I've tried more than a few times to reform my packing habits. I chalk it up to the fact that most of the time I pack for a trip less than 24 hours before the airplane leaves the tarmac. But there have been many occasions when I arrive at a destination to find I spend the entire vacation in two to three outfits and that half the items I pack go completely unworn.
Since I live on a fourth-floor walk-up and carrying my own suitcase up and down the stairs has become the lowest point of every vacation I take, I decided that the time had come to finally address all those overpacking habits and try to master vacation packing once and for all.
It sounds easy enough, but the truth is that it's a process that still takes me more effort than I'd like to admit. My overpacking has been reformed in many ways, but I still find that I come home with a stray unworn top or pair of sneakers that I swear I'll wear during my trip.
Since shoes can take up more space than just about anything else, it's best to be extremely picky about which pairs make the cut. I tend to keep it simple—one pair of fancy shoes, one pair of sneakers, and one pair of sandals or boots (depending on the season and locale). Then to make sure there's room, I nestle them in a yin-yang pattern.
So I know this sounds pessimistic, but I've learned that packing pieces I would ideally wear but have never actually put on is a big mistake. As much as I'd love to wear those strappy stilettos on vacation, chances are that it won't happen.
While you want your outfits to pop on vacation (and in those Instagram photos), a suitcase full of statement clothes does nothing but cause frustration. Instead, keep things simple by packing mostly basics, then add a handful of statement items that can easily be integrated with the rest of what you brought along.
It's not unusual for me to hear friends list the things they need to buy before their next vacation, but I've learned a lesson to steer clear of pre-trip purchases. When being strategic, the key is to pack items you know you'll wear, but new pieces are unpredictable. Shoes might pinch, and dresses may ride up. In the end, I'm all for sticking to what already works.
As a last-minute packer, this has been one of the trickiest changes for me to master, but it has made a world of difference. Instead of simply hoping that the things I pack will work together, I try to consciously think about the outfits I'll wear on my trip. This way, I can easily scale back on the items I won't actually need.