This Packing Mistake Was Sabotaging My Travel Style

I've mentioned it before: I fly a lot. This fact should suggest that I am now an expert packer, but the fact is that I have yet to really master the mysterious art of fitting everything I want into a suitcase. Somehow, I find that no matter how hard I try, I can't manage to pack the right things. I'll arrive in Mexico, L.A., or India to find that only a small percentage of what I brought is actually wearable. My worst vice: I always seem to bring way too many pairs of shoes. Functioning on the assumption that I'll be on the beach, at a fancy restaurant, or on a hiking trail no matter where my destination is, half of my carry-on is filled with footwear that in the end is totally unnecessary.

If this sounds like you too (I know I'm not alone in this one), I have some good news. There are experts who can help us figure out the best way to streamline things. "When you pack for a trip, it's always a good idea to plan in terms of the outfits you'll likely wear for each day you're away," says Molly Cole, an organizing expert with Thumbtack. "But remember, you don't need a new pair of shoes for each day of you're trip—rewearing is key." Her hard-and-fast rule: Never bring more pairs of shoes than there are days in your trip. With a little bit of planning, it's possible to figure out how to wear the same shoes for multiple occasions by knowing how to mix and match them with clothes and accessories.

As for when it comes time to pack the shoes (since they can easily take over your suitcase), Cole recommends arranging each pair of shoes together. "Think of how shoes come neatly packed in a shoebox from the department store," she says. "That is the best way to pack shoes to get the most efficient use of space in your suitcase." Now that you're armed with ideas for cutting down and effectively packing your shoes, you're now ready to head out on vacation without any outfit anxiety.

The Gear

First things first: Make sure you're armed with the right gear. A suitcase that can handle wear and tear, along with packing cubes and a toiletry bag are all key pieces when it comes to kicking off packing.

The Shoes

Based on the fact that shoes can make or break packing, I try to think ahead. If I had to narrow things down to two or three styles, what would I get the most wear out of? What will I be doing on vacation? From there I'm able to make sure I'm keeping the shoes to a minimum.

The Accessories

Accessories are the key to transforming an outfit you plan to wear more than once on your trip. By changing up the earrings, belt, hat, and bag, you can easily take an ensemble from day to night. 

The Clothes

When packing clothes, I always try to make sure I think in outfits. What will I wear if I have a fancy dinner? What about casual daytime? By planning how and when I'll put together each look, it helps me cut back on clutter.