Do you wait until the very last minute to pack for a trip? And then end up taking too much of all the wrong things? I learned my lesson early. The day before one of my first trips to Paris Fashion Week, I had a last minute magazine cover reshoot. I packed an hour before the cab came and into my case went pretty much all of my black garments. These timeless 24/7 pieces would match I figured, and not have to be laundered much. What I ended up with was a gloomy wardrobe during one of Europe’s sunny steamy late falls. My wardrobe felt oppressive, heavy and boring. I baked under the sun and when I went shopping, all I could find in early October was heavy winter garments. I learned how much I love colour and pattern (such a great pick me up), and the importance of being prepared. Here are my top ten prep trips for a versatile stress-free trip: 

Jacket by Sentaler. Photo, Tara West.

#1 Make a list. My Girl Guide training kicks in as I record everything I need for my upcoming trip. I plan every work outfit (with accessories and shoes) and make sure I can wear the pieces in multiple ways. A patterned skirt can be worn with a blazer for work, jeans for time off, and a lace top for dinner out. Then, I summarize each outfit on a Post-it Note and stick it in my Daytimer by day. I don’t sleep all that well when I’m on the road so this extra step saves a lot of early morning aggravation. (I pack my sleeping pills first in a zippered pocket in my handbag. These are crucial when I’m travelling for work.)

#2 Pack early. Pull everything out a night or two in advance of your travel date to make sure everything is clean and ready to go. 

#3 Plane clothes. Assemble your travel outfit (fully accessorized) the night before and leave it on a chair. You can pull it on quickly before the cab arrives. 

#4 Luggage tip. I always check in a bag for flights longer than two nights. I’m not one of those who can pack one tiny carry-on for a month away. I need just that for my toiletries! Pick a bright colour for your bag (never black like 90% of travellers) – mine is flaming red so I can quickly spot it on the luggage carousel. Take a photo of it with your phone just in case it misses your flight. Can you identify your bag if it’s not in front of you? Brand name? Size? Distinctive markings? Make sure your current phone number and email address are on the tag. I never include my address as it’s a signal to thieves that I’m not home, or where I’m going.

#5 Essential totes. I bring a variety of bags to organize life on the road. I prefer a compact wheelie for the plane’s overhead compartment. Inside that is a padded laptop bag and iPad case. (I download magazines, books and movies in advance.) I’ve put my all-time favourite work bag back in rotation. Made from sturdy leather, my favourite Prada bag has two zippered pockets that fit an iPad and file folders, plus inside pockets for pens and valuables, and compartments for my phone and makeup.

Accessories, Valentino. Tote, Longchamp by Mary Katrantzou.

#6 Cross my heart. A small cross-body bag is my round-the-clock essential. It should be just big enough for your phone and a small wallet, pen and lipstick. And when I travel, my passport fits in so I know where it is at all times. I wear this every single day.

# 7 Organizers. I have three sizes of plastic zip top bags that I swear by. Snack size bags are home to my jewellery. Sandwich size bags sort my makeup. Larger freezer bags fit undies and t-shirts. And my shoes and handbags go into cotton dust bags. I save a stash of skincare for travel so I can grab that fully loaded bag when I’m ready to hit the road. I wrap my coats and jackets in dry cleaner plastic bags instead of tissue that easily rips.   

#8 Footwear. Every smart traveller knows that to wear the heaviest footwear on the plane – or train or car. I slip them off as soon as I get settled and put on cosy socks. 

Jacket, Sentaler. Scarf, Erdem. Photo by Tara West.

#9 Essential go-everywhere accessory. A bold patterned scarf is my signature accessory so I always pack a few. And I always wear one on the plane as it tends to be chilly. 

#10 Carry-on must-haves. I always pack these in my carry-on bag: change of undies, toothbrush and toothpaste, extra charger, socks, scarf, cross-body bag granola bars, and iPad. If I’m heading South, I also toss in a bathing suit so I can hit the pool right away if my room isn’t ready. 

This may read like an overwhelming list but a little advance preparation gives you more time to enjoy your trip.