Packing is essential to any trip you’re planning. Pack too much and you’re left with heavy bags to lug around and possibly extra baggage fees. Don’t bring enough and you’re left uncomfortable or worse, trying to find the nearest store to buy items you already own…not the best use of your vacation budget.
As we geared up for 10 days in Hawaii, I wanted to pack our family of four in two carry-ons and two small tote bags that attach to the roller bags. However, there needed to be room in the bags to bring a few things home with us too. My kids scoffed at me since they HAD to have their goggles and other swim accessories, hiking shoes, 10 stuffed animals and a new outfit for everyday. To be honest, I was a bit shocked by children’s packing skills or lack there-of. I mean really, I’ve been having them lay out their items to pack for years now… It just goes to show that everyone needs a refresher on packing strategies, especially for longer trips.
I can report that we accomplished the goal of only taking two carry-ons and two small tote bags, and had room to bring several souvenirs home. Including snorkeling gear, fins and all… To make it happen there were some fundamental packing strategies that had to be applied.
Packing Tips and Tricks Every Traveler Should Know…and Use
When I’m traveling with my kids, we pack early sometimes even a week beforehand. This gives us time to make sure everyone has all the items needed. If I need to grab FloNase for the toiletry kit, I have time. If sandals no longer fit, we have time to order new ones. If laundry needs to be done because the favorite outfit is dirty, it can be. Packing early also gives you time to think about what you really need. If you’re packing too much or not enough. (Need to check to see if your carry-on will be approved? This is a great guide Carry-On Size Chart: 170+ Airlines.)
Packing cubes make organizing and packing your luggage a breeze! These are especially helpful to use when you’re sharing a suitcase or have kids sharing one bag. Each child can have his/her items in dedicated cubes, which helps you stay more organized and they feel like they have their own “drawer” in the bag.
Shoot for packing cubes that are easy to compress, are waterproof – nylon is a great material – have mesh netting so you can see the contents and come in a variety of sizes. Using double-sided or segmented packing cubes is another great packing tip. Think one side pajamas and workout gear, the other side t-shirts. Or, if it’s a shorter trip, one side clean clothing, the other dirty clothing. The latter is what we do with our kids to help them stay more organized.
Use Your Personal Item Wisely
Every traveler is allowed a carry-on and a personal item when they fly. Don’t waste your personal item on a tiny purse. I personally use mine for my backpack, which holds my laptop, camera gear, magazine, headphones, portable charger, important cords AND my purse. Not only does this save space, but I have everything I need in reach during the flight.
Roll It Up
Rolling your clothing is a common packing tip that helps you not only save space in your luggage but also decreases wrinkling.
Vacuum Seal Bags
Ever tried packing for three people in one carry-on for five days? Some would say it’s impossible, others enlist the help of a vacuum seal bag. When clothing is placed in these plastic bags, the air is removed and everything is essentially shrink wrapped to a flat pancake. You do have to have a vacuum to recreate this upon your return home, but it’s easy to ask housekeeping to borrow a vacuum at your hotel. However, if you think you may need to access items in route, your bag may be bursting at the seams. (More on using vacuum seal bags for packing hacks.)
A New Day = New Accessories
Traveling with jewelry can be a tangled mess, if you let it. Try using a daily pill compartments to pack your jewelry in to keeps things organized. This method is also great for deterring thefts.
Shoes, Let’s Count the Packing Tips
I’m a chronic shoe over packer, but I’m trying to get better. Really. There are a few packing tips I try to follow so as not to overload my luggage with footwear.
- First, limit the number of shoes you’re going to bring. I know, easier said than done but shoes are the one thing that will take up the majority of space in your bag. Try to match as many outfits with one to two pairs of shoes. You should be able to get away with a maximum of three pairs of shoes, that’s the limit I try to follow.
- Use shower caps or packing cubes to pack your shoes. This keeps the germs and grime from getting onto your clothing and other items in your luggage.
