Packing for 5 Days In Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey

During my recent break I took a little trip. First, a plane to JFK for three days in New York visiting my son and some newish friends. Then, a train to New Jersey for two days with my best friend of several decades. I had vowed to put aside the camera, and my internal blog topic collector, and so I did. The trip remains largely undocumented.

However, who can go to New York and return without thinking about What to Wear? Not I, she said, not I. And who can navigate New York without, in the end, identifying as uptown or downtown, East Side or West Side? Again she said, not I.

On to the slide shows, lists, and what Sue of Une Femme has termed, Polyvores on the Floor ®. She’s the packing master.



I packed in my usual 10-step fashion. (How do you do it?)

  1. About 10 days before I leave I start looking at the weather report for my destination. If rain’s predicted 80% of my shoes are non-starters. So much suede, so many open toes, so many pairs that must be worn sockless. Blame our long drought..
  2. A week out I make a handwritten list, by category, of possibles.
  3. Three days before I leave, I lay out candidate garb on my second sofa. Put the dopp kit on my bathroom counter. Every trip I realize, with a start, “My toiletries aren’t travel-sized!” Luckily I prefer to check my suitcase when traveling alone.
  4. I look at the spread, and mull.
  5. I wash clothes, I get shoes repaired as needed, I might just run out and buy something.
  6. I mull some more.
  7. The day before I leave, I try out any untested combinations/outfits. Does that black jacket REALLY go with the bootleg jeans? Does that dress REALLY work with tights? I don’t want to show up in imaginary outfits.
  8. The night before travel, I roll everything up, moving from mulling to culling. Put away those items that will not fit. These are usually shoes. It always comes down to shoes.
  9. Morning of travel, into the suitcase it goes. Check ID, Xanax, lip balm.
  10. All set.

And what did I actually pack for this 5-day trip to über-urban New York and iconic New Jersey suburbs? It was supposed to rain like crazy during my trip. Start with the shoes.

What I Wore

Footwear (Note: I considered running out to buy leather sneakers but realized that my 20-year old Doc Martens would suffice.)

  • New Balance (light suede sneakers for air travel and suburban indoors)
  • Vintage DKNY ankle boots (worn with bootleg jeans to meet cool son’s cool friends at a daytime party and my own cool friends for dinner)
  • Doc Martens (worn pretty much all the rest of the time. Turned out they were sufficiently water-resistant for city rain.)
  • (Kicked off the packing sofa: Valentino Tangos. I realized if I really needed to dress up, the DKNY boots would do for a downtown retro kind of fancy. Yes, team downtown for this trip.)

Like This

Outerwear/Jacket (Note: I was astonished at how versatile the Marant jacket was in her natural habitat, crossing from East to West Side with ease.)

  • Black, white (and a teeny fleck of blue), tweed Isabel Marant jacket
  • Generic black trench
  • Scarves/mufflers: 10-year old blue paisley Etro and a really long 15-year old hot pink Loro Piana. Big wool scarves are like an easily removed sweater for unsettle weather.

Like This

Jeans, Jean, Jeans. (I cursed when I realized I had given my super-cool old 7FMAK Ginger flares away. Decluttering is not all.)

  • GAP 1969s
  • Levi 501s (only new thing I bought for the trip, to replace the ones I’d worn so hard they were more holes than pants. Size 28, loose, for traveling and general life)
  • 7 For All Mankind bootcut ( They survived the declutter. Booyah! Trend maven!)
  • (Kicked off the packing sofa: Super-hipster selvedge)

Like This

Tops (To cut to the chase, tees and more tees, in shades of white, gray, black, and blue)

  • Long-sleeved gray Moomintroll printed UNIQLO tee
  • Long-sleeved gray and white Jigsaw striped tee
  • Flowy black Free People tee (worked perfectly under the Marant jacket with GAP jeans)
  • Cadet blue UNIQLO tee (worn in the same way)
  • White tank

Like This

Jewelry (How I make Extreme Casual look like it isn’t a mistake)

Like This

Lounge Around (For days and nights with the best friend and her kids)


What I Didn’t Wear

  1. Hello Kitty necklace (a present from my best friend. I mean to wear it in her honor but I forgot )
  2. A Steven Alan windowpane buttonfront (looked good under the Marant when I stood still, got messy when I moved about. Ooops.)
  3. Short-sleeved white tee (didn’t spill on my other tees)
  4. Short-sleeved gray tee (as above)
  5. Dries van Noten Belgian toile and Tokyo skyline photoprint shift. (Was glad I packed it. What if I’d met Dries in an elevator somewhere and he’d invited me to a party with his entourage! In New York one must be prepared for all eventualities.)
  6. Tights and slip (for the unworn dress)
  7. Rainboots

And Oh Yes

Knirps Umbrella


I was highly satisfied with my packing this go-round. I don’t mind bringing too many tees, or an unworn dress. I enjoy some choice in alien lands.


