I recently returned from a ten day trip to Lake Tahoe (see my photos here). It was originally supposed to be a week-long vacation, but I extended my stay for three additional days. I don’t travel very often and always struggle with what to pack. Since I have been doing so much refinement of my wardrobe and style over the past year, I wondered how that might affect my packing prowess. In today’s post, I look at what I brought to Tahoe with me, whether or not my packing served me well, and what I wore during my stay.
What I Packed
Tahoe during September can be a bit “iffy” weather-wise. While it is often still quite warm during the day, the temperature can definitely plummet in the evenings. It’s also not uncommon to have a cold snap in early fall. All of these factors can make packing challenging. In the days leading up to my trip, I kept checking the forecast and refining my list of what to take with me on my trip.
Although I love wearing skirts and dresses during the summer and early fall at home, I opted not to pack these items for Tahoe. If I elected to take skirts and dresses as well as pants with me, my footwear and outerwear needs would be doubled, as I don’t have shoes and jackets that work well with all of my clothes. For this reason, I decided to only pack pants and to make sure my travel capsule could cover a fairly wide range of temperatures.
Here’s a snapshot of what I packed for my trip. My workout clothes and sleepwear are not shown, but I will discuss those items below.
Yes, there were only two pairs of shoes in my travel capsule, and the walking shoes were only worn when I went to the gym and to take photos at the beach. I primarily wore my black Clarks’ boots, one of the most worn pairs of shoes in my wardrobe. They have served me well for five years and although they will likely need to be replaced soon, I knew they would be a good choice for Tahoe. They are the right height for the pants I elected to pack and I can walk decently in them for a reasonable distance.
My Packing Strategy
I always choose my shoes first when packing; then I move on to bottoms and then toppers. I select my tops last because they are the easiest items for me. I have lots of tops that I love and which coordinate with my various bottoms. When I am packing jeans and pants, virtually all of my tops can be worn with all of my pants (although I do have a section of tops that I only wear with skirts because they are shorter and more fitted). I elected to pack two pairs of jeans, one slim and one boot-cut, as well as a pair of black pants. In hindsight, I could have gotten by with just the jeans, as I only wore the black pants twice. I also should have tried the pants on beforehand, as they are too loose on me with my recent weight loss. If I really wanted a third pants option, I should have gone with my black jeans instead of the black knit pants.
In terms of toppers, I chose two cardigans and two jackets. One of the jackets (the long navy jacket) was mostly worn with my athletic wear and while lounging at my mom’s house, while the other one (black parka) was reserved for cooler weather, which came during the second half of my trip. If I were packing for this trip over again, I may have taken a third cardigan (either my teal or cobalt one), as I found myself wishing for more variety there. I would have perhaps swapped out one or two tops for another cardigan and used the same amount of space.
I packed sleeveless, short-sleeved, and long-sleeved tops to cover all weather bases. The sleeveless and short-sleeved tops could be worn on their own or paired with the cardigans for some added warmth. I only wore the long-sleeved tops towards the end of the trip when the weather got cooler, and I paired those with the parka as needed. I liked having so many top options and didn’t mind wearing the same jeans and boots over and over again.
With the exception of two tops that were worn twice, I wore all of my tops only once during the trip. The cardigans and pants were all worn multiple times and the boots were part of every single outfit. I didn’t photograph all of my outfits and some of my “selfies” weren’t very clear. Fortunately, many of my ensembles were repeats from previous months, so I had earlier photos of them to include here in many instances. For two of my Tahoe outfits, I put together simple photo collages to give you a glimpse into what I wore because outfit photos weren’t available.
Here’s a look at my Tahoe outfits. I was happy with all of them. It helped that I only packed “tried and true” pieces that I knew worked well for me and would be suitable for my travel activities (mostly hanging out with family and friends and doing some sight-seeing and photography).
There were a couple of days on which I wished I could have worn a skirt or a dress, but the sleeveless tops and jeans were a good compromise and met my needs. In the future, I may opt to pack at least one dress or skirt, although I would definitely have to take a pair of sandals along in that instance. For this trip, I packed well for the forecasted temperatures, but the weather men were a bit off-base. Above 80 F temperatures weren’t predicted but did happen and it would have been nice to have had a skirt or dress to put on for those days.
