travel

'I'm a chronic over-packer, so I spoke to a stylist about how to nail short-term packing.'

Hands up if you suck at packing for a three-day trip? Keep your hand up if what you pack for three days away is the same volume as what you'd bring for three weeks abroad? Same! 

Us chronic over-packers need options, okay? Take away my options, enter extreme anxiety, and a potential tantrum over hating everything I've packed.

For me, the root of the problem lies in the fact that I can't predict how I'll be feeling in three days' time and therefore, how I'll want to dress. It's as hard as trying to forecast the weather, tbh.

Will I be in the mood for colour? Will I feel bold enough to wear that fun new cut-out dress, or would I rather just stick to an old-faithful look? Or maybe I'll want to step it up a notch with something reallyyyy fancy… only I didn't pack any appropriate shoes for that specific ensemble.

Watch: Our best tips for your next vacation. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

That's why it's safer just to bring almost my entire wardrobe (and shoedrobe, for that matter) so I'm not caught out. 

But this isn't practical and I long to be one of those clever packers who can flit on to the flight with just hand luggage and the confidence to know that I have everything I need to look amazing all trip. 

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Plus, there's also no better feeling than skipping off a flight and avoiding the luggage carousel altogether so you can start your holiday even sooner.

I realised recently that I was so far from being a clever carry-on traveller when I headed off on a weekend girls' trip to Brisbane. I sheepishly texted the group chat assuming they were all far more evolved than I was and would take a carry-on, but all three of my pals confessed that they too would be bringing enough luggage to last 13 weekends away. I knew I'd found my people! But still, the niggling desire to be able to condense my gear continued to tug. 

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And look, I'll never be the kind of person who can do a month-long overseas trip with just carry-on, but surely, at 35 years of age, it's about time I learned how to nail short-term packing

So I spoke with Courtney McIntosh, stylist and founder of The INARRA, a fashion website for pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond, about how to curate the perfect holiday wardrobe for those shorter escapes – and what she had to say was a game changer. 

1. Versatility is key.

"Opting for versatile clothing items and styles that can be mixed and matched is a smart way to create multiple looks while keeping your luggage compact," Courtney explained.

Her top picks for versatile, hardworking items include neutral tops (think black, white and beige), which are classic and can be paired with various bottoms. She also suggests packing one pair of tailored trousers or shorts (like these DISSH Rowan Tailored Black Shorts), which will work for both casual and dressier looks.

"A good pair of jeans can also be the MVP if you are travelling to a cooler climate – dress them down during the day and throw a heel on at night and you're good as gold," the stylist shared.

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If your destination involves a beach or pool situation, Courtney says mix-and-match swimwear pieces can be combined in various ways. Also consider wearing a one-piece swimsuit as a bodysuit under a skirt or shorts – this luxe, super-flattering Sarah One Piece in Black from Bondi Born, which has adjustable straps, soft, removable cups, and an under-bust seam for extra support, would work perfectly as a day-to-night piece.

Courtney also says not to underestimate a silk scarf. 

"Not only does it add a pop of colour and fun to your outfit, but it can also be worn as a top, a beach skirt, or as an accessory." 

2. A cute set is the ultimate shapeshifting item.

A matching silk set is another handy packing gem. 

Not only do they take up next to no space in your luggage, but they can be paired with other items in your holiday wardrobe to create even more looks – for example, teaming the printed wide-leg pants of your set with a white off-the-shoulder top, or wearing the shirt from the set those tailored shorts you packed earlier!

3. Follow this simple shoe rule.

Picking which shoes to pack is often an over-packer's biggest downfall. Courtney says the key to not going overboard with the shoes is to stick to her simple rule of packing no more than three very specific pairs.

"Bring one for walking, one for casual/dressy occasions, and one for any specific activities. This helps you cover all bases," she advises, before pointing out to be mindful of your itinerary and what you'll be doing while you're choosing your pairs.

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It's also important to be realistic about what you'll achieve on a short holiday. I recently made peace with the fact that I don't exercise on short trips, so I can fully embrace holiday mode without wasting precious space on sneakers or activewear anymore. And I don't feel any guilt about it! 

Oh, and don't forget to wear your bulkiest or heaviest pair of shoes on the flight.

Listen to Mamamia's fashion podcast, Nothing To Wear where Leigh Campbell and personal shopper Fifi Milne take us through denim 101. Post continues after audio.


4. Map out your looks ahead of time.

We all fell a little bit more in love with David Beckham when we learned in the Beckham docco that the father-of-four pre-plans his looks for the week ahead and hangs them up on a special clothing rack in his bedroom. And also, why didn't we think of this?

This is a clever strategy to employ to streamline your wardrobe and help you pack efficiently for shorter trips, says Courtney. 

"If you're away for four days, lay out and play around with four different outfits at home so you're not scrambling to put looks together at your destination, keeping in mind the weather and the itinerary," she notes.

Don't stress if you don't have a fancy fashion rack like Becks, either – doing a flat-lay on your floor or bed will work just as well. If you really want to accelerate your organisation, you can take photos of your looks and the mix-and-match options so you don't need to think at the other end.

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5. Pick the right fabrics for packing.

Choosing the right fabrics is crucial when aiming for efficient packing and wrinkle resistance. "I usually reach for jersey knit, synthetic blends, bamboo fabric, or cotton poplin," says Courtney. "You should also choose clothing with a bit of stretch, as it tends to bounce back into shape more easily, reducing the appearance of wrinkles."

And as for the ever-polarising folding versus rolling debate, Courtney believes rolling is always the way to go, saying it saves space and minimises wrinkles.

6. Tap into the power of accessories.

Accessories are small but mighty, and according to Courtney, a must-pack item for diversifying your holiday looks without packing extra clothes.

"Statement jewellery, like bold earrings, necklaces, or bracelets, can transform a basic outfit. After a day at the beach, slick your hair back into a bun, add a statement earring and you'll be surprised at how much it can amp up your look," she says. 

"A belt also adds cool texture and colour to an outfit. Cinch a loose dress or blouse with a stylish belt to change the silhouette."

Courtney also suggests packing a chic hat that reflects your style and can handle being folded – think raffia and straw fabrications for summer, and felt for winter, that are easy to roll up in your luggage (and which snap back into shape).

7. Invest in a spacious carry-on bag.

The one time you do want a ludicrously capacious (albeit compact enough to still bring as a carry-on) bag is when you're going on a short trip. And it all starts with investing in a good quality bag that is compact on the outside and spacious on the inside.

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Courtney's top picks are:

Hardshell Carry-On, Herschel Heritage, $280.

Herschel Heritage™ Hardshell Carry On Luggage. Image: Herschel.

"Herschel Heritage combines style with practicality. The Trade Power Carry-On features a hard-shell exterior, a TSA-approved lock, and an easy-access split design."

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The Bigger Carry-On, Away, $295.

The Bigger Carry-On. Image: Away.

"Away is known for its smartly designed luggage, and the Bigger Carry-On is no exception. It includes a hidden laundry bag and a compression pad to help you pack more efficiently."

Chalet Air 2.0 Suitcase 55cm Angora, Delsey, $579.

Chatelet Air 2.0 Suitcase. Image: Delsey.

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"This a chic, hard-side luggage option that's super roomy. It has a unique brake system on the front wheels, a luxurious, spacious interior, and an elegant design," she says.

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