Here's the exact predicament faced by Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants as they pack for the show: You're going away on a trip. It will start in L.A., but you may be whisked to any location around the globe after the first two weeks. You'll be gone for anywhere from a single weekend to two months, and ideally everything you bring should fit in two suitcases. Oh, and you're going to be on camera the whole time, so if you have any modicum of self-consciousness, you'll want even your loungewear to be camera-ready. What would you bring to ensure you look great in any situation?
Though the long-running franchise hasn't changed its rules much through 22 seasons of The Bachelor and 14 seasons of The Bachelorette (plus a handful of seasons of a few spinoffs like Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games) the advent of sponsored Instagram posts and social media influencers has only heightened the stakes for looking good on TV: If you want to rack up followers once the show begins airing or kick-start your lifestyle brand, it's more imperative than ever before that your on-camera style is on point.
But in a situation where you have limited suitcase space and must be prepared for just about any kind of weather — never mind financial constraints — how do these contestants really do it? Bustle caught up with 10 members of Bachelor Nation (and a few in depth reports) to figure out, once and for all how contestants ensure they look sharp while (most likely) ending up heartbroken on national television.
While the Bachelor or Bachelorette has the luxury of a stylist to dress them for the show, contestants are left to fend for themselves. With the exception of the first night, they don't get hair and makeup and must do their own, and with the exception of the proposal episode (should they make it to the final two), they are generally not provided with dresses or any other clothing.
After signing a contract to appear on the show, contestants are given only the vaguest packing guidelines. While there's a chance they could go home on night one, they're told to bring two months worth of clothes and accessories for varying climates. If they make it past the first few weeks, they'll begin courting the Bachelor or Bachelorette in various locations around the world — each location is always "the perfect place to fall in love" — from northern Finland, to Thailand, to Italy, to the exotic shores of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In short, "You don't know where you're gonna go," Wells Adams, who appeared on JoJo's season of The Bachelorette, tells Bustle. "Iceland? Tahiti? The moon?" That means bringing everything from scarves, hats, and a heavy winter coat to sandals, bathing suits, and everything in between. "You tend to overpack," Adams continues, "and then you get home after filming and you're like, 'oh yeah, I never wore any of this shit.'"
The problem with overpacking, though, is the show's alleged two-suitcase rule. While most of the contestants Bustle spoke with mentioned trying to fit everything into two bags, many added that the rule was clearly made to be broken.
"I brought the two suitcases I was told I was allowed to bring, and only later found out that some girls brought five," Courtney Robertson, who got engaged to Ben Flajnik on Season 12 of The Bachelor, wrote in her book I Didn't Come Here To Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain. Bri Amaranthus, who appeared on Arie's season of The Bachelor, was more forthcoming about the so-called two-suitcase rule. "You have anywhere from two to five or six bags, so it’s kind of a little bit lenient. They don’t want you to feel like you have to try and cram everything in," she tells Bustle. "Some girls showed up with two bags, some girls showed up with six bags."
But if you're going to flout the two-suitcase rule, know what you're getting into. As Bekah Martinez, who also appeared on Arie's season of The Bachelor, explained to Glamour, if you make it to the traveling portion of the show with extra bags, you'll be responsible for a ton of baggage fees, never mind the constant nuisance of having to lug your entire wardrobe everywhere you go. "It's not like we had people to carry our luggage. So if you have five bags, that means you're going to have to wheel them all onto the shuttle or the bus." As a result, she says many women on her season opted to ship a bag or two home before embarking on the traveling portion of the show.
While traveling, you're constantly packing and unpacking as you move from location to location, so keeping everything organized is key, according to Caila Quinn, who appeared on Ben Higgins' season of The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise Season 3. "I remember my season JoJo's suitcase zipper exploded in the airport carousel and all of her things [were] falling out of this taped up clear bag," she says.
These vague packing guidelines essentially encourage overpacking. But how much is too much? In Robertson's book, Jaclyn Swartz, who also appeared on Ben Flajnik's season of The Bachelor, shared her packing guidelines for women. She suggests at least 10 rose ceremony dresses, countless bikinis ("You will end up wearing these in freezing cold tundras while ice skating and performing weird plays. So stock up."), casual light jackets for when it gets cold during rose ceremonies, "hair products and hair tools up the wazoo," and most importantly, accessories: "Chances are, a top you bring will look like another girl’s top. So don’t you want to win at this game and accessorize your look?"
Most contestants who spoke to Bustle said that when it came to packing, their biggest fear was repeating outfits on camera if they lasted long enough to exhaust almost all of their wardrobe. Daniel Maguire, of Fletcher's Bachelorette season and Bachelor in Paradise seasons 3 and 4, packed especially light for his Paradise stints, and ended up worrying about his outfit options. "I started feeling like, 'Oh god, I'll start looking like a bum if I have to stay here any longer,'" he tells Bustle.