What Else I Packed
In addition to the clothes I showed above, I also packed the following:
- 1 pair of workout pants
- 1 pair of lounge pants
- 3 workout tops
- 1 pajama bottom
- 2 pajama tops (1 short-sleeved, 1 long-sleeved)
- Undergarments ( I usually pack a few extras)
- Socks (mostly black, but I packed a few pairs of lighter socks for nights)
- Jewelry (probably 10 pairs of earrings, 3 bracelets, and 3 necklaces)
- File of articles to read
- Reading glasses
- Neck wrap and wrist pad (I have a lot of joint problems)
- Flat iron
- Lint brush
- Toiletry items
- Supplements (packed in baggies and small containers, not original bottles)
- Snacks (nuts, Lara Bars)
What I Should Have Packed
I noticed very few omissions this time around. The main thing I wish I packed but didn’t was my iPod. I simply forget it, as I had the charger for it with me. I really missed being able to listen to music at the gym, but I used the Pandora app on my phone while I was getting ready each morning. The sound wasn’t great, but it was nice to have music (I usually listen to podcasts while I’m getting ready every day).
I also wish I would have packed my blow dryer, as my mom’s was horrible. It got much too hot and I had to keep turning it off. My hair is very sensitive and temperamental, so the blow dryer I use makes a difference. I left mine at home because it occupies a lot of space, but next time I will either make room or find a travel-sized hair dryer that suits my needs.
I mentioned above that I wished I had a dress or skirt with me. For future trips to Tahoe during the “cusp season,” I think I will pack at least one dress. Yes, I will need another pair of shoes, too, but I will select ones that don’t take up a lot of space. Maybe I can settle upon a pair of shoes that will work for both dresses and pants. That would be nice…
What I Wish I’d Left at Home
Most of the above items got used, but I wish I would have left a few of them behind. Since the notes I made following my last trip helped me to pack more wisely this trip, I think it will be useful for me to do the same this time around. Here’s what I wish I would have left at home:
- Long-sleeved pajama top – I didn’t use it. When I was cool in the mornings or evenings, I wore the navy fleece jacket over my short-sleeved top. I didn’t need the long-sleeved top at all.
- So many workout tops – I really only needed one. I can see maybe packing an extra one in case I work out more often, but three was overkill.
- Non-black socks – I reasoned that I would wear them for sleeping, but I just kept on the same socks I had worn during the day. I made a note about this the last time and packed fewer “sleep socks” as a result, but I really don’t need any.
- Long necklaces – I packed two long necklaces that I never wore. The Tahoe vibe is very casual and the necklaces felt too dressy with my outfits. I’m sure some necklaces would have been okay, but not the ones I brought. I did buy a short necklace during my trip that I wore once, but just one short necklace would have been enough for me to pack.
- Book – I just don’t read much on my trips and what reading I did do this time was all done on the iPad. No need to pack a book as well. If I want to read books, I can use the Kindle app on my iPad. I did use the journal, but the book was never opened.
- File of articles – Pretty much the same note as above. Although I wanted to “catch up” on reading, it just didn’t happen. The iPad is a “one stop shop” and I can read lots of articles and books on it if desired.
- So many snacks – Just a few would have been enough. I packed fewer snacks than last time, but I still didn’t eat them all. If I need more snacks, it’s very easy to buy them, so no need to pack more than a couple of things.
Conclusion and Coming Attractions
Most of those things are fairly minor. I didn’t vastly over-pack like I have in the past and I’m proud of myself for that. With the exception of the long-sleeved pajama top, I wore every single garment I packed at least once. Yes, I could have easily gotten by with less, but my suitcase closed without any problems and I was within the weight limit for the airline. All in all, I feel I did a good job with my packing for the trip. I don’t think I will ever be a packing minimalist, but I’m happy not to be such a “maximalist” anymore. I’m sure that each time I travel, I will continue to refine and improve my packing strategy, especially if I keep doing these debrief posts (which I plan to do since they seem to be popular with readers).
I hope you found this post interesting and perhaps helpful as well. I know it’s just about my experience, but maybe it made you think of things you might want to pack or leave at home. If you have questions or comments for me or would like to share your experiences, please do. I will be doing one more post related to my Tahoe trip in which I will write about the thoughts that came up for me while I was gone. I did some journaling on the trip which helped me to get clearer on what I want for myself and my life moving forward. I will share those thoughts soon and I will also give an update on my “Love It, Wear It” Challenge (LIWI). In addition, I will post a long overdue accountability update (and it will be a doozy…) soon as well. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Debbie- You look BEAUTIFUL!! Love the article! So happy you are back writing the blog! Thank you for sharing your trip and your photos.
Thank you so much for the lovely compliment, Bella. I’m glad you liked the article and my photos from the previous post!
Thanks! That was helpful! I love striped tops too!
