Vacation packing tips from professional stylists and closet organizers


Professional stylists and closet organizers can help you pack for you next adventure. 

(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

The perks of summer travel — the promise of tranquil balmy days and ample pool time — can be eclipsed by the anxiety of preparing for the trip.

Not the least of the stress producers is the process of packing. It can seem to be an overwhelming task, full of fear that you’ll bring too much or too little. But for professional stylists and closet organizers, packing comes as second nature.

“Efficiency is key,” says celebrity stylist Penny Lovell, who works with Anne Hathaway, Taylor Schilling and Rose Byrne. “I like to keep it to the essential minimum, with a few backups and a wild-card item for fun.”

Bringing the right balance of clothes is also important, says Leesa Evans, a personal stylist and costume designer whose work includes “Bridesmaids,” “I Love You, Man” and the in-production “Zoolander 2.”


She advises finding a signature look, a “daily uniform” based on the silhouette that’s most comfortable and flattering.

“A daily uniform is the silhouette that makes you feel good, gorgeous or handsome,” she says. “Then you can play with it. For instance, I personally love a pencil skirt. I can wear one in Paris with an [Alexander] McQueen top and it can be a very sophisticated thing, or with a bikini top, Indian blouse and sandals at the beach. Once you find that shape that makes you feel comfortable, you can play with it in a lot of different arenas. You have to ask yourself, ‘What’s my version of my daily uniform for this place?’”

To land on your daily uniform, Evans suggests looking at a recent picture of yourself wearing something that made you feel amazing. Study the silhouette, taking into account the shape of the overall look, then base outfits on that silhouette.

Consider the climate, terrain and events before you place even one piece of clothing in your suitcase, advises Jessica Raiter, personal stylist and professional organizer. “My general approach for my clients is the same as it is for myself,” she says. “I look at the forecast and I ask myself what my daily and evening activities will be. Then I ask: Am I going for work or leisure? Is it a walking city or mainly driving? Do I want to make an impression on those around us, or is it totally about comfort and ease? Based on the answers, I’ll create looks for each day and then try to edit out any pieces that may already serve the same purpose as something else that’s being packed.”


To avoid over-packing, Evans suggests taking only one extra outfit. “When going for seven days, you want to take eight outfits,” she says. “These eight outfits work for daytime and some go into night, depending on what the environment is.”

Paring down on shoes is another key. “Trying to bring a pair shoes to match every outfit is not the way forward,” says celebrity stylist Anita Patrickson, who works with Julianne Hough and Portia de Rossi. “Bring shoes that are neutral basics like a leather sandal and heel that goes with jeans as well as a dress, and begin building around that. And all of your bags and shoes should go together.”

Always try on what you are planning to take before you pack, the stylists say, particularly if there is a special event, such as a wedding, involved. And Patrickson recommends hand-carrying special occasion garments in case luggage is delayed.

Staying organized while traveling will make it easier to find things in your suitcase and help keep items from getting lost or left behind.

“I pack all of my hanging items right on the hanger, so that when I arrive at my destination it’s an easy thing to pull out my clothes and hang them directly in the closet,” says Evans. She favors velvet slim line hangers because they take up much less room than a plastic hanger.

Lovell groups like items, such as underwear and accessories, in Ziploc bags, so they are easy to find. If you’re bringing a hat, Evans recommends wearing it in transit or turning the crown upside down inside the suitcase and filling the inside space with lightweight items to keep the head shape. “It forms sort of a hatbox within your suitcase,” she says.

Evans also packs laundry bags to fill with dirty clothes for the return trip. This separates worn clothes from clean ones, and it can be unloaded directly into the washer when you get home. She stows shoes in the fabric bags that often come inside of a shoe box so that no street debris from the soles transfers onto her clothes.

Evans packs so efficiently she can often travel for several days with just the contents of a carry-on bag. “I’ve traveled two weeks through Europe with just a carry-on,” she says.