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Summer packing made easy: 5 favorite tips


Hey there & thank you for reading the Colette blog!

This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might be aware that I love to travel.

Though I can’t afford to do it as much as I like (either money or time wise), I’d rather spend my money on travel than just about anything (except maybe fabric).

So… you’d think I’d be great at packing.

But honestly, I’ve always kind of sucked at it. Not that I pack the wrong things, but I just take forever to decide what to bring. I prefer to pack light, which means I spend a lot of time fretting about whether I’m packing the right things, and whether I’m bringing enough with me. I put something in my suitcase. I take it out again. I put it back. Repeat ad nauseum.

But lately, I’m getting much better. Last week, we took a trip to Los Angeles, and after a little prep while drinking my coffee, I packed for a week in about 15 minutes flat. Me!

These are the three things that have saved me from the indecision hell of packing.

1. Pack mix and match neutrals

My preferred neutrals for travel are black and white. I like a mix of solids with classic prints, like stripes, dots, and checks. It all works together, so you can mix and match and not feel like you’re wearing the same thing over and over.

An added bonus is that black and white works just about everywhere in the world, in any season. Hong Kong in winter? A little black dress and white cardigan work perfectly. Sweden in spring? A striped sailor tee and black pants and you fit right in (or I would have, had I been 3 inches taller and fair-haired).

2. Plan some outfits.

This has been my saving grace with decision making. I plan out a few outfits before I pack, using polyvore.

You can find items similar to what you have and put them together, creating an instant packing list. I am an extremely visual thinker, so visualizing things makes decision making 100 times easier for me. Plus it’s fun. And, you can reuse them the next time you pack! Less decision making all around.

Here’s what I planned for the week-long trip to Los Angeles and Palm Springs.

Outfit 1: Panama hat, high waisted shorts, sleeveless gingham top (made by me), clogs, and wayfarers


Outfit 2: my trusty boatneck sailor stripe dress, panama hat, and clogs


Outfit 3: my white pique Lily dress, black and white vintage Vera scarf, panama hat, and clogs


Outfit 4: high-wiasted shorts, chambray shirt, and clogs


And all you really need for Palm Springs:


(You can also view these sets on polyvore if you want to see links to the items, though many of them are just things that are similar to stuff I own.)

3. Don’t forget the loungewear.

There’s always a certain amount of lounging involved when I travel, especially if its a busy trip. I’ve learned to make room for some comfortable, cute loungewear for drinking coffee in a hotel room, or resting after a long day of walking.


(The book How The French Invented Love was a gift, and I’m really enjoying it so far!)

4. You don’t need much.

Finally, if I’m still fretting, I just remember that as long as you have your phone, ID, and a credit card, you’re fine. You can always buy what you need when you get there (as I have done many times). And if you can’t, you probably don’t need it.

5. Contain your stuff

I hate just throwing everything in a big bag. I use these packing cubes to help organize my stuff, rolling my clothes to keep them compact. I just feel better and more organized when my bag is tidy.

Those are my hard-won packing lessons. Do you guys have any other good tips?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 29


I like to pack a tea packet, for airports. Drinks can be expensive to buy in airports, but I found that places don’t mind if I purchase a small snack and ask for a cup of hot water (which they’ve always given to me for free) – then I can have my own hot tea from home and will have saved 5 bucks. Plus they are lightweight and take up no room – and if I don’t drink it, they’re great to give to my host later over breakfast.

Amy W

I always make a list of everything I’m bringing and I make sure that every article of clothing can be combined with two different pieces. When I travel for work I make sure that everything is interchangable-a nice mix of black, white, gray and red. I also bring coffee creamer (in the little tubs) for hotel room coffee. They don’t require refridgeration and it’s cheaper than buying $4 coffee every day.


I do not travel much, but I notice that jeans are a great companion…any top fancy or a plain t-shirt helps you look put and it is comfortable. I like to put everything in my luggage and check everything…. I mean hop on the plain with just my purse. I hate to carry a million bags, that I know I will forget at some point.


Thanks! These are really helpful tips. Packing starts soon for my honeymoon (we leave on Sunday!) and we’re going to pack everything we need in carry-ons. Wish us luck…


I like to pack everything in carry-ons, too. Of course, it did help that our whole family (the 5 of us) flew together recently–if one person didn’t have room, another person did. It might get challenging if you were traveling alone.

