23 In Wardrobe Wellness

Don’t get tripped up over travel packing


cupcakes for Dad's church party on Brenda Kinsel website

Planning an exciting trip to celebrate Dad’s 90th birthday


Packing clients for trips is one of my favorite things to do. Why? Well, it’s one of the most dreaded things a woman faces regarding her wardrobe so if I can take that worry away…well, nothing feels better than that!


Two strategies


When I’m planning a trip wardrobe for a client, I work with two basic strategies.

If it’s for a vacation, I’ll use the Travel Wardrobe Charts and create a chart of daytime outfits and create one for nighttime outfits. We designate a section of their closet to hold the things they’ll be taking with them so packing is carefree. When they reach their destination, they can look at their charts and pick whatever outfit they feel like wearing knowing that all the pieces are with them.

With trips where special events are planned like a destination wedding or a business conference, I plan out specific outfits for each important day or night. I’ll plan some lounging outfits for them to relax in or some casual outfits to wear if they get time to sightsee on their own. Everything goes on the Travel Wardrobe Charts so they don’t have to think.

I recently packed myself for a six-day trip filled with special events. Dad was turning 90 and we had three different parties planned for him on three separate days. The parties weren’t in ballrooms or anything but I wanted to be dressed in outfits that honored and respected this huge event even if they were fairly casual.

Want to come watch me pack? I’ll take you into my home in Sonoma and show you how I packed for this trip. Maybe one idea will help you take the stress out of packing the next time you’re traveling.


Start putting the puzzle pieces together


In order to figure out what to take with me, I have a list of questions to address. If I’m leaving on Thursday I’ll sort it out throughout the week prior to traveling. I don’t ever want to be making decisions on Wednesday night for a Thursday morning flight. I want to be getting my beauty rest!

Here’s what I need answers to.

  1. What will the weather be like?
  2. What activities do I need outfits for?
  3. What will be my traveling day outfit?
  4. What do I need in my carry on?
  5. What will I bring for reading material?
  6. What documents do I want to bring in case I get a chance to forward a project I’m working on?
  7. Is there something I’m bringing for people at my destination?



I think one of the hardest things about planning a trip wardrobe is truly imagining how to dress for temperatures you’re not used to. When I was heading to my dad’s 90 birthday party celebration at the end of January, I was hoping for weather that would be above zero. I’ve visited in January when the temperatures never strayed far from -18 degrees (Fahrenheit). There’s a lot more wardrobe freedom when temperatures are 18 or above rather than -18 and wind. I got lucky this time. We were going to have good weather! I still brought my puffy knee-length down coat, cashmere lined gloves, a wool hat and layers. But I also brought my walking shoes and planned to get a couple of walks in.



Turning 90 is a big deal and one party wasn’t going to be enough! We needed three of them.

Friday: Dad’s birthday party at Briarwood, the assisted living place in Perham, MN where he’s been staying since November

Saturday: Dad’s birthday party at the lake house on Dead Lake with the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids

Sunday: Dad’s birthday party after church services at United Methodist Church in Dent, MN

Bonus Monday: Visiting with the newspaper reporter from the Detroit Lakes Tribune who won first prize in the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest for her story about Dad and the bracelet that was found in a landfill a couple of weeks after Mom died last year. Mom had given it to him on his birthday in 1951 and inscribed it with “Love, Girlie.” It’s one of those amazing “How did this happen?” stories. What better way to top off his parties, right?


Planning outfits


I planned out each of the party outfits. Once I decid what I’m going to wear I write it down on my Travel Wardrobe Chart and then I start building it on a hanger.


4 steps to putting an outfit together for traveling on Brenda Kinsel website

Building one outfit per hanger


This outfit above is what I planned to wear to church on Sunday and to brunch afterwards. I pack the entire outfit on a flocked thin hanger. Here’s my process.

  1. I start with the accessories. I hang the scarf across the bar and the beaded tasseled long pendant over the hanger.
  2. I add my layering pieces. In this case it’s a cement colored tank.
  3. Next comes my ruched charcoal gray shimmery Etcetera t-shirt.
  4. The last piece is my deep mushroom colored leather and knit Per Se jacket. I’d wear the black pants I traveled in with my black boots.


Keeping wrinkles out by adding dry cleaning page

I put dry cleaning bags over each outfit


When I have each outfit packed on its own hanger I slip a dry cleaning bag over the top. This keeps the pieces from wrinkling and makes it easy to fold them over and slip them into the suitcase. When I arrive at the lake house I just pull the hangers out and hang them in the upstairs closet.

Once I have the important events planned, I figure out what to wear while hanging around the house, cooking, visiting with friends and neighbors, going out to dinner or taking walks. Those items go at the bottom of my suitcase: jeans, warm socks, a sweater, a cardigan and a long-sleeved t-shirt, jammies and underwear, walking shoes and my caramel colored Lucky Brand booties. I had these everyday outfit pieces packed and in the suitcase by Monday.


Cosmetics and skin care get packed on Brenda Kinsel website

Everything I need for my face is ready to go.


