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Expert Packing Tips + An Easy Summer Travel Outfit

Happy Thursday, friends! Since we’re starting to get out and about more and people are traveling again, I thought I’d republish this popular post from the archives with expert packing tips and an easy summer travel outfit.

Expert Packing Tips & The Perfect Summer Travel Outfit

While our family isn’t jet-setting around the globe on a regular basis, every summer we road trip it to Maine to visit family, and we usually take at least one other family vacation during the year. In addition to that, I travel a bit for work, so I’ve had to do a lot of packing over the years.

My best travel tip is to keep a master packing list on your computer. I try to update our master packing list regularly so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we go somewhere. Then I can just adjust it depending on where we are going and what we need to bring. Mine looks like this. (This is a generic version that I created to share. You can CLICK HERE for a printable, if you’d like to have it.)

When it comes to packing, I am not the most efficient packer. I subscribe to the theory that there is no such thing as over-packing. Ha! Just ask my husband, who has to carry my suitcase(s). But we happen to have an expert in our midst!

Mary Fowler is a long-time blog reader and commenter, who has traveled the globe and pretty much mastered the art of packing light. She sent me these amazing packing tips a while back and gave me permission to use them on the blog.

Here is what she said:

Mary’s Expert Packing Tips

I have traveled quite a bit over the years for both business trips and now only for pleasure, but I’ve got it down now where I can go anywhere in a carry-on — for up to a month. It’s like the capsule wardrobe but with some tweaks. Here’s my top tips:

1) Figure out your shoes first. It’s a strange place to start but I find your activities dictate your shoes. I think about what activities we will be doing and select the shoes for it. I usually take 3 pair, plus one pair flip flops for slippers/beach wear. All shoes have to be useful for walking which is why I bought Vionic flip-flops with arch support for Maui.

2) Make clothes choices based on weight, and always wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane. This makes for a lighter suitcase, and less bulk means you have space for more items. More items means more choices for outfits. Lightweight clothes are also easily layered and dry quickly if you wash them out. I’ve made some purchases targeted for traveling. For example, I have a Patagonia parka that is about 8 oz and compresses easily into my travel purse. My raincoat fits in the outside zipper compartment of my suitcase, and my hiking shoes weigh 7 oz each.

3) Don’t think in terms of outfits. Instead, choose a basic color or two for bottoms and add tops and accessories that work with all of the bottoms. Make sure the shoes you’re taking work with all outfit combos. I don’t take anything that does not interchange, and I don’t add shoes to make an outfit work.

4) Think through various possible scenarios. For example:

  • What would I wear if it rains while we are hiking?
  • Will I be comfortable walking in my dressier shoes if we take the subway to a restaurant?
  • What’s my plan if not? Can my pashmina work with this outfit if it’s chilly?

This part takes time, but it’s worth the effort to make sure you’ve got everything covered.

5) Roll the clothes and use mesh zippered packing cubes. Ziplock baggies also work. Clothes stay compressed nicely in the suitcases using the bags and nothing is loose. I use one for underclothes/pjs/scarfs/swimsuits/misc, one for tops, and one for bottoms.

6) Invest in quick drying underwear. I take three pair — one to wear, one to wash, and one spare. I have ExOffico brand. Every night I wash the ones I wore that day in the shower or sink, and they are dry by the next day. I usually wash out my top nightly so I have most of my clothes clean and available to choose from on any day. If it is an extended trip, we visit a Laundromat every 8-10 days or so. That’s always a fun adventure in a foreign country.

7) Bring only the essential cosmetics in the smallest sizes. I don’t use a lot of products so this is pretty easy for me. I have 3 oz travel containers for my shampoo, conditioner, and Woolite. The liquids go into a ziplock for TSA. Makeup goes in small zippered case in my Baggalini travel purse. Baggalini bags are really functional, but they are kinda ugly so I put a cute small crossbody bag in my suitcase too.

8) Packing in a carry-on is, in my opinion, a huge safety precaution when traveling out of the country. (Actually anywhere when you fly.) If you have a huge suitcase you are trying to move thru airports or into cabs or trains, you are not as alert to your surroundings. You can avoid iffy situations better with a carry-on, and with a single bag, you look like a traveler and not a tourist.

I’ve got some other tricks but these are the basics that work for me. Once I got the hang of this, I found it very freeing, and I still feel I bring too much.


So there you have it, some fabulous packing tips from someone who has this packing thing down to a science. I especially love the tip to start with the shoes. I’ve been doing that ever since I read this advice, and it makes a big difference. And I’d never heard of quick drying underwear. Who knew!?!