Glad it was helpful, Lana, my fellow lover of stripes 🙂
I think we are quite alike, Debbie 🙂 And I`m a stripe-aholic…..mind you, I`m a lace-aholic, a bling-aholic…..actually a clothes-aholic …..
I can totally relate – I am also a pattern-aholic, colour-aholic (not into top to toe black), jewelry-aholic in addition to all of the above. I love my variety LOL
Debbie it was wonderful of you to share photos of Lake Tahoe – it must be a beautiful and serene place. I am so glad you enjoyed your trip and spent time with your loved ones.
Yes, stripes are not my only “addiction” related to clothing… We are kindred spirits, Fiona and Tania 🙂 There is nothing wrong with loving clothes, patterns, bling, and variety. Learning to love these things in moderation is the challenge, but it is doable for sure. Yes, Tahoe is a very beautiful and serene place and I love it there. I hope to get back sooner than a year and a half next time.
You look lovely, and the capsule works well together (and seems fairly minimalist to me!). I’d tentatively suggest swapping the black knit pants for a pair in a favourite colour (emerald?) – this would add more variety than the black and could be worn with boots (and also several tops, e.g. the black and white one) – or you wear them with one of your pretty flat sandals and the sequin tank top. It might remove the need for a skirt or dress. Just an idea.
Thanks for your suggestions, Alice. I agree that a pair of colored pants would be a good addition, but I don’t have any 😦 I haven’t had lucky finding any colored pants that are long enough for me and are in a style and silhouette that works for my body. I prefer straight cuts over skinnies and there just isn’t much variety, but I’m going to keep looking. Emerald sounds like a great color for pants, but I would also love cobalt or burguny. Fingers crossed that I will find some this fall/winter.
I agree – there are thousands of skinny jeans in bright colours, but it’s really hard to find straight or other cuts in anything other than black, grey and sometimes brown – especially to find ones that fit!
You look great and comfortable in your outfits. If you are looking to replace your boots Reiker do some similar ones which are even more comfortable than Clarks. I wear mine with opaque tights, skirts and dresses all the time. Experience has taught me that it’s better to take 3 pairs of footwear and fewer clothes as the wrong footwear can make you uncomfortable physically and socially. I always take a simple dress which I can dress up or down as it makes a definite change from jeans and tops, and is a ready made outfit with no matching issues. I’d be inclined to keep taking the long necklaces. For the weight and space they are worth taking to dress up an outfit for and unexpected dressier occasion.
I appreciate the boot suggestion, Lynn. I definitely need to replace my Clark’s boots soon, as I have worn them into the ground (I wish I could say that about all of my shoes and clothes…). I totally agree that footwear is of the utmost importance. I was worried I had made a big mistake just taking the one pair of boots, but it worked out okay. However, next time, I think I will have two non-athletic footwear choices. Good idea to take a simple and versatile dress and you made a good point about keeping the long necklaces. It’s always nice to be able to dress up and outfit when the need arises.
I find that footwear is the hardest part to get right, and with my fussy feet, I too like to start here. I mean you generally can buy another top wherever you travel but buying the right footwear can be a real challenge. I have traveled with ankle boots (for style and warmth) but I also like to have a grippier sole for walking on cobbled streets and so forth. Thanks for sharing the tip about Reiker.
You have done a great job of refining your packing process and your signature style. I find that no matter how carefully I plan, there is always one or two things that I bring that never get worn.
That is true, Lori. I don’t think it’s too bad to have a small number of unworn items. I used to pack SO many “just in case” items that it was kind of ridiculous, so I’m happy to have toned things down as of late.
It sounds like you learned a lot from your analysis. Packing is so individual even checklists and guides can’t always help us. Glad you had a nice trip!
Very true, Sarah. The checklists and guides can be helpful, but it’s hard for any of us to follow them explicitly. I always learn a lot when I take some time to debrief my packing after my trips. I may never be a packing expert, but I’m happy to be doing better with it.
What a great photo of you Debbie, and a good post on one of my favorite topics. Packing for travel in the past was hugely stressful for me, and now that I’ve learned to pack light it is one of my favorite joys. Love reading how this is all coming together for you. And I’ve picked up a few new tips from you as well. Thanks!
Thanks, Terra. How wonderful that I was able to offer you some new tips! Packing is still quite stressful for me, but it’s getting easier and I’m happy about that. I think that I just don’t travel often enough, so it feels like a new thing for me each time. But having these posts to refer back to is making a difference for sure.
lovely post and pictures. I love travel and travel packing.
