“The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming.” If that thought has been going through your head since September, I’ve got news for you. THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE. And if you have holiday travel on your agenda, there’s a bunch of things to think about – how will you get there, will you pack or ship the gifts, do you need to bring food, how will you survive a day with your cousins, is Aunt Linda coming (and do you need a gift for her?), etc. So the last thing you need to worry about is what to pack.
Luckily, I’ve got a somewhat foolproof method for packing for a holiday trip. It entails one main strategy, with some key tips to make this strategy work. So, if you’re ready to create a holiday travel capsule that makes you feel festive and stylish AND avoids bringing too much, check out my sample trip wardrobe for ideas and inspiration. And don’t forget to read to the end, for my most important packing tips for fall/winter trips.
START WITH ONE OUTFIT
It’s that simple – start with one complete outfit (including shoes and outerwear) that you’d like to wear on your trip. But keep in mind, the items you choose need to be versatile – this isn’t the time to pick the sweater that only goes with a specific pair of pants. Instead, choose a top that works with at least a couple of bottoms that you’d like to bring for the holidays. In this case, I picked a super fun blue/green cheetah print sweater, black jeans (that you can dress up or down) and a cobalt wool coat.
TAKE A PIECE FROM THE FIRST OUTFIT
Now is when it gets fun. Grab an item from the first outfit, like the cheetah sweater. Then make another outfit with it, without using any other pieces from the first outfit. Something to keep in mind as you select styles is that a tight color palette makes this process easier, since things will naturally go together. I like to pick two neutrals and a pop color – for this holiday trip wardrobe, we’ll use black and white as the neutrals, and cobalt blue as the ‘pop’ (with a hit of green, just for giggles).
TAKE ANOTHER PIECE (OR TWO) FROM THE FIRST OUTFIT
Now it’s time to use the other styles from the first outfit – so I’m taking the black jeans and cobalt coat, and putting them with an easy plaid sweater. And now that I’ve exhausted everything from the very first outfit, it’s time to move on.
START MIXING AND MATCHING
If you stick with versatile styles and a tight palette, things will start naturally going together. The plaid sweater from the third outfit goes with the cobalt stretch pants, poncho and flats from the second outfit – essentially, all I did was switch out the tops. And to make more outfits, you simply continue the process - pick an item from your closet within the color palette, mix and match it with what you already have in your bag, and so on.
So far, we’ve focused on casual daytime looks, but if your holiday plans include dressier occasions, check out the next outfit.
SELECT DAY TO NIGHT STYLES
An embellished top is ideal for any festive party, so pick one that works with a bottom already in your suitcase. An off-the-shoulder blouse might be a nighttime-only choice for you – but the jeans and cobalt coat work any time of day. And of course, you’ll have accessories that only function for evening, but choose ones that coordinate with different evening outfits, like a silver clutch, drop earrings and sassy black booties.
And if you’ve chosen wisely, you can dress down the off-the-shoulder blouse for a party that’s just as festive, but a bit more casual.
DOUBLE DUTY PIECES
You may have some double duty styles already in your wardrobe, so this is the time to choose them! This turtleneck sweater is a tunic with skinny jeans (or leggings), or a short dress with textured tights and sexy booties.
Other styles that can do double duty (and therefore multiply your outfit possibilities) are a cardigan that works over a blouse, but also as a top when buttoned up. Or a sleeveless knit dress that’s fine on it’s own, but looks like a skirt when you throw a sweater over it.
SPECIAL OCCASION ONE-OFFS
If your holiday agenda includes a dressy cocktail party or New Years’ Eve bash, this is when you can break the rules of versatility – but just with the main piece. This colorful lace dress is a showstopper that you may only wear once during your trip – but by pairing it with the cobalt coat, black booties and accessories that you’ve already worn, you’re not wasting any space in your luggage.
WHAT’S IN YOUR BAG?
So that’s it – a holiday travel capsule with 5 casual daytime looks and 4 fun and festive evening looks. And all the clothes you’re bringing are in the above image:
2 sweaters and 1 blouse
1 coat and 1 (reversible) poncho
3 shoes – a pair of flats, flat booties for day and heeled booties for night
2 bags – a carry-everything tote and a clutch for evening
Add a scarf, versatile jewelry and all your miscellaneous items, and you’re good to go!
And here are my guidelines for packing that can make you feel totally pulled together and supremely stylish on your holiday trip, in a bag that doesn’t weigh more than your children (depending on their ages, of course!)
VERSATILITY: Check through the above outfits – outside of the lace dress, everything is wearable in different ways and with other items. And that’s the definition of versatility.
TIGHT COLOR PALETTE: As I’ve mentioned, limiting your colors to a couple of neutrals and a pop color (or two) will ensure that styles work together, without you having to try too hard. I added a hit of green in addition to cobalt, and that’s an easy way to add additional outfits to this capsule – throw in a green turtleneck sweater and a pair of blue jeans, and you’ve got outfits to last you a few more days.
LAYERS: Selecting styles that you can wear over/under other things is key, especially in winter. And then you can layer differently for a completely new look. (Read this blog post to see how I layered a client’s short sleeve dress to get her through winter chill.)
COATS & SHOES: These are your most important choices, since they’re your bulkiest items. Choose these deliberately and sparingly based on your agenda – my general shoe rule for a typical 5-7 day trip is 2 daytime shoes (to trade off) and 1 nighttime shoe. And ideally, 1 strategically chosen coat can meet all your travel needs, 2 coats max (including the one you travel in).
BLANKET SCARF: And while we’re discussing coats – I often tell clients to bring a large, warm scarf or poncho on a cold weather trip. It acts like a blanket on the plane and a cape when it’s not too cold, and you can always layer it over another piece of outerwear when it’s absolutely frigid.
AVOID WRINKLES: No one (that I know) wants to iron on their holiday break, so select styles that show minimal wrinkles. Sweaters and knits are more resistant to wrinkles than woven items, and prints are also much more forgiving than solids when it comes to showing packing creases.
PRECIOUS ITEMS IN YOUR CARRYON: If you’re flying and checking luggage, put anything that you can’t bear to lose in your carryon bag. This includes jewelry, irreplaceable items and anything that you’d be hard pressed to find if your luggage is lost or delayed. (My bag was recently lost – but then found – in Rome, and I subsequently packed my carryon completely differently on the way home.)
If you want help packing for the holidays or any trip throughout the year, click here to let me know! I prepare clients for all kind of travel, from work trips to tropical getaways to family gatherings. And if you’d like, we can create a few specific travel capsules that you can utilize over and over.
Safe travels and happy holidays! (and if you’re heading to warm weather, check out my other packing tips here)