I kind of had to giggle at #7! Of course a cute crossbody is a necessity no matter how efficient a packer you are! Says the fashion blogger…

And that is the perfect segue. Now let’s talk about what to wear when we travel.

My Go-To Travel Outfit

denim jacket // grey tee // Vuori joggers // Brooks sneakers // sunnies // Away luggage // LV Neverfull

This outfit is from our trip to Florida in May. I don’t usually dress so casually to fly, but I wanted to wear my running shoes to save room in my suitcase, so then it made sense to wear my joggers. I wore them in Florida when I wanted loungewear.

The grey tee is a versatile basic that looks good with white or blue jeans and jean shorts, and the denim jacket kept me warm on the plane. It also worked as a topper for my daytime and dinner-out vacation outfits.

Finally, I always carry a large tote with my laptop, purse contents, and all the extra stuff we seem to accumulate when we travel. I clearly did not take Mary’s advice about traveling with a carry-on, but I’m okay with that. I still feel like I’m a much better packer than I used to be, using her tips #1-4.

I hope these travel tips are helpful. I’d love to hear from you if you have any packing tips to add, or product recommendations.

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37 thoughts on “Expert Packing Tips + An Easy Summer Travel Outfit

  1. Love that post. I don’t travel often but hate packing. This was very helpful. Love your list too Jo-Lynne.

  2. This is the very best! I am the worst packer in the world. I hate to pack. This has made my life so much easier. I put your checklist in a plastic sleeve. I then put the list in each of my suitcases. Thanks, thanks!

  3. Jo-Lynn, There is a lot of great info in your post! Since you asked for other ideas, I thought I would offer an article that my husband and I wrote for our hobby blog a while back. (We make no money from the blog, it’s purely for our own entertainment.) Anyway, the article has a few additional tips and a link to a second article on how to pack for the TSA, i.e. packing liquids efficiently, products that can replace liquids, etc. Anyway, if you feel it’s appropriate to include on your blog, here is a link to the article. https://forevertouring.com/tips-for-packing-light/

    1. Basic Packing List – Summer

      Underwear/Sleepwear/Loungewear (Packing Cube 1)
      3-4 quick drying panties
      3 bras (beige/black/sport)
      1-2 cotton camisoles
      Pj pants
      4 pair socks
      2-3 scarves or pashimas
      1-2 Bathing suits and one coverup (or use sleeveless knit dress instead)
      Black yoga pants and/or joggers for exercise and lounging

      Tops – (Packing Cube #2)
      2-3 long sleeve shirts – one a bit dressier
      3-6 short sleeve shirts – one a bit dresser and one that works for exercise
      1-2 cardigans that coordinate (one that works as top layer over pjs/cami)
      1 lightweight black hoodie or wind shirt
      Waterproof jacket
      Jean jacket or similar weight

      Bottoms – (Packing Cube #3)
      2 pair long pants (usually white jeans and blue jeans)
      2-3 pair shorts
      1 skirt – black or something that works with several tops (it’s rare I bring this)
      1-2 cute knit dresses

      Shoes
      1 pr walking shoes
      1 pr walking sandals
      1 pair cute sandals
      1 pr padded, soft flip flops for slippers/lounging

      1. This list is just a starting place, and I add/subtract as needed. Packing cube #1 is a no brainer, so I pack that first. Then, I lay out a bunch of tops and bottoms that work together on the bed (pulling out more clothes than I know I need) and start choosing — putting together outfits with layers for various types of activities, weather, etc. and when satisfied, I make a pile of tops and a pile of pants — counting to see if I am within my basic plan. At this point it is easy to see if you need more color or have something that just stands out as unneeded. I may add or subtract items here, and when satisfied, I load up the cubes. If I have any room left over I add some the items that didn’t make the original cut. And that’s it!

  4. I used to pack a carry-on for 2-3 week trips to Europe but found that with age, I need more stuff to feel comfortable. I need more toiletries and I like having nice clothes to go out for dinner or to a museum. My feet have also become more finicky and that can be an issue. I guess it depends on what kind of trip you’re taking. And it depends on how many climate changes you’ll be encountering. The last time I went to Europe, (pre-COVID) I was in Paris where we needed down jackets and then in southern Portugal, I was in shorts and tanks or sundresses. Plus I wanted dressier clothes for Paris and more casual clothing for Portugal– even for an evening out. Thanks for this article, Jo-Lynne. It’s fun to think about traveling again. Our family will be going to ME, too. Kids and grandkids are staying in a house, but we’re taking our motorhome. Which I love because there’s plenty of room for shoes!!! Though packing for ME is easy because it’s so casual.

