33 In Travel Packing

How to take the stress out of travel packing when every outfit counts

AICI Global Conference

Sarah and Sue and I have become great friends through AICI


Attending the AICI Global Conference is a thrill. The anticipation leading up to great classes, seeing old friends (like Sarah and Sue above who attended a training I delivered in 2008 in London), and making new friends is intense—almost as intense as the panic of what to wear for four days in rooms filled with image consultants, stylists, and wardrobe consultants from around the world.

No, really, take a minute to picture being with three hundred mostly-women in fashion and image careers from 8:30 in the morning until at least 9 p.m. every night for four complete days and nights. Every outfit better count!

My colleagues were posting their racks of potential outfits on Facebook. They, like me, were panicking and considering starting over with a whole new wardrobe.

The only way to calm myself down was to follow the 10 tried-and-true steps I use to prepare my clients for travel. Here they are.


Start planning your professional wardrobe way early

1. Check the weather. You may not go outside, but you must be prepared to fit into the general season of the city you’re visiting, in this case, Chicago. Know that regardless of the weather, you’ll need to dress for the hotel temperature. That means scarves and shawls in case the air-conditioning is cranked up high.

2. How do you want to be perceived on this business trip? Take time to think about the message your outfits are sending. Here’s what I wanted:

I want to look stylish, creative, fun, accomplished, and approachable. Plus, I want to feel totally comfortable in each outfit.


Travel planning

I’d feel totally comfortable in these pieces

3. Start gathering contenders and pull them out of your closet. Yes, isolate them so you can look at them for a few days in your comings and goings and get a feel for whether you want to bring them. Since you’re only there for specific days and a specific purpose, each outfit has to count. You may be checking your bags but you still don’t want to overpack. Keep it simple so you don’t have to think.


Choosing travel outfits

These passed the YES test


Travel packing

Maybe, maybe not


4. Try each potential outfit on and view it in a full-length mirror. Do you have everything you need? Perhaps you realize you’re missing specific undergarments, a handbag, or a conference tote. Maybe you need a specific shoe style to add polish to your outfit. Best to discover those missing pieces a couple of weeks early so you have time to ‘finish’ each outfit.


Wardrobe Travel Chart

Record every detail


5. Once you’ve decided on the outfits, record every single detail on a travel chart. (Click here for a copy of the travel charts I use and instructions for using them.) If you want to take a picture instead, lay every outfit with the shoes, wrap, and accessories on the floor or on your bed and shoot it from above. Take closeup shots if you need to capture details. Do not skip this step! Once it’s on paper or in a photo, you’ve committed. Once you’ve committed, peace of mind is five inches away.


Packing for travel

Gathering shoes


6. Designate a spot where you start placing all the non-outfit items that are going with you: jammies, undies, shoes, toiletries, makeup. If you have a travel checklist, check these off your list as you gather them.

7. Gather your jewels. You may be checking a piece of luggage but you’ll always bring your jewelry with you in your carryon. Pack them gently in pouches so they’re easy to slip into your bag on the day of travel. Check and recheck that you have all the jewels you need!


Outfits are “packed” on a hanger and covered in plastic


8. Organize the pieces of each individual outfit on a single flocked hanger. Four outfits = four hangers, if possible. Be sure you have a thin plastic bag that will fit over the individual outfits. I recycle dry cleaning bags for this purpose. Also, decide on your travel outfit and hang that on the rack as well.



9. The morning of your trip, you will have most of your suitcase already packed. The last thing you’re putting into your suitcase is those precious well put together outfits you’ll be wearing. Pull them off your portable rack—or wherever you have them isolated—and fold them in half or thirds in your suitcase. The easy folds of each individual outfit covered in plastic will keep your outfits wrinkle-free or very close to it.


Travel packing

Outfits are ready to wear, didn’t need to press a thing


10. Once you get to your hotel, open up your suitcase, pull out the outfits on hangers and hang them up. You have a plan for what you’re wearing each day and each outfit is all ready for you. You planned your outfits and now it’s time to enjoy your colleagues and educational sessions stress-free.


