It’s spring break season, which means it’s time to pack our bags and hit sandy beaches or big city sidewalks! Whether you’re headed for a tropical island or a bustling metropolis, we’ve got the style tips for putting together a cohesive mix-and-match wardrobe that will not only seamlessly transition from casual to dressy, but will also save you a pretty penny on excess baggage fees. Liz Stoner, from Birmingham’s J.McLaughlin, shares her tips for smart packing for a five-night vacation. Here’s what to bring — and what to leave at home — to get the best out of your travel experience!

7 Packing Tips from a Local Style Expert

1. Pick a color palette for your travel wardrobe.

Before you start packing, pick a color palette that you want to stick with. This will give you more mix-and-match options. “I’d go with no more than four color options — and yes, black and white both count,” says Liz Stoner, J.McLaughlin Birmingham store manager. For this tropical wardrobe, we’ve chosen black, white, blue and taupe. “Taupe, blue and black are our anchor colors, while white can be intermixed in any color palette. And especially in a tropical wardrobe, white is always a staple.”

tropical travel wardrobe

“Choosing a selection of tops that can go with multiple bottoms makes for a versatile wardrobe for your trip,” says Liz. Pictured here, a tropical travel wardrobe for a five-night stay, styled by Liz Stoner at J.McLaughlin.

J.McLaughlin’s signature Catalina Cloth™

“J.McLaughlin’s signature Catalina Cloth™, seen in every piece here, with the exception of the blue Bristol linen blouse, is perfect for traveling light, plus it doesn’t wrinkle,” says Liz. Here, she demonstrates how to mix and match your travel wardrobe.

2. Start with the basics.

Start pulling the basics, which obviously depend on your destination and the weather. “If I have tickets to the Paris Opera House, then I’ll pull the outfit I want to wear to that event right away,” says Liz. “Then I pull the other miscellaneous pieces, building around that outfit and my core essentials. Ideally, the outfit you wear to the opera is versatile enough to be worn again for another occasion.”

Here, pieces from our urban travel wardrobe —such as the black pants, scarf and belt — can be mixed and matched to create fresh new looks!

Here, Liz shows how pieces from their urban travel wardrobe — such as the black pants, scarf and belt — can be mixed and matched to create fresh new looks.

3. Double up on your comfort clothing.

“What article of clothing is most you?” asks Liz. “I’m more of a skirt person, so if I’m going on vacation, I will definitely bring more skirts or dresses.” Liz suggests doubling up on your comfort clothing items so you’ll feel at ease in your home away from home!

tropical wardrobe

For this tropical wardrobe, the wearer is more comfortable in pants, so she chose these khaki shorts, white jeans and one skirt.

4. Shoes are made for walking.

For some of us, shoes are our main accessory. So the thought of not taking our favorite sandals, booties, heels, wedges, flats and sneakers to show off in a new town is ludicrous! But shoes take up valuable baggage space, and the point of the trip is to soak in the beauty, not to show off your shoe collection to people you’ll never see again. So keep it real. “For a five-day trip, take — max — three pairs of shoes,” says Liz. “One good walking shoe, one pair of sandals and one nicer wedge or small heel for dinner.” 

Betsy Prince shoes

For our tropical wardrobe, the style experts at Betsy Prince have given us three shoe options — a taupe heel, nude lace-up sandal and a red sneaker for a pop of fun color on walking days!

Betsy Prince shoes

For our urban wardrobe, we have a heel, a modern, open-toed sandal and a walking shoe by Trippers. “It’s actually made for walking on trips,” says Betsy Prince owner Bezshan Dolatabadi, who curates his shoe collection with comfort as a guiding principle. “We can’t keep it on the shelves!”

5. Bedazzle your travel wardrobe with smart jewelry and colorful accessories.

“You’re sticking to versatile neutral colors in your clothing, so get bright colors through jewelry, scarves and accessories,” says Liz. “And it’s easier to pack these than a red top or a coral skirt that doesn’t go with anything.” Choosing pieces that you can transform from a long necklace into a doubled-up shorter one or bracelet adds options without taking up space. And, if possible, don’t bring expensive jewelry to save yourself the worry of losing it. Also, you might find some terrific vintage earrings in the city or a tropical necklace on the private island to sport in celebration of your fabulous vacation!

Theadora Abbeyluxe necklaces

These necklaces from Theadora Abbeyluxe are lightweight and can be dressed up or down, making them perfect for travel!

Theadora Abbeyluxe bracelets

These versatile Chan Luu bracelets from Theadora Abbeyluxe can also be worn as one long necklace or doubled-up and worn as a shorter necklace.

Theadora Abbeyluxe necklaces

Choose light necklaces, like these from Theadora Abbeyluxe, that don’t take up much space and that can transition easily from casual day wear to a more formal evening look.

6. Make most of your luggage real estate.

Put the heaviest items, such as shoes, on the bottom. And, if possible, take your bulkiest sweater or large cashmere throw with you on the plane to save luggage space. “I like to do what I call the flat roll,” says Liz. Also, it takes willpower, but leave a little breathing space in your bag for souvenirs and gifts. You don’t want to have to buy an extra bag, pay excess baggage fees or look like a bag lady on the plane, but you definitely want to surprise your besties with a token from your travels, so save that space.

flat roll

“By flat-rolling, you’re best utilizing your space by evenly stacking,” says Liz. “And the Catalina Cloth™ allows you to roll without fear of wrinkling.”

travel wristlets

It’s all about versatility. These leather wristlets by Latico have two zippered pockets, one with credit card slots and the clear phone window, which retains your phone’s touch sensitivity. Find these at Betsy Prince!


Go from casual to dressy and crossbody to clutch with these roomy, yet compact, clutches at Betsy Prince. In neutral tones, they work with many different looks.

7. It’s all in the carry-on.

“You want to make sure all of your essentials are in your carry-on,” says Liz. She includes toiletries and prescription medications, chargers and converters, your passport and any valuables, like jewelry, as well as a change of clothes, in case your luggage is late. And be sure to include a bathing suit and cover-up so you can still enjoy the destination sans suitcase. Our friends at Brownell Travel have this super helpful carry-on checklist to ensure you have everything you need!


“A cashmere throw is great to keep you warm and cozy on the plane, and it dresses up any outfit,” says Liz. “And our Catalina shorts are great for an instant trip to the beach.”

Have a great trip wherever your travels take you!


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