Personal Style

How to Pack a Suitcase

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Packing a suitcase intelligently is the top priority for an effortless getaway—it’s hard to dash for a connecting flight or climb five flights of stairs to a hotel room with a view when you’re schlepping a suitcase the size of a double-decker bus. And there’s something crazy satisfying about zipping past the bored horde at the baggage carousel.

So when we came across a formula for the best way to pack a suitcase to max out wardrobe options and space, we were all in. Not only do we love a system for doing anything better, it applies to a trip of any length of time. (If you’re taking a vacation of longer than a week, you may have to do laundry. No big thing. With Shout wipes, you may get away with a few more days yet.) Limits are surprisingly liberating—there’s a reason fashion editors only wear black—and sticking to them for a few days is easier than you might think.

Here’s the gist of the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 guide to what to pack for vacation, along with a few of our own smart packing tips!

5 TOPS

That includes everything from tees to cardigans, so edit wisely. Think of tops as the foundation of each day’s outfit, and stick to neutrals or a cohesive color palette (turn to foolproof combos like nautical navy and khaki, reds and pinks for a tropical trip, etc.). If you’re a tank top or a T-shirt person, pack multiples of your favorite silhouette.

4 BOTTOMS

We’d suggest one pair of shorts, one skirt, one pair of jeans and another pair of pants (cargo pants or leggings are really versatile).

3 DRESSES & PAIRS OF SHOES

Dresses function as standalone pieces; have fun with prints and colors here.

Setting a limit on how many pairs of shoes to pack may be the hardest part of this packing list! Stay strong and choose comfort over looks, though these days they’re not mutually exclusive. We’re all about Birkenstock for that very reason. Round out your sandal selection with a cute pair of sneakers and a dressier pair of flats, and you should be good to go. If you must bring heels, limit yourself to one pair you know is comfy enough to walk in.

2 SWIMSUITS & BAGS

Choose two different suit styles so you’ve got options (bikini and one-piece; tankini and skirted), not oppressive tan lines.

When it comes to bags, you won’t go wrong bringing one big tote or backpack and one small purse.

1 HAT, WATCH & PAIR OF SUNGLASSES

The fewer you pack, the less likely you are to lose them and the more likely you are to actually wear them.

UNLIMITED

We love this part best—you get to go crazy on bras, underwear, socks and jewelry. Per the packing strategy, “feel free to throw in as much as you can manage, squeeze them into your shoes or the other gaps in your luggage!” That’s our kind of carte blanche.

Happy travels!

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Brooke Glassberg
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, calligraphy, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.
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