I came home with four lessons learned.

  • Were I to live in New York, I’d spent the majority of my self-presentation dollars on haircuts I’d straighten my hair every day. I cannot tell you how fantastic my gray made me feel, striding towards the downtown subway stop. Like a person of substance, who might still like to kiss.
  • Tops in neutral patterns really add interest to a small wardrobe.
  • 59-year olds probably shouldn’t wear cashmere sweaters on airplanes. If they do, they may find themselves sweating, removing said sweater, and then having to board an aircraft in a white tank top. Which for this 59-year old felt like I was sporting my underwear in public. Suboptimal. Saved by impunity.
  • A beloved son is the best accessory.


Other bloggers have also written recently about packing for travel. Margy details her spreadsheet/mood board method here, Materfamilias and her commentors discuss “ennnui de la valise,” here. Affiliate links may generate commissions.

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  • I’m right there with you on the 10 steps, especially #9, item 2.

    I substitute a beloved sister as the best accessory.

    I don’t usually worry about what to wear in NYC, since so few people are actually from there….although I am. I should have a tee shirt made with my birth certificate on it ;)

    7:33 am
    Lisa said...

    @Patsy, Beloved sisters work really well too. And, great idea on the tee. Would be a hit in Silicon Valley too.

  • Like your packing strategy, and your choices. Have been missing my old doc marten’s lately, given away a long time ago when my feet decided they need to grow a full size. Haven’t convinced myself to buy new ones as somehow the idea of old is more appealing, but I may have to revise my thinking

    9:51 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, I find Docs now the easiest way to look cooler, or at least feel cooler, given that I just can’t be bothered with serious dressup;).

  • I have one of those Uniqlo Sprz t-shirts -gray with black/orange/tan. Mine has a little ruffle on the sleeve, I see that yours has more of a cuff. The design is nice under a sweater or jacket and the quality is good for an inexpensive shirt.

    Did you see any shows?

    9:53 am
    Lisa said...

    @RoseAG, I really love UNIQLOs art tees. The one in the slideshow isn’t mine, I couldn’t find mine in stores any more:(. The gray Moomintroll tee in the photo is mine. And yes, we saw The Flick. Old-fashioned, perfect theater.

  • Great method! Next time I’ll use your 10 step program.

    Why haircuts?

    9:53 am
    Lisa said...

    @Linda @ a design snack, Hope it helps!

    And haircuts because the perfectly precise angled cut at the perfect length is really different than regular old shoulder-length hair!

  • Welcome back! You’re right, a beloved son is the best accessory.

    12:07 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Leslie K, <3

  • Beautifully written piece. You’re such a thoughtful gem of a human being. I love that you chose not to document your trip, but instead to live it. I’ve been doing that more as well, and it feels peculiar but good. Your packing choices and mine are similar, sans the blue. I’m certain you looked beautiful. I hope you had a fabulous time.

    1:24 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Katherine C. James, Aw thank you! I am so happy to hear you liked the writing in this post, especially as my primary goal was to communicate the information in as few words as possible! Which turned out, of course, to be a lot…I did have an absolutely fabulous time.

  • I love it when a woman admits (gasp!) that she likes her gray hair. At 34, I’ve resolutely refused to dye my growing number of gray strands over the past several years–I vacillate between not thinking about them at all (most of the time) to occasionally quite enjoying them

    1:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    @L, So glad you enjoy them. They really are a great fashion enhancer.

  • It is always so much fun to plan one’s outfits for a trip, and it seems you’ve got it down pat. Perhaps a small hand-held fan will help from overheating until the AC is up and running on your flight. I always pack one.

    1:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Chronica Domus, A handheld fan. Of course. I want a battery-powered one!

  • I have no doubt that your beloved son was quite a fine accessory. Thank you for this packing wardrobe breakdown. Much fun to read and absorb.