Reporting in on my wardrobe plan

So how did my wardrobe plan work out in real life? At the last minute, I changed my travel outfit. I had planned on something more casual but decided to wear a more pulled together, professional outfit instead. If need be, it would be my just-in-case outfit for a day at the conference. I got off the plane in Chicago, grabbed an Uber, and entered the foyer of the hotel with my suitcase, and ran right into Lyn Slater, the Accidental Icon—our keynote speaker for the first morning.

Within five minutes I was accepting an invitation to have dinner with Lyn. There’s a lot more to that story that I’ll share in an upcoming post. Just know how relieved I was that I’d worn a polished outfit to travel in. In our over two hours of accidental private time together, I never once worried about what I was wearing.


Day 1: I wore the yellow/gold jacket outfit

I woke up in the morning and followed my plan to wear my yellow/gold silk Lilith creative and approachable jacket and my Etro gold striped blouse, tucked in to wide-legged pants. Easy peasy.


Big hugs from my friend Evelyn from Syndey, Australia


Lyn Slater and Brenda Kinsel

Visiting with Lyn Slater after her keynote


Day 2: I changed things up

I woke up in the morning and felt like wearing narrow pants. That meant I’d wear my Artful Home Harper jacket and my grid Vince black and white sweater. I love the pattern mix! I’d planned it for Sunday but that’s the beauty of making a plan in the first place—you get to change it on a whim!


Meeting a new friend, Marilyn, from Louisville


Day 3: Wearing my pleated navy silk skirt and velvet ribbon tied flats

Again, this was a changeup. I felt like gliding all day in my swishy Per Se navy silk skirt. I liked pairing it with a modern neoprene Banana Republic top with bows on the sides. Bows were echoed in my patent leather flats with velvet bows. A column of navy makes my heart sing!


Another new friend, Naana Badu, from Brooklyn-two very different style personalities


Night 3: The Gala

I rarely get this dressed up. My Sonoma lifestyle doesn’t call for it. But it sure was fun wearing my soft gold sequined sheath dress and the coordinating leather shimmer jacket. I usually put this dress on a mannequin next to the widescreen TV for our Oscar Party. I’ve worn it a couple of other times to galas. Rather than go out and try to find a new formal dress, I shopped for a pair of shoes to wear with the one I had. My gold sandals are by AGL. I wore them to my daughter’s baby shower a couple of weeks ago with white pants and a pink gingham shirt.


New friends from Asia


Day 4: A full day of studying and an evening of saying goodbye

On Sunday, the final day, I wore what I’d originally planned to wear on Saturday. I made a last minute decision to wear my jeans with it and not my slim black pants. It felt like a jean kind of day!

Here I am speaking with our keynote speaker of the day, Nena Ivon, a fashion director and blogger with tales for days. The person taking our photo loved our colorful pattern mixes.

I’m wearing the Etro blouse I wore on the first day with my Etro jacket. This lively print was an energy-booster for me and my classmates. Four very full days and nights were coming to a close.



A packer with a plan

So that’s how I plan trips for me and clients! After a recent trip, my grateful client told me how everything went perfectly and her wardrobe was a hit. She said, “I think I need to give you a gift equal to my appreciation. How about a trip around the world?” We had a fun giggle. But after this trip where I was the client and the professional, I know firsthand how wonderful it is to plan ahead so you never have to worry about your wardrobe.

If you’re a traveler, you’re in for a treat. Seven bloggers are talking about the subject of stylish travel and we’ve all posted our blog posts at the same time. So jump from mine to any of the others and get their unique take on the subject! The list of bloggers and their subjects is below.



Blogging travel experts!

I’d love to hear about your travel experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly! Do you have tips to add for traveling with outfits rather than mix and match pieces? We all want to hear!


