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The Perfect Packing List: Exactly Which 8 Items to Buy (and How to Pack Them) for Your Ideal Weekend Away

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Brent Murray

When it comes to weekends away in the summer, traveling light is key, but that can be tricky when your trip includes a variety of events and dress codes. So to solve this dilemma we’ve put together a super versatile weekend wardrobe with only eight clothing items (creating 15 outfit options — plus more when you change accessories!). Plus: Our can’t-fail tips and tricks to making sure you’re packing is efficient and you won’t be left wishing you had brought more.

What You’re Taking With You: 

First things first: Consider the fabrics you’re taking with you. Linen is a summer staple — except in a suitcase. For a low-maintenance wardrobe, avoid fabrics that wrinkle easily, such as 100 percent linen and silk (though blends aren’t as delicate). Try to stick with fabrics or blends that include lyocell, polyester, spandex and knits.

Separates are great for trips; they give you the option to mix and match, creating more outfits from fewer pieces. To make this work, make sure you stick with neutral or basic colors that mix well together. It’s also important to have a few key staples, such as denim shorts, a white shirt or a black skirt that you can wear with multiple items. The white button-up is the true key: It can be paired with basically everything you pack to create a completely different look, doubling your wardrobe. Same goes for the one-piece, as it can be worn as a body suit.

Accessories are also an easy way to change up a look of an outfit, although you don’t want to be lugging around a ton of jewelry. Taking one statement earring or necklace can really change up a look. Also, slides (or sneakers, if you don’t want to be barefoot in security) are great for the airport. If you choose to pack your sneakers instead of wearing them, you’ll want to make sure to include these Cole Haan sneakers — at 5.6 oz they’re incredibly light.

For dressier occasions, a block heeled sandal is ideal for travel — the in-between height goes with everything and eliminates the need for a high heel and a dressy flat. A straw clutch is perfect for a trip because the fabrication makes it super versatile and can be worn with both day and night looks. However, stay away from a natural straw, as it tends to look more “daytime” — a dyed straw works best when worn with evening looks.

Buy It! The Packing List:

Clothing
1.) One-Piece Swimsuit:
Solid and Striped, $158; solidandstriped.com

2.) White Button-Up:
J.Crew, $69.50; jcrew.com

3.) Off-the-Shoulder Top:
Similar: White House Black Market, $88; whitehouseblackmarket.com

4.) Tube Top:
Forever21, $14.90; forever21.com

5.) Maxi Dress:
Forever21, $14.90; forever21.com

6.) Maxi Skirt:
Old Navy, $20; oldnavy.gap.com or similar: Dana Buchman, $21.60; kohls.com

7.) High-Waisted Culottes:
Banana Republic, $98; banana republic.com or similar: Topshop, $68; us.topshop.com

8.) Jean Shorts:

Accessories
1.) Sandals:
J.Crew, $78; jcrew.com

2. ) Sneakers:
Cole Haan, $130; colehaan.com

3.) Short Block Heeled Sandals:
Steve Madden, $79.95; stevemadden.com

4.) Straw Clutch:
Similar: H&M, $9.99; hm.com

5.) Statement Earrings:
Similar: Flaca, $150; flacajewelry.com

6.) Head Wrap:
Forever21, $3.90; forever21.com

7.) Straw Hat:
Echo, $48; echodesign.com

8.) Belt:
Similar: Azalea, $29; azaleasf.com

The Beach Look: To eliminate an extra item, try tying your button up around your waist for a cool and functional coverup. A head wrap is a chic option for keeping your hair out of your face when basking in the sun and it won’t take up much space in your suitcase.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

Throw some shorts on it! You can take your beach look to the street. A one-piece swimsuit can double as a bodysuit.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

For a dressier day, an off-the-shoulder top in a dress shirt fabric paired with white sneakers can make jean shorts feel casual, but put together. Depending on how fancy you’re getting, you can swap the sneakers for the short block heeled sandals — or for an additional look, try swapping the shorts for the skirt!

