollers in the suitcase, not in your carry-on. Your back will thank you for it.

Now go pack your cosmetic case.  Use travel size toiletries, and keep them in your cosmetic case from here on out.  Pack any prescription medications you need and take along a stash of feminine hygiene products whether you’re expecting your cycle or not.  For some unknown reason and regardless of what the calendar says, your period always seems to show up just in time for vacation.  So plan for it.

Finally, always wear layers when you travel, particularly if you’re going to be changing climates.  You want to be able to regulate your body temperature easily, so wear cardigans or pullovers that can be added or removed as needed.

If you keep them in the same color family as your clothing capsule, you now have one more piece to work with.

Traveling is stressful enough without struggling with a heavy suitcase, keeping track of too many pieces, and wondering what you’ll be doing once you get where you’re going.  So make it easy on yourself.

Make a plan, put together a clothing capsule, and put it in your suitcase.  You’ll look good, feel great, and save yourself an aching back.  You may even raise some eyebrows by how few pieces of luggage you bring – especially when you look
great every day of your trip.

Need some more help putting clothing capsules, with tons of pictures for easy understanding?

Then grab a copy of WARDROBE MAGIC,

to see how easy looking great – and traveling light — can be.


Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic,” an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at .

1 Comment

  • Linda Adams

    Reply Reply December 22, 2006

    When I went on vacation to Wisconsin earlier this year, I thought about what to pack and packed carefully. I kept it to one small travel bag, and I tried to keep it relatively light because I was going to have to carry it. I particularly focused on making sure everything matched everything else. When I arrived, my uncle was shocked at how little I had brought. Not only had his wife brought a lot of clothes, she was running out so she started making more!

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