For outfits, I like to have three days of outfits (and they can be interchanged). That way I have my travel day outfit, a fresh one for the next day, and the day following I can do laundry and still have something fresh to put on.

I’m with you–if you’re not sure if you’ll need something and you can swing it, try to just buy it at your destination. You might end up not needing it anyway! I purchased an item on my trip and ended up not using it, so back it will go!

Lisa S.

Ugh! I HATE packing. I, too, am a fretter when it comes to packing, and I’ve been known to take over an hour to pack for a 5 day trip. This is a great post! Thanks!


Look at you, so organized. I love to travel too and also take shamefully long to pack! I’m going on a 4-week Europe trip this September and am already packing mentally — we’re taking only carry-on backpacks. I totally agree with you, the cardinal rule of packing light is to pack for the best case scenario. You can always pick up another sweater somewhere if you’re cold. And you know you’re going to go shopping no matter where you go, so you’ll want to leave a little room in your suitcase for that anyways. Layers and comfort are rules 2 and 3. Cardigans and scarves are your best friends. Loose-fitting over tight. And ditch the heels. Maybe it is just the way I travel, but I always have grand ideas of wearing them on a nice night out, but never actually wear them. I totally endorse the packing cubes too. Ok… I could go on and on, so I’ll just stop now. Haha!


I am going on a lot of one-night-business trips so I made a bunch of simple bags from fun fabric. You know the ones, just fold a piece of fabric in half, sew together on two sides and do something nice to the open edge. This way I can sort my clothes – pajamas in one bag, fresh underwear in another, used underwear in a third etc. If I have to open my bag for security check at the airport no dirty pants are in sight and if the officer decides to check the bag saying “USED LAUNDRY” it is at his/her own risk! Also I found that this somewhat protects my clothes from accidentally spilled makeup or other mishaps. But most important of course: It’s huge fun making them!

Johanna@projects by me

I actually have many of the same ideas about packing as you and that works out very well for me. I mostly think about how many days I will be away and then pack as many outfits as days and then some loungewear. And I also always think that the most important things to bring are my wallet and mobile phone nad passport if I’m going abroad.


This applies to extended trips, which require the checking of bags: after watching my checked luggage get soaked on the tarmac, as the airline staff loaded the luggage onto the plane in a horrendous surprise downpour, I now cover as many of my clothes in plastic in the suitcase as I can…all of the delicate items (underclothes, swimwear, etc.) go in gallon size zip top bags, with the air squeezed out. I place an Ikea shopping or beach bag laying flat on top of all the rest, which serves double duty as the dirty laundry catcher at our destination. It’s pretty bad to start a vacation by having to track down a dryer for your entire vacation wardrobe.

Laurel Thurston

Drying out wet clothing on arrival in a foreign clime is not pleasant. Once, traveling with a four year old on a dreadfully stormy Atlantic flight, she held in nausea until we were in the cab from DeGaulle Airport into Paris. Finding an all-night dry cleaner in the middle of a torm where someone spoke English and could address vomit all over daughter’s only parka and my only raincoat was a noteable introduction the “The City of Lights.” Travel is so broadening.

Laurie Myer

Great tips! My husband has worked in Asia (Outer Mongolia no less!) for 10 years, so I travel A Lot. It’s early August and I have been 5 international trips and domestic trips already. England is on for Sept and then back to Mongolia after that. I ditto the black/white/denim–and scarves! plan, ziplocks in every size are a MUST. I have a travel “uniform” of sorts to get me through very long flights–and I avoid sweats at all costs! Yuk–Americans have a terrible reputation for looking like unmade beds. Balance between comfort and class can be achieved. Anyway :) Choose light over heavy: fabrics do not weigh in the same, use an e reader rather than books (and some of those are lighter than others). For tourist-y trips, I heard a tip years ago that has been helpful: never travel with more than you can run with. :D


I love that tip about running! It’s too true. I always check my suitcase by seeing if I can lift it over my head with one hand and goofy things like that. Also, I use a hardsided rolling suitcase. It’s not the lightest, but I have a seat everywhere I go. It was great when waiting in some rather nasty train stations. And being able to carry it means that if the wheels or one handle breaks I won’t be stuck buying a new suit case in the middle of my trip.

gabriel ratchet

Since my hair silvered out, the closet has pretty much gone totally black, white and grey. Every day is easy packing. My travel tips have to do with security. I have a light weight black jacket with interesting pockets and zippers. It holds all my ready access carry on items, glasses, cash, keys, boarding pass etc. and my heavy jewelry. I get to the security line, and I just take it off and run it through the scanner. Put my jewelry and my shoes back on once I’ve cleared security. Also, I’ve learned to belt my traveling pants with a silk scarf. I figure that if I have the credit card in my carry-on, I can check the rest, and I have been doing so for many years without mishap. That person giving you the stink-eye after you clocked them in the head with your overloaded carry-on whilst trying to stuff it in the over head was possibly me.


