Let’s be honest: packing is not the best part of any trip. Whether you’re packing for vacation or a business trip, it’s not really something most of us look forward to. Yet it’s vital for a smooth and hassle free trip. It all starts with your suitcase and there’s no way of avoiding it.
But don’t worry! Packing smart is a skill you acquire over time and lots of practice. Sometimes it’s just about a few key products and methods that will keep you in check. Keep reading for the best tips and tricks that will simplify the packing process for you.
Must Know Packing Tips for Travel
Packing efficiently will not only help you look stylish for your next Instagram post but will also prevent you from committing common travel blunders (like excess baggage fees or TSA mishaps). Here’s our list of awesome packing tips to keep in mind before leaving for your next trip:
1. Look at the restrictions as your friend (not the enemy) - Each airline has its own restrictions on how big and heavy your carry on (or checked luggage) can be. Check this post for more info! Think of the restrictions as your friend which will help you pack smart and more efficiently.
2. Choose the right bag - Whether you love traveling with a carry on or backpack, there’s something for you in our recommendations for the best travel bags here. Pick something that’s robust and easy to identify especially if you’re traveling with a checked bag.
Pro Tip: Checking a black suitcase? Attach something that will help you identify it easily from the conveyor belt like a colored ribbon or strap.
3. Always have a packing list - Yes, it’s one extra step to add to your already busy schedule. But trust us, a packing list is handy...not just for packing before a trip, it can also be used later on when repacking items so you won’t leave anything behind.
4. Start the process as early as you can - You don’t necessarily have to pack your suitcase a month before your trip. What you can do instead is to start the packing process, the earlier the better. This means downloading your packing list, planning your outfits, doing the laundry, setting aside an area for all your travel items… get the picture?
5. Dedicate one space for your travel items - If you travel often, why not have one place for all your travel items? It could be a drawer or a storage box where you can easily access what you need or toss new travel items you just acquired. So instead of keeping your passport hidden in your documents or your mini toiletries in the bathroom, place them in this space instead and you won’t need to rummage through different areas just to find what you need.
6. Split each category into must haves and wants - Of course categorizing is a must...you’ve got clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. It doesn’t end there though if you want to be a #PackingPro. After categorizing your items, categorize further into 2 piles: must have and want. Those that you really need for your trip should go into the must have pile while those that you can survive without should go into the want pile. Now when packing items into your suitcase, start with the must have pile. Items on the want pile can only go if you still have space left.
7. Leave expensive items at home - Don’t pack your designer brands or expensive jewelry items. Not only do they make you an easy target for pickpockets, you also risk losing (or misplacing) them.
8. Make copies of important documents - Have digital and paper copies of travel documents like your passport, visa, driver’s license, etc. You can also laminate a color copy of your passport ID page so you won’t need to leave your original passport in hotels, hostels, etc.
9. Go digital - Ditch the physical books, maps, travel guides, etc. Save space and download apps, invest in a Kindle and feel the weight off your shoulders (literally). Maps With Me allows you to download offline maps of different destinations. Lonely Planet Travel Guides are also available on Kindle.
10. Use clear packing cubes - The key to a perfectly organized suitcase? Clear packing cubes! These super cute travel organizers will make packing a breeze. You can pack similar items together or even pack by outfit to make planning so much easier. Choose from these two options:
✔️Starter Set - Includes one each of our four packing cube sizes, great for organizing a carry on bag.
✔️ Complete Bundle - Includes two sets of each of our four packing cube sizes, a laundry bag, two shoe bags and a folding board set. Perfect for organizing your checked luggage!
Tips for Packing Clothes & Shoes
11. Sacrifice a bit when it comes to style - You don’t need three different jackets and three different pairs of jeans (especially for a shorter trip). Choose your favorite jacket that can work for style and comfort and two pairs of jeans. Mix and match shirts, jewelry and even scarves to make multiple outfits. This way, you won’t bring clothes you only wear once, or even not at all.
12. Stick to a color scheme - Ideally, pick neutral colors so you don’t need to worry about mixing and matching. Think colors like Black, Gray, Beige, Olive Green, and Navy. A few shirts with patterns, flowers, stripes will work well with mixing and matching.
13. Pack comfy & neutral undies - Obviously, preferences for bras and undies are highly subjective. But bring your favorite pieces...those that fit well, are comfortable and are in neutral colors (just in case your bottoms are in a lighter color).