But despite competing against the other men or women for the affections of one woman or man, contestants often mentioned that there was plenty of sharing of clothing and accessories among the cast. "I remember in a few rose ceremonies a lot of the guys would switch suits or shirts so they can get a different look," Ben Zorn, who appeared on Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of The Bachelorette and Season 4 of Bachelor in Paradise tells Bustle.
The cost of going on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette can be pretty high, especially if you're factoring in things like lost wages (many contestants quit their jobs before the show, while those who can return to their jobs after filming still must account for lost income while they were away, never mind things like rent and utilities that need to be paid back home in their absence). Keeping spending on show prep to a minimum takes conscious effort, and contestants told Bustle they spent everything from "a few hundred bucks" (Evan Bass, JoJo's Season of The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise Season 3) to a couple thousand (Sarah Herron of Sean Lowe's Season of The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise Seasons 1 and 3 memorably told Seventeen that she spent roughly $6,000 on clothing for The Bachelor: "I'm still paying off my credit cards.").
Adams says he spent "about $1.5k" and considers this to be on the low end. "I was all about the Forever21, H&M life," he says. Quinn estimated her total to be in the same rough range. "I think I spent about $2,000 or more on eight dresses, six date outfits, swimsuits, day tops, boots for winter, sandals for summer," she says. "[I was] literally packing for anywhere in the world."
For Kupah James, from Bristowe's Bachelorette season, the amount he spent on the show is still a sore subject. "More like how much did I lose," he says, adding that he spent somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. For Maguire, keeping spending to a minimum was also a defense mechanism. "I’m not gonna spend all this money, just to be made a fool," he says. "Can you imagine spending $5,000 on shirts and suits and stuff and you’re booted after a day? I’d feel like a total idiot, you know?"
Zorn, meanwhile, says he spent roughly $2,500, but that that included two new suits and a few other fancier outfits. "If I were to do it all over again I would definitely reach out to clothing companies beforehand," he adds. It's a good idea: Given the show's reach, it's not uncommon for contestants to hit up brands that allow them to rent clothes and return them later, or to leverage a pre-existing social media following in order to get free clothing from brands for the show. Martinez even told Glamour that she "returned everything that still had tags on" after filming.
It's not just clothing that contestants spend a ton of time and energy collecting and packing to appear on the show. Particularly for the women, bringing lots of hair, makeup, and skincare products is essential. Amaranthus says she did "a massive Sephora run" before the show, while other contestants had specific products they mentioned they couldn't go without.
"I swear I probably spent the most on eyebrow pencils, just to make sure I never ran out," Jaimi King, who appeared on Nick's season of The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise Season 4, tells Bustle. "I would die if I had to appear on camera without eyebrows."
Martinez noted in the same Glamour interview that she bought "extra samples of foundation, sponges, mascara, and eyelashes" just in case, since contestants are never guaranteed that they'll be able to buy things with the supervision of producers once the travel portion of the show begins.
For Olivia Caridi, of Ben Higgins' season of The Bachelor, there was one makeup-related essential she was extremely glad she brought. "[I'm glad I brought] one of those magnifying, lit mirrors," she says, "because there were so many women and not enough mirrors for everyone to do their makeup in the bathrooms!"
Appearing on any Bachelor Nation show requires contestants to give up their cell phones, and much has been written about how contestants are otherwise isolated from the outside world once filming begins — there's no TV, music, or internet allowed, so contestants are forced to focus more intensely on finding love. While it's unclear what exactly the rules are in terms of if contestants are allowed to bring books, journals, or music to occupy themselves in the downtime on the show, contestants who spoke with Bustle say the rules were relatively strict in how they were allowed to keep busy when not on dates.
James notes that he wishes he'd brought books with him, but producers "don't let you read them all the time." Instead, he passed long hours between filming interviews and group dates by fiddling with a Rubik's Cube. "That was a blast," he says. "After I got home and got a little assistance from YouTube, [and] I can now successfully complete a Rubik's Cube."
Zorn, who's a personal trainer by trade, counted on spending downtime exercising. “Personally I made sure to pack some exercise equipment like resistance bands in a TRX suspension trainer," he says. "You never know where you’re going to be, and I need to work out in order to stay sane."
While the jury's still out on if all reading or writing material was explicitly prohibited, Breanne Rice, from Higgins' Bachelor season, had a spiritual item she wishes she remembered — her "Jesus calling" devotional and journal. "I usually pray and journal every morning and I forgot to pack this in my suitcase," she says.
Adams, meanwhile, wishes that he brought a game boy to pass the time while traveling, while Bass says he wished he actually was able to get some shut-eye during down time with the hep of melatonin. "It was so hard to sleep with so much going on," he says. But while most contestants had at least one regret about their packing choices, Robertson kept it characteristically real in her book.
"I packed perfectly," she writes. "Though if I had to do it over again, I would’ve taken my vibrator."
Additional reporting by Martha Sorren.