How to Pack for a Long Trip

tHow to Pack for a Long Trip by popular Washington DC travel blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of a woman sitting next to an open suitcase.

Packing isn’t always easy. Especially when you’re headed off on a long trip.

I headed off on a 3-week, bicoastal trip earlier this month, and packing was a bit of a daunting task. I was going to be traveling throughout multiple different climates in California, I was attending a rehearsal dinner and a wedding, and I also had to pack for business meetings in NYC. Not going to lie: I was pretty overwhelmed at the thought of packing for different types of weather and activities! I wanted to leave enough room in my suitcase to bring back wine and other souvenirs. 

When I packed for this most recent trip, my checked bag only weighed 43 pounds when I initially departed for my trip. Also, I wore every single item that I packed. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to pack for a long trip!

How to Pack for a Long Trip

Bring Separates You Can Mix and Match

I love wearing maxi dresses and jumpsuits because you can throw them on and go. However, I had to limit the number of those kinds of items that I packed. Maxi dresses and jumpsuits are adorable, but they take up a ton of space in your suitcase — and they add a bit of unnecessary weight as well!

I only packed one maxi dress and one jumpsuit. Then I opted for pieces that I could mix and match. Think graphic tees, skirts, shorts, denim, light sweaters, etc. I even packed a few dresses that I could layer easily. When you bring separates you can mix and match, you won’t ever need to repeat an outfit from head to toe when you’re traveling. It also forces you to think outside of the box and play around with fashion. Surprisingly, I ended up wearing the two graphic tees that I packed the most; I never realized how versatile they were! 

Limit the Number of Shoes You Bring

I traveled for three weeks, with five pairs of shoes. Admittedly, I could have brought that number down to 4 pairs, but I was pretty happy that I didn’t overdo it in the footwear department!

In the past, I was the queen of packing way too many shoes. I can get away with overpacking shoes when I’m headed somewhere warm since I’m mostly packing sandals and strappy heels. However, when you want to start packing boots and heavier shoes, you’ve got to dial it back.

I think you should always pack a pair of heels to dress outfits up, and you can’t go wrong with a pair of white sneakers — they look great paired with both casual outfits and dresses as well. Ankle boots are a great option, depending on what you’re doing. They look great with jeans, pants, dresses, skirts…you name it! They’re probably not a fit for a tropical destination. However, if you’re headed somewhere and need closed-toe shoes, ankle boots are a chic bet!

In general, I like to pack neutral shoe options that I can wear throughout my trip. If I can’t wear a pair of shoes with more than three outfits on a long trip, I won’t pack them! 

Try On Outfits Before You Go

Now that you’ve packed your outfits, it’s important to try things on and plan outfits ahead of time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought an outfit was cute in my head, only to be disappointed when I put it together IRL!

I like to hang the items that I’m packing on a clothing rack before I go, and do a big ol’ try on session for myself. I’ll mix and match my separates, experiment with new layering combos and pair shoes with every look. For this particular trip, I knew that I was going to wear my wedding guest dress once. However, for the more casual clothes, if I couldn’t style a piece at least two different ways, I decided not to pack it!

Also: when you try on outfits before you go, you can plan out what accessories (bags, jewelry, belts, etc) that you want to bring as well. I try to pack 2-3 handbags max for a trip, and I carry a backpack on the plane since those items can take up quite a bit of space in your suitcase as well!

It’s OK to Rewear Items

Try your best to keep items clean throughout your trip. I usually change my outfit at least once a day when I’m traveling: I typically have a daytime look, and a dressier evening outfit for dinner/going out on the town. Jeans are perfect pieces to rewear throughout the trip, and you can create a lot of different looks with them!

Some pieces will inevitably get soiled when you travel. Life happens! I’ve used hotel laundry services in the past, and I’ve also used other drop off laundry services in bigger cities to help keep my clothes clean when I’m on the road for long periods of time. 

Wear Heavier Items to the Airport

By the end of this past trip, I ended up having to wear boots, jeans, a heavy sweater and a hat to the airport because I had accumulated so many items while on the road. My suitcase still only weighed 48.5 lbs, so it was worth it in the end!

When I initially leave for a trip, I like to at least wear a pair of sneakers and either a sweatshirt or jacket to the airport. These are items that are a bit bulkier, and they might take up extra room in your suitcase, so it’s best to wear them to the airport. For example: if it’s warm out, I like wearing a t-shirt dress, denim jacket, and sneakers to the airport. If it’s a bit colder out, I’ll wear my heavy coat, a cozy travel jumpsuit, and sneakers while traveling. Sweaters and sweatshirts are also great pieces to wear at the airport as well. 

My Packing Must-Haves

What are some must-haves when I travel? This varies depending on the destination and the activities we’ll partake in, but generally, I like to pack:

  • White sneakers
  • At least one activewear outfit
  • A nice dress or jumpsuit for a dressy dinner
  • A denim jacket
  • Lounge clothes for the hotel
  • Graphic tees to mix/match/layer
What tips do you have on how to pack for a trip? Share in a comment below!

Photo by Tom McGovern

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