Fashion and beauty experts share advice on how to pack light for long trips and still stay stylish
Whether it’s for a mini-break to Portland, a B.C. mountain escape or an enviable longer sojourn abroad, we all face that dreaded moment of deciding what to pack. Taking lots of luggage can be both cumbersome and expensive. And who wants to schlep big, heavy suitcases up and down stairs at train stations? But the prospect of fitting everything you need/want into only carry-on luggage can be daunting.
More importantly, how do you present your fabulous, chic self to the world with an ultra-pared-down wardrobe and fewer toiletries when travelling for more than a weekend getaway? Longer trips pose different challenges for packing, as do multi-climate destinations.
BCLiving asked three fashion and beauty experts—Maddox Lu, Benefit Cosmetics’ national education director and national trend artist, fashion designer Helen Clarkson, and professional makeup artist Liraz Jacoby, who have all logged numerous air miles.
Here's their pro advice on how to pack smart and light for long trips and while staying stylish, polished and comfortable...
1. Layer, layer, layer
Helene Clarkson, who created a collection of reversible, lightweight pieces that can comprise a versatile travel wardrobe, says that layering is key for coping with different destinations with a range of climate conditions.
“Having T-shirts and/or tank tops which can be worn under sweaters and jackets is an easy way to deal with changes in temperature,” Clarkson says. “I designed the Nancy 4 Way Reversible tank top (left) so that it can be worn front to back and inside out. It’s super lightweight and washable.”
For colder weather, she suggests sweaters and jackets that can go from day to night, dressed up or down to create different looks. She created the Airdrie Reversible Sweater (left centre) and the Miri (right centre) and Mirabel (right) reversible jackets for her eponymous brand and says that they “can be turned inside out for totally different looks, so you get maximum wear from just one piece and your carry-on doesn't look and feel as if it is going to burst.”
2. Go back to basics
Beauty products—skin care, makeup and hair products—take up so much space in luggage, even if you’re keeping to the 100 ml carry-on limit.
“Be strategic with the cosmetics you bring as lipstick, gloss, brushes, and eyeshadow all take up valuable space in our makeup bags,” advises professional makeup artist Liraz Jacoby. “Basic is the key,” she says. “Pack what you absolutely love and know you can wear every day.”
Same goes for wardrobe colours: keep to basic neutrals—navy, white and grey, for example—so all the pieces easily coordinate.
3. Make packing play
Clarkson says to look at packing as a fun challenge rather than something to be dreaded. She suggests asking yourself how you can get the most looks out of the least amount of clothing. She advises to focus on five essential categories when packing: tops, pants, skirts, dresses, and jackets.
“Depending on the length of your trip, choose three to five tops, one to two pairs of pants, one skirt, one dress and one jacket and you’re good to go,” she says. “By switching pieces around and adding accessories, you'll never bore of your outfits as they will always have a slight variation to them.”
4. Powder power
A great way to get past the 100 ml liquid limitation is to not take as many liquids, says Maddox Lu, Benefit Cosmetics’ national education director and national trend artist. "One way I avoid exceeding the 100 ml limit is by selecting non-liquid products,” he says. “Powder foundation if needed, powder bronzer (pictured), blush and brow pencil—these are all easy to pack into the nooks of a carry-on bag without taking up space or exceeding liquid limits.”
5. Double duty
Just as layers work for adjusting to different climate destinations, so do double-duty items for outerwear. Herschel’s Mac lightweight, insulated coat is waterproof, warm and—with its tailored silhouette—can work both for casual and smart-wear occasions.
Use the same logic for beauty products, says Lu. “I often pack multi-purpose products like lip and cheek tint so I can address two features in one product.”
Jacoby also advises taking products that have dual functions and only take one of everything, except perhaps an extra lipstick—a darker shade for evening. “Keep it simple and light,” she says.
6. Channel Marie Kondo
KonMariWhat Marie Kondo preaches for organizing your home space works brilliantly for packing too. Rolling garments or folding à la the Kondo method of thirds will allow for efficient use of space—and fewer wrinkles too. Throw some packing cubes in for organizing smaller items like socks, underwear and accessories.
The “spark of joy” approach can also help decide on what to include and avoid overpacking. Clarkson says take only “one handbag for the day which will be your main bag, plus a slim small clutch for evenings.” So, pick just the bags you love: decision made!
7. Forage for freebies and minis
Both Lu and Jacoby suggest decanting must-have favourite products into smaller containers—but a simple way to overcome the space and liquid limit issues is with free samples, they say. Many samples come in flat foil packs and take up little space.
“I love collecting samples as they are great for travelling,” Jacoby says. “You can usually get up to three days of usage with skin care samples.”
8. If the shoe fits…
For women, shoes pose the biggest challenge. We need to coordinate them with outfits and also require them to be comfortable but they do take up precious packing space.
“I absolutely need one pair of heels and one pair of super comfortable shoes that I can walk in forever,” says Clarkson. “Many hotels allow you to rent workout gear, even the running shoes, so you don’t have to pack those extras if you want to exercise. I always pack my shoes in shoe bags so they don't get my clothes dirty and put them in the bottom of the bag first. Then I pack my clothes around them sliding small items in the nooks and crannies to fill out the case.”
And if you’re taking boots, wear them on the plane. The bulkiest and heaviest footwear should be worn during travel days.