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The Rules of Packing

We’re going to Thailand. For a month. We do it every other year. We fly for 24 hours. Yes, I said 24 hours. We lounge on the islands. We travel to the mountains. We hang with my family  We eat. And eat. And eat…and eat.

But before all that good stuff…we pack.

“Where do you even start? How do you pack for a month away?” ask friends, most of whom accustomed to jaunts lasting no longer than two weeks. Surprisingly, in some ways, packing for such a long trip is easier than shorter ones because you know at some point you will do laundry. Still, the formula is essentially the same.

My natural tendency when I go on a trip is to bring as much clothing as humanly possible — what oh what would I do if I didn’t bring my colorblocked platform wedges? And my nude booties? And my woven wedges. However, with a rack of kids (two of whom I typically share a suitcase with), I have been forced to become, shall we say, more practical with what, how and how much I pack.

So, here’s the pile of clothes I want to take with me to Thailand:

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Packing all of this would mean my children would have to then go nude for the entire 30 days we are away. That has given me pause…but alas, having me fully clothed, coordinated and accessorized with three nude children would look bad. So, I have a system. One that I use for myself and for clients.

1. First, assess your trip. What is weather like where you are going? What are you doing on your trip? Will you be walking a fair amount? Doing outdoorsy activities? Going out to nice restaurants in the evening? Use this as criteria for what you pull out of your closet.  We are doing a good deal of traveling the first two weeks we are there — first to the islands and then to the mountains. The last two weeks of our visit we will be in Bangkok. So, my wardrobe has to be somewhat varied, but still all very casual with the exception of maybe one night out with my brother, who runs a prominent nightclub in Bangkok. Plus, I will be running after, hauling, feeding, carrying, etc. three young children. Shoes must be comfortable. And it will be hot. Very. Clothes gotta be lightweight and machine-washable.

2. Start with any trip-specific items. If you’re going to be a the beach, a swimsuit. If you are going to be hiking, hiking boots. For me,  its swimsuits, flip-flops, beach cover and hat for our days on the island.

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We are on the islands for four days and three nights. We are bringing our children — days will be spent in my bathing suit or a beach cover up. Dinners out will be the local fishing village. So, no real need for anything beyond flip flops or flat sandals. Minimal jewelry, if any, so I opt for some bright colors and a hat not only for sun protection, but fun.

3. Work from the bottom up. Calculate the number of days you will be away and bring (approximately) one-quarter the number of bottoms — skirts, shorts, pants, etc. whatever you think you will be wearing the most depending on the type of trip you are taking. That would be seven bottoms for me: two pairs of khaki shorts, one pair rolled twill lightweight pants, one pair of lightweight, rolled denim, and two pairs of skinny color twill pants. Lay out all your bottoms and…

4. Start putting tops with them. Bottoms typically get at least a couple of wears during a trip, but tops only get one wear in sweaty weather. So, for a month away, I put 2-3 tops per bottom. That adds up to 14 tops — two weeks worth (tanks, lace tees, graphic tees, cotton tops). Half the amount of time we are away. I specifically chose tops that are machine-washable, lightweight, and heavy on color and pattern since my jewelry will be minimal.

I put shoes with the outfits as well and that helps me weed out what doesn’t get used. Shoes take up a lot of real estate in a suitcase so less is more. I had a pair of camel-color wedges in the mix that I didn’t put with one single outfit. Back into closet. The flat Chie Mihara sandals  made it in more than any and then black Stuart Weitzman t-strap gladiators (old).

I also broke out my outfits for the three days we are spending in the mountains and included one melon cardigan because it can get chilly in the evenings (pictured above). Incidentally, taking pictures of what you have put together is invaluable because you will forget. I use my iphone.)

I also have those t-shirt dresses from the beach, which can be thrown into the mix if need be. Good to have that cushion knowing that I am dealing with young children known to spill and vomit. Yes, vomit.

5. Accessorize. For this trip, I kept it simple because it’s all about children and family. I brought one piece of jewelry that
is a fun color, but the rest is my daily jewelry (I wear the two bronze necklaces together). What I will say about jewelry, though, is it takes up less space than clothing so if you are going on a trip that isn’t as sweat-heavy as ours, you can bring less clothing, more jewelry and simply mix up your look by changing out the accessories.

I brought  two belts — one a royal blue that livens up any neutral outfit and the other a leopard print that goes with everything (pictured above with outfits) — and of course the hat. Finally, a statement necklace for my one night out.  The earrings pictured got nixed.

6. The night out. I will have just one evening that I’ll actually go out. It’s not super-dressy, but I do want a little shine. So, I brought a statement necklace and leopard print wedges, which I will likely wear with my black  J Brand jeggings (part of my travel outfit — comfiest travel pants ever besides straight-up pajamas) and cream lace tee.

So, minus underwear and pajamas (which, incidentally, I am using leggings for pajamas that can double as a bottom with a longer tank if need be. I have it pictured with the chambray shirt above),  the selections are done. Now time to pack.

I use a combination of folding and rolling. The hat is just there for effect and will be carried on with me.
Now the kids’ stuff goes in. My kids use the same formula and it’s fun to see my 7-year-old count out how many shorts and t-shirts she needs.


Two kids’ clothing, shoes and accessories along with my stuff packed and ready to go!  I am off the next month, but will have some fun pictures to share upon our return. Happy rest-of-the-summer to everyone!!

*I have had readers ask me to include information on where to purchase the items I have featured in my blog posts. Because of the nature of this post and the focus on packing, I have not done so here. However, if there is anything you see that catches your eye, please message (dcstylefactory@gmail.com) me and I will do my best (because much is old) to give you a reasonable suggestion on a similar item.

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