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Lucky 13 Packing Hacks For Your Next Trip!

Woman packing a messy suitcase

Making plans for a trip, especially a vacation, can be fun and exciting! Packing for a trip, on the other hand, can be the most dreaded aspect of traveling. Some start organizing weeks in advance (ok, I’ll fess up) and some wait until the last minute (also me!).

I do sort of a hybrid. I’ll start getting organized, setting things aside that I don’t want to forget perhaps weeks in advance (that one book!), all the while keeping ideas and plans in my head. But then I wait until the day before a trip to actually tuck it in the bag. Otherwise, I find that I can’t remember if I actually packed something or just thought about it! Am I the only one?

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Here are some of my most important packing hacks for your next trip!

  1. Always use a packing checklist! The last thing you want to do on the way out the door is realize you forgot something important. Most things can be replaced, if necessary, but you don’t want to be stuck. CLICK HERE for my Ultimate Packing Checklist Guide!

2. Checking a bag or carry-on only: that is the question. I make a huge effort to always carry my bag on the plane. (unless I’m heading on safari, then need an extra carry-on for my camera gear). I fill my carry-on with all items I won’t need during the flights and stash all the rest in a tote or backpack that is considered my “one additional bag, such as a purse or briefcase.” I’ve used this carry-on suitcase for many years and love it! And this is a rolling duffel bag that I’ll be using on my next trip to Africa.

Additionally, I typically have a cross-body bag for my phone, wallet and passport that is small enough to tuck inside my backpack when it’s time to consolidate to two items. (US regulations). Bear in mind that many airlines don’t even allow two carry-on items, so be prepared to check your carry-on in some cases. Here are a couple to try:

Baggallini Take Two Bryant Crossbody-Small Travel Bag with RFID Blocking Sleeves and Travelon Addison-Anti-Theft-Small Crossbody Bag

3. When gathering items to bring on the plane, I separate the “have with me” items vs the “I won’t need these until we arrive” items. The “have with me” items go into the backpack/tote under the seat and the rest into the suitcase that goes overhead. That way, even if I’m bringing all my bags onto the plane, I’ll be sure to have the items I’ll need within easy reach.

4. Use Packing Cubes. I’m always surprised when people don’t use these, and even more surprised when they don’t know about them! They are so useful to keep your items organized. I use one for pants/shorts/dresses, one for tops and one for underwear & socks. When I get to a new location, all I have to do is take the cubes out and they stay neat and organized. These work really well.

Amazon Basics 4 Piece Packing Travel Organizer Cubes Set and come in different sizes and colors; and Compression Packing Cubes for Travel if you need more space. Just beware of the extra weight that can easily add up with the compression cubes!

5. Determine a color scheme for your clothing and plan outfits that will not only go together but can also mix and match, e.g., a top that can be worn with a skirt, but also pants, or a scarf that goes with more than one outfit. Consider layers that are dual purpose, rather than one big, bulky item. Also, for longer travel, bring a limited number of items, knowing that you can do laundry while there, either at the hotel, a laundromat or in your bathroom sink.

Be sure to consider the country’s attire culture that you’re heading to and pack accordingly. Many countries dress more conservatively than in western culture, and you wouldn’t want to offend anyone. Also, attending religious sites often requires covered shoulders, knees, etc.

6. Lay out all your clothes on your bed before packing and double check that you have as many of an item as you’ll need, yet not too many! I usually find myself putting back a few tops. Make sure you have the right shoes/socks/leggings that go with your chosen outfits.

7. Remember TSA’s 3-1-1 rule when packing liquids. I often recommend using the shampoo & conditioner that most hotels provide. But especially with longer hair, I have my favorites, and I’ll bet you do, too. I use these handy silicone reusable travel bottles and mini travel bottles to carry small amounts of shampoo, conditioner, face lotion and the like and tuck them into a TSA-approved bag. Also consider whether a liquid you typically use is available as a solid, such as shampoo or toothpaste.

8. Roll your clothes or fold: this one is a bit controversial. Some ‘experts’ advise to roll your clothing. I fold mine perfectly to avoid extra lumps and layers. Rolling, especially if you are not using packing cubes, can help you fit items in and around gaps in your suitcase (the spaces between where the handle collapses, I’m looking at you). However, I find that rolling my clothes leaves one end or the other really wrinkled, so I avoid that.

9. If you’re not checking a bag, be sure to wear your bulkiest clothing and shoes on the plane to save space in your bag. You might bring a scarf with you, like this one or this one to not only keep you warm when the plane gets chilly but can double as a pillow. And it’s pretty!

10. If you ARE checking your bag, whether voluntarily or not, you don’t want your luggage lost or misplaced. It’s a great idea to tuck an Apple AirTag inside your bag, inside a handy AirTag holder. That way, if you’re separated from your bag, you’ll be able to identify where it can be located. And it’s kind of fun tracking your bag as you travel!

11. Always lock your bag, whether it’s a carry-on or checked. I use these TSA-approved locks. I know someone who had items stolen from her carry-on during an overnight international flight, and she didn’t know it until reaching her destination. Likewise, it’s a good idea to use the overhead bin opposite your seat (across the aisle from you) so that you can more easily see someone opening the bin and potentially removing items.

12. For safety and comfort, you’ll need to bring certain items with you on the plane. These are items that I consider to be either 1) invaluable, such as your passport/ID, cash and credit cards; 2) valuable, such as jewelry, camera equipment, electronics, phone and more (plus power cords and adapter); and 3) items you could not live without for a day or two, such as medications and prescriptions, medical devices such as hearing aids, and extra glasses or contacts. Don’t forget any required chargers or batteries.

See my Simple Carry-On Packing Checklist (also included in the Ultimate Packing Checklist) for further tips and suggestions!

13. Pack an extra plastic grocery bag or ziplock bags for dirty laundry, wet bathing suits and the like. Some countries don’t allow plastic grocery bags to be brought in, so check first. I know that Kenya and Tanzania require you to leave them on the plane but am not aware of others.

Likewise, I always bring along a foldable tote bag like these pretty bags or these in case I go shopping, as many countries (and some states, too!) no longer provide free shopping bags.

You might also consider a packable duffel bag like this or this one; in case your retail therapy works really well! You don’t want to pass on a purchase you would love, just because there’s no way to get it home. Some people advise to bring along some bubble wrap. I actually think that’s overkill, and would simply use soft clothes to pack around any breakable purchase, or ask the store to wrap it for you.

Following these hacks will make your packing task simple and easy and get you on your way with less stress and more excitement! Have fun!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases and this post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission should you chose to make a purchase using my link.

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