How to pack for a long holiday!

by Sylvia

How to pack for a long holiday

Packing for my yearly ‘big’ holiday is always a challenge. I usually visit several countries and I will be away for 5.5 weeks. I will also be visiting countries that are totally unpredictable when it comes to weather, so I need to bring clothes that cover all weather types. Add to that, that I will be taking part in lots of different activities and you can imagine, that if I want to keep my luggage manageable, packing can be quite tricky.

So in this case there is no need to check the weather. Weather in both the Netherlands and England, 2 countries I will be visiting, is completely unpredictable. It can be really hot and freezing cold. Since I tend to get cold really quickly as well, I always need to make sure that I bring enough warm clothes.

But by the same token it can be really hot. If I only bring clothes for colder weather, I’m going to be completely bored with my 1 summer outfit. I will also be going to Spain and the south of France, where it will probably be warm so there need to be plenty of good weather outfits as well.

Add to that, that I like variety. I really don’t want to wear the same outfit all the time. Certainly not when I will be celebrating my birthday and will be meeting lots of people that I haven’t seen in a year. I want to have fun dressing and make a good impression!

I also don’t like to do much laundry when travelling.

So I usually end up with a suitcase that is quite heavy. Not a really big problem as I never really have to carry it much since the suitcase has wheels. Still I’m not getting any younger and lighter is definitely more preferable. I also need to keep in mind that I usually shop quite a bit, so there is no need to bring a lot and of course there should be enough space in my suitcase to bring all the lovely new items home!

So let’s see what I will need:

  1. City clothes: trousers with tops and jackets. Skirts or dresses. Comfortable but hip shoes.
  2. Evening clothes: something nice to go out in. Need to make sure that it can be good for hot and cold 7eather. A heel would be nice.
  3. Casual clothes: for walking in the park. Clothes and walking shoes that can get dirty.
  4. Beach clothes: Light casual dresses, shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.

Now the big question is of course: How much of each do I need to keep me happy (and not go completely insane for the lack of variety!). I tend to play it safe andktake options. Can I contain myself this time?

What I always like to do is put everything I would like to take on the bed. Then I will see how that all fits in my suitcase and if needed I will discard.

I want to make my holiday wardrobe as versatile as possible, so the last couple of times I have been smart enough to opt for a colour scheme. Not surprisingly, the colour scheme this year is brights plus black and white! I’m not usually so structured but for the purpose of this article let’s see what each little capsule looks like for each purpose. Of course some of the clothes will overlap, but at least you will get an idea.


packing for the city

This is the most important capsule as I will be catching up with friends, go shopping and explore new places. These will be my most all-purpose clothes. My aim is to be hip, fun and comfortable.

All tops can be matched with each trousers. Total different outfits I could create is 21

  • 5 tops
  • 4 trousers
  • 1 dress
  • 2 light jackets
  • 1 over jacket (rain)
  • leather bag
  • 2 belts
  • jewelry
  • 2 jumpers
  • 1 cardigan


packing evening clothes

I like to look good in the evening too, so for that purpose I like to take at least one pair of heels. Even in the holidays, it’s fun to dress up!

Total outfits I could create is 5

  • 2 dresses (1 just for evening, the other also suitable for city)
  • 1 cardigan (if cold, I don’t really have a good jacket that goes with the dress…)
  • 1 black pants (can be worn under dress if cold and is great to combine with top; will also be used for city clothes)
  • White pants (great with top and 1 dress)
  • Black high heels (chic but still comfortable)
  • Belt
  • Jewelry


packing casual clothes

It’s notable that this is the least versatile of the sets. This is mainly because very casual wear for walks in the woods or mountains needs to be practical. It doesn’t matter so much if it looks great and there does not need to be a whole lot of variety as I don’t expect to have many of these days. jeans or slacks will do just fine here. What adds quite a bit of weight though, are the shoes. Shoes need to be very comfortable and I need to have at least one pair of trainers and 1 pair of opener shoes for hotter weather.