Around Tuesday I checked my skin care bag to be sure my little containers were topped off with product. My makeup bag doesn’t go into the suitcase until the morning I leave. I don’t have a separate travel set of makeup although if I was doing more frequent traveling, I would.

Thursday morning my bag is packed except for the outfits hanging on the knobs of the pie shelf in my office. I’ve kept my bag in my office during the week as I gathered things and of course, that’s where Bella slept day and night. I scoot Bella off the suitcase so I can fold my bagged outfits over three times, hangers and all, lay them on top and zip the suitcase closed.


Folding outfits into the suitcase on Brenda Kinsel website



Flight essentials in carry-on


I bring a small to medium crossbody bag for traveling. In addition I have a carry on bag with my inflight essentials.

I carry on:

Day time and night time medications and vitamins in little round clear containers marked Day and Night

My iPad (in the polka dot bag) and chargers

An extra pair of prescription glasses

My Morning Pages notebook (if it’s an early flight)

My red sleeve protector with flight documents, loose papers that I may be editing or reviewing on the plane

A book

My irreplaceable jewelry

Snacks (apple, string cheese, my homemade trail mix)


Packing the carry on on Brenda Kinsel website

I pack much of the carry on the day before I leave



In addition, I use my travel jacket, complete with four pockets, to store the things I’m likely to use during the flight.


Jacket pockets for flight days on Brenda Kinsel website

I love having pockets!



The travel day outfit


The travel day outfit is really important. I want to be comfortable whether the plane is warm or cold. I want to look nice in case anyone asks me what I do for a living (and because that’s how I like to travel). One outfit can perform the same duties both ways.


One outfit does double duty for travel days on Brenda Kinsel website

The same outfit for travel days from San Francisco to Fargo and back again


On this trip I wore:

A long-sleeved black Cuddl Dud Tee for warmth under my lighter weight black and white striped J&J sweater

My silver themed jewelry Beauty Bundle

My quilted, multi-pocketed lightweight Per Se moto jacket

My cashmere striped scarf

My Ponte knit Michael Kors black pants

My black Ecco mid-calf boots

My big puffy coat which turns into my lap blanket on the plane

Cashmere fingerless gloves



Having layers to stay warmer or cooler on the plane on Brenda Kinsel website

Hello from the air!


The flight on the way was warm, the flight on the way home was cool but I was totally comfortable both ways.


Party outfit is ready to wear on Brenda Kinsel website

Once the planning and packing is done, it’s time to party!


There it is! Everything was fabulous. The parties were a hit. Dad was happy, happy, happy. I even found one of Dad’s vintage Allis-Chalmers windbreakers in the upstairs closet and wore it over my orange sweater and scarf. The weather was so mild on his birthday I didn’t even need a warm coat.

I wish you ease the next time you go traveling and consider using the Travel Wardrobe Charts. Like they say about all details, writing them down gives you peace of mind and who couldn’t use more of that while traveling these days!


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  • Reply
    February 23, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Great advice! I’ve got two trips coming up and I’ll be planning with the travel wardrobe charts!

    • Reply
      February 23, 2016 at 8:14 am

      Thrilled to hear this about using the charts. They have been a lifesaver for sure! My charts go into my carryon bag when I’m checking bags. For a client who had a husband in a famous rock band, I did the charts for her, she had them with her on their European tour and the luggage was lost. A bonus of using the travel wardrobe charts is that she had everything she needed to document the loss with the insurance company. More benefits!

  • Reply
    Karen Antonowicz
    February 23, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Great advice and charts, Brenda! You looked gorgeous in those photos, too! I have a trip to San Diego coming up in May, so I’ll be sure to use the charts.

    • Reply
      February 23, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Peace of mind is heading your way, Karen!

  • Reply
    Nancy Molstad
    February 23, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Just returned from a car trip to Minneapolis. Car trips get disorganized really quickly–“a place for everything and everything in it’s place” goes right out the window, along with any intentions of eating healthy snacks or meals.

    Airplane trips demand a certain amount of self-discipline, but car trips seem to disintegrate into a mess-fest on wheels with “It must be in the trunk” as the official mantra. I still haven’t figured out what to keep nearby (I’m usually the navigator) and what can go into the trunk. We don’t have kids to bring along unless you count my husband’s 81-year-old mother who is a cutie-pie (people tell me this, so it must be true! 😉 ).

    Your advice has served me well over the years, Brenda, and I will apply your wisdom to my situation to make car trips less stressful!

    P.S. Did you see any ice houses on the lakes? Surprisingly, I did! =80

    • Reply
      February 23, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      You’re right, car trips do allow for some spreading out! I keep a basket in my car that has the things I want to grab. When it’s not in the car, things get ugly fast! And YES!!!! Yes on the ice houses on Dead Lake and I was going to add this to the post but it was warm enough that I was able to walk across the frozen lake to a little island out on the horizon that we always boat around in the summer. It’s about a 4 mile back and forth from the island. I was so happy! I’ve only been able to do it twice before. It’s a dream come true!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    These travel charts are wonderful, Brenda! If I had used them many years ago when I forgot to pack all my underwear when going on a cruise, I wouldn’t have gone for 10 days with only 1 extra pair! I certainly learned my lesson….write it all down and check it off when putting in the suitcase!