14. Pack more tops than bottoms - No one’s going to notice that you’ve worn your jeans for two days in a row, trust us. The rule of thumb is to pack two to three tops for every bottom. If you stick to that color scheme we’ve talked about, you can mix and match outfits so you won’t have the same ones for photos.
15. Bring versatile tops - Bring tops that work when worn alone or when layered. Bring a variety of long sleeve and short sleeve options. For example, a long sleeve denim button down shirt can be worn over a shirt whether for sun protection or for layering when it’s cold (bonus style points too).
16. Pick the right pants - Two to three pairs of pants will suffice for a short trip. For city sightseeing, a pair of dark wash jeans and a pair of blue jeans, plus one pair of leggings. If you’re planning on hiking, bring another pair of leggings.
17. Always pack one warm clothing item - You never know if the weather changes or if you booked into a cold hotel room.
18. Don’t forget 1 dressy outfit - In case you need to attend a fancy event or for a night out!
19. Opt for individual pieces rather than a dress - Pack more shirts, shorts, skirts and pants instead so you’ll have more options for mixing and matching outfits.
20. Synthetics for heavy clothing - You can avoid the added weight by opting for synthetic fabric for your heavier clothes. Ditch the fleece jacket for a more lightweight yet warm and packable puffer jacket. Or opt for linen pants instead of regular jeans.
21. Always bring a bathing suit - They could be either hard to find or expensive! Plus, there’s usually an opportunity for swimming.
22. Fill each suitcase with a bit of everyone’s clothes - Traveling with friends or family? Cross packing is a must! Spread out articles of clothing across suitcases. That way, if one gets lost in transit, each person still has something to wear.
23. Bring a variety of shoes - Think about what kinds of activities you’ll be doing on your trip (walking around town, hiking, beach…) Always bring a good pair of “walking around” shoes, which could double as your athletic shoes. If you’re doing a hiking trip, pack the hiking boots. A pair of sandals is always a good option too. Try to limit shoes to 3-4 pairs.
Pro Tip: Place shoes inside travel shoe bags to protect your other items from dirt and dust.
24. Good socks can make a BIG difference - Are blisters a concern? Bring a few pairs of comfy, cushioned and moisture wicking socks. Your feet will thank you after a long day of walking!
25. Set aside your heaviest clothes and shoes - Don’t pack them in your suitcase! Wear them on the flight instead to save luggage space.
Tips for Packing Toiletries
26. 3 ounce bottles only! - The TSA Liquid Rules clearly states that you can’t bring liquids more than 3.4 oz in your carry on. Transfer your moisturizers, creams and sprays into small containers so you won’t bring more than you really need.
Pro Tip: Fill your toiletry travel jars at home and USE them! This will give you an idea if your mini toiletries will be enough for your next trip.
27. Stick to airless pump bottles - If you’re bringing oils, serums or even a liquid foundation, transfer them into an airless pump bottle. Bringing the original bottle pumps can be a hassle as they’re easily prone to leaks.
28. Think about the “bare essentials” - Focus on the items that you can’t find or replace easily and pack those first. Items like your favorite moisturizer, eye cream or makeup powder. Other toiletries like toothpaste, body wash and shampoo are okay to pack but can be omitted if you really need to save space.
29. Test out new “sample” toiletries - Taking a new product with you? ALWAYS test out new products before packing them in your suitcase. You do not want to breakout or get a weird reaction during your vacation.
30. Use a TSA Approved Toiletry Bag for liquids - This Quart Size TSA Liquids Bag makes getting through airport security a breeze. It can fit up to 10 toiletry bottles (under 3.4 oz). Toss it in your carry on tote and easily pull it out using the handle during TSA inspection.
31. Baby wipes are your best friend - Great for dirty surfaces or giving yourself a wipe down during a hot day.
32. Pack a portable toothbrush for your flight - The Colgate Wisp Max Fresh Mini Toothbrushes are great to use for a long flight. They’re really handy, small and perfect for packing.
33. Switch to dailies contact lenses - These are very convenient daily lenses, compared to long-term contact lenses. You don’t need to pack a solution, cleaner or cases. Wear new lenses everyday and toss them out when you’re done.
34. Create a travel toiletry kit - Traveling often? Pack a ready to go travel toiletry kit so you don’t have to unpack and repack your essentials every time.