  5. I don’t take a carry on for two reasons – not enough space for everything I need and the hassle of rolling through airports, escalators, etc. I have downsized my suitcase though. My toiletries are at a minimum. I take small size bottles and combination makeup. On a vacation, I don’t want to have to take even minimal time to wash out panties or tops. But, I pack a lot less these days. I used to return home and have clothes left unworn. Not anymore. I pack to mix & match and wear pieces more than once. I carry a leather backpack that holds my iPad, headphones, book, some nibbles, purse, etc. It leaves me hands free travelling through airports, tucks under the front seat and is great for touring,

    1. I agree, I also like the freedom of not lugging a suitcase through the airport, and into bathrooms. Also, no stress about finding room in the overhead compartment. But I usually travel domestically, overseas could be a different scenario.

  6. Thanks so so much for this!! How helpful! My husband & I are going to Hawaii in 2 weeks, so I’ll be using some of these ideas for sure.

    1. I just remembered something I was going to ask. How do you pack jewelry, Jo Lynn? I always struggle with this. I usually put it in my folding toiletry bag, but the necklaces and bracelets can get tangled. Any suggestions? Greatly appreciated!

      1. I have a roll-up jewelry organizer that I love, it’s old so idk if you can still get the exact one, but there are probably lots of options out there! I like the ones that roll up because they don’t take up as much space as the “train case” style ones. Hope you find one that works!

  7. And another tip, if you do check a suitcase, still pack at least one change of clothing in your carry on, just in case your checked luggage doesn’t make it to your destination when you do. We don’t always travel to places with huge shopping malls, so I like to be prepared with at least one additional pair of underwear and a clean top.

    1. Yes! I learned THAT lesson the hard way one time. Got stranded in Texas when my connection was canceled. Now I at least stick a clean pair of underwear in my tote, but ideally a change of shirt as well.

  8. Just reading her travel tips gave me anxiety. Ha Ha. I am a true over packer as I like fashion so I like to bring and wear lots of different outfits. :). Shoes are my problem. I always want to bring wayyyyyy too many. We haven’t flown for years so when driving I just bring a bag of shoes. Ha Ha. I don’t know how I’ll pack for a plane trip. I think it’s much easier to pack light when you aren’t too interested in clothes. :). I have my Zella joggers on today that I ordered per your recommendation back when. They are so comfortable and not too long which can be a problem at 5’3”. Thanks for your blog. Always look forward to it each morning.

    1. Yes, shoes get me too. Did you see what I brought to Florida? Ha! I was out of practice, I really didn’t need half of those. I think Mary’s tip about starting to plan outfits around the shoes is brilliant. It has really helped me pare things down in the past.

  9. What a great packing tips Jo-Lynne!
    The outfit looks great and comfy.
    I really need your advice on a small graduation party. My boss is having a gathering on a Saturday afternoon from 2 to 5. I’ve known him for about 10 years but I’ve only met his daughter who just graduated three or four times. I’ve known his wife but only really been around her three or four times like her daughter. I have no idea if I should be bringing a gift to the party? If so would I be bringing wine for the mom who is the hostess or a gift for the daughter who just graduated and is leaving for college?
    I appreciate your thoughts. 🙂

    1. Hey Jo. Yes, I’d bring a card and a small gift for the graduate, or you can put a check inside for $25 or $50 — whatever feels right to you. Or a gift card to Target or Amazon is always useful.

  10. I travel frequently for work and have found it makes the process much easier if I keep my suitcase “stocked” with everything I need except clothes. Travel toiletries, sample makeup, even a travel hair dryer/straightener combo… makes packing so much easier! You can have your suitcase packed and at the door the night before without trying to remember to add everything you use the morning of! Same goes if you’re late getting home at night, don’t have to unpack in order to get ready the next morning! Takes a little time and money to get it together, but a game changer for frequent travelers.

  11. Hi! I haven’t seen this tip posted yet. Whenever my husband and I fly somewhere, I always pack half of my clothes in his suitcase and half of his clothes in my suitcase. That way if one of our suitcases go missing, we both have clothes to wear. We also pack a change of clothes in our carry-ons.

    1. What a great idea. When I read your post, it reminded me of the time my husband and I went on a weekend camping trip. I am a horrible packer for travel. I am the person who needs everything in my dresser to come along….just in case! After getting everything into my very large suitcase, I reserved a spot inside for my sundry bag to be packed in the morning. In the morning, my husband packed the car and my bag never made it to the car since it sat in a different place waiting for my sundry bag. I assumed he saw it and threw it in the car – but to my discovery on the first day of our trip – I had no bag!!! I had not a stitch…. How did I manage? A trip into town to buy some sundries, underwear, joggers, and a T-shirt!! I really like your idea (smile)!

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