the how-to: packing it in

I’m guessing just about all of us are hopping on a plane sometime between now and New Year’s. Packing is always an exhausting chore, but during the holidays, everything just seems to be even harder than usual. So, I’ve enlisted my favorite jetsetter, Ms. Megan Clark, to share her tips on reaching your holiday destination in style. Besides being a seriously stylish traveler, Megan is a brilliant designer and lover of all things aesthetically-pleasing. She owns a design studio (, created an online resource for designers ( and co-founded one of my favorite sites for printed goods and gifts ( How’s that for qualified?


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached my vacation destination and wish I had packed more. Or less. Or different. It never seems quite right, am I right? Last weekend I zipped down to San Diego for a girls’ weekend. It was awesome. The sun shined, the birds chirped and I actually packed properly for once. I was shocked until I thought about all of the packing adaptions I’ve made over the years. It’s a precise art, people. I’m here to share a few ways to pack properly and skip the outrageous fees you’ll incur if you check your luggage.

Tips for getting it all to fit:

1.  Choose black or brown. This may be a personal preference, but I can’t live with combining blacks and browns in my outfits. I’ve found that if I choose one or the other for my weekend trip my packing process is much more enjoyable. Part of my wardrobe is automatically out of consideration. And, mixing and matching once you’re away is oh so easy when everything can go with everything else. Simplicity at last!

2.  Layer, layer, layer. This should go without saying, but layering equals flexibility. If the forecast is wishy-washy or your activities are varied, layering is the answer. Your daytime strolling outfit of denim and a tee can quickly and easily become a evening outfit when you throw on a cardigan and heels. This is where a scarf comes in, too – I always make a point to bring two scarves. Not only can they can change up an otherwise identical outfit, but they double as a shawl, a swimsuit coverup or a blanket on the plane. I’ve even been known to spread my scarf out in a park for a picnic. How’s that for versatility? On second thought, a scarf really deserves it’s own tip…

3.  Scarf it up. See tip #2 (and yesterday’s fabulous find).

4.  Roll up and roll out. If you roll your clothes, you really can fit more in. Plus, you can squeeze a few of the rolled items in tightly between those obnoxious sections made by internal framing. Don’t forget to stuff your shoes! (My husband thoughtfully contributed this tip. He’s an expert packer since he grew up in a military family.)

5.  Bring a big purse. My family (lovingly) calls some my favorite handbags “duffle bags”. Admittedly, they’re about big enough to qualify as such, but their size is exactly why I find them indispensable. If you have a duffle…er…big purse, you can use it to maximize your carry-on potential. Airlines are serious about their two bag rules; you get one carry-on and one personal item. And that’s it. Last weekend I saw someone pulled out of the line and forced to consolidate her kettle corn into her carry-on. She was not a happy camper. Stash overflow items (such as kettle corn – really?) in your bag to get through security. The same bag can give you peace of mind by housing essentials and valuables, and keeping them by your side during the flight.

6. Pack an extra bag, just in case. Just kidding! You can do this, I promise.

Bonus points (AKA afterthoughts):

*  Leave the blowdryer at home. The blowdryer is the enemy of the carry-on. Almost every hotel has them. I know, I know…your blowdryer might be tourmaline-infused and eliminate frizz, but I assure you it will be patiently waiting for you at home. Skip it if you’re serious about sneaking through without checked baggage fees.

*  Keep your bathroom bag packed. Just the thought that a pre-packed bathroom bag lets you grab and go makes it worth buying two of everything (toothbrush, toothpaste, night cream, cleanser, etc). Just do it.

*  If you’re cutting it close and have an expandable bag, zip it up with the expansion open; once it’s closed, place pressure on the top of the bag and zip that extra section back up. (Channel the same strength it takes to zip up those skinny pants after the holidays!)

Zzzzzzzip! Done. Let me know how it goes, fellow jet-setters! –Megan Clark

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3 comments on “the how-to: packing it in

  1. A

    GREAT tips (and illustrations)! Once I realized that my blowdryer was a problem, I relegated it to family visits only. I also keep my bathroom bag packed (though I try to remember to check shampoo and conditioner levels prior to travel) and rarely get on a plane without a Pliage tote (so retro, I know), which will hold a magazine or two, a book, work files, a netbook (also retro), and even my DSLR camera while fitting underneath the seat in front of me.

    I love Go-Toob products for carrying my face wash, shampoo, conditioner, hair goop, and moisturizer. Bonus – their website will even show you how many of the different sizes will fit in your quart-size plastic bag.

  2. Joanne

    While you make TOTAL SENSE on the hairdryer, I gotta disagree with you on it in some cases. I have curly hair, and without my diffuser, a hair dryer is useless. The hotel hair dryers usually aren’t the right size to attach my diffuser to… so my own has to come along. If anyone has any fixes for that, I’m all ears! It’s a pain to have to save enough room for an entire hairdryer every time I go anywhere.

  3. Rachel H

    This is an EXCELLENT post! I travel a lot, with all of my photography equipment, so staying light on personal items is very important. I wholeheartedly agree with your “choose one color” rule, and for me this translates into navy blue and browns OR black and greys. You can get a lot of variety out of a few pieces if everything is interchangeable. You make the point eloquently.

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