Tips for Packing Cosmetics
35. Match your makeup to the type of trip - For example, a beach vacation doesn’t require much makeup except maybe tinted sunscreen. But if you’re going on a cruise or have a formal event planned, you might want to bring your full makeup arsenal.
36. Get that color scheme in check - So you’ve probably decided on a color scheme for your outfits...but why not take it a step further? Make sure the makeup items you bring (eyeshadow, lipstick, blush, etc.) also compliment your outfits.
37. Stick to your tried and tested products - A vacay is not the time to test run that glitzy new palette you just bought. You’re going to be busy exploring, meeting new people...the last thing you need is spending time perfecting a new makeup look. So pack reliable, familiar makeup products that make you look your best in the shortest amount of time possible.
38. Don’t bring multiples - If you want to downsize your makeup bag, don’t bring too many options. Especially for items like foundation, eyebrow pencil and eyeliner. For everything else, bring one to two options. Yup, including eyeshadow! You can also make smart swaps - bring a few more lipstick shades and less eyeshadow.
39. Pack products that do double duty - Like a tint you can use for both your lips and cheeks. Or a foundation with SPF so you don’t need to bring separate ones.
40. Creams travel better than powders - Cream products are not prone to breakage like their pressed powder alternative. They’re also easier to work with and stay on longer even in warm climates. The only downside is that they have to adhere to the TSA Liquids Rule if you’re packing them in your carry on.
41. Make your own travel palette - Learn how to depot your makeup and stick your favorite ones on a magnetic compact palette. It’s a great way to save space and still have all your beauty essentials with you.
42. Pack travel size makeup brushes - Invest in a set of mini makeup brushes so you don’t need to bring your regular size ones.
43. Or take a Beauty Blender - Works well especially if you’re bringing more creams or liquids than powder.
44. Don’t pack limited edition / discontinued items - If you can’t risk breaking or losing it, don’t pack it! Try to limit yourself to items that are cheap or easy to replace like drugstore makeup.
46. Create a “Permanent Makeup Bag” - Keep your travel makeup bag packed and ready to go so you don’t need to repack if you go on trips often. Refill the bag with almost used up products so you can toss them on your trip and free up space!
47. Live off your packed makeup before your trip - Test run your packed makeup a few days before your trip so you’ll know what’s missing or what you don’t really need.
48. Line your makeup bag with bubble wrap - This will protect your fragile makeup items from breaking!
Tips for Packing Meds / First Aid Kit
49. Consider the destination and type of trip - Always take into consideration the destination and type of trip before packing your First Aid Kit. For instance, a trip around the US won’t require as much medicine since you can easily get those in pharmacies. On the other hand, a trip to Asia or South Africa might require a more extensive medical kit. You won’t need to pack the full arsenal for a city trip but you might want to add extra items like bug spray, tweezers, upset stomach meds, etc. if you’re going on a hiking trip.
50. Learn which medicines are not allowed - Traveling abroad? Research in advance which medications are banned in the country you’re visiting. Or better yet, call the country’s embassy to check if the medicines you’re bringing are permitted. There are two possible scenarios:
✓ Medication is allowed - Make sure prescription medicines are in their original bottles with labels intact. Also bring your doctor’s note explaining which medications you take and why --- have it translated to the language of the country you’re visiting.
✗ Medication is not allowed - In case your medication is not allowed in your destination, talk to your doctor before your trip for legal alternatives. And make sure you try out the new medication before leaving for your trip!
51. Go for tablets over liquids, gels or creams - Tablets are easier to travel with unlike liquid or cream medicines. And there’s usually a tablet option for meds, even pepto bismol.
52. Look for travel size options - Go for sachets and flat-packed for non-prescription meds. Bottles take up a lot of space! You can even transfer medications to a pouch and label them accordingly.
53. You can bring meds in reasonable quantities - You can bring pills or other solid medications in unlimited amounts just make sure they go through the screening process. If you’re bringing liquid medications in excess of 3.4 oz, you need to declare them before going through the security process. So pack them in an easy access area along with your other liquids in your carry on tote.
Pro Tip: Only take as much medication as you’ll need. The standard for a “personal supply” is usually 90 days worth of meds. Any more than that and you will be subjected to more vigorous screening.
54. Always bring allergy meds - When you’re traveling, especially to a different country, don’t forget to pack allergy medicines. You might have an allergic reaction to a new food or new pollen and this little tip could save your life!
