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Packing Tips from an Ex-Overpacker

kate goldstein, former overpacker

The following is a guest packing tips post by Katie Goldstein. We at Her Packing List understand that not everyone can go from overpacker to minimalist over night, so Katie’s packing tips for drastically cutting back can be a huge help!

Hi, my name is Katie and I used to be an over-packer. It’s true. The horror! The shame. Then for my honeymoon I planned a trip to Southeast Asia for three weeks and I had no choice but to shape up before I shipped out! I couldn’t go over the 50-pound limit without incurring huge charges for each of my flights, but I was also going to a place that did not offer up the usual amenities, so I had to be sure I had what I needed. This is when, at the age of 30 years-old, I learned how to pack like a superstar! My friend taught me the trick, it’s called the “Outfit-a-Day” Method. (Fine, maybe a little more than one per day since I usually have a few costume changes).

The secret is, you pack only exactly what you need. What a revelation, right? You pick out the exact outfits, piece by piece, before you go. The shoes, the shirt, the pants, the socks, the underwear. No more packing your favorite shirts and shoes with no forethought. Choosing each outfit of course takes a longer time but I think it’s worth it! Trust me, it’s been road-tested, time and time again by a clothes horse! This is the way to go! I’ve gone from “over the limit, ma’am” to carry on! And you can too! Here’s how:

Step One:

Check the weather and pack for the appropriate climate you’re going to be entering. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have just assumed somewhere would be warm when it ends up being freezing.

Step Two:

Pick your exact outfit for each day. That means, if you are going to the pool and dinner every night, you pack one swimsuit for that day, one pool outfit, and then your dress for that night. If you know you’re doing a hiking tour one day, pick your outfit and stick to it.

Outfit Advice: Pick items that you can a) wear again and b) that go well with lots of items. Think staples like skinny jeans, jean shorts, black blazers, cardigans, hoodies. Items that you can mix and match will go a long way in the war against over-packing! Also, remember that if you’re taking pictures, you don’t want a pair of brightly colored, patterned pants that will standout as a repeat, so like I said, stick to basic items and neutral colors. Choosing items that transition from day to night is also a fabulous idea. My Rebecca Minkoff bag is a great example! The strap can be adjusted to achieve the messenger bag look or a traditional purse.

packing solid staples to mix and match

Step Three:

Roll your clothing instead of folding it. This allows you to fit so much more into your suitcase, while at the same time not leaving huge creases in your wardrobe. To roll, simply lay your clothing out flat and roll tightly from bottom to top.

Delicates Advice: If you’re taking an item that wrinkles easily, I recommend rolling a piece of tissue paper inside of the garment. This works for some crazy reason!

Step Four:

Stuff every inch of open space that you have. If you have big shoes, stick your socks inside. When you’re packing, every little bit helps. And this also helps to keep your shoes keep their shape. Socks workin’ overtime!

Step Five:

Toiletries time. In addition to being a travel writer, I’m also a beauty blogger, so I understand the importance of having your beauty essentials. However, there is no reason to take a full-size bottle of shampoo. Either buy travel-size products, steal ’em from hotels or buy empty travel-size bottles and fill them up with your favorite products. My sister actually packs full bottles of everything!

Step Six:

If you’re traveling with a companion, I suggest splitting your suitcases. What I mean is pack half of your stuff in one suitcase and half in your companion’s. While this is a bit of a pain, if you’re going somewhere exotic and they lose one of your bags, at least you will still have some of your belongings until they locate your missing bag.

Happy Trails!

About the Author: Katie Goldstein is a lawyer by day and a writer by night. She is the founder of TravelingPanties, a luxury travel blog, and Smartypanties, a luxury lifestyle blog. She loves capturing her journey through her writing and photography. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Fodor’s Travel, WE TV, and Fox News. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Facebook.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Steph says

    Love the article! I plan pack for each day like you suggest (planning the outfits before hand is half the fun and keeps me sane as I anticipate the trip!). Great tip about rolling and using tissue paper, I’ll have to try that when I travel to Greece this summer!

    • Brooke says

      Thanks for reading, Steph! I think the tissue paper trick will work. My boyfriend did something similar with a plastic bag and his nice shirts before our cruise — seemed to work great!

    • Brooke says

      Bring only what you need, especially if you like to shop! Europe has some great shopping and you’ll want to blend in with the locals more if hanging around for a while. Otherwise, versatile items with lots of colors that can be mixed and matched is key.

  2. Melissa @ Suitcase and Heels says

    I was a victim of number one when I went to San Francisco in late April. I froze on the cable car ride and made a beeline to the closest shop with sweaters. I spent the next 3 days sporting a hoodie with ‘San Francisco’ emblazoned on my chest but I was warm.

    For number two, I try to stick to one ‘colour story’ for each trip. I don’t go with just neutrals but instead try to find one palette that mixes and matches with everything else I bring. I think wearing the same black top would stand out as much as wearing the same red top, but you’re totally right about statement pieces like crazy patterened pants.

    Number six is great advice that I first heard after my parents went to Cuba. My dad’s suitcase never made it past Montreal. Luckily they were with a large group of friends so he was able to borrow some items and buy a few others but if they’d split up the suitcases (even just an outfit or two) he would’ve been better off.

  3. Jessica of HolaYessica says

    Good tips! I am a chronic overpacker, but am somehow still always surprised when I get to the airport and they tell me my bag is overweight. 🙂

    I agree with what Melissa said – limiting your wardrobe to a couple colors is an easy way to figure out outfits.

  4. Tiara says

    my daughter is 16 and is already an over packer. im printing this off for her to read! cant wait for our trip next week thank you SO much for these tips!

  5. Aless White says

    Totally agree about splitting clothes between cases if travelling with sig.other-did it for a 12 week trip around Turkey and Europe. Didn’t lose anything but didn’t worry either.

    Re shampoo…I heard just this week at my hairdresser from a woman after her first trip overseas.She totally lost ALL her hair colour (she’s normally grey) with the first wash with what she thought were good quality hotel products! She spent some time trying to find and buy her ‘usual’, along with others in the group!!
    I measure out roughly the amount I use per wash then multiplying by the no. of washes I expect to do over the whole trip.Goes into a travel sized bottle(s).

  6. Jody says

    I absolutely do this! I go one step further – I get a notecard, write down the days I’m there and the temperature expected (High and low) under it, then I write down what I am going to wear for each of the days – this is done BEFORE I pack. I take the card and pack according to it (I mean, I write down what shoes, what top, what pants, down to the detail). If I change it while packing, something has to come off – then I put the card in the inside pocket – when I arrive, I don’t have to make hard choices unless plans change. This is extremely helpful for business trips!

  7. Clariza says

    For car camping trips where weight is not a problem, I put entire outfits including socks and undies into one roll and stack them in my duffel bag. When I change clothes I just pull out a pre-packed roll. No looking for underwear etc in different places in my bag. I have an entire change of clothing all together.

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