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  • Reply
    CINDY hattersley
    April 18, 2019 at 7:31 am

    This was such an informative post. I take the time to put the outfits together but don’t group them together when I pack. Hence I forget what I was planning to wear with what! We are getting ready for a short getaway to Sedona. I am definately using your plan! Thanks for joining us Brenda. You always have such great input!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks, Cindy. More and more I really have to use my grids and write it down. What’s brilliant about them is that once you’ve committed it to paper, you never have to think again! I put my wardrobe chart in my carryon bag. It’s always close to me. Thanks for including me in this great bunch of travelers!

  • Reply
    April 18, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Where can I buy the gold sequined sheath dress and the coordinating leather shimmer jacket. it’s a must have!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      My question, too! Such a gorgeous, tasteful outfit.

      • Reply
        April 19, 2019 at 12:14 pm

        It’s most likely double digits old. It’s by Per Se. So glad I bought it when I did. It seemed like such a splurge at the time!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      I was talking to my friend about this outfit. We were trying to remember how many years I’ve owned it. At least seven years, but could be as long ago as 2006. Long answer to your question: I don’t think you’ll find it anywhere! But it’s by Per Se.

  • Reply
    April 18, 2019 at 9:21 am

    I laid out my outfits for the FIRST TIME EVER two weeks before I left on my last overseas trip!IT worked beautifully!Just like you I deleted and made multiple outfits with the chosen clothes.I have never packed HANGERS HOWEVER……….so I learned something NEW!
    What fun running into LYN!
    This is such a small world this internet THING!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      You’re so right about the small world with the internet. It was so accidental and so gratifying, Elizabeth. We’ll have to get together and chat!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Pickett
    April 18, 2019 at 9:47 am

    That grid you made for travel packing is awesome. You look so polished in each outfit!! Can’t decide which outfit I like best. So well done. We knew you would be perfect for Stylish Travel. Thanks, Brenda!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks, Mary Ann! With clients, I will use that grid and make one sheet for daytime outfits and one sheet for nighttime outfits. They’re so handy to use!
      Thanks for inviting me to share my travel tips! It’s a great group!

  • Reply
    Heather Lindstrom
    April 18, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Love this post, Brenda! I hang my outfits like you to be sure they ‘play well together’ but I love your idea of packing them together as well. Your packing grids are fabulous! Like you, I travel to dressy events for luxury travel and it is essential to check my luggage. I’ve learned what to pack in a carry-on to make it through IF my luggage doesn’t arrive (Lake Como event – 6 long days! UGH!). Such fun to connect again over our Stylish Travel Blogger group today.
    Curated Travel

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks, Heather. I like your term ‘playing well together’. For this event type of trip, I realized I had different goals in mind than other travels. It almost made it easier to pack because of that! But wow, packing is always a challenge. So enjoyed your tips! Hey everybody, check out Heather’s tips on curatedtravel.net.

  • Reply
    April 18, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Very thoughtful tips for an organized approach to what can seem a daunting task. I always like options when I dress and usually have 2 outfits daily that I can choose from to wear. Outfit A is the preferred outfit and B is if I wake up fat, tired (still) or out of sorts. When traveling I choose 3 colors that repeat and mix well amongst each thing I take so I can still have an A and B choice even without my full closet. Best… Kathy

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:16 pm

      Gosh, if I was packing extra outfits for waking up still tired, I’d have brought a whole other suitcase. I was so tired by the end of that conference. Not much sleeping going on. I sure do like your thoughts on packing, Kathy.

  • Reply
    Vivian Harrington
    April 18, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    I just ordered my first Artful Home outfit. Thanks for the recommendation

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Yay, Vivian! I hope you love their pieces as much as I do!

  • Reply
    April 19, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Great post and such good suggestions. What are your go-to narrow black pants?

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks, Deborah. They are by Lafayette. I bought them at least two years ago. I don’t think they carry this cut anymore. Gosh, I love them!

