In this installment of Dress Code, we'll take on packing. Even if you're not going away this weekend, chances are at some point in the coming months, you will — herewith, a few tips to avoid bag-bloat and no-skivvies crises.

I know this hyper-organized woman who not only has a travel bag perma-packed with first aid stuff and mini toiletries, but also takes a Polaroid of every garment she packs so that if an airline loses her luggage, she can get accurate reimbursement. I'm not like this. I'm a naturally bad packer. I tend to panic and think I'll "need" three vintage formals and five cookbooks for a 3-day trip to visit friends in the Boston suburbs, and then only get there to discover that, in fact, what I "need" — and failed to pack — was underpants. It also took me a really long time to get over my addiction to absurdly heavy, picturesque thrift-shop luggage. So! I've devised a few formulas that help me. I use a checklist that includes, yes, underwear, plus toiletries, passports and clothes. I try to pick stuff that goes together, pieces that multitask. And I check the weather report.


Obviously, there's no one formula for every trip or every person. If you're going on, say, a hiking trip, bring hiking boots. Tick country? Light clothes are a good idea. And the chance of a formal occasion means something dressier. I've tried to give suggestions for 3 general, 3-day trips. Use it as a starting point and adjust accordingly! Remembering, as always, that rules are made to be broken.

But always good ideas, even for a short trip:

  • Bring multitasking clothes — by this I mean stuff that, with the right pairing and accessories, can be used for various occasions.
  • Check the weather. You may get a vague idea at best, but in the warmer months it's the difference between packing closed-toe shoes and being stuck with sandals in a thunderstorm.
  • Bring underwear. Duh.
  • Bring easily-rolled, squished and packed things whenever possible.
  • In a pinch, a necklace or earrings can dress up a look; you can afford to bring a small stash of options, since this stuff takes up so little space.

Also, there's a very smart "roll it all up" strategy to fitting everything you could possibly need in your carry-on (ten days' worth!), courtesy of a flight attendant. Check it out here.


Now let's talk specific types of vacations! We'll stick with three general types of summer getaways; feel free to toss out ideas for other types of trips in the comments, and may the wisdom of the masses help you even more.

The Beach Weekend
A beach trip, be it near or far, has the advantage of light, rollable clothes. Better still, they can be super-cheap! The following is a basic suggested packing list - I'm assuming that, unlike me, you'll take undies, PJs etc. as a given.

  • 2 tanks or tees
  • A light top, also good as a cover-up
  • 1 swimsuit, 2 if you'll be swimming a ton
  • 1 sundress, also good as a cover-up
  • 2 bottoms: Shorts, a light skirt, or summer pants
  • Flip-flops
  • Slightly dressier sandals
  • Light jacket or sweater
  • Some kind of large beach bag
  • A hat and sunglasses are always a good idea

A City Weekend
This jaunt is all about walking, so you'll want comfortable shoes. There's also a chance you will be eating somewhere respectable or going to a show, so it's a good idea to have one getup than can be dressed up. I'm a big fan of a versatile dress that packs small and can be dressed up with other (still comfy!) shoes and maybe some jewelry. And bring a light jacket or wrap: museums and theatres get chilly!

A rough suggested-packing list:

  • 3 respectable tees or other tops
  • 1 pair of either jeans, pants, or nicer shorts — or a versatile skirt (2 if you aren't into dresses!)
  • 1 versatile dress
  • Casual jacket or sweater
  • 1 pair tested (read: not new) walking shoes
  • 1 pair more polished, but still comfortable, shoes
  • Purse of your choosing (and a crushable tote or shopping bag is always a good idea for impromptu puchases)
  • Clutch if you really need to gussy up
  • Light scarf that can do double-duty as a wrap

Country Weekend:
Again, if you're going to be doing something specific — hiking, sports, camping — obviously pack for that. Here, I'm thinking of a visit to somewhere more rustic and less beachy, but obviously I'm going to generalize:

  • 1 pair jeans or long pants suitable for potentially tick-dwelling, poison ivy/oak-infested and thorny terrain. If you're sure you'll encounter one of these, maybe bring 2.
  • 1 pair shorts - or not, if you hate shorts. Make it more pants.
  • 4 tops: tanks, tees, maybe a button-down.
  • 1 sweater or sweatshirt
  • 1 light jacket, or a fleece if you're somewhere that gets chilly in the evenings
  • 1 pair athletic shoes for walking. Whether it's hiking boots, sneakers or even wellies depends on weather and terrain.
  • 1 alternate pair of casual shoes — nice for a trip into town or when your others are drying/mud-caked.
  • Bathing suit if you're near a lake
  • A bandana is always useful, be it for hair-wrangling, neck-cooling, or jauntiness.

Also, there's a very smart "roll it all up" strategy to fitting everything you could possibly need in your carry-on (ten days' worth!), courtesy of a flight attendant. Check it out.

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