How To Pack For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday of the year.  The fall foliage is on full display, you’re surrounded by family and friends, and the food is never-ending.  But if you’re one of the many young professionals who no longer call their hometown “home”, Thanksgiving is also a time filled with stressful travel arrangements and the realization that you have to complete that dreadful task required of anyone going anywhere for any reason at all: packing.

Remember when I said Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday of the year?  Well, packing is my least favorite activity ever.  Ever.  EVER.  I’m a chronic over-packer.  I never touch half the things I shove in my bag, and then curse myself as I’m lugging said (extremely overweight) bag over my shoulder.  And so, to make things easier on everyone, I put together a little list of the must-haves for your trip home.  Feel free to accessorize as you wish, but please, for your own sake, try to keep your checklist to a minimum.  The worst that can happen?  You re-wear an item of clothing (the horror!) after washing it in mom and dad’s laundry machine (heaven!).  Or, there’s that thing called Black Friday.  Last time I checked, that place you spent 18 years of your life had a mall.  So stop packing as if you’re vacationing in the tundra.  Where you’re going, there ARE roads.  And H&M.  Trust me, you’ll survive.

And so without further adieu, a packing guide for Turkey Day:

Your favorite pair of jeans.  Yes, pair.  Singular.  You only need one.  Just make sure they’re not too skinny (you are planning to eat a 15 course meal followed by a healthy dose of leftovers, right?):

A cardigan and a comfy, cozy sweater.  The sweater for obvious reasons, the cardigan to throw over basically any other outfit you wear throughout the weekend:











A dress.  Unless you live in Las Vegas, leave the sparkles and bandage dresses at home.  Pack a dress that straddles the line between casual and special occasion.  You want something that you can wear to the Thanksgiving dinner, and also to brunch with your high school buddies:














Versatile boots.  Boots are the easiest shoe to match with everything, and guarantee that you’ll stay warm throughout the weekend.  Pack a pair in a neutral color that matches most of the other items in your bag.  Shoes are heavy and take up space, so stick to one pair:








Outerwear.  This obviously varies depending on where you call home, so if you’re headed to San Diego or Miami, you can skip to the next one.  Otherwise, bring a good, warm coat that you can wear no matter the occasion, whether out to drinks with your pals or to your Grandmother’s house.  And don’t forget a scarf and hat.  As Grandma would say, you don’t want to catch a chill:











PJs!  This is my favorite part.  Pick your comfiest, coziest, most holiday-inspired pajamas:











Is there something you never travel without?  Do you have a Thanksgiving must that I forgot?  Clue me in in the comments section below!


After graduating from college in ’09, Allyson Barkan flew off to Greece to teach English Literature at a private high school and explore Greek and European culture for a year.  Since returning stateside, she now works in Entertainment Public Relations in New York City.  For travel advice, stray observations as a 20-something in the big city, and the occasional hilarious misadventure, follow Allyson and on twitter at @aebarkan.

How To Pack Practically

There are few things I love more than traveling.  New places, new people, new cuisines, and new adventures.  With travel comes excitement, exploration, and endless opportunities.  Having said this, there are few things I hate more than packing.  Fitting heels, dresses, jeans, flats, skirts, accessories, and toiletries into one small bag?  Kill me now.  I would do anything and pay anything to avoid packing.  But unfortunately packing is one of those necessary evils we must endure in order to see the world and unless you want to stay at home for the rest of your life we all must learn how to embrace packing.

There are a few rules of thumb when it comes to packing and, in my experience, one rule reigns supreme: less is more.  I know you think you need that sparkly sequined top that still has the tags on it after hanging in your closet for over a year.  You don’t.  I know that the light wash jeans go with the purple tank top while the dark skinnies go with the bohemian top, and they can’t possibly be interchanged.  They can (and you should go with the dark wash…more versatile).  I know you wouldn’t possibly dare pairing that mini with the black heels rather than the silver ones.  You will.  Packing, much like travel, allows for endless opportunities.  You must be realistic and learn to weed things out.  You may be sad now, but you’ll be happy later as you buy local, original fashions that you can now fit in your luggage.

Often times, traveling less affords you more opportunity to get creative.  It also makes you realize that you don’t need to pack your closet on every vacation.  I’ve been through it all, and I can attest to this.  I’ve packed an entire 50lb duffel to the brim to go home for one Thanksgiving weekend (I wore the 5 items that sat atop the bag, nothing else).  I’ve also traveled for 2 weeks through Sweden, Belgium, and Scotland with nothing more than a backpack.  You know what the funny thing is?  I went to bars, clubs, museums, restaurants, parks, and pub crawls with the latter, and had a blast, never feeling like I lacked clothing.  I also realized that whatever you need, you can most likely buy.  Didn’t bring a sweater to Switzerland?  I promise you, the Swiss have sweaters.






So what are the staples you should also remember?  A pair of jeans for one, and a practical pair at that.  Jeans work for a day of sightseeing and a night out on the town.  And don’t waste your time packing 5 inch heels.  They’re heavy, take up precious space, and will not be worn more than twice on your trip.

Pack cute flats or sandals (depending on your destination), or a cute pair of boots you’d be comfortable wearing on the plane.  You’d be surprised how a black top, dark jeans, and black boots can transition from day to night with the addition of a fun necklace, a few bangles, and some eye makeup.  At the very worst, you look slightly underdressed, but that’s part of being a tourist. Plus you’re never going to see these people again!

Taking a cue from my black top comment – stick to neutrals.  White tees and tanks, black tops, simple cardigans.  These items allow you to mix and match, so that you can wear the same items day after day without wearing the same outfit twice.  Don’t waste your space on chunky sweaters.  That’s what layering is for.  I’ve survived freezing Berlin temps with a tank top, a t-shirt, a long sleeve tee, and a cardigan.  All of these items can be worn separately to create many outfits, and can keep you warm by layering together.

A few other notes?  Always pack a scarf.  Even if you are going to the Caribbean, you never know when a cold spell or strong winds will hit.  A scarf can be worn with a parka in the dead of winter or over a sundress for an ocean side dinner.  A pair of leggings can help make an outfit during the day, jazz up a top or dress at night, and be the perfect comfy pajama bottoms come bedtime.  And while you should skimp on trendy tops and pairs of jeans, don’t skimp on socks or underwear.  Pack a pair of undies for everyday you will be gone plus a few extra.  You definitely don’t want to run out of underwear.  Socks come in handy on the plane, in a cold hotel room, for early morning workouts, or for long days sightseeing with a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

Lastly, skip the hair appliances.  Especially if you’re going someplace warm and tropical.  I guarantee you will not use them.  Learn to work with your hair naturally.  Bring a bit of product, learn how to braid, perfect that bun, or wrap that scarf around your head.  If you must, throw in a travel-size blow dryer (though many hotels provide one), but forget the curling iron.  It’ll only sit in your bag, un-used.

And as for makeup…less is also more.  Bring the basics and a 4-shade eye shadow kit.  This will take you from day to night, and you won’t end up with a makeup bag full of products you won’t actually use.  Considering airline restrictions these days, it’s easier for everyone if you leave that extra cream blush at home.

Happy travels!  And don’t forget a camera (or your ipod, a good book, and possibly some sleeping pills)!



After graduating from college in ’09, Allyson Barkan flew off to Greece to teach English Literature at a private high school and explore Greek and European culture for a year.  Since returning stateside, she now works in Entertainment Public Relations in New York City.  For travel advice, stray observations as a 20-something in the big city, and the occasional hilarious misadventure, follow Allyson at and on twitter at @aebarkan.