Potential outfits is 6 (if you consider any with the slacks an ‘outfit’)

  • 3 t-shirts
  • 2 jumpers
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 trouser (jeans)
  • 1 trainer pants (which can be worn for sports and casual walking)
  • 1 pair of sneakers (which are so old, that I will not take them back with me)
  • Comfortable walking shoes that are allowed to get dirty
  • Closed shoes that I can wear for casual and city in case it’s too cold. Always very challenging to wear ‘closed’ shoes now as I never wear them and my feet are so used to open footwear now. I always get blisters…


packing for the beach

It’s important to bring some very comfortable beach clothes too as we will have a few of those. I’m keeping it to a minimum though and some of these clothes can be worn for other casual hot days too.
Potential outfits is 6
  • 3 summer dresses
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 2 shorts
  • 1 beach bag
  • flip flops

When I fitted all these in my suitcase, it was only half full. Yay! I’m on the right track. Just to sum it all up (as some items were counted double as they appeared in several capsules). I brought:

  • 5 pants
  • 1 jogging pants
  • 2 jumpers
  • 2 cardigans
  • 1 light overcoat
  • 2 light jackets / blazers
  • 5 tops
  • 2 evening / city dresses
  • 3 summer dresses
  • 4 sets of shoes

Will this keep me happy and sane? We will just have to wait and see…. How do you pack for holidays?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Di

Happy Birthday! Fireworks are being lit all over America just for you! :-))


2 Sylvia

Thank you Di! I’d love to experience the 4th of July in America some day…


3 Heather Fonseca

I love your capsule! My packing has gotten quite sloppy recently, mostly due to having no time to do it properly. I used to start a week in advance and work on it slowly. I do think it’s important to leave room for shopping, especially if you’re going to Europe!


4 Sylvia

I’ve always been a last minute packer. We will see what works best…The problem with taking less is that I buy more!


5 Robert

I’m also a last minute packer. The problem i get by doing that,i don’t alway’s pack everything that i need.


6 Sylvia

Trust me. That also happens when you plan it… It’s almost impossible to do it perfect!


7 Greetje

Great capsules. I missed the shoes with the City but they are probably mentioned with the other capsules. Shoes is always my weakest point as I get blisters all the time in summer. I have a tip for you to avoid blisters in closed shoes: I cut off the toes of an old pair of socks or tights, then modify the size so they cover my toes but are not peeping out of the front of the shoe. Believe it or not, they stay put, it is not hot and you do not get blisters. As for the heels, I have special anti blister pads from a make called Compeed. I put them on my heels before I start walking.
I had to laugh over your remark: If you consider any outfit with the slacks “an outfit”.
I could have said that.


8 Sylvia

I added 1 set of shoes to city, but basically any shoes could do. Since I have limited shoes, they are almost never perfect. So I always feel that almost every outfit I wear on holiday is a compromise. Some great tips Greetje!


9 Greetje

By the way, have I mentioned before that rolling up your clothes to put them in a suitcase keeps them from wrinkling? Because it really works. I am now also rolling up my sweaters when I put them in my cupboard.


10 Sylvia

I have tried that, but found that it did not work, so actually stopped doing it again….


11 Aileen

Your outfits look super Sylvia and I think you have covered everything.
I pack in exactly the same way, trying everything on first to make sure it fits and still looks current. Next I lay them out on the bed in ‘outfits’ with accessories, like the jewellery, shoes, bag. Once I know that outfit works I write it down and move on to the next. I choose jewellery and shoes that will go with several outfits, but still give myself some choices so I don’t look the same or get bored.
The trick is to remember to take the written notes with me and then I can grab the clothes and accessories from the list and know they will all work together.
Enjoy your trip. Can’t wait to see the photos.


12 Sylvia

Thanks Aileen. You sound like a wise packer. Will show the first of the outfits on Monday!


13 Georgia Bass

Great post, Sylvia! I love your packing ideas and the style you follow. I plan my stuff the way you do. For the day, for the night, for some special events, and something “what if” 🙂


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