Packing Light: Puerto Rico Edition

This is every item of clothing I packed for eight days in Puerto Rico, minus my traveling dress and sweater, which somehow escaped my camera.

Regular readers know I like to pack light, so my goal for this trip was to fit everything in a carry-on suitcase and my laptop backpack. This is relatively easy to do if you’re going somewhere warm and casual, but Melissa was still surprised by how much I managed to cram into my bag.

This is a green dress I bought at H&M shortly after I had Hank. I love it, because the front pleat is very tummy forgiving, and that’s the area I worry about most, especially post-baby. When it’s not belted, it’s a comfy, loose shift. The purse is a thrift find; it’s lined with a spectacular hunting scene.

These peacock feather earrings are from Claire’s, and I love them.

The skinny gunmetal belt is J Crew. Versatile, ladies.

These simple, functional flats are my sneakers. They’re ideal for travel because they go with everything, you can step right out of them at airport security, and they flatten completely in your bag. I don’t like blisters while I’m out exploring, and you don’t need to “break them in,” which is really just code for “my shoes are defective.” What other item of clothing could make you bleed without giving you just cause to return it for a full refund? Girl shoes piss me off.

Anyway, I’ve gone through three pairs of these magic flats, and I’ve raved about them before on Mighty Goods. They’re by Navid o Nadia.

I bought this BP dress for Blogher very early in my pregnancy. It has a subtle stripe of blue and green that you can’t see in the photo, and it has proven to be a great layering piece. I can do tights (or slim pants), boots and a little jacket if it’s cold. On warm days, wearing this is like pulling on a T-shirt and walking out the door without worrying about finding pants. Dresses are magic.

This skirt is a vintage piece begging for a West Side Story dance number — quintessential Puerto Rico. The ribbed tank is from Old Navy.

These are my indestructible Saltwater Sandals, which I grew up wearing. I’ve had this pair for years. They come in tons of colors, and again, zero blisters. They’re made for walking on the beach, so sand isn’t an issue — so much more pleasant than flip-flops thwacking sand against your calves.

These earrings are also from Claire’s. You definitely have to dig, but they have some great deals in there.

I bought this dress years ago in New York to supplement what I’d packed for a Morning News retreat. It’s Club Monaco, and I got it on super sale. It packs down to nothing, so I always throw it in to wear over my suit, which you can see in this photo.

Claire’s again, all from the same shopping trip. Can you tell my accessories were getting outdated?

I haven’t worn shorts in a hundred years, because of the glare. People gasp on the street and throw bottles of sunscreen at my head.

These shorts have little bronze sailor buttons up the front, which is spectacular. I’ve contemplated wearing them as bikini bottoms, because they’re kind of short for shorts, but very demure as swimsuit bottoms, eh? I forget the brand, but I had to seam-rip an enormous metal tag off the back, seriously the size of a belt buckle, so we’ll let them work their marketing magic elsewhere. The shirt is Banana Republic.

This is the very best swimsuit in the entire world. It’s by Donna Karan, and I’ve had it for three years. When retro suits made a tentative comeback, I checked in every day online until it went on sale, because I can’t justify spending over $100 on a swimsuit. Which is silly because I wear them for like a decade, but still. The most awesome thing about this awesome suit is, if you’re having a crisis of thigh confidence, you can pull down the outer layer to make it into a very short dress, like so:

Action wear! Actually, this shot makes it look a little shorter than can go. This is more illustrative:

I love it because I can wear it with a T-shirt in the hotel elevator while I’m heading to the pool, and I don’t feel totally naked. In this photo, I’m heading out to pick mangoes from the hotel fruit trees with Melissa. We made Mango cocktails to enjoy in the pool. Sounds amazing, right? But they were actually terrible. I have no idea what we did wrong, but we did it all the way. The bag is Envirosax. I have a set I use as travel totes if I can’t fit a big purse in my suitcase.

Not only did Intel sponsor my trip, they also sponsored my jammies. Leggings are from H&M, the shirt was a gift in lieu of the apparently rare Ajay Bhatt rockstar T-shirt that haunts my dreams (watch for it here at 14-16 seconds).

I’ve mentioned before that I try to pack PJs that can double as an outfit. This is what I packed in lieu of jeans, in case we got a chance to go horseback riding. We didn’t end up doing it, but I did do a lot of napping, so no harm no foul.

Regrets? Holy, holy, I should have packed a second swimsuit. We almost never left the water while I was there. I ended up with angry chafing on my side that looked like something laid eggs under my skin. I showed it to Melissa.

Melissa: GEEEEZE!
Me: I’m not going to worry unless it hatches.
Melissa: Signs your Prozac is Working too Well.

Also, it’s great to have flip flops to wear as slippers. I always regret not throwing in some flip flops.

Next trip I’ll tell you what’s in my toiletries bag too. It’ll be like sneaking a look at my medicine cabinet when you’re drunk at a dinner party, but without all the dental floss. See you then.