So I noticed that you wore [and enjoyed] the same pair of boots most days. I always travel with 2 pairs of footwear that I love because I try to never wear the same pair two days in a row. Not for style reasons but for the ‘health’ and longevity of the shoe. I do the same with bras… I can’t even remember who recommended this originally. [my mother?] Does anyone else do this? 🙂
At home I rotate, but sometimes I don’t when I travel for a week.
I’m glad you liked the post, Mary. I am the same as Terra with footwear. I alternate often at home but not always when I travel (I alternate bras at home and away). I do think I will pack two pairs of non-athletic footwear next time, but I struggle a bit with heel height and pants lengths and the boots I brought worked well with my pants. I have more warm weather footwear than cool weather footwear, which works for where I live, but can be a bit more challenging when I go away.
I agree w/ Sarah E that packing (like style) is very personalized. I’ve found travel to be fraught with difficulty and nearly impossible at times due to health concerns. Since moving home, I’ve had enough mental bandwith and energy for prep to be able to go on two trips – one weekend to the beach, another full week to join my husband in Atlanta on a work trip – and found a similar strategy worked for both.
One goal I have is to be able to carry my own bags, which means everything needs to be as light and pared down as possible due to my limited abilities. Minimal bottoms: one pair of jeans and one pair of yoga/lounge pants that also work for casual outfits. A handful of top varieties that mix and layer as needed. A swimsuit, and a cover-up that could double as a casual dress or skirt. One bra, some undies & socks, pj top/bottom. One hat/scarf/jacket if called for. I take a minimal and streamlined approach to my purse, toiletries and make-up. Overall, lots of double-duty and overlap required from the items I bring along.
This leaves me with some energy and room to think through and address all the “health” extras I might need – heating pad, walking cane, special pillow for my neck, various medications & supplements, snacks, etc. Shoes are one of my biggest concerns, since I have so many foot issues. I included 3 pairs of athletic shoes to get around for the longer trip but managed with just one pair for the beach trip. Also one pair of sandals each time, which I can only wear in limited circumstances where I don’t have far to walk, such as in-hotel dining or the pool.
I’ve been encouraged by how these driving trips have worked out and how I have done, and hope I can extend the success into plane travel next year.
Thanks so much for sharing your travel strategy, Claire. I think you have been approaching things very sensibly and I can take some good suggestions from what you wrote. I know I could pare things down further, as my bag was still quite heavy (but it is on wheels). Like you, I need to have a lot of room for health extras and I will skimp on clothes if necessary in order to have what I need to be comfortable. I have been known to pack my contour pillow in lieu of extra clothes, but I have an extra one at my mom’s house and didn’t need to do so this time. I wish you the best of luck in getting back into plane travel next year!
Aw, thank you so much for the kind words, Debbie. I think the rolling bag can be a great option, I’m so glad that is working for you. You are so right – the destination makes a difference! It’s very helpful to stash some “comfort” items (like special pillows) in places you tend to frequent. And thanks for wishing me luck about the plane travel – my husband wants me to join him on a work trip to Chicago next year, which is intimidating but I really want to find a way to make it work! I’m trying to pay attention to the things that would be inconvenient to go without, but replaceable, versus those things that are so specialized they would not be easily procured at my destination. I think it’s great that you take the time to look back at your packing and figure out how well it worked for you. And ultimately, if we had a good trip (which it seems we did! ), I like to think we must have been pretty successful despite our packing errors 🙂
I really hope you will make it to Chicago with your husband, Claire. I think it’s good that you are considering the ways to make it work now. There is definitely more to consider when we need lots of things to help us be more comfortable, but it is doable for us to travel and it can bring us great joy. I am very happy I went to Tahoe, even though it was stressful to plan for it and I didn’t pack perfectly. I have memories that will stay with me for a very long time.
Debbie, I love the packing challenge. Living in Europe I travel a lot – short trips at least once or twice a month, a week or 2 here and there for school holidays and every year I go home to Australia for 2 weeks.
I think I have it down to a fine art now and have learned the hard way to not overpack. It made me laugh when you mentioned taking your files to read as I have done that too in the past!!!
The essentials for me are:
Clothes to hang around and relax in – a pair of yoga pants or leggings with a T-shirt, a pair of little velvet slippers and a light fleece or cashmere cardigan (depending on time of year weather-wise.) Also swim wear.