Organize Cords, Cables and Gadgets
First rule, pack your electronics in your personal carry-on. This will ensure they arrive with you at your destination. A few packing tips to keep them organized in your bag include using file clips or twist ties to tie your cords so you avoid a tangled mess in your bag. My favorite packing tip is using a dedicated electrics organizer that hold everything in one pouch. By doing this I can easily access everything on the plane and avoid digging through all the contents of my bag to find the extra charger.
Always Pack a Scarf (or two)
A scarf is so multifunctional for travelers. On a flight it can keep you warm, act as a pillow or lumbar support. When you’re at your destination it can help accessorize your outfits and allow you to repeat several items of clothing while creating completely different looks. My packing tip, take at least two scarfs, wear one in transit and pack the other.
Save space in your suitcase by filling your shoes with socks, underwear, bras and even fragile items such as perfume. Putting fragile items in shoes not only saves space but helps to protect the item from being broken. Now, the real question is how many of you travel with perfume?
Keep Things Fresh
Want your clothing to stay smelling fresh? Just add a dryer sheet to your suitcase once it’s packed and ta-da!
Too Hot to Pack
Traveling with a flat iron or curling iron? Too hot to pack? Turn a pot holder into a case so you can pack it when it’s still hot. A running sock can also work well.
Want to bring wine back from your vacation? Packing wine in your luggage can save a lot of money vs. having it shipped home – assuming the bottles don’t break. Here is some ways to pack wine in your luggage to ensure it arrives home with the cork intact.
Pack your pills in a small ziplock bag or pill container. This saves space since you won’t be lugging the bottles along and if you travel often, having a medical bag that stays in your luggage will save time packing in the future.
Skip the Lotion Bottles
There is no need to take the entire bottle of night cream or face wash for a weekend trip. Grab an inexpensive contact case that you can fill with a few pumps. Make sure to label the case so you don’t accidentally put your contacts them at night.
If you travel with powder makeup – eye shadow, face powder, etc.- place a cotton ball or piece of tissue inside the compact to prevent it from breaking.
All Toiletry Bottles Are Not Created Equal
There is nothing worse than opening your luggage to find your clothing covered in lotion or toothpaste that’s exploded. Not all toiletry bottles are created equal, so I have learned the hard way… The GoToob Travel Bottle is the best out there. These award-winning, patented bottles are made from soft yet rugged silicone, so it’s easy to squeeze down to the last drop. A large opening makes it easy to fill and clean, and an ID-window on the collar helps you remember what’s inside.
Double Bag Liquids
By now you should know all liquids brought onto planes must be in 3.4-ounce bottles or smaller and inside a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag. Double bag your toiletries to help prevent liquids from leaking out, especially if you’re not using the GoToob Travel Bottles. Better yet, put your ziplock into a hanging toiletry case to make unpacking simple AND you’ll be able to keep everything – liquids, medicines, cosmetics – in one place.
Pack an Extra Bag – Yes, Really!
I’m never without a RuMe bag when I travel. These reusable bags are excellent items to have if you go shopping and need an extra carry on for your return trip – just toss your shoes and bulky items right in to make room for your new purchases in your suitcase. They’re also lifesavers when you’re hitting the beach and need to carry all your gear, or carry wet swimsuits to your next destination. These little reusable bags unfold to hold up to 50 pounds! They’re machine washable, water resistant and come in a variety of designs, sizes and styles. They have become some of my most essential and useful travel items.
When you’re packing your luggage, place the heaver items such as shoes at the bottom side of your bag – near the rollers – so the weight is distributed and your bag is easier to roll. Also, put your toiletry bag at the top of your carry-on so it’s easier to pull out and repack after going through security.
Resist Last Minute Urges
Be happy with what you packed. Don’t add the extra t-shirt or dress just in case. You won’t wear it and it just takes up valuable space.
Always Pack Lip Balm
Pack lip balm in your personal carry on. Long flights will try you out and a little lip balm goes along way in re-hydrating your skin.