An overstuffed or poorly packed suitcase can do more than mess up your look—it can also compromise your plans, cost you money or inadvertently offend locals. Plus if you pack too much, where will you put all the new things you want to buy? Here are 3 of the most common packing mistakes I have learned the hard way.
You pack the wardrobe you want – not the one you need
Your travel wardrobe should be chic, yes, but it should also be practical. And weather-appropriate wear is the touchstone of smart dressing. Headed somewhere rainy? A waterproof jacket, rain boots, and layered clothing will be essential. Or, if you’re desert-bound, load up on breathable, lightweight options for the day and sweaters and pants for the nights, as they tend to be much cooler. To get a sense of what kind of weather conditions await you at your destination, set a forecast alert on your phone and monitor the weather patterns in the days preceding your departure. For warm-weather destinations, your go-to threads should be cotton, rayon, and silk; for cooler climates, wool, cashmere and knit.
If you haven’t found the right occasion to wear that 50’s-inspired full skirt at home, there’s a good chance you won’t find a reason to wear it on vacation either. A good purchase is not one that you’ll have to talk yourself into buying. It has been my experience, you should select outfits that you already know “make your butt look good”.
They may not be as exciting as your bolder statement pieces, but basics are the key to versatile dressing on and off the road. So stock up on those simple tanks, cardigans, and tees. Throw a couple chic scarves for good measure. I promise you’ll never have an “I have nothing to wear” moment again.
You pack too many accessories
Unless you’re packing for a special occasion (wedding), there’s no need to bring more than three pairs of shoes. In your suitcase: a walking pair, a dress pair, and a more casual pair like a loafer or sandal. Any more and you risk weighing down and/or stinking up your luggage. As for high-heels, ditch the sky-high stilettos for a practical heel like a kitten or even a wedge that will do double duty.
The easiest way to travel with jewelry is to wear most of it during the travel process. Wearing too much can create all sorts of problems. Not only do you have to remove it all for security but you put yourself in an unsafe position. Walking around an airport or hotel lobby covered in jewels is just begging to be robbed. Again, unless this is a special occasion, you need a multipurpose earring, your watch, wedding ring plus one other, and maybe two necklaces.
We forget about culture and safety
Don’t offend the locals
Sure, yoga pants at the grocery store may be hip stateside, but in countries like Japan or South Korea, not only is it perceived as sloppy—it’s also offensive. Same goes for wearing flip flops in Arab, Hindu and Buddhist countries, or skimpy clothing in the Middle East and North Africa. To avoid unwittingly causing offense, read up on the country to which you are visiting’s dress code. An oversized scarf or shawl is also a good investment for more culturally conservative countries. Some places still have laws about what can be worn in public. You don’t want to be in an episode of Locked up Abroad.
Don’t show off – it could cost you
When you’re headed somewhere fabulous, it can be tempting to pack the wardrobe to match. All it takes is one unlucky incident to learn the hard way that luggage gets lost, damaged and stolen all the time. To ensure you arrive with everything you left home with, pack all your electronics, jewelry and designer wares in your carry-on. And bear in mind that the maximum liability with luggage is $3,400 on domestic flights or about $1,555 on international flights.
You don’t bring travel-sized versions of your favorite cosmetics – Bonus
For easy beauty on the go, keep a separate kit filled with all your favorite beauty essentials. I store mine in my carry-on. Read up on TSA-approved sizes. Generic items like body wash and shaving cream can always be brought abroad, but you’ll want to have your favorite cosmetics such as foundation, facial moisturizers, and hair styling products.
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