A day to evening dress – the sort that if I have to go to an unplanned event I can dress for it without stress (selected depending on weather)
One button down shirt and a jacket
In summer I pack day dresses with sandals that go with everything – one pair for everyday (my favorites are Tory Burch that look great but can walk in all day) and one evening pair. I make sure that one dress is super casual (or beach wear) and one can extend on to dinner. For a short trip I would pack a dress for each day and for longer trips I would pack 4 and rotate. Plus a cardigan and a pashmina scarf that goes with all.
For every bottom I take one day top for each day and one evening top.
Winter is trickier but I still take a dress and a fur vest.
Toiletries used to be a nightmare but I have 2 bags pre-packed now that I can throw in. One for short trips, eg weekends and the other for longer trips.
One year on a trip back home I took a ton of jewellery which I didn’t wear so now I take only one or 2 necklaces, my bracelets which I wear daily and one pair of flashier earrings.
I still make mistakes. But I’m much better than what I was once-upon-a-time. I knew I had to change my ways when I went on a yachting holiday many years ago and struggled to carry my case up the gang plank and then wished I’d packed a practical sweatshirt instead of the pretty beaded cardigans. LOL.
I really appreciate the detailed information that you shared, Carolyn. A seasoned traveler can always help us novices to do better. I love your suggestions about essentials to pack, as well as having pre-packed toiletry bags. I’m sure that saves you a lot of trouble. It’s heartening to know that you still make mistakes even after all your experience and what you have learned. But it sounds like you are doing very well. Your yachting holiday story reminds me of my Alaskan cruise 10 years ago. I brought everything but the kitchen sink and didn’t use most of it, but I left out some things I would have really appreciated having with me. I have gradually improved since then, fortunately.
I agree with the other people who have commented on how radiant you look. Looks like you have a relaxing trip.
I have traveled with fewer clothes than your weekend wardrobe for a 3-week stay in Europe that included extensive cross-country walking, theater, fine dining, and the opera. I take only 2 pairs of pants — one slightly casual (“jeans”-like but not denim) and a dressier (but not too “dressy”) pair of black pants. I also take a skirt which I can dress up for evening or wear during the day.
I don’t pack dresses – too limiting — unless I have a specific occasion (wedding, etc.) I take 4-5 tops (at least on of which is dressy) and a sweater or fleece top for warmth. I also bring a base layer that I add if the temperature drops. Two pairs of shoes (one dressy-ish, one walking) and a pair of cheap flip flops or travel slippers. A waterproof outer layer plus gloves, scarf and hat (unless summer). Jammies, lightweight robe (I stay in a lot of B&B’s that don’t have en suite bathrooms), undies, sox. I have a very old dual current hair dryer that’s very small and foldable. I always take a hair dryer with me. Large screen cell phone, travel docs, maybe a book I don’t mind leaving somewhere. Swimsuit (robe doubles as cover-up), maybe, and a scarf or two. All this goes in a small messenger-bag-size carry-on (13″ x 21″ x 9″) that doesn’t have wheels, weighs about 1 lb. empty, and fits under an airplane seat. I have a small crossbody purse and a lightweight foldable tote. I never take more than 13 lbs of clothing and all my other gear (including luggage) with me — it’s the max. amount I can carry comfortably for a long distance. I limit my jewekry to a few pairs of earring, watch, inexpensive necklace, single bangle. I generally do laundry as I travel, especially if I am staying with family (or schlepp my stuff to a laundromat). I have a standing travel wardrobe spreadsheet that I vary according to destination, planned events, and weather.
Thank you for saying I look radiant in the photos, Dottie. It was definitely good for me to get away, see family and friends and experience great natural beauty (of course, I have that at home, too, but I love the pristine calm of the mountains and the lake). My trip was a week and a half long, not just a weekend and I think I could have gotten by with the same wardrobe for 3 weeks and probably even less. I am not a seasoned traveler like you are, but I appreciate your tips and I will definitely use some of them the next time I travel. I know I could have been fine with just two pairs of pants and fewer tops. Layering is a good way to go for travel and in general and it’s something I’m working on getting better at. I don’t know if I will ever be as good at packing as you are and travel as minimally, but it’s certainly possible if I work at it. I think using a travel wardrobe spreadsheet could definitely help. If you are ever up for doing it, I would welcome a guest post from you on packing for travel. I think readers could learn a lot from you on this topic.
One thing I usually pack is a pair of sandals or slip-on shoes that can double as slippers.
That’s a really great idea, Ginger! No need to pack an extra item unless it’s absolutely necessary. I forgot to mention that I DID pack a pair of slipper for my Tahoe trip. They are very lightweight and didn’t take much space, but came in handy for mornings and evenings when I was at my mom’s house.