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Three Ways to Pack for the Holidays in a Carry-on

Save this packing-list formula for your holiday trips.

By Madeleine Kim

I’ve always relied on packing lists to prep for my trips, and for most of my life, I started those packing lists from square one every time. But a few years back, after having spent way too long agonizing over what to pack for a weekend away, I decided that enough was enough and  began developing a packing-list template that could be applied to any type of trip. 

The resulting formula has made my life so much easier—not only because it takes the guesswork out of packing, but also because it all fits in a carry-on. I’ve shared it with our M Dash readers a few times over the years, but since many of you are getting ready to hit the road this month, we decided it was high time to revive it.

Packing List Formula item checklist

The key to making it work is to stick with a cohesive color palette so that each piece pairs with one another, thus maximizing your outfit options. The formula can be tweaked here and there to fit your trip (for example, I tend to bring fewer dresses and more layers for winter trips), but I have yet to find a situation where my handy checklist doesn’t work. Read on to see how it’s done with three packing lists for different types of holiday trips.

For the trip with back-to-back holiday parties.

Maybe you’re a social butterfly and plan to spend December hopping from party to party. Or perhaps you just like to dress up for dinner. Either way, we’re all about it—just make sure you pack festive styles that mix and match. Jardigan-knit styles like the Jin top and Harlem skirt are sleek enough to count as “cocktail attire,” but stretchy enough to nap in once you’ve had a few of those cocktails. Wear them together, or mix and match with other fan-favorites like the just-restocked Milo jeans in tusk (for a Power Casual look) or the silk charmeuse Darcy top (for some extra shine). It’s always good to have a comfortable but sleek tee in your suitcase, and the Soyoung is an easy option to pair with both bottoms. Make your outfits edgier with the vegan leather Nicky jacket, or bundle up with the soft Frederick cardigan—both of which look great over the stretchy Maxine dress in gorgeous plumberry.

The trip where you’re planning to stay posted up by the fire.

The lights are low, the fireplace is roaring, and your tea is at that just-right temperature. The only way this picture could be improved? Add a chic but cozy outfit you can snuggle up in. If you’re one to avoid changing out of pajamas for most of the day (guilty), you’ll love the flannel Shane pants and Annette top, which feel like a cozy sweatsuit but look a bit more elevated. Of course, you can also mix and match with other stretchy pieces, like the Archie jeans, Axam turtleneck, and Shani top—and don’t forget to layer on the chunky knits. If you want to dress up for dinner without sacrificing coziness, try the glitzy Cookie cardigan, which looks great over an easy dress like the Maaza, or with your turtleneck and jeans.

For the trip with a long sightseeing itinerary.

If you’re the type of person who makes a spreadsheet of activities before you travel, this one’s for you. Opt for movement-friendly pieces that can keep up with your schedule, like the Milo jeans and Allyn pants. Both styles are stretchy enough for all-day comfort and easy to pair with a wide range of tops, like the Tatum, the Monica, and the Montean, depending on the occasion. The easy Emily dress is perfect for days when you’re sick of pants and looks great with the long Katari coat and some knit booties. Layer the Merritt jardigan over any of these pieces for extra warmth and a fresh winter-white look.

Still feeling stumped? Check out our Power Travel selection for more of our travel-friendly, put-together favorites.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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