55. Know the generic name of meds - Just in case you lose your medicine kit or use up your supplies, at least you have the generic name and know what you need to buy in the pharmacy.
56. Pack most important meds in your carry on - Prescription meds and OTC meds that you can’t buy abroad should always be packed in your carry on.
Tips for Packing Electronics & Chargers
57. Take minimal electronics - Electronics are heavy and take up a LOT of space...so think about what you really need and what you can leave at home. Instead of packing your laptop, can you finish work at home before your trip? Maybe you can use your smartphone as a camera instead of bringing your bulky camera.
58. Replace your pile of adapters with a single adapter - This one can charge up to six devices at the same time!
59. Avoid cable tangles - Keep cords from tangling by using washi tape or velcro ties. We also love these retractable USB cables which are very handy and portable, perfect for travel!
60. Leave the bulky hard drive at home - How much storage do you really need? You can always save photos or videos to the cloud. Or pack a compact phone flash drive instead - also connects to your laptop so it’s great for on the go transfers.
61. Power banks should be under 100 WH - According to the FAA, power banks should be under 10,000mAh and packed in your carry on - not checked luggage.
62. Pack delicate gadgets in a padded case - Make sure your most important gadgets are well protected! Use a padded, waterproof sleeve for your laptop. Same goes for your camera, make sure you use a padded cover.
64. Easy access is the key - Pack all your electronics in your carry on bag. Laptops and tablets must go in the security bin during screening so place them in an easy access area. Power banks and chargers you need during the flight must also go in your carry on!
Other Packing Tips
65. Don’t bring “just in case” items - If space is really an issue, leave the “just in case” items at home. You can survive without the umbrella, second jacket or electric toothbrush and you’ll save SO much space. On the other hand, items like undies, medicine and your smartphone are necessary for a comfy trip.
66. Pre-pack “Activity Kits” - This is a great way to cut down on stress and chaos during your trips. Depending on your planned activities, it could look something like this:
✓ Pool / Beach Kit - Allot one color Small Cube for each person and pack a bathing suit, sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses, etc.
✓ Hiking Kit - Use an Extra Small Cube and pack bug spray, snack bars, face towel, etc.
✓ Camping Kit - Pack a change of clothes, bug spray, water bottle, etc. in a Medium Cube
✓ Theme Park Kit - Attach a Small Cube in your stroller or backpack using a carabiner and pack face towels, wipes, snacks, sunscreen, etc.
67. Bring an oversized scarf - Great for layering when it’s cold, as a beach blanket or can even be used as a towel in a pinch!
68. Downsize your “real” wallet - Take a few minutes to clear out your wallet - remove old receipts or loyalty cards that you won’t use on your trip. You’ll be surprised how much space and weight you’ll save! We recommend bringing a main credit card and two backup credit or debit cards and keeping them in separate places though.
69. Pack a “dummy” wallet - Fill it with some receipts, old cards as well as some local money. In case you get mugged, hand them your fake wallet!
70. Bring a pen if you’re traveling overseas - A small pen comes in handy when you need to fill in papers at the airport. It might save you time from standing in line especially in smaller airports!
71. Pack a compact day purse - Make sure that it fits your day essentials like your smartphone, wallet, sunglasses, etc. It’s way more convenient than bringing a huge backpack especially when sightseeing.
72. Make the most of hidden spaces - Stuff small items like socks, tights, etc. inside your shoes. Fill up the space in your water bottle with small snacks, instant coffee packets, tea bags, earphones, etc.
73. Make it easy to identify your bag - Attach a luggage tag to all your bags.. Take some photos of your checked suitcase as well - it’s easier to show this photo to airport officials when asked for details about your missing luggage.
74. Weigh, measure and lift - This last step is crucial especially if you don’t want to get in trouble with airlines. Weigh your bags (especially checked luggage) and make sure they’re under the airline weight limits. Measure the dimensions AFTER packing the bag since they’re filled and fatter. Finally, make sure you can lift your bag above your head as prep for carrying it on the overhead bin!
Keep your travels simple and make packing efficient with this list of smart packing tips. Now you can focus on what matters the most, making the most out of your epic trip!
Get some organizing help with our clear packing cubes. Carry on only traveler? Our Starter Set of four cubes perfectly packs a carry on suitcase. Share a suitcase or organize a checked suitcase with our Complete Bundle of packing organizers.