    • Reply
      February 23, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      O-h–d-e-a-r!!! That must have been an unpleasant discovery, Marj! Last year when my younger brother had a heart attack, my sister-in-law packed a bag for herself and traveled the 60-90 minutes or so where my brother was going to be getting care. She grabbed a week’s worth of bras (yes, seven of them) but forgot her panties. She ended up buying some. Not too possible I imagine while on a cruise!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I’m going to try the hanger method of packing. I do use a similar method when I pack special occasion outfits in my hanging bag.
    Now that most trips are by car, I have to make sure I don’t add the kitchen sink, just in case. Somehow at age 18 I traveled around Japan for several weeks with just a (large) backpack. Yesterday I took a almost a backpack’s worth of stuff with me for a day trip to Sonoma. Once the temperature dropped I needed long pants instead of crops, socks and booties instead of sandals, a warm scarf, and a jacket too.

    • Reply
      February 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      Oh gosh, I’m chuckling at this. Isn’t it so true? How did we do it back then?? I hope your Sonoma visit was great once you got bundled up! I love learning about the difficulty with road trips. I’m going to have to think this through and see if I have any helpful hints. Thanks for this share!!

  • Reply
    February 24, 2016 at 6:46 am

    I love that you can do your Morning Pages on a plane. I need complete quiet to do mine, so I do them before everyone else gets up!

    • Reply
      February 24, 2016 at 8:27 am

      That’s exactly when I do them too, Rebecca! All alone, usually around sunrise. But actually, if I’m leaving at sunrise to catch a plane, Morning Pages is my treat once I get on the plane and it’s just me and my window seat. It gives me time to reflect about the destination I’m going to. All the packing and planning is behind me and now I get to just exhale and focus ahead. I often set some intentions during my writing that helps me steer the days ahead. Always love finding another person who does Morning Pages!

      • Reply
        February 24, 2016 at 10:07 am

        Agreed! I too love finding someone else who does Morning Pages.

  • Reply
    Dana Lynch
    November 6, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Brenda, this is genius! I’ve learned all about travel charts from you and love them. I help clients pack for trips at times and these tips will help me refine my process a bit more, being all the more valuable. I especially like the way you pack the special outfits on the hangers and put them in the suitcase. I think I will gift some clients with those hangers for that express purpose. Thank you!!

    • Reply
      November 8, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      What a great idea, Dana, to gift those hangers! I have some extras right now and could easily put a ribbon around them and leave them with my clients who travel a lot. I still LOVE that way of packing and continue to do it that way. Great to hear from you!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Dear Brenda, I just discovered you and think you’re great–a class act! Travel packing and travel are 2 of my obsessions. Your jacket is amazing. Per Se is the brand? Thank you for writing smart and useful content.

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Thanks so much, Kerri for your kind words! I do have Travel Wardrobe Charts on my website if you want to download one to help you organize outfits for your next trip. I use them all the time with my clients when we do trip packing…and with myself! But since traveling and travel packing is your obsession, you could probably teach me a thing or two!

  • Reply
    Jan F
    March 10, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for all the tips. I car travel more than fly, but the strategy is similar. I’m from Fargo (now in Oakmont near you) and have flown there many times and the temps there are stunning in winter. Also distantly related to the Allis side of Allis-Chalmers! The Travel Wardrobe Charts are amazing.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Let’s get together Jan! Would love to hear about your Fargo connection and Allis-Chalmers too! Glad you like and use the travel wardrobe charts. I can’t go anywhere without them. It’s so fun to talk to someone from Fargo!

      • Reply
        Jan F
        May 18, 2018 at 10:05 pm

        I’m sorry I missed this until now. I did not get a notification of your reply. But I’m in Carlsbad, CA, visiting family now. And this Travel packing post came up in my Pinterest feed again. The story of the bracelet had me in tears! I would love to have coffee sometime in Sonoma- my bank is there near the Square, so I go there frequently.

  • Reply
    Patricia Hornbeck
    March 6, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    I’m in the process of planning my wardrobe for Athens & the Greek Islands. I’ve been reading up on the etiquette and dress for May 1st. Unfortunately most of the packing list recommendations are for very young people and I am seventy five (not that I feel old).
    I do like the idea of the charts as we will be gone for 12 days and most of the clothing I will be taking will need to double up to make other outfits.
    I want to get this done so I can relax and enjoy reading up on the sites.
    I think I worry too much about whether I have the right clothes or whether I have the right shoes for comfort & style. If you have any other idea let me know.
    Planning is the key! Right!
    Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Dede Harrison
    May 9, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Loved your article and organization. I feel like this is the missing puzzle piece to travel organization. I usually make a list of what to wear daily etc., but this travel chart helps organize it way better!!! Mahalo (Thank you in Hawaiian).

    • Reply
      May 9, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      You’re welcome! I’ve used these for years and they never fail me!

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