This might be the MOST fun article we’ve ever worked on. Karen wrote in asking for a packing list for an upcoming RV trip. The catch? She and her family are selling their house, and traveling all over the US…for the next two years.
My husband and I are in the process of selling/donating/purging nearly all of our worldly possessions with plans to purchase a Class A motorhome (used) in order to spend the next 1-2 years traveling around the US/Canada before our daughter (3) needs to go to kindergarten. We are lucky enough that my husband’s job is remote, so as long as we have decent internet we are set! Obviously, we have about a million things to do (including selling the house and buying our new home on wheels) but we’ll need to figure out what to bring with us with very limited cargo room!
My husband will have no issues downsizing his wardrobe, but I’m stumped about what to consider a ‘must have’ list of things to bring! We’ll need clothing for a variety of activities, though a ‘work wardrobe’ is not one of them. I’m afraid I’ll fall into a trap of nothing but athleisure and get bored quickly! Do you have any suggestions of great multi-purpose, CUTE, comfortable and functional items that you’d consider must-have items? We’re sure to face everything from crazy heat, rain, and early spring/late fall (transitional season) weather. I’m a chronic over-packer. Please help!
This was such an exciting packing challenge, but a very tricky one. After tossing and turning for a few nights, I realized that an effective way of facing this very overwhelming challenge was to structure it around broad activities, on a per season basis. I recruited one of my friends, Linzi, to help. Linz is one of my most practical friends, and I knew she’d help balance out my loftier ideas. (Does one really need over-the-knee boots in an RV? Probs not.)
Linzi and I broke the packing list down into four general categories:
- Something to Lounge In (one outfit each for winter, spring, summer fall)
- Something for Outdoor Adventuring (one outfit per season)
- Something for Urban Exploring (one outfit per season)
- A Few Things For Fun (NOTE: this is where I’d add the OTK boots, if so inclined.)
As we were putting this together….Linzi noted that this would actually be a genius way to structure our own wardrobes. Can you imagine the ease of having a single, go-to uniform for your favorite outdoor activities? And another complete outfit for museum days? There’s nothing like travel (even if it’s just a virtual trip, lived vicariously through Karen) to help whittle down your wardrobe to just the essentials.
Also note that this isn’t necessarily intended to be a comprehensive packing list. You’ll want to pack underwear, and maybe more tshirts than we actually recommend, etc. But Linzi and I are both planning to use this concept as our Packing List For Life. (haha)
Lastly, while the collages below do have specific pieces in them, the idea here is to simply use them as a general guideline. If, say, you hate off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, swap out that one for a quirky graphic one that’s more your style. The idea is to have a list of carefully curated pieces you love. Definitely go beyond the basics here. I don’t think a wardrobe of only basics will get you through two years of travel without major boredom setting in.
Something To Lounge In
For loungewear, the focus should obviously be on comfort (think: long driving days) but also items that will give you a bit of style and can “get in the mix” for non-lounging activities as well. This will keep you from falling into the trap of having nothing but athleisure.
If you wanted to consolidate further, you could skip the slip-on sneaks and just go with the fashion sneakers, or just choose one of the cardigans. But I’d keep the skinny sweatpants, faux-leather leggings (lined in fleece – the MOST comfy things on brutally cold days), and beach pants (which are cool enough for summer). You’ll probably spend most of your time in these.
We worked on this packing list before my NINO Brand collab was launched….but I would absolutely bring the Livy dress instead of the one pictured. It’s just as comfy and cute….but very durable and can be worn as a top, too.
Something For Outdoor Adventuring
This is the category I specifically want to solve in my own life. Linzi and I argued a bit over footwear, but in the end, this is one area that practically really does matter. So the hiking shoe choices are ones that we both found “cute enough”. And while this might feel like too many shoes….please note that the same hiking shoes are used in both Fall and Spring. We also wanted to make sure you were covered no matter where in the US you might be, no matter the season. Linzi also encouraged me to add some color – this is an easy and fun way to mix it in.
To consolidate further…you could swap out the hiking sandals for traditional Tevas (and leave the Birkenstocks from the Lounging section behind, too). The disadvantage is that traditional Tevas can’t be slipped on when getting out of the RV (like Birks), nor are they as protective as the hiking sandals we included. But depending on what kinds of activities you will actually be doing….the might be “good enough” in both categories.
Something For Urban Exploring
City exploring we’ve got on lock. Simply use our go-to formula: cool denim, pretty tops, and comfortable (but edgy) shoes, and a jacket. I highly recommend a leather jacket. With a cashmere turtleneck sweater, scarf and hat, it’ll be warm enough for most winter days. You can layer it over a pretty cardigan for the swinging temps of Spring, or wear it over a tee shirt for Fall. Each shoe has been well-tested by the TME team, and the Rebecca Minkoff backpack – in taupe – gets our nod for the most versatile bag EVER.
Also don’t underestimate the power of stripes. They look good with everything (even other patterns), yet make an outfit infinitely more interesting.
If you must consolidate further….skip the summer sandals. Seems like an odd thing to say, I know….but you could sub in the Birkenstocks from the loungewear section, and many cities (like NYC) are kinda dirty on the feet. I typically wear my fashion sneaks or taupe booties, even in the summer. (Unless it’s 95 degrees, then I go with dirty, sandaled feet.)
A Few Things Just for Fun
And finally….pack some stuff just for fun. These are the key items that will prevent boredom. Linzi is much better about accessorizing than I am, and she pointed out that accessories take up virtually no room, but will totally save you from wardrobe boredom. She also pointed out that it might be fun to pack no accessories initially, rather pick them up in various places as you travel. Such a good idea.
But we both agreed that every girl needs a sexy swimsuit, one set of pretty pajamas, a few good dresses, and something that can be reallly dressed up or dressed down (in this case, that black romper), and pair of heels (and a clutch) for night. Based on experience, I think the most versatile heels in the world are nude.
Rubber flip-flops have to be somewhere on your list – they’ll save you from public pools and changing rooms and bathrooms. I also threw in the OTK boots. I really can’t decide if they are necessary on the two year road trip. I only know that they’re the most-worn boots in my closet. I use them to transition summer dresses into Fall and Spring, and they help keep me warm all winter. If you are primarily sticking to natural, adventurous places, then maybe leave them at home. But if city dwelling is a major part of this plan, they’ll be SO helpful.
So that’s it! Our Packing List For Life (or year-long travel in an RV, haha). Karen, I really hope this helped (and I’m sorry it took us so long to get our thoughts together). We’d love to hear more about your trip – there’s more than a little bit of envy over here!
And readers – thoughts on the packing list? What are some pieces that you don’t leave home without?
S (and Linzi)