How To Plan and Pack Your Next Travel Wardrobe


We’re about to enter summer vacation mode here in the US and many parts of the world. No matter where you live, odds are you’ve struggled with what to pack for one trip or another. 

You don’t want to take too little or too much. There’s always the fear of forgetting an everyday essential! Things can get wrinkled or, heaven forbid, LOST. And of course, you need the perfect outfit for everything on your agenda.

So in this episode of HER Style Podcast, I’m sharing my best tips on how to plan and pack your next travel wardrobe. Let’s eliminate all of those pesky vacation worries so you can enjoy every minute of your getaway from start to finish!

Set Your Agenda

Before you can begin packing, you need to nail down a few details about your trip.

  • Where are you going?
  • What’s the rough activity plan?
  • Are there dress code requirements or restrictions?
  • What’s the weather forecast?

Envision Yourself There

Call me a dreamer, but this is my FAVORITE part of the vacation planning process! I love envisioning all the details about my upcoming travels. It helps me get even more excited about what’s to come and it also gives me a clearer picture of how I want to look and feel.

Take even 5 minutes to imagine how you want to look on this trip. What do you see yourself wearing? How are you showing up? What style are you embodying?

And how do you ideally want to feel? Are you comfortable? Chic? Playful? Practical? What qualities are most important to you on this particular getaway?

If you have time to take this a step further, start a Pinterest style mood board specifically for this trip and use it as a way to gather more outfit ideas and style inspiration!

Create a Capsule

I always do my best to put together a small capsule wardrobe whenever I travel. You can learn more about capsule wardrobes here. The basic idea is to curate a small collection of clothing and accessories designed to mix and match with ease.

I don’t believe you need to follow a hard set of rules. Just be thoughtful about what you pack so you have a good variety of pieces that work well together so you can create a lot of looks with a small number of items. This approach allows you to save space in your luggage for souvenirs, to avoid having to check a bag if you’re traveling by plane, or to throw in an extra pair of shoes or a great book to enjoy in your downtime! The goal is to be intentional and strategic.

Here are 5 steps to building a travel capsule wardrobe:

01. Start with your favorites

There are always a few items you’re most excited to wear. Or maybe you picked up some new clothes or accessories just for this trip. Round them all up. We’re going to build everything else around these must-haves.

02. Look for commonalities

Once you have your favorites gathered together, think about how they work as a whole collection. Do you see repetition in color? If not, what other colors or prints can you add into your travel capsule to make it more cohesive? Are they giving you a similar vibe in terms of style and feel? Do they line up with the way you want to look on this trip?

03. Fill in the gaps

If you’re like me, you might have 4 or 5 dresses sprawled out on your bed right now. What else do you need? Think through your agenda again. If it’s not practical to wear a dress everyday, start gathering up other items that will satisfy the needs of this trip.

Keep your capsule themes in mind and choose other pieces that work with the overall color scheme and style you’re going for. The more versatile an item, the better! 

Ideally, you’ll start to do this process before it’s time to jet to the airport or squeeze your crew into the car, so you can shop for, rent, or borrow anything additional you might need! If you really want to eliminate stress, don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about what you’re going to pack.

04. Mix and match your outfits

Once you have all the items set out, start mixing and matching. See how many outfits you can make with your selections. Take photos to reference later! Keep them in an album on your phone so you can pull them up quickly while you’re away.

Try things on and make sure everything fits, especially if you’re heading to a different climate and wearing clothing that’s been sitting on a hanger or on your shelves for a while. There’s nothing worse than packing something and realizing it doesn’t fit or feel amazing on you after it’s too late!

Use accessories to tie things together and enhance your style. Be strategic about bulky pieces like hats, large totes or handbags, and shoes –especially boots or platforms, things that are going to take up a lot of real estate in your suitcase. Ask yourself if you really need it and make sure it’s going to work with multiple outfits to make it worth the trouble.

I’m a shoe person, 100%. I like having options. But when I’m traveling, I’ll be first to admit it’s easier to pack less in this department. Shoes add bulk and weight to your luggage. So if you can simplify on footwear and choose neutral pairs that will mix and match, you’ll thank yourself later. Make sure you have appropriate shoes for all of your activities: you might need sneakers for walking, kitten heels for evening, and sandals for beach days. Remember to go back to the agenda and be prepared for everything.

