Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

How Not to Over- or Under-Pack for Winter Break

Confession: My idea of packing light for winter break is limiting myself to just one suitcase… and my laptop bag stuffed with jewelry and headbands I realized that I can’t live without for a month that I shoved in there on my way out the door… and another duffel with those extra hair products I had to add just in case. Plus, five years ago, the weather in New Jersey was really warm in December and January, so that’s why three jackets with varying warmth levels are packed into the trunk of my car. And don’t even get me started on what shoes to bring.

Okay, so maybe I have a problem, but I know I’m not the only one out there. This year, I’m determined to change my over-packing ways. That said, I give you HC’s guide to packing for winter break. So grab those suitcases, push those pack-rat impulses aside, and let’s get packing! 

Do Your Homework

I know school is over for the semester and the last thing you want to hear for the next month is anything related to homework, but don’t put away those planners just yet. Think ahead: Do you have a job or internship interview over break? Are your friends planning a night out for New Year’s? Are jeans and a t-shirt simply unacceptable for that family party? Got your list ready? Now it’s time to simplify.

Interview or Internship: Classic black heels and a business-chic suit or dress are never a bad packing choice… and also not the easiest to replace with a quick trip to the mall. So head to your local Target and snatch up a garment bag to tote these just-in-case items home in. While that extra pair of sweatpants and hoodies in every color may not be the best use of space, stylish and professional choices are always a safe bet. You can always wear a suit jacket over a dress or pair dress pants with a sweater for family events.

Nights on the Town: If you need to pack lightly, but can’t bear the thought of pulling on the same outfit twice, save space by channeling those fashion smarts. Statement pieces are key here. This year, I’m relying on my favorite simple black dress and a pair of patterned black tights. But I couldn’t make this look work for multiple occasions without the help of accessories. Gather up some statement-making necklaces, a bright pair of heels, a sparkly scarf, or a bold jacket or sweater (I can’t wait to wear my new leather jacket over a super-girly dress). Each time you get dressed up, choose a different accent piece to spice up the look.  Accessories take up less space in your suitcase than clothes do.  Still not enough of a change? Experiment with different hair-dos each time you get dressed up, too. It’s an instant way to change an outfit and takes up absolutely no room in your suitcase!

Family Functions: Grandma probably doesn’t want to see you in a skimpy black dress, but at least you can make those accessories work double time. Pick one or two nice sweaters to pack for special occasions and one pair of dress pants (or dark skinny jeans if your family loves their denim as much as mine does!). Throw on a basic pair of boots or those dressy heels you already packed and you’re ready to make an impression without taking up a ton of suitcase space.


Since Every Day Isn’t a Party…

You need to consider the practical stuff, too. This is usually where things get messy. But instead of grabbing every single sweater and style of shoes, take a step back and make a list. Let’s assume you’ll be doing laundry about once a week. Let’s also remember that some picks, like jeans, can be worn more than once in between washes. So try to resist packing every pair you own. Here’s what you should plan to pack:

  • A week’s worth of bras, underwear, and socks
  • One pair of dressy heels/boots
  • One pair of sneakers
  • Two pairs of everyday shoes (casual boots, moccasins, etc)
  • 2-3 pairs of jeans
  • A pair of sweats
  • 3 t-shirts for gym trips or sleeping
  • Layering pieces you wear all the time (tanks, that plain white t-shirt)
  • My top three favorite cardigans (one black, one grey, one navy)
  • A few basic everyday tops
  • One over-the-head hoodie and one zip-up
  • My two favorite going out shirts

Leave Your Summer Clothes at School

The first step to deciding what to pack is deciding what NOT to pack. Near-freezing temperatures may prompt you to scoop up those summer outfits and throw them in a suitcase to make room for all those cozy sweaters you plan to bring back. But the better option is folding up those warm-weather pieces and storing them under your bed. That way, there’s plenty of suitcase room for pieces you’ll actually wear.  Save yourself the spring break aggravation of re-packing these items and keep your hands off the shorts and tank tops.

* If winter break includes warm weather travel plans, pack a separate, smaller suitcase with your top vacation picks. When it comes time to head to the airport, you don’t want to be frantically trying to separate that warm weather gear from the piles of sweaters you’ve tossed into your bigger bag.

Home is Where the Extra Clothes Are:

Odds are you have some tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, and accessories waiting for you at home, so try to resist packing up EVERYTHING you love in your dorm room closet. I’m guilty of doing this every year. And you know what? I only wear about 15 percent of what I lug home! If you’re like me and tend to forget just what’s hanging in your room at home, you’ll feel like you’re going shopping when you open that closet door the first day of break. Plus, having new wardrobe choices to work with is a great way to switch things up from the style you’ve been sporting all semester.


Think Outside the Suitcase Box:

Packing isn’t just about the clothes. Here are some other items you need to add that are a bit harder to replace than a pair of jeans.

  • Straightening iron
  • Hairdryer
  • Laptop, ipod, digital camera, cell phone
  • Chargers and USB cords for all of these
  • Ethernet cable

We’ve all had that realization when we’re halfway home for break and realize that our razor or toothbrush is back on campus. This checklist of often-forgotten yet totally unsharable toiletries may help eliminate those moments.

  • Razor
  • Contact lenses (and solution)
  • Makeup
  • Tweezers
  • Toothbrush
  • Medication
  • Any special hair products
  • [And if you’re obsessive like me and still wear yours] retainers

Still feeling like you’re forgetting something? Try this: As you go through an average day, write down all the things you use and then reference that list when you’re packing.

Ready, Set, Pack:

Now that you have everything together, it’s time for the most important step—putting it all into a suitcase. Here are some tricks for packing it all in:

  • Roll up socks, underwear, and stockings and stuff them inside your shoes. Put these at the bottom
  • Make your first layer of clothes the ones that are least likely to wrinkle
  • Save the easy-to-wrinkle picks for the top layer
  • Roll up tanks and stuff them into the sides of the suitcase
  • Put any dressy pieces in a garment bag
  • And for some more great tips, check out this packing tutorial video.

So what are your best tips for making sure you don’t forget anything over winter break? How do you fit everything into that suitcase? We’d love to hear just how you get packing!  

Photo Sources:




Alyssa Grossman is a Jersey girl who sacrificed warmer winters to study Magazine Journalism at Syracuse University. When she isn’t writing, you can probably find her tap dancing, baking, or laughing uncontrollably with friends. She loves going on spontaneous road trips, then coming back and recording every detail in her journal. She’s also obsessed with pumpkin spice lattes and sushi, though not together. Last summer, she interned at M Magazine and as a result, is now a teen pop culture whiz. She is Features Editor at Zipped Magazine, Syracuse University’s fashion publication, and is a contributing writer for the online magazine, bizme.biz. After graduation, she plans to follow her love of Magazine Journalism wherever it takes her. Because, frankly, she couldn’t see herself doing anything else.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️