Travel & Packing

5 Things I Always(?) Pack

Or: How to Get Really Versatile Style in a Suitcase

Happy day, dear reader!

While talking with Mr. CP the other evening, we realized that now that November is here, we are on a runaway train until after the new year. The next six to eight weeks collapse into some kind of bizarre time tunnel with only one way out, through! Crazily, after coming up for air just after January 1st, we immediately scramble on one of our family birthday merry-go-rounds. Poor planning on our part, I know, but I had no control over my own birth date, or those of my predecessors.

That was an extremely round-about way to get to the topic of today’s post… Packing! I love to pack. For myself, and for clients. (I get to travel vicariously through them!) The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday ranks as the busiest travel weekend of the year in the U.S., closely followed by Christmas holiday travel. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to chat through some packing hints to have you ready for anything. (What anything really means is an opinion…)

Being ready for anything does not mean packing your whole wardrobe, or everything from sweats to formal wear. What it does mean is strategic packing, making sure that whatever you pack is versatile and/or adaptable. I take the items below almost anywhere, from a trip to the big city to a trip to the beach. About the only exception is a camping trip, but if we had a camper… I’d pack them all! I always pack:

1. Shawl or Large Scarf

I always take a shawl or scarf. Yes, always. Even when going to Arizona in July. Why? Airplanes can be chilly. A/C is polar-grade in many places, especially restaurants. A scarf also makes a great pillow (or blanket). Folded up it can cush your tush on a hard chair. The scarf/shawl does not go into the suitcase, it’s far more practical to have while on the road. If I don’t want to wear it, I’ll stuff it into my carry-on or tote, or tie it onto the handle. A pashmina-style scarf is one of the easiest, and plays blanket/pillow well. Blanket scarves have been popular for the past few years, and are equally practical, although not so much for warm weather destinations. If you are headed to the tropics, a pareo/sarong can make a great travel scarf! I do not recommend a precious or silk scarf; you don’t want to be crushed if it is lost or damaged.

Images from

2. Sparkly Jewels

Adding sparkle to an outfit is an easy way to take it up a level for going out. I don’t travel with my sentimental or fine pieces, because I don’t want to lose them, but high fashion jewelry? Bring it on! I even wear jewelry when we go camping… All very relaxed and not refined at all, but it’s jewelry nonetheless. I feel naked without it! A great pair of statement earrings might be one of the best “bang for your buck” accessories out there, and they certainly don’t take up much room in your suitcase. (AND colored jewelry is one great way to keep attention on your face, especially if you pack more neutral clothing!)

Images from If you need a PD jeweler, let me know… I have a few I can recommend!

3. Dressy Shoe

I frequently start packing by choosing my shoes. Yes, that may seem backwards, but it works for me! I want my feet to be comfortable, and shod for whatever the itinerary holds. I throw in a dressy pair of shoes because they can make the difference between looking like you are going for a hike, and looking like you are going on a dinner date. I am not talking about packing taxi shoes. (The ones you wear from the house to the cab, and into the restaurant. One hundred feet of walking or less.) Yours might be pointy toed metallic flats, or something with a kitten heel, but they will certainly say “special!”

These red lace pumps took my Levi’s to an unexpected dinner date and trip to the theatre in style!

4. Cardigan

Packing a cardigan is another temperature control strategy. Open is less warm than closed, closed is toasty. Tied around the shoulders in case the evening is cool or the wind picks up. And always after a long day out in the sun. Playing at the beach always leaves me chilled in the evening, even if it’s a warm one! There may be the rare occasion that I don’t pack a cardigan sweater, but even then, there will be a shirt or jacket that can be worn in the same way…

5. Clutch/Wallet

Some women I know need no more than a large wallet when they go out. If that’s you, it helps to choose a nice looking wallet, one that can double as a clutch. I pack a small zipped organizer bag in my travel tote that serves the same purpose. I can drop in the necessities and head out to a nice dinner with just my clutch. (Have you noticed the theme here? Yes, I have a food obsession. That’s what being ready for anything means… Being able to go out to a niiiiiice dinner!) Yes, you could go out with your travel tote, but that is one of 5 Common Style Mistakes… Try something smaller, and more refined.

Images from

Plus 1 makes 6. Dress

You get a packing bonus! You can see how the above pieces will really take a travel pack a lot further… (Bad pun. #sorrynotsorry) But I have a much harder time convincing women that a dress is a handy piece to take when they travel. When I travel, I don’t pack a great number of clothing items, but I always pack a dress. Unless I forget to put it in my bag. Yes, I take a dress to go camping; it will be extremely casual–the kind of dress you can wear back and forth from the showers to your campsite, or as a bathing suit cover-up. It might be denim, or jersey, but it will still be able to do church duty. Unfortunately on this trip, I forgot to pack the dress… But I didn’t end up nekkid (as my boys used to say), so it all worked out! Even a casual dress looks more put together than most casual travel options, and you can layer at will (Remember the cardigan?), and can make a darling tunic over jeans or trousers. Or layer a tee underneath. Dresses are far more versatile than many women think!

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So there you have it! Six things I always pack for a trip. I’ll do another post next week about the things I don’t bother packing… How about you? Are any of these on your must-pack list? Or have they never been in a suitcase of yours? Why or why not? Please share! I love to hear from you…

Stylishly yours,




  • jodie filogomo

    Girl, you are singing to the choir. In fact, last month we posted about our outfit we took to Alaska, and a dress was definitely one of them .I love how versatile they really are.
    And I always start packing with shoes. I try to keep it at three pairs, but once you figure those out…everything else can fall into place.

    • closetplayadmin

      Thanks for visiting, Jodie! I have a friend who says she can’t go away with any fewer than 5 pair of shoes. I don’t need quite that many, but I was distraught when I realized I forgot to pack the dress… I started a packing list (6 Pack) last night for a long weekend getaway coming up, and started with the shoes, and my Levi’s. Now I have to choose the dress, and all the rest will sort in order.

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