In the last few years, I've started taking more extended vacations. These vacations started small, 5 days, then 8 days, and naturally grew, surprisingly by 3 days increments, leading up to our longest vacation yet: 24 days. Packing for a 5 day beach vacation or a 6 day Icelandic vacation is pretty easy. Everything fits into a suitcase and you can pack an outfit per day without going overboard. Once you it the two-week mark, you start noticing how much space clothing takes up. Hitting the 3 week, or longer, time frame requires finesse and serious planning. You can take multiple vacations and with each vacation, get better at packing, or you can follow these pro tips from someone who has already been down that road.
For starters, check out the Packing Checklist to make sure you have all your categories covered. Don't be like me who forgot to pack underwear on a business trip. Not. Fun.
Plan to do Laundry
Yes, I hear your grumblings. You're on vacation so you DON'T have to do laundry. I get it. However, vacation or no vacation, anything longer than 10 days will most likely require a round of washing. If you want to splurge, you can have your laundry sent out at your destination. Feel free to grab some travelable (new word) laundry sheets to do some sink laundry in your hotel room. Doing a bit of extra laundry is worth it when you avoid the hassle of over-packing.
Pack at Most 3 Pair of Shoes
Your next trip is NOT the time to break in a new pair of shoes. You will hate yourself, the shoes, and maybe even your destination. Make sure the shoes you wear are comfortable and good for walking. Feel free to bring heels, or loafers, or whatever you usually wear. I've found that you very rarely need more than 3 pairs of shoes for any trip. Shoes are heavy and take up an awkward amount of space in your suitcase. The more you can minimize this, the better your packing experience and travel experience will be.
My three pair of shoes: comfortable black flats which are dress and good for walking, tennis shoes (wear on the plane since they take up the most space), and flip flops which are comfy and act as slippers in the hotel room.
Using Packing Cubes to Organize
You don't know how much you need packing cubes until you have them. I shunned them for years thinking I could fit all my clothes in my suitcase better and more efficiently than the cubes. At least, I thought that way until any given hotel room looked like a fabric explosion from me digging through my overpacked suitcase trying to find my ONE shirt that I had to wear.
Enter Packing Cubes. I ordered a set of packing cubes on Amazon for me and the hubby. They've been organization life-savers. One cube for pants and socks, one for bras/underwear, one for shirts/tanks/other tops, one for outerwear, one for pjs/bathing suits, miscellany. Now, I know where everything is so I can easily live out of a suitcase. This is especially helpful if you are changing cities throughout your trip.
They're also great throughout your trip as you wear items. You can repurpose the cubes to "wear again" and "wash" and even "Oh dear Lord, these smell so ripe they need to be thrown out." It's okay - no judgement.
Lay Out All Your Clothes You Want to Take
This is the fun part. Raid your closet and your dresser for all the clothes and outfits you want to take on your journey. Did you go shopping specifically for this trip? Make sure you grab those clothes too! Lay out all your clothes on the bed/floor/dining table so you can assess what you have. If you're feeling extra-organized, make piles for each category: shirts, pjs, pants, etc.
Get rid of HALF of those clothes
Take a good, long, look at all those awesome clothes you laid out. Now, go through them and put back half. Be ruthless. Yes, I'm serious. I'll wait…
That might have been difficult for you. And I get it. But I have your best interests at heart. I'd be willing to bet if you reflected on your last trip, you probably only wore a handful of your favorite items. Those pieces are what you pack. The items you look best in, are most comfortable in, and are the most universal in terms of mixing and matching.
If you're like me, you just realized you have 87,000 shirts and only wear a handful of them. I'm making a T-shirt quilt out of my old shirts that I love, but don't wear anymore. Feel free to steal that idea.
Ready, Set, Travel!
Following these 5 tips, you're setting yourself up for travel success. With years of hard-won packing knowledge, you'll be light years ahead for your next extended vacation. Check out the Capsule Wardrobe Project to see how reducing your overall wardrobe can help you pack more efficiently each time you travel.
Want to see what packing for this trip was like? Check out the Extended Vacation Packing video!