It’s almost time for vacation.

This weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer.  Soon the kids are out of school, which means it’s time to think about that summer getaway.  So what can you do to make the escape easier on you from start to finish? Pre-planning and packing light.

If you are going by car with endless room you may not worry about it, but if you are flying, packing can be a challenge.  I always want to take things I usually don’t wear at home; you know that cute pair of shorts you bought on your last tropical outing that are bit on the wild side for wearing out to a casual dinner at home. Let’s see if we can squeeze them in.

Let’s start with the pre-planning. How many days are you away and how many outfits can you realistically wear? Do you plan on an outfit for day and change for the evening? Think back, did that really happen the last time? If you are in a bathing suit all day are you really going to get dressed for dinner and is your destination going to require something more than a casual outfit? These are the questions to ask yourself. If you are not going to the beach, is it a climate that might need a heavier layer than a t-shirt? With these answers we move on to selecting what to bring. This is where creating your own travel checklist can help. I started one several years ago and tweak it every time we come back from vacation.

First pick a neutral shade as your base color. You can do this for either the tops or bottoms, but I would suggest it be your bottoms for the most flexibility.  According to where you are going that may include jeans (dark is preferable as they can go dressy or casual), a skirt  (maxi would be great) and a pair of slacks  (maybe a pair of the trendy soft pants or an ankle pant). In tropical locations, I always bring a denim skirt and opt for sun dresses over shorts for comfort. And remember, neutral does not always mean black and tan. Gray and navy work really well to maximize your options. I always use the fewer bottoms to tops ratio when packing and if you are going to a warm destination, always consider that you will only wear the top once (unless it’s a layering piece).

Select tops to add color and interest to your outfit.  If you brought along a pattern bottom, you can opt for a solid top or you can really go trendy and use another pattern as long as both patterns have the same dominant color.  No matter what tops you select be sure that each top goes with at least 2 bottoms to give you maximum options and there should be tops that can be layered.

Now add the accessories.  Scarves and jewelry can change the feel of an outfit from casual to dressy in an instant.  Patterns in a lightweight scarf can pull together a great outfit that has a solid top and bottom. For jewelry, I would recommend taking only one metal color.  Because the beach can be harsh on metals,  bring your costume jewelry and leave the good stuff at home. A metal belt is a great way to accentuate the waist and dress up jeans for an evening out.  Now on to footwear.  I have made the mistake of not taking sneakers on a trip; never again.  I always wear them on the plane and pack a pair of flip flops (good for the pool and as slippers in the room) and another pair of casual shoes based on my destination.  For my upcoming cruise to Alaska that will be a pair to black patent flats, for a beach resort it would be a pair of dressy sandals.

Did you remember a small purse for evening and shopping? And don’t forget your pashmina for the plane, train and evenings out.

There is plenty of debate on the best way to pack all those clothes; fold, roll, bundle or investing in wrinkle resistant clothing. I have used  an envelope packing system such as the one from Eagle Creek for years. It keeps your clothes neatly folded,  maximizes space and makes it easy to pick out items without unpacking the entire suitcase; handy when you are on a multi-location trip.  You can find other versions on Amazon and at Target and Walmart.

Put jewelry inside your shoes so you use every inch of space.  Swap out the jewelry for dirty clothes on the way home.  And if at all possible, wear the bulky item on the plane. Avoid the urge to throw in one more thing as you are about to walk out the door with your suitcase in hand.  Trust me on a long trip the only people that will notice that you wore those same jeans 4 times is you because you had tops and accessories to make it look like a totally new outfit every time.

What outfits are hiding in your suitcase?

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