39 thoughts on “Packing Light: Puerto Rico Edition

  1. Dearest lovely Maggie, who’s style I adore 99.9% of the time – the green H&M dress in the top pic, in my humble opinion, should NEVER EVER EVER be paired with a belt. Thats the point of the pleats and loosiness. Or maybe, and this is pushing it, a rope or lariat style belt, something equally casual and loose? I’m a fan of mixing styles but beachy casual and corporate-hip J.Crew do not meld. no melding allowed. melders banned. Ahem, that’s all, please don’t beat me.


  2. Awesome posts – I love seeing new ideas for traveling light. Your NYC one was incredibly inspirational. I always travel with a small carryon suitcase but I still check it because I’m short and don’t like heaving suitcases up and down.

    I’ve been trying to buy those Navid o Nadia flats after seeing them on Mighty Goods – I can’t get the Shoegasm website to let me buy anything (I can’t add anything to my shopping cart) and if I email them my emails bounce back! Are they gone forever?? They look perfect – I pretty much live in flats and break through a pair every six months or so (I’m hard on flats, I scuff my feet). Have you tried to buy them in awhile?


  3. Oh gosh. If someone would sponsor me to live life and write about it I’d wear a plastic trash bag to do everything. Demure length of course.


  4. This is my favorite closet post of yours so far. And man, oh, man, those shorts are cute! I’m bummed I don’t know the brand… 🙂 Anyway, you look adorable in everything.


  5. I love these posts! And how do you always manage to look amazing?! Seriously! I want you to take me shopping! Put it on your life list 😉


  6. Nicole, you know you may be right. I like the belt, but I’m used to wearing it as a top with a cardigan and skinny jeans, which is a totally different look. If it makes you feel better, I totally rocked it without the belt on this trip as well, sans any kind of disturbing corporate melding.


  7. I tend to not like shorts–especially on me, but really, they’re unflattering on almost everyone. But good golly your shorts outfit is somehow just perfect. Thanks for the inspiration!


  8. If I were still traveling as much as I used to, I’d challenge myself to travel that light. I got pretty good at it but not that good.

    Yes, any time you’re going to a destination involving swimming, you need a minimum of two swimsuits, perhaps three. This becomes even more important if you’ll be in salt water — after swimming in fresh water, you can just let a suit dry, but salt water (as you have discovered) has to be rinsed out of a suit and then dried.

    Also, the rash along the seam of your suit may have been what are euphemistically referred to as “sea lice”. As horrible as that sounds, it’s better than calling them what they really are, which is itty bitty just born jellyfish. They get caught in seams, around elastic, etc.

    Loved Melissa’s assessment of your decision to wait to see if anything hatched.

    Great posts — I am green with envy about swimming with the plankton, and I bow low in respect to your almost unnaturally efficient packing!


  9. I wholeheartedly disagree, I LOVE the dress with that belt. As soon as I saw it excitement thrummed through me, because I too have a dress and belt similar to yours. I’d never thought to pair them, and now I know just what to wear tomorrow. Thanks!


  10. Man, can I tell you how much the posts make my day? Because they totally do. I love other people’s lists and the how and why for each object. Is that wrong?


  11. Maggie I really love these packing light posts. I am the typical over-packer (though I refuse to check suitcases, so I just incur shoulder injuries from overstuffed bag + overstuffed giant purse)… I am just always afraid I won’t have the right outfit once I’m there. So anyway, thanks for the inspiration, and the tips for practical-and-also-cute items.


  12. I can see it as a top with skinny jeans and a cardigan!! ah, you are redeemed ( :

    And I forgot to mention before how perfectly the short outfit works – there’s something about metallic hues that work great on redheads. Being one myself, I’ve found that the icy blues contrast nicely with the hair. bravo.


  13. I love these posts. I get so much out of them, plus it feels like shopping without spending (yet).

    Being super-white I was suit-phobic and did the whole Big Ugly Wet T-shirt cover-up thing until a few years ago you turned me onto retro suits. What a revelation. I bought the Calvin Klein swim dress you posted on Mighty Goods and continued from there. I went from the hopeless sad perma-frump to the retro-starlet glam and made my (admittedly wonderful) bikini-clad girlfriends seem dime-a-dozen.

    And it also makes putting a big ol’ sunhat on seem natural.



  14. Oh, you’re fashiony posts make me want to try trendy things. 🙂

    I feel like I should share something, but since I’m not fashiony myself, I’ll have to share someone else’s good style:

    I’m not affiliated with this site in any way, but it’s my second favorite fashiony advice/inspiration blog. Enjoy!


  15. Claire’s has become an all time fav of mine lately. We are twins with the peacock earrings, they really are too fun! The black swim suit…LOVE IT, the neck line is fantastic and sexy! Good Post.


  16. I love these style posts. It inspires me to try harder! I also wanted to say that Target has a knock off of those ballet flats. Different colors but also super comfy!


  17. Love the styles and the packing expertise! Thanks so much for the inspiration! And I think that your fantastic confidence makes all of these outfits seem so perfect. You inspire me to try to move with the same confidence. Thanks!


  18. Pretty cool! I’m from PR and I just went there back in April and I took about 4 suitcases for 2 weeks. But it was me, my mom and my 2 girls. It would be cool to get tips on how to pack light for kids!