    1:26 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, My distinct and forever pleasure.

  • Awww. My favorite accessory would be a pair of beloved daughters. We travel well together. Nice that you spent time with your son and didn’t feel the need to record his every meal or outfit. After all, its not like you can just run over to his place every day.

    Love your trip planning ideas.

    1:26 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, I totally can’t run over to his place every day! Dang! It is perhaps planned that way? And how wonderful that you and the daughter pair travel well together

  • Hope you had a blast, sure sounds like it! My Blundstones = your Docs, just got second pair in cherry red.

    Is the Xanax for flying? I practically have to be knocked senseless to board a plane.

    If she has the right haircut, IMO a woman does not need to straighten her hair everyday- and “ain’t nobody got time for that”. Curl, wave, or whatever can be finessed fabulously by a great hairstylist.

    1:27 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Duchesse, I LOVE the idea of a tall woman in red Blundstones. Excellent. And yes, the Xanax is for flying, I’m highly amusing to talk to if you catch me in the first hour of a flight. Or so I’m told;).

  • decluttering is not all- I still mourn my awesome denim jacket from about 2002….xxxx

    1:41 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Faux Fuchsia, If even you, goddess of the clean cupboard, agree, I think we’re onto something!

  • Brava! Perfect timing!!! I like and admire analytical mind and approach ( and nice sofa- I usually lay down white sheet on wooden floor near carpet for years. I learned from you blogger ladies that it has a name,Polyvores on the floor!
    I can’t believe how similar we prepare ourselves,I am just more hysterical and start couple of weeks before,actually wearing and testing different combinations (if weather conditions and my actual weight permit)
    I agree,great that you lived life and enjoyed it in privat (son,best friend,perfect…)and thank you for sharing your thoughts and combinations afterwards. I like your long posts very much,although even one ,last ,sentence is just enough,perfect!
    In a week I am going to visit my best accessory aka beloved son in London and am between chapter 6. and 7. Boots in repair!
    You make me think once more time,7FMAK bootcut (can you believe?) instead straight leg Scotch and Soda?
    Still have some more doubts!
    I’m so glad that you had such a great automn break

    1:44 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, I quite love it that you and I are jeans twins.

    And confession, the clothes in the photos are on a) my bed b) my rug in the bedroom. I took them once I got home, and on the sofa there isn’t enough room to spread them out!

    A sheet on the floor is a good solution.

  • Fabulous wardrobe. Just goes to show that the best clothes for travel are the pieces that we feel most at home in. Gah, I want to go to New York!

    1:45 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan (une femme), I think you totally deserve a long weekend in New York, in the fall weather or even the winter.

  • Love your list. Follow a similar plan…only with more “mulling” than “culling.” And I always add more thing at the very last minute…like an hour before I leave the house. Mostly this is because I have been kept awake all night with “what-ifs.” What if it’s too cold? … or too hot? …etc. And often these last minute things are lifesavers…a warm scarf for Ireland one cool July… or a sleeveless top and shorts for a trip to Yorkshire when they had the hottest temps in years. Getting much better at this packing thing as the years go by. Will be excellent by the time cane and collapsible walker are top of the list:)

    1:50 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Sue Burpee, I agree, that last minute thing can be exactly what you need. Let’s hope by the time canes are required the technology has improved so that they telescope down to the size of an iPhone:).

  • I’m an over packer because like you, I prefer to have choices and don’t mind checking my bags, especially when going to one destination. I think a good haircut is essential no matter where you live BTW. I’m finding as I get older if my hair doesn’t feel right, then neither do I? My mother has entered my body.

    1:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kathy, Funny, my mother has taken control of my voice;).

  • My new goal: to look like a person of substance who still likes to kiss! Not quite managing it in chilly (8degrees C) Paris right now at the tail end of 7 weeks and carry-on only. Could I borrow a few items from your case? And oh, could we somehow, someday, unpack those cases in the same city? Doesn’t have to be Turin!
    Thanks for the hat/tip–it’s been a day of some grumbling here, so the pleasure of seeing my name in your lovely blog was especially appreciated…

    1:53 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Yes, absolutely opening bags in the same place. I guess I might get too crabby for kissing if I were cold and bored of my wardrobe and really kind of wanted to go home, even in Paris;).