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

For a more refined look, try pairing your off-the-shoulder top with a fresh pair of striped high-waisted culottes and the block heeled sandals, or wearing it with the sneakers for a low-key look. For two additional looks swap the shirt for the button-up or bodysuit.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

Pairing the culottes with the lace-trimmed tube top gives these bottoms a feminine-cool girl vibe. Either shoe will work equally well.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

A flowing maxi dress is always a good go-to for summer trips. Paired with a heel it can feel more dressed up and ready for a night on the town, or paired with a slide it’s perfect for strolling around. For a more covered up look, try trying the white button-up around your waist.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

To get the most out of your maxi, try layering the tube top over the dress. It creates an empire waist and gives the dress a totally different look.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

For a sexier evening look, try pairing the tube top with the maxi skirt. If you’re not feeling so daring and like to opt to not show skin, you can wear the skirt a little higher and pull the top down so they meet. Although these two items individually can feel more casual, the all black creates a more formal look. For a less formal evening look, try styling the swimsuit with the skirt as a body suit. It’s sexy, but has a little more of a casual vibe. For two additional looks, swap out the tube top for the bodysuit or the white button-up.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

Your skirt can double as a dress! Try belting your maxi — it’s a two in one! Just make sure your skirt is long enough and doesn’t have overly daring side slits.

packing suitcaseBrent Murray

The Packing Process:

In the name of space and avoiding wrinkles, try rolling your clothes. When rolling them, be sure not to fold them at any point. Even though once you’re finished they may seem super long, they will be thinner, which will make it easier to line them up when packing and will also prevent your clothes from wrinkling.

When arranging items within the suitcase, it’s always good to put your shoes and heavier items, such as your makeup bag or hair tools near the bottom, so when the suitcase is upright it won’t tip over or squash the items underneath them. Also, to save space, pack your chargers, headphones and any miscellaneous cords in your clutch — and to keep them untangled, try a mini hair claw to keep them neat and wrapped up (and the bonus is, you have extra hair claws, because we all know you can never have too many when traveling!).

Wait. How do I pack…?

1. How to pack your jewelry so it doesn’t end up a tangled mess.

The answer: Saran wrap! This may sound odd, but when packing your jewelry, try pulling out Saran wrap, laying down a few necklaces or earrings, then rolling them into layers. Your necklaces and earrings won’t move — it makes it super easy when unpacking and also is easy to fold into little nooks in your suitcase.

2. How to pack your straw beach hat.

The answer: Make an outline around the border of your suitcase with rolled clothing items. Depending on the size of the hat, you can make a base layer across the entire bottom of the suitcase, then place the hat upside down in the middle of the suit case and then continue to place rolled clothing items around it, building a cushion for your hat! Pack small items (socks, jewelry, makeup bag) inside the hat to help it hold its shape.

The Extras: The Perfect (Non-Clothing) Packing List

1.) Travel candle: An unusual item, but one you’ll be happy you’ll have to have. Traveling can sometimes not go as planned and you never know when your space might need a little refresh.

2.) A bar of soap or dryer sheets: They are great for keeping your suitcase and clothes smelling fresh.

3.) Dust bags: key for packing for your shoes. They keep your clothes separated from gross germs on the bottom of your shoes and prevent your shoes from getting scuffed.

4.) Two pairs of sunnies: When traveling you never want to be without sunglasses (and there’s no nicer thing to do than lend your friend a pair when she loses hers!)

5.) Laundry Bags: They take up very little room for how handy they are. Perfect for keeping your dirty laundry consolidated and separate.

6.) An extra plastic bag or two: It’s always smart to keep a few plastic bags on deck and in a variety of sizes. They’re perfect for the cosmetics that start to leak or your damp swimsuit.

7.) An clean contact lens case: If you don’t want to bring an entire bottle or tube of your favorite under eye cream or moisturizer, fill the contact case with your go-to lotions for a convenient, travel-size portion.

8.) Hair claw for keeping chargers organized.

Tips For Those Of You Who Check Your Bag:

If you’re checking your roller, there are a few items you might want to make sure are in your carry-on, because you never know what’s going to happen with checked luggage. These tightly rolled Hanky Panky undies are great to carry on, just to be safe — and always keep your toothbrush with you!

The Suitcase of Choice:

This roller is TSA approved for carry-on and has special technology. It’s perfect for the girl who is on the go. It’s waterproof, incredibly durable and has two built-in USB chargers, so you’ll never be left with a dead phone. It also has an integrated scale, so you’ll never have to pay extra at check-in and a built-in proximity sensor, so you know exactly when it’s coming down the baggage carousel.

Buy It! Raden The A22 Carry, $295; raden.com

What’s your pro packing tip? Tell us below!

— Sarah Ball