How to Pack for the Holidays

A clothing expert shares her most efficient packing hacks, from the one thing you always need to bring to the best way to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

How to Pack for the Holidays

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Traveling during the holidays can be tough. Packing for travel during the holidays can be even tougher. There’s so much to fit inside one pesty little suitcase: the meaningful gifts you purchased for your loved ones, the fancy attire you’ll need for your seasonal celebrations, and, of course, the extra-comfy clothes you’ll wear when spending quality time with your family.

We wanted to help solve some of your holiday packing woes, so we reached out to Kate Larramendy, the design director at Toad&Co. Larramendy has had years of experience traveling, working with fabrics, and packing efficiently. (She was previously the design director at the famed activewear brand, Patagonia, so she knows a thing or two about being resourceful!) We figured she’d have some great advice to assist you in your holiday packing endeavors, and we were right! These are her top tips:

1. The One Piece You Need to Pack

“I never go anywhere without a cashmere sweater,” Larramendy says. She praises their versatility, both functionally and fashionably. “They’re warm as insulation under a coat, but light enough to wear comfortably indoors.” For men and women, a cashmere sweater can also be worn in both dressier and more casual situations. “For a woman, a cashmere sweater and a necklace pulls everything together.” She advises seeking out the best you can get, however. “You can get cashmere sweaters at many different quality levels—but I promise, if you invest in a high-quality sweater, it will serve you for years to come.”

2. Don’t Fold Your Clothes (Really)

Larramendy is pretty anti-fold: when you don’t have ready access to an iron, those creases could be menaces to your holiday wardrobe. The solution? Roll your clothes. “Rolling clothes is the ticket for having it arrive in the condition as when you pack it,” she says. “I fold things in half, then in half, and then roll.” You’ll avoid having a huge crease, she explains, since you’ll be distributing that pressure over the surface of a garment instead of at the fold, even if you stuff your bag. For an easier fit, Larramendy recommends rolling your clothing into logs about the same size. “It’ll end up looking like a bunch of burritos.” We wish more things were described that way.

3. Consider Your Coats

Big, bulky coats and jackets take up way too much precious space in your luggage. Larramendy’s solution? “I love packing a light thermo insulation for warmth—and they’re designed to be stuffed into something. A Portland, Oregon company named Nau makes a down blazer, which is my all-time favorite travel piece,” she says. “It’s a really minimalist, lightly insulated down jacket, but the styling suggests otherwise. When I’m wearing it, I feel like I look more put-together than if I were wearing a puffy parka.” Larramendy also suggests bringing a vest and a jacket to layer or wear apart, depending on what you’re doing.

4. Pack Your Own Soap

Pack a bar of fragrant soap amid your clothes in your bag. “I always keep a little bar of a favorite soap in my bag, so my clothes always smell good. Especially after a while, when you get some of your worn clothes in there.” Another perk of packing a bar? You’ve got back-up soap, just in case the place you’re staying at doesn’t have it, or you’re not a fan of the scent.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all been there: You want outfit options when you go on a trip, but find yourself wearing only a few pieces over and over again. “I always, after a trip, try to assess what I didn’t wear,” explains Larramendy, “And that means I didn’t need it. I always make a mental note about it, or even write it down. If you do that, after a few trips, you’ll start to get more confident about the stuff you actually need.” Larramendy recommends to keep your options simple—lots of neutrals and solids, with accessories to dress everything up.

6. Make Your Shoes Count

Shoes are another big challenge in bag-packing. While you should be super picky when it comes to bringing kicks, it doesn’t mean you can’t make the shoes you do pack work. “On the way home, I stuff dirty clothes in my shoes to make more space for the new things I’ve acquired.” Larramendy’s reasoning is that it takes up the same amount of space, but you’re capitalizing on the empty space inside the shoes. And since you’ll be getting gifts for the holidays (we hope!), you’ll probably need it. So, start stuffing.

>>Next: The Packing Hack That Will Solve All Your Suitcase Woes

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