  • You packed a lot of things but as you checked your bag that’s not an issue. I love Gap 1969 jeans too…I wish it were easier to source Uniqlo here as their tops are fabulous. I had to smile when you mentioned about having to remove your cashmere sweater…and board the plane in a tank top. I so get this!!

    Your getaway sounds like great fun.

    I felt a bit like you about my hair when I was in Paris…but not thinking about a kiss in the subway/metro!

    1:54 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, Well, let’s say it’s a metaphoric kiss then;).

  • I am a person who loves beautiful shoes but have come to realize that the most important thing to pack when travelling are comfortable shoes. My favorite accessory, beloved husband, and I love to walk as much as possible anywhere we visit. I agree that it is important to try every outfit on first to make sure that it really looks and feels right. And we always check the long range weather forecasts. These days, when clothes shopping, I am always excited to find something that looks like it will be comfortable yet stylish for air travel. So glad that you had a lovely break. Spending time with one’s children is always a treat!

    2:04 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Jane, Adult children are SUCH a treat. And I feel like this year is the year to buy 10 pair of comfortable stylish shoes – because flats are in, and who knows what will come down the pike next?

  • Perfect timing. I am packing for a trip right now and this helps me think it through. Was debating taking jewelry but your reasoning re not looking accidental has won me over.

    Separate question: Do Doc Martens have good arch support?

    11:43 am
    Lisa said...

    @Charlotte K, Enjoy your jangle;). And I’m going to say that Docs have a little but not a lot. However, I’m not the right source as my arches are essentially too high, and therefore anything that directly supports them feels completely weird. Docs do have rigid soles and lots of cushioning, however, which leads to excellent comfort in my situation.

  • I’m jealous you managed to snag a Moomintroll shirt in an adult size! By the time I saw that Uniqlo was stocking them, all they had left were children’s sizes, so I snagged a sweatshirt for my son out of the girl’s department (Little My with umbrella, because he loves umbrellas). We also have quite an assortment from their recent Leo Lionni series. :-)

    11:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kate, Little My! And I wish they’d bring the Moomins back, such an amazing set of characters and aesthetic.

  • I really enjoyed this post – you have good priorities. Since I travel a lot, whether alone or with beloved spouse, my suitcase is always packed: black and white, with seasonal khaki or grey, and one pop of color (sea-green pashmina shawl for Istanbul last month, sapphire blue cashmere sweater for Paris next month). Jewelry is minimal, scarves maximal – and language phrase books a necessity!

    11:45 am
    Lisa said...

    @victoire, Thank you:). Your travel schedule sounds amazing, such a pleasure.

  • I love this description of packing thoughtfully. I like to overpack for vacation trips but I made an effort to underpack for work trips this year. I have a list that works for a week trip in a weekender bag though sometimes I forget to pack enough socks.

    This drought means I don’t know how to dress for rain anymore. I was recently in rain in a city and ducked into a store to get more appropriate shoes — camper goretex beetle made me feel millennial hip.

    To regulate my increasing, aging self, body temperature while wearing my favorite cashmere sweaters, I wear a uniqlo coolmax tank top under. It helps, for me, with airplanes and in meeting rooms that can be too hot or too cold.

    12:58 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Leanne, Camper totally lends us millennial hipness. And a coolmax tank under? I hadn’t thought of that. I will definitely investigate, thank you.

  • I’m sad you didn’t get to wear your beautiful dress.

    Packing is all about shoes for me, too. I have idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, which means I have to bring twice as many shoes as people not so afflicted—and that the shoes I bring are not so pretty!

    Difficult feet are difficult.

    1:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Wendelah, Aw thanks. It’s OK, I can wear it here pretty easily. And I’m so sorry about your feet! Must make all kinds of things difficult:(.

  • Thank you for the statement/sentiment on grey hair. Mine always makes me feel that way!

    11:38 am
    Lisa said...

    I am so glad to hear that!

  • That’s called “Smart Packing,” Lisa. I do actual polyvore sets to decide what I want to bring with me on a trip, whether it’s a week long cruise (Just did that! My hubby and I were cruise virgins.) or a quick weekend road trip. I must be a visual learner, because my sets make it so easy for me to see what works and what doesn’t.

    I love your NYC choices. Very smart.

  • I love the stuff you chose to pack! Everything is so comfortable and stylish. If I were you I would pack the same type of clothes and accessories. Best regards

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