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How a Glamour editor packs for vacation

It’s one thing to pack for a business trip or family visit, when we’re more than happy to let comfortable basics work overtime—looking at you, black sweatpant-trouser hybrids. But packing for vacation is another story. A vacation wardrobe is part of the picture we’re painting in our minds as we fantasize about our destination. We envision ourselves swathed in a scarf-like cutout dress while wandering alongside an infinity pool, or gazing over cliffs while wearing a caftan with blues that perfectly match the sea.

But as your vacation draws near, reality hits. So many outfit ideas, so little suitcase space. Plus, if you just dropped a small fortune on plane tickets and accommodations, you might not feel comfortable buying tons of new clothing—especially items that might not get much wear once you return from your trip.

The good news: You can be stylish and pack smartly for vacation. Editors quickly master creative ways to put together travel wardrobes that are worthy of the occasion yet won’t cause stress—financial or otherwise. (Like the stress that comes from arriving at your destination and realizing you have a suitcase crammed full of things you don’t feel like wearing.) Here’s how editors pack to make sure their vacation wardrobe is worthy of a much-anticipated trip but won’t also break the bank—or their favorite roller suitcase.

Evaluate what you have

Packing like an editor means starting with the basics. What are some trusted items that you know for sure that you’ll feel comfortable and confident wearing in the climate and culture where you’re headed? Yes, it can feel beyond boring to think about your usual white tank top or go-to swim cover-up when you’re escaping to somewhere much more exciting, but whether you’ll be unwinding at an all-inclusive beach resort or exploring a new city, you ultimately want your wardrobe to add ease, not stress. Once you’ve identified a few basics that fit your vacation agenda, think about statement pieces you can weave in. (Perhaps something beautiful from the back of your closet that you love but never have occasion to wear in your everyday life.)

Put back pieces that don’t play well with others

Once you have options picked out, lay everything out on your bed and think like an editor—that means only keeping items that can do double- or triple-duty. Think sandals that are comfortable for walking yet cute for wearing at night, a day-to-night two-piece set where the halves can be worn together and also integrate with other outfits, or loose pants that are comfy for travel days but can easily be dressed up with a nice top and shoes. When pieces work with one another, you have more potential outfits and can adjust your clothing plans based on changes in the weather, the itinerary or your mood. As you pack, you might need to nix a few fun items that, sadly, just don’t multitask well, like the over-the-knee suede boots you’d only wear at dinnertime.

Be realistic

As they pack, editors also think hard about what they’ll really want to put on once they arrive. For example, you might picture wearing a trendy corset top to dinner and bars, but after spending all day in the beach heat, that might be the last thing you want to feel against your skin. One rule of thumb: If you never wear it in your day-to-day life, you probably won’t want to wear it on vacation.

Shop for new items—strategically 

Now you can likely see where there are gaps in your wardrobe and focus on filling them, instead of impulse shopping. Make like an editor and seek out timeless items that’ll serve you well on this trip, but also on future vacations or at home. Maybe you could use some linen shorts that work well with your favorite tees and tops, or a cashmere sweater you can snuggle into on the plane but also use as an outer layer on cool evenings. Then think about jewelry and accessories that will make your wardrobe instantly on-trend—without necessarily costing a ton or taking up much suitcase space. (Editor trick: Pack small accessories inside shoes to save space while also protecting them.) Chunky earrings, a colorful scarf, a simple pair of oversized sunglasses, or a packable wide-brimmed hat can make even the simplest outfit chic. Remember, you can also buy statement accessories at your destination.

Put together outfits 

This can sound intimidating, but it makes such a difference, and it’s a step most editors never skip. You don’t need to plan every outfit you’ll wear during your trip, but rough out at least a few go-tos, putting all the components together on your bed, complete with accessories. This will let you visually identify any glaring gaps in your vacation wardrobe and also weed out any straggler items that really don’t serve much purpose.

Save room for inspiration to hit 

Another tactic editors love: Leave your suitcase a quarter empty, so you can shop for some special items once you arrive at your destination. (Or use an expandable suitcase you’re only allowed to expand on the way home.) That way, you’ll be able to choose items that definitely suit your in-the-moment vacation mood, plus they’ll double as souvenirs. Of course, for many of us, it takes extreme discipline to not fill every inch of a suitcase, but the promise of shopping makes great motivation. Another idea: Bring a collapsible duffel (one that folds into a tiny pouch) you can carry on for the return trip.

Wear bulky items on the plane

In order to include key vacation wardrobe items that aren’t exactly suitcase-friendly, editors carefully strategize their plane outfits. With big-and-boxy-everything in style right now, it makes sense to wear the bulkiest items you’re bringing—like wide-leg pants, a cardigan, and chunky sneakers—on the plane, so they don’t occupy room in your carry-on. Yeah, you’ll need to peel more off as you work your way through airport security, but it’ll be worth it to have the things you really want during your trip.

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