After years of overpacking (my 16-year-old self once filled an entire full-size suitcase with shoes for a five-day trip), I've learned a few things:

No matter how much I pack, I generally end up wearing only a rotation of my three favorite items. No matter how great that tiny dress with the killer heels looks, I can't bring myself to putting either on after an uber-relaxing day at the beach (and my third tub of french fries). No matter how amazing (or fast) my new Kelly Ripa-approved washer and dryer are, nothing ruins a good trip quicker than having to spend the first three days home doing laundry.

Now, I refuse to pack more than a carry-on bag, no matter where I'm headed or for how long.

So, with beach vacations on the mind (I'm leaving tonight and haven't yet pulled out my suitcase), here are a few pointers for mastering the art of packing light.

Stick with one general color scheme, keeping what you take mix-and-matchable. Limit your accessories: A pair of flip-flops, a pair of sneakers and a pair of cute sandals are probably all the shoes you need. One purse is plenty. And you will completely liberate yourself if you leave the makeup at home (or, if you can't ditch it all, grab the mascara and your fave lipstick and call it a day). A great maxi dress will take you very, very far. My favorite is the black pima, long stretch A-line dress from J. Jill. It's $89 and washes brilliantly. I like it for car rides or plane flights, because it looks chic, feels like PJs and can be spilled on (a guarantee with my 3-year-old) without stressing me out. Toss on a colorful scarf or a couple long necklaces, and you're set for shopping, dinner, whatever. One versatile and (again) washable tunic (anyone sensing a theme on practicality here?) can get you through the day. I'm obsessing over a white one I bought at J.Crew (it's the knit tunic dress on sale for $50 at jcrew.com), but World Market (of all places!) has some adorable ones, too, for about $30. Perfect for breakfast, beach, lunch and lounging. One fantastic (giant) scarf can take you almost anywhere. Love Quotes makes my favorites: They're expensive (generally $80-$100 at Rowe and Thread on Grandview), but I certainly get my money's worth from them, using them as anything from a cover-up over my suit to a wrap on chilly evenings.

And if all else fails, the outlet malls, inevitably, will be close.

Happy travels!

-Kristy Eckert is the editor of Capital Style.