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Confessions Of An Overpacker

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I’m the type of person who packs five pairs of shoes (at least!) for a three-day trip, travels with all of my jewelry, rather than a small selection, and thinks that bringing just one handbag for an entire vacation is blasphemy. I plan outfits for each day, and then throw in a couple other options “just in case.” On more than one occasion, a TSA employee has watched my bag go through security and remarked “Wow, a lot going on in there, huh?” Meanwhile, I’m standing there wondering how I’m the only one whose carry-on is reserved just for accessories.

It’s no surprise, then, that packing for essentially one month of traveling felt daunting. My sabbatical (a perk of working at Refinery29 for four years) started at the beginning of May, and beyond planning every detail of the trip, knowing what to bring proved to be the most difficult. Because when you’re into fashion and planning out your looks day by day, it can be tough to distinguish what’s actually necessary to bring on a trip, and what’s not.

My packing plan was as follows: Start early, tear my apartment to shreds, and hope my one large checked suitcase and one normal-sized backpack could get the job done. But after visiting about 13 cities in just over 30 days, I still came home with outfits and accessories that hadn’t been touched. So while I was proud of my packing restraint (yes, there was a moment I contemplated bringing two roller-bags), I still learned (yet again) that I could always pack less and lighter.

To save any fellow overpackers the headache I had and mistakes I made lugging my stuff up and down stairs and across train platforms, I’m breaking down what I did and didn’t wear on my adventures. It’s not to say any of the pieces I didn’t wear are bad or won’t ever be worn, but when packing for a month of walking, exploring new cities, and eating more than normal (hey, when in Rome!), there are some things that can wait until you get back home.

What I Wore: Grandpa Sneakers
There’s a reason when you picture a tourist, you picture them wearing really chunky sneakers. They’re the best option for long days on foot, and luckily, now they’re in “fashion.” It’s a win-win.

Acne Studios Beige Manhattan Sneakers,$470, available at SSENSE.

What I Didn’t: Heels That Don’t Go With Everything
As much as I love these shoes, they didn’t get worn much. I was always more comfortable in something else (or just opted for my nude heels), and these ended up being a superfluous pair that floated from city to city without a real purpose. Note to self: It’s better to weed out these types of before you leave the country (but I will be wearing them this summer around the city).

Samantha Pleet, $250, available at Samantha Pleet

What I Wore: Everything Athleisure
Taking a sabbatical at the same time bike shorts were trending was the best possible scenario. Breathable, on-point, and comfortable for walking, I could wear these for days.

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Pretty Little Thing Basic Black Bike Shorts, $8, available at Pretty Little Thing.

What I Didn’t: Anything Overly Fussy
In everyday life, I’m all about a ruffled, puffy-sleeved, eyelet-lace blouse. Unfortunately, these ended up sitting at the bottom of my suitcase (hey, they’re not the most practical for countless pasta and pizza meals).

Storets, $62, available at Storets

What I Wore: Easy Dresses
You know when you plan to be up at 8 a.m. but accidentally sleep in until 11 on your only day to explore a certain city? That’s when you throw on one of these — a dress that can go right from your suitcase to your body without any steaming, styling, or second thoughts.

Urban Outfitters Bella Ribbed Knit Bodycon Midi Dress, $49, available at Urban Outfitters.

What I Didn’t: Dresses I Had To Be “In The Mood For”
To be honest, this dress is lovely, but I have no idea what occasion I thought I’d be wearing it to. Of course, it’s fun to dress up for a dinner or two on vacation, but the occasion never presented itself. Maybe next time…

findersKEEPERS, $160, available at BNKR

What I Wore: Pieces That Were More Conservative
When you’re not sure what temple or church you may be wandering into as the days progress, in true tourist fashion, it’s better to err on the conservative side. From Japan to Rome, I kept my shoulders and knees covered whenever possible.

Midnight Circus Gingham Wrap Dress, $188, available at W Concept.

What I Didn’t Wear: Quasi-Lingerie
There’s a time and a place for a bra top. Maybe for you that’s any time and any place — all the power to you. But when I’m already sticking out like a sore thumb on a packed train in a foreign country, I don’t exactly feel comfortable only partially clothed.

Forever 21, $12.9, available at Forever 21

What I Wore: Backpacks & Fanny Packs
It’s a challenge for someone who’s loves a good basket bag or extra-mini crossbody to get behind a practical travel bag, but the happy medium does exist — and this transparent backpack got more mileage on my trip than I even expected it to. It perfectly held my wallet, camera, sunglasses, souvenirs, snacks, drinks, and anything else I accumulated throughout the day.

Shop Similar:

KARA Small Straw Backpack, $350, available at KARA.

What I Didn’t: Beaded Bags & Novelty Clutches
Not only is it nearly impossible to logically pack a fragile, ornately-shaped clutch, but the number of times it will get worn just doesn’t make it worth bringing. Though I had ever intention of wearing the 3D seashell-shaped bag I packed, it just didn’t happen.

The Vintage Ave., $225, available at Etsy

What I Wore: Outfits That Styled Themselves
Suits and jumpsuits were fair game because they require pretty much no thought. I’m all about mixing and matching, but when traveling, a one-and-done look really can’t be beat.

Musier Nana Jumpsuit, $162, available at Musier.

What I Didn’t: Extra Add-Ons
One neutral belt was a necessity, but anything beyond that stayed zipped up in the side pocket, forgotten and unnecessary (sorry, chain belts and corsets).

Tibi, $395, available at Tibi

What I Did Wear: Sensible Flats
At home, you can regularly find me in a low block heel. But on the road, I brought a pair of flat Mary Jane’s that were a great alternative to sneakers.

Urban Outfitters Leather Mary Jane Flat,$19, available at Urban Outfitters.

What I Didn’t: Flats That Pretended To Be Sensible But Weren’t
I scooped up a pair of espadrilles in Japan I swore would be a life-saver on the rest of my trip, but they were deceiving. Though they looked comfortable, they were too tight, difficult to walk in, and left blisters on the tops and backs of my feet. My suggestion? Go with the shoes you already know, instead of taking chances on a yet-to-be-broken-in pair.

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Manebi, $125, available at Net-A-Porter

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