For short trips I might pack an outfit for each day. But, for longer trips I usually lay out an outfit for each day and then start taking away pants and outer layers until everything will fit in my suitcase. I never check luggage! Jeans can be worn at least a couple times or more depending on activities and cardigans can be reworn too. It might sound gross or odd…but I try to pack some undergarments that really need to be thrown out. You know the sort – has holes, or no elastic left. In the winter I even do this with undershirts. Then as I travel I just discard worn items (that are worn out). This means that at the end of the trip I have fewer items and more space for souvenirs. Once, when travelling Europe for 3 wks I managed to discard about 7 pair of underwear, some socks, a couple t-shirts and an old pair of Danskos.

Laurel Thurston

My mother did this too. She always wondered what hotel maids thought oabout that nice looking older lady who left underwear in the room’s trash basket. She hoped they thought she had a much racier life than was really the case.


I have a hard time packing too and for the past five years I’ve been packing for myself and my kids. I use a rolling garment rack to visualize everything and I make a # of outfits rule. We were just traveling for three weeks and I limited myself to 10 outfits (I really hate to do laundry).

Have you tried the pack -it folders? I love them and I love that when I arrive to my destination my stuff is minimally wrinkled.


I hate packing! I keep seeing clever ideas, like picking a palette so all your clothes can be made into different outfits, or those things about capsule wardrobes. They never seem to work for my trips, because everything requires really different clothing. In one two-week trip, I needed nice Sunday clothes, everyday clothes for visiting people or shopping, grub clothes for helping with gardening and hiking, and extra layers because I was helping with lambing season (very cold!). Temperatures ranged from below freezing to 80F. Not only do you need different shoes (boots for the barn, walking shoes, and Sunday shoes) but different coats (you can’t wear the barn jacket to church). It was a problem getting everything in a suitcase.


Thanks for the packing tips! We’re hoping to backpack Europe for our honeymoon, and I’ve learned a lot from different places (especially Rick Steves!).

Speaking of travel, do you happen to have any recommendations on where to purchase easy care fabric (aka washable, non-wrinkling wovens and knits) online? I’m hoping to make a capsule travel wardrobe! Though, mostly of knits, which I know aren’t your favorite.

Mugsy Used to have great tips about packing light – but nothing like the totally lovely lingerie you have listed! Wow! (sorry for the “link” to another website – click on the “About Us” to read about packing tips) Yes, I realise that the clothing might be considered boring to some – but as a HUGE fan of their “Adventure cloth” material (cotton poly blend I think, not sure of percentages, but this stuff wears and lasts forever!) – I have shirts, pants and skirts that are well over 20 years old and still going strong – it’s worth me saving my money like crazy to go to their annual wearhouse sale. It’s the only way I can afford their clothes! ;)

I also agree with a few of you – my mind changes frequently as to what I want to wear, so pre-planning wardrobes is a waste of time for me. I still pack pretty light, but there’s always two extra shirts (or blouses, if you prefer that term) or t-shirts, and at least three lightweight scarves to change up the look. I try everything on ahead of packing to see what it’ll look like, and make outfits as “different” as possible – for those days I’m tempted to whine about something I should have brought that I didn’t *LOL* These are great tips, too, and I’ll be sure to try them out the next time I get to travel (Adam’s Lake Salmon Run 2014, here I come!).


i live in africa and travel a ton. the “as long as you’ve got a credit card” rule was always my reality check until i moved to a country where credit cards don’t exist! so packing actually counts and i’ve developed a little “packing trauma” as a result.
my must have list includes
– a giant cotton or light wool shawl/scarf for the plane, sleeping on/under in airports, make shift picnic blanket, cool weather and/or sun protection, etc.
– extra prescription meds in both carry on and check luggage incase you lose one or the other
– an extra pair of underwear in the carry on
– nasal spray (i get nasty colds and it’s really hard to find outside the US)
– tom’s (so light!) and chaco’s flip flops will get me through most non-dressy situations
– a bathing suit. always. you never know where you might find a beach, pool or hotspring and that’s the one thing you can’t just buy on the fly and probably don’t want to borrow!

duck bucket

I’m dying to know — what’s the cardigan in Outfit 3? I love it.