      • Reply
        April 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm

        I LOVE Lafayette NY. Always a win and I wear them forever!

        • Reply
          April 26, 2019 at 5:48 pm

          I love that line as well. It works so well on a couple of my clients. Those pants of mine have been spectacular! Keep enjoying your pieces!

  • Reply
    Lianne MacGregor
    April 19, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Great article. Would love to know more about your black lace-up shoes. Thanks!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      Lianne, they’re by Rosa Mosa and I got them at my daughters’ consignment store, nearly new. So comfortable!

  • Reply
    Susan B.
    April 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Oh, I can’t imagine the pressure of packing an Image Consultant conference! Makes me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it… Your solutions, especially creating outfits in advance and packing together, are brilliant!

    • Reply
      April 26, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      That’s high praise coming from the Queen of Packing. Thanks, Susan!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Gosse
    April 20, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Brenda, this post was chock full of info, great ideas and interesting stories!
    First off, being a lover of organization, why oh why have I never thought of packing with the chart you provided and gave examples of? So genius!
    And LOVE the fact that you caved to every women’s prerogative: that of changing her mind! And her outfit! No rigidity here! Freedom!
    And the stories of your trip are full of fun, friends and fashion! LOVE your vintage sparkley sheath! You look fab! And I love that you hang onto favorite pieces instead of wearing only new clothes each year!
    I love this blog! And you Brenda! Congrats on the newly expected grand baby!
    Liz from CT

    • Reply
      April 26, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      And I love your comments! I love the recap you’ve provided. It really was a trip of fun, friends, and fashion and being who I am, what could be better? I truly do love wearing clothes that have been in my closet being appreciated by me for years. Thanks, Liz. You’re so kind!

  • Reply
    April 21, 2019 at 1:47 am

    […] “How to Take the Stress Out of Packing When Every Outfit Counts” by Brenda Kinsel […]

  • Reply
    Cindy L
    April 22, 2019 at 4:25 am

    Looks like you had a marvelous trip! How wonderful you looked too. Thanks for these travel tips.

    • Reply
      April 26, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      You bet, Cindy!

  • Reply
    Sandra Sallin - Apart From My Art
    April 22, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Really? You pack your clothes on hangers? You must show us the hangers. I use those really thin hangers but yours are padded. Never thought of putting outfits together. I just imagined them in my head. I’ve been using packing cubes and folding everything into them.
    But your showing jee a new way.Do you have a plan that you always use? Like how many pants and tops for a week? How many for a weekend? I always to take too much and wind up wearing way less. Still hasn’t helped me.l

    • Reply
      April 26, 2019 at 5:41 pm

      Sandra, the hangers I use are those same slim flocked ones that you’re probably using. Mine look padded because they have all the pieces of each outfit on the hanger. So it would be the sweater, pant, and jacket on one hanger. Or the top and skirt on one hanger. Or pant, blouse, and jacket on one hanger. I needed outfits for four days so I just planned those specific outfits. It being an image consultant conference, I focused on outfits and not number of pants, etc. On “normal” trips I do fill out my wardrobe chart with outfits and I naturally end up using three or four bottoms and then adding the tops and limiting the jackets. But I don’t work with a specific number. I often love certain pieces at a time so I always pack things I love. Does that help?

  • Reply
    La semaine d'une gourmette
    April 23, 2019 at 2:49 am

    I ‘ve been packing for years (since I was 20 actually) using the “everything must go with everything” formula : 2 or 3 colours, playing well together, 3 pairs of shoes, which go with every single outfit (except for trekking-like trips, then one pair of shoes is specific), and every single top must look nice with every single skirt and trousers. It’s quite restrictive, but actually works well. As I love black, one of the 3 colours is always black, then I can have fun with a jewel colour to go with 😉

    • Reply
      April 26, 2019 at 5:37 pm

      Brilliant! It may sound restrictive, but isn’t it freeing?

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