Packing Like a Pro

Tricks and Tips from Stylist Tracy James

June 11, 2015

Tracy James of Chic Made Simple Packing Like a Pro

The Style Gathering

Pack Basic Pieces to Create Multiple Looks

The Style Gathering

Packing Envelopes Keep Garments Organized

The Style Gathering

Packing Accessories

All Images
Jennifer Hagler Photography

By Buffy York

A few weeks ago I found myself in a twitter conversation with a reader who enjoyed my Handbag and Beach Bag Must Haves Posts and she asked me to do a post on packing.  I was like, “you mean over-packing” because I am an expert in that.  She is actually attending a week long conference that involves a plane ride to the Big Apple and a weekend conference in Atlanta.  I really had no thoughts on the subject but since I too would be traveling for vacation and a conference this summer I decided to call on my stylist friend Tracy James of Chic Made Simple.  Tracy has many titles ranging from Wardrobe Consultant to Photo Stylist, and if you live in and around Birmingham and need a closet revamp she is your girl.  She is a tiny little ball of energy who is both charming and witty, and my clothes editing session with her this week is going to save me time and energy in the long run.  Today she is sharing her tried and true secrets for packing.  Enjoy!

by Tracy James

One of the style services I offer is helping clients pack for trips.  Whether a work conference in Vegas or two-week vacay in Europe, each trip comes with its own wardrobe requirements.  Clients and I will discuss the overall trip, determine what kind of and how much attire is needed, then start pulling outfits out of the closet–complete with needed undergarments, shoes and accessories for each.  (Note: this should happen BEFORE the morning of your trip.)

While it might sound tedious and OCD, I actually find that having a list of what I’m wearing each day saves time in the long run.  When I’m on vacation, I either want to get up and go sightseeing or just chillax, not have to hem and haw about what to wear each day.  I usually record my list is in the Notes app on my iPhone and literally map out each day’s attire.  For example:
Plane: Trina Turk long-sleeve tunic, white jeans, metallic wedges, gold chandelier earring
Eve: Floral dress, metallic wedges, gold chandelier earring, gold bracelets, snakeskin clutch

As the wife of a commercial pilot who refuses to let us check bags (makes you wonder, doesn’t it), I’ve learned to pack light.  If I can do it, you can do it, ladies.  Trim the fat!  I carried on for a 12 day multi-country trip.  How do you like me now?  In all honesty, carrying only what you need lightens the load in more ways than one.

While I am all for arriving at my destination with non-wrinkled clothing, some of the methods offered on the internet by “packing experts” are a little high maintenance for my taste.  Like arranging tissue paper between each layer of clothing.  I’m packing for vacation, not wrapping a present.  Some advocate rolling every garment, and while I think it’s fine to roll underwear and PJs to fit into the nooks and crannies of your suitcase, rolling every dress/top/pant doesn’t have a lot of benefit in my experience.  Perhaps it’s just that it reminds me of what we had to do in the 90’s after washing our dreadful broomstick skirts in order to keep them “broomsticky.”  (Shudder.)


Utilize Packing Materials
This can be as rustic as extra large ziplock bags or as fancy as the folded garment envelopes sold by travel wear catalogs. (My world-traveling mom favors those made by Eagle Creek.) Mesh bags are good for compartmentalizing undergarments, scarves, etc.
Unpack When You Arrive
Seriously, it takes less than 5 minutes.  Digging through your luggage to find that top you’re just sure you remembered to bring will wrinkle them in a heartbeat.
Downy Wrinkle Release Spray
This product will change your life. If you can’t find a travel size version, just pour some into a small sprayer, available at any drugstore.


Don’t be a One-Hit Wonder
Strive to wear your garments and especially shoes more than once, albeit in a different way via mixing and matching. (See picture above for examples.)
Don’t Start New Exercise or Diet Regime During Your Trip
We’ve all packed those workout duds with the best of intentions, only for our tennis shoes (which take up a lot of room) never to leave the suitcase. Be honest, are you really going to get in that morning run? And maybe this trip isn’t the best time to begin a vegan lifestyle, thus carting a cooler like a transplant surgeon, but full of silken tofu. (Don’t get me started on the girlfriend who loaded up my trunk with 17 pounds of various supplements and powders because she decided to start her cleanse during a beach trip.)  If you do take vitamins, rather than bringing the whole bottles, divvy out doses for each day in ziplock bags or utilize pill bags or boxes.
All of Your Toiletries Should be Travel Size
Not only does the TSA only allow items 3.4 ounces or less (if you are carrying on your luggage), but there is no reason to take your tub of La Mer night cream on a weekend vacay. TSA approved bottle options here, here and here


Think about the trip. What venues/events will you be attending?  Check on/ inquire about any dress codes. What will the temperature be: an over air-conditioned hotel meeting room or a walking tour in the heat of the day?  Is rain in the forecast so that you need to choose footwear accordingly?  (You should pack a collapsable travel umbrella regardless.)
What size suitcase are you taking?  If flying, are you going to carry on?  What will you put toiletries and accessories in? (I love my Stella & Dot hang-up toiletries case and jewelry clutch.)  Approximately how many outfits (count day/evening changes) are needed?
Pull out some of your favorite outfits that would be temperature/venue appropriate, as well as PJs. undergarments, and other items you might need, like a bathing suit.
List on paper or on your iPhone/iPad each day/eve of your trip, keeping in mind your activities and any special events during those times, then designate an outfit for each.  Refer to this list during your trip.


Planning on visiting the hotel spa?  Please, for the love, bring something to wear from your room to the spa, as I am not comfortable being in the elevator with guests donning the hotel robe, under which they may or may not be wearing anything else.

Packing up for home with a bathing suit that’s not quite dry? Grab the plastic dry cleaning bag from the hotel closet or pack a wet bathing suit bag.

Get a gel manicure the day before you leave. You don’t want to have to worry about carting nail polish for touch ups.

I love travel candles, because you never know if a hotel room or condo is going to smell nice or not.  I have certain scents I prefer for vacation, which help me relax and put away my busy life back home for awhile.

(*three hour minimum and applies to new clients only)

Tracy James
Fashion Consultant & Stylist

| pack like a pro using the items below |



    Great tips! I just looked up the garment envelopes…the bigger one holds 15 pieces (on Zappos)! I’ll be ordering a fee of them for the family!

    Totally bought some myself. I am so OCD and a messy suitcase makes me crazy. I love the idea of this!

    I wish I had read this before Paris!

    No Doubt! These are some of the best tips and to watch Tracy at work is amazing. Jennifer actually said during the shoot that we needed it on video!

    I love these tips, I am going away pretty soon for a vacation and found them so helpful, also love your blog! You have such great articles and beautiful photography!


    Seriously I love these tips too! Have fun on vacation. –Buffy

    Get a gel manicure the day before you leave is the best idea. I had my nails done before I went to the spa. It was a disaster. Unfortunately I have found your article too late. Best regards!

    I love these suggestions! I am constantly traveling for work and leisure but packing is my nemesis. My iPhone will become my new best friend for planning outfits and I see a few garment envelopes in my future. Thanks for sharing!

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