I generally follow the same rules as far as colors go (for me, mostly black with one bright — usually teal blue or red). I’d love to make my own travel wardrobe someday, in quick-dry fabric that you can wash in a hotel sink, but I have no idea where to find the fabric!


This is also a great idea for a capsule wardrobe!


As farmers, we just don’t travel much (ever try to find a babysitter for chickens, cattle, & pigs? LOL). However, our children go to horse camp and other camps each summer. For horse camp, they actually sleep in stalls in the barn/stable, so “clean” isn’t a given. We pack each day’s clothes in gallon ziploc bags. They don’t have to think about daily outfits coordinating, either!

I like the idea of making cloth bags, including one embroidered with “used laundry” for those few times when I get off on a jaunt! Thanks, everyone!

cynthia gehin

Those farm vacations amount to ‘when first crop hay is mowed and before second crop starts’. Know that scene too well! We actually used paper grocery bags much the same way when our family was growing up! It took me a few tries to get packing into a carry-on. But I use the neutral color method and pack it all for a week in a small backpack. I use my purse for meds and cosmetics and a spare pair of undies. Hate dealing with a checked bag unless it’s for extended stays with skis, fishing poles etc. Coats make great pillows. Maybe that’s why Americans look so ‘frumpy’ after-flight.


I seriously adore those packing cubes (I have several sizes and one of the folders). One tip for using them – don’t fully unpack at your destination, just slip them in the drawers!

They also come in handy when I visit family – where I usually get about 6″ of hanging space and (if I’m really lucky) a single drawer. One year it was 2 drawers in a file cabinet! This is for 2 weeks over Christmas – where temps have varied between 30s (overnight, but also for our annual visit to the flea market and trail riding) and 80s. And of course something “nice” is needed for Christmas Eve church, and something fun for New Year’s Eve.

I also make sure to put the cube with underwear in my carry on. Learned my lesson the time that I had to stop at Walmart at midnight – I will borrow my sister’s clothes and even PJs, but not underwear. Didn’t get my luggage until 3 days later.


I’ve traveled a lot over the years and try to pack as light as possible, with as few suitcases and bags as I can, sometimes even using one very large duffle/carry on that can still fit under the plane seat in front of me. 1. As Sarai said, the black/white combo is great. I look better in colors, so my three colors are black, white, and turquoise. 2. Try your best to select items with fabrics that don’t need ironing. 3. Bring cosmetics/hair cleaning supplies that can do double duty, e.g., a light moisturizer with sunblock can be used as night cream. A shampoo/conditioner combo will eliminate another bottle. 4. I bring only one set of matching jewelry items that I wear during travel which don’t get packed, either all gold or all silver, depending on my outfits. It could also be costume jewelry, preferably matching or complementary. 5. Unless you prefer some light and gorgeous lingerie, bring a nightgown heavy enough to double as a lounge dress. You won’t need a robe either. I made my own in cotton, with a bottom ruffle, and it looks like a pretty housedress. I even go outside in the morning at home to have coffee on my porch and never get strange looks because the fabric is heavy enough, even in Coastal South Carolina, where I live. 6. Tuck a small, flat purse into your carry-on or suitcase; put anything important in a carry-on for plane trips. 7. I match my carry-on with a 21″ suitcase and make sure the carry-on stacks without falling over. 8. Don’t overpack! All right. I’ve gone on a long time here but maybe somebody can use one of my ideas. With Sarai’s tips, and others posted on this site, you should be good to go. Have a great trip!


I’m a procrastinator and a terrible packer, so I sat down one day and made a master list of everything I need to pack for trips. I keep a hard copy in my suitcase and go through it line by line, so I’m less likely to forget something when I’m frantically throwing things into a bag 20 minutes before I need to leave for the airport!

My other tip is to roll your garments into little cylinder shapes instead of folding them. They come out much less wrinkled and seem to take up less space, too.


Where did you get those clogs? Thank you!

Beautiful photos! You are very inspiring in so many ways.

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