05. Choose your undergarments

I typically plan my undergarments last. I want to know what’s going on the outside layer and what will make those outfits look their best underneath, whether I need flesh colored lingerie to wear under white pants or a dress, a strapless bra to work with an off-the-shoulder or halter top, and so on. And you can make sure you have the right number of underwear to fit the days and outfits you have planned. Always, always, always, pack a few extra pairs just in case you get stuck somewhere longer than expected!

Make Your List As You Go

I love a good list. Let’s blame the type A side of me! But having a packing list is going to save you so much time and stress. 

I recommend making your list at least one week ahead of time. As you’re going about your everyday routines, you’re going to think of things to bring. You can also write down what your daily essentials are as you’re using them in your everyday life. Keep a running list on the notes app on your phone. 

I also pack my makeup and toiletries as I use them for the last time before we leave. When I’m applying makeup for my trip, it goes right into my makeup bag. This way I never forget anything vital!

Pack 2 Days Worth of Essentials In Your Carry-On Bag

If you’re flying, this is a MUST. Personally, I’ve never lost luggage, but I am so strategic about making sure I have at least 2 days worth of outfits and essentials in my carry-on bag just in case. You never know. We always think it won’t happen to us (until it does). You’ll be extremely grateful if your first days aren’t completely ruined because you have nothing to wear. 

Of course, my feeling is that I can always find and buy whatever I need. Usually, I’m traveling to places that have stores and conveniences and I can find what I need. But you don’t want to have to scramble or rush around to do so. Give yourself a 48-hour window to settle in, track down your bag, and potentially avoid having to buy anything at all. The best remedy for a lost bag could be slipping on the swimsuit in your carry-on and taking a relaxing soak in the hot tub or paying a visit to the swim-up bar at your resort. Am I right??

Bring a Little More Rather Than a Little Less

I’m a chronic over-packer and I always shamed myself for this. But the ONE time I only brought the exact number of clothes I needed for a trip, the zipper on my wedding guest dress broke as I was putting it on. 😳 My poor (and very patient!) husband and I had to scramble to find a $35 strip mall store replacement dress in less than 15 minutes before the ceremony was about to start. We arrived moments before the bride walked down the aisle.

My motto now is to bring a back-up. I’d rather have one too many pieces crammed into my bag than not enough and have to scramble like that again. It was SO stressful! 

It’s also helpful to have a couple of options in case there’s a change in the weather or your mood. You might feel bloated one day from traveling and want to wear the comfy dress you packed rather than the skin tight bodycon option you originally planned on! 

And don’t forget to throw in some layers. Travel with a cardigan, a light jacket, a wrap, or an oversized sweatshirt in case the temperature dips or fluctuates, especially on a flight or as you’re en route to your destination.

Experiment With the Way You Pack

To avoid wrinkles and save space in your suitcase, roll up your clothing rather than folding it flat. Lay it out on the floor or a flat surface, fold it into thirds or however you like to do it. And then instead of folding it in half, gently roll it up. Make sure the fabric is laying flat and smooth as you go. Then you can neatly stack your folded pieces side by side.

You can also invest in compartment bags, shoe bags, and The Container Store or Amazon will have dozens, if not hundreds of options to explore! You can find everything from clear, resealable travel bags to toiletry organizers, wet bags, travel cube organizers, you name it!  So take some time to find the solution that works for you, because everyone’s preferences are a little different.

Unpack and hang delicate items as soon as you arrive so they can breathe and the wrinkles can (hopefully) fall out.

Weigh your bag before you leave to make sure it meets travel requirements, so you don’t have to do the last minute luggage shuffle at the airport. That’s never fun.

So there you have it! I think we’ve covered all of my top travel wardrobe tips. Oh and if there’s room in your suitcase, I’d love to come with you, because this mama needs a vacation, my friend. Send me a DM over on IG, tell me where we’re going, and which tip was most helpful for you today!

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