The impetus to shove an entire closet into a suitcase is one I understand — but not for all the same reasons you might. As a size 16-18 woman, clothing options become sparse as I wander further away from my safety net of in-store and online retailers that carry my size.
And even my shopping options at home are inadequate, if I'm being honest. Only four out of 25 of the largest commercial brands carry above a size 14, making it a burden just to find clothes — and traveling raises the stakes. It's a quick stop to the local store if you forget shampoo or a toothbrush, but forgetting a crucial frock when you're plus-size is a hard gaffe to remedy when availability is not on your side. Thus, the impulse to pack everything I own.
Before you take that leap and decide to chance the fate of finding an above size 14 bathing suit while on your vacation (and a cute one, at that), here are some helpful packing cues.
It All Starts With the Suitcase.
Plus-size clothing has more fabric; it's larger. Even with a perfectly curated selection of clothing or the most intricate hand roll technique, luggage must accommodate the lot. This requires a suitcase to be light-weight, compartmentalized, and have the design foresight to open from the middle, displaying equal parts storage on either side.
Away suitcases are a true work of getaway magic for the plus-size traveler. The carry-on model is sufficient for a four to seven day adventure as it's decked out with a hard shell case weighing in at seven pounds, two compartments, a compression pad that doubles as a nylon laundry bag, and built-in battery for all your USB devices. It's the full package wrapped in a travel-friendly, scratch-resistant capsule.
"We kept hearing from people that the best part of soft shell luggage was that you could keep stuffing in more, but hard shell luggage had the advantage of always retaining its outside shape and keeping your clothes more organized. We created the compression pad so that you could have the best of both worlds," said Steph Korey, co-founder of Away.
Dress Smart for the Plane.
Yes, you could show up to the airport in the most killer sweatpants you own, but this wouldn't be an efficient use of your travel wardrobe. Let this first key outfit guide your packing strategy. It's structural, it has the most fabric, it can be worn a few times on your trip, and it easily transitions from day to night.
Choose pieces that are easily elevated with a simple accessory. Do yourself a favor and pack Universal Standard's Wheaton Sweater Dress — it's going to make your life a whole lot easier. "The Wheaton is a perfect travel companion because it is three garments in one: it's a dress, a tunic, and a sweater depending on how you choose to wear it," says Universal Standard's co-founder and creative director Alex Waldman.
This triple-threat can compliment a pair of skinny jeans, get tucked into a skirt or paired with tights, be layered under a leather jacket, or be worn as is with a nice pair of loafers. Also, the Geneva Standard Dress is available online at Coverstory and is as comfortable as it is sharp. It's a sound choice if you're not entirely sure where the vacation may take you, as it can be dressed up, down, layered, or even slept in.
Utilize Extra Storage.
Utilize the extra storage in places you may have overlooked. Stick socks, tights, bandanas, or extra accessories inside your shoes — or even in the cups of your bra. After they're folded in, the remaining concave space is perfect for bundled underwear and tanks. The trick: Lay each piece flat, one on top of the other. Roll from one side until you have achieved the skivvies cylinder, and fold that in half. Bind with a rubber band and plant in the bra nook. Voila!
Prioritize packing items you might not find easily in stores while traveling. Quality plus-size denim, swimsuits, and dresses are best found online, so make sure to bring those items with you. Side note: It's important to pack a bathing suit no matter where you're headed. A hotel pool, hot spring, hot tub, or creek could pop up anywhere you go. I went to Utah this past January in the middle of a snowstorm and was thankful I packed my swimsuit for the hotel pool.
Think Before You Accessorize.
Keep accessories to a minimum, especially anything of value. Buy a necklace, cool enamel pins, or earrings that you can wear when you're back home and remember your trip.
Do not — I repeat: do not — bring brand new shoes on your trip with you. I know they look amazing and you really want to show them off on this trip, but think of the unnecessary blisters you're going to be experiencing thanks to this luggage space-waster. Do yourself a major favor and bring shoes you know and love.
Find Your Technique.
If all goes to plan and you're ready to start packing, the last thing you really need to worry about is the technique. Are you a roller or a folder?
We asked Away's other co-founder, Jen Rubio, what she reccomends: "I fold my clothes flat, never roll. This seems like common sense, but I stack all of my tops together, bottoms together, throw all of my lingerie in a separate little bag. It makes it so much easier to get dressed and put together outfits while on the road."