How to Pack a Kickass Bag

I have had a fair number of inquiries recently asking how to pack a kickass suitcase for extended travel with lots of movement. Considering I have on more than one occasion traveled Europe stylishly + minimally for three months with a CARRY ON, this is my wheelhouse like no one’s business.

For me, a big ole checked bag while on the road is a certified pain in the ass. I did the standard post undergrad trek to Western Europe and lugged my unwieldy pack around sweating my face off for almost three months. Never again.

Now, with that said some instances dictate a checked bag. Also, if you’re going to Paris for a week and checking into Four Seasons, then by all means load yourself up and bring plenty of heels!

I’m just here to give some hints, tips, and suggestions to lighten your load — regardless of how big it is. I have so many things to say about packing, but I’m going to focus on the majors here or you’ll be scrolling for years instead of traveling.

Pack a capsule wardrobe. 

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential wardrobe pieces intermingled with well thought out accessories. Rather than me reinventing the wheel check out Travel Fashion Girl. She has lists and lists for days. Short term, long term. Africa, Asia — she’s not messing around. I have used her advice many times.

Don’t get crazy with shoes. 

In the summer I bring a pair of sandals (flats), wedges, and active shoes. In the winter I bring flats, a pair of boots and active shoes. “Active” meaning they are great for a workout, but are stylish as well — usually a pair of Nikes. All shoes I pack are cute and comfortable and I don’t feel like a tourist wearing any of them. It’s a personal preference, but I don’t really want to strap on my full on gym shoes and then walk around Rome. Gym shoes are for working out, not the Roman Coliseum.

Side note – If I have a pair of shoes I love, but are ready to be retired I will bring them and then replace them along the way. I’m not big on traditional souvenirs, but a pair of nice Italian sandals or boots are exactly the kind of item I want to spend my dollars on.

Packing cubes are the jam. 

These little babies are essential for keeping organized and fitting more into less space. My suitcase has a habit of blowing up and overflowing within a day when I let it. Cubes keep me on the straight and narrow; I use the slim version from e-bags. I pack them by type of clothing and know which one to grab when I’m looking for shirts versus pants.

Coats + scarves 

If you’re traveling during a chilly or downright cold part of the year, a well thought out coat can make your trip. I usually pack something sleek and black that I can layer underneath rather than bulky wool. As for scarves, they are a life saver. My capsule wardrobe is grey and black in the winter and navy in the warmer months. I also pack two scarves that instantly change any outfit into something colorful and interesting. Usually a silk scarf and a cotton one as well for casual day time wear.


When traveling I *love* to go into pharmacies and drug stores to look around and replenish my toiletries. So I’ll bring soap, shampoo, etc to get me started but if I’m traveling for over a couple of weeks I’ll buy items as I need them. There’s so many cool things to look at and when I finally land back in the States, it’s always a little treat to use the lip gloss or hand cream I bought in the pharmacy on the corner in Paris. Total win.

Change it up

If I’m gone long enough the shirts I packed start looking a bit ratty from repeated wear and I’m tired of wearing it. In this case I take the opportunity to buy a couple of new things and swap them out. It’s really a big deal to put a new shirt in rotation. Also each time I reach for it when the trip is long a memory in my mind, it puts a smile on my face.

Have a travel tip you live by? Share it in the comments, I would love to hear!