  19. I also had the same problem w/trying to buy the flats, there is no box to click to actually buy them? I do have the Target version (Xhilaration Simone in bronze) which are FANTASTIC [see also the black & red ones]…but the elastic can hurt. I don’t want to hurt. Am constantly on a mission to find fantastic flats.

    Link to Target ballet flats:


  20. Fantastic swimsuit! You pull off the vintage look so well. I also envy that beautiful colorful skirt.

    For us curly haired readers, I think you should do a post on which hair products you use and how you get your hair to look so fantastic.


  21. I too love the belt/dress look. I am a JCrew fanatic and own a similar dress and belt from there. I have not worn the dress specifically because of the overly loosiness and pleats. As I am typing this, I am wearing the dress with the belt and loving it..had not thought of it before. This post may just inspire me to pack one carryon for an upcoming trip to SF for my sis’s bday. Maybe. I notoriously pack very heavy and am not planning on doing any shopping.

    We shall see..Thanks Maggie! I cannot wait for the toiletries post. I use the whole toiletries restrictions thing as my excuse to over pack.


  22. Speigel sells the same type of swimsuit for fifty bucks. I bought a red one from them 2 years ago and they still sell it, but in different colors now.


  23. I love this post! You inspire me to wear more dresses. I am saving up money to buy a few nice jackets to wear over said dresses, as I tend to be a hoodie and jeans type of gal.

    My big problem is shoes. I think all the shoes y’all wear are fabulous. I see them in stores. I wear them, and they just hurt my feet. Is something wrong with me? Am I destined to wear chunky shoes or hiking boots forever? It seems the only heels I can wear are wedges and the only shoes I pick out are too heavy for any cute summer outfits. To date, the only shoe I can rock half as well as you is a pair of heeled boots.

    Maybe a shoe post is in order?


  24. I love, love, love these posts! You are my (packing) hero; okay, fashion hero too! I have improved my packing over the years but always feel a bit boring (i.e. Should have added that awesome dress I never wear but maybe will this one time!). I am always inspired over here by your stylishness but now it’s time to act! Also, your hair looks extra-great in PR!


  25. Um, I don’t know how it is that anyone can say stuff about anything other than that shorts outfit!!!! GAH. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more flattering picture of you. I’ve always thought you’re very beautiful, and have a very nice shape, but my word woman. In that picture you are supermodel material. No, scratch that. WAAAAAAY better than a supermodel–because you have a real body and you actually feed it. Good heavens, I can’t stop gushing. Your legs are perfect, the shorts the perfect fit for them, that top is the perfect color and shape for you. . .etc. etc. I’m embarrassing myself here and I don’t care. Last item? Your skin? No glare, no throwing bottles of sunscreen. Try porcelain, flawless. Oh man you make me excited to wean this baby and be able to get my body back so that I can have FUN with clothes again!


  26. Maggie – how true to size do you find the Navid flats? I wear a 7.5/8, which straddles two sizes of the flat, and am wondering if it’s better to go with the smaller or larger.


  27. In case anyone’s wondering, yep, Maggie’s the real deal. Never have I known anyone with such a talent for making the best of adversity, embracing imperfection, and living life to the fullest–with both grace and style. I applaud your genius for finding a way to share your “gift” with many, Maggie. May you be blessed ten times over.


  28. Fantastic post! I don’t have many skills but packing light is one of them. I can go on a month long trip with just a carry on. And I love clothes! As you said, dresses are key. I’m looking forward to your toiletries post.


  29. OK, great post, but more importantly, I am IN LOVE with that tote in the first photo! Tell where it’s from and what it is?


  30. Could Intel sponsor a Mighty Closet Make-over Giveaway?? I’d love to get such a style maven as yourself to go through my closet, tell me what to throw away, what to keep and then take me shopping. It would be the best giveaway ever!!


  31. I’m a huge fan of dresses, but lots of summer dresses do not, well, ummm, flatter nor support my well-endowedness. My legs are my best feature so I wear a ton of skirts. I completely agree; skirts and dresses make it so easy to pack a light bag.

    I’m new to the site, but I love that a lot of your pieces are vintage/thrift store. I am a thrift-store junky. I just picked up a thigh-length, light wool Banana Republic coat from Goodwill for $7.99. It’s in beautiful condition. Now, I just have to find a scarf to pair with it.

    Oh, and I’m surprised there’s not a worldwide oxygen-deficit from all the air my 6 year old daughter sucked in when she saw those peacock earrings! Awesomeness.



  32. Love it all. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal and when I see your clothes I fantasize about branching out. Starting with the shoes. Do you know how to order them?

    Also, Forever 21 has some cute jewelery that’s also super cheap.


  33. Maggie,
    On your advice I ordered the saltwater sandals (in red, brighter than the picture, but a good clear red). At first I put them on and was all “tight, not good, damn, vacation starts in two days”. I calmed down, read the instructions on the box, dampened them, took the dog for a walk, and couldn’t be more in love. They fitted themselves to me like a glove, they are light weight and are very cute. I will be getting more of these!


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