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Does it feel like Winter may never end? Are you already dreaming of warmer weather in some far-flung destination, or plotting your mountain escape to fully enjoy the snowy glow? Whether you’re a clotheshorse like me or just never know what to pack, this post is for you. Learning how to be a packing ninja changed my life for the better.
I’ve whittled all my best packing tips down to a simple, easy-to-follow 5 step list to make packing for your next trip easy and fun!
STEP 1: REMEMBER BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
Whether you’re going on a weekend getaway or a month’s long trip you’ll enjoy your trip a lot more if you don’t have to lug a huge suitcase around. There are few things less fun than having to run with a 50lb+ suitcase to a different airport terminal for a connecting flight, or that extra sad feeling of pulling heavy luggage to the airport shuttle on your last day of vacation. A small bag also keeps you from buying too many souvenirs. Give your arms a rest too; pack smaller!
Believe me, I understand how hard it is to choose from all the wonderful stuff in your closet or avoid too much pre-trip shopping temptation, but the biggest packing complaint over 75% of people had in a recent Condé Nast Traveler survey was packing too much for vacation. With airline fees ever on the rise for checked bags, it’s worth it to cull your packing list down to the absolute necessities. On our last several trips we’ve tried to only bring carry-on bags.
How do you accomplish this?
Here are some easy ways to decide what clothing to pack:
- Pack versatile items that you can wear more than once. Unless you’re traveling to your destination wedding, don’t pack a dress you’ll only wear once. Think multipurpose. Choose a dress that’s special enough for a nice restaurant, yet casual enough to be worn in a day outfit too.
- Limit yourself to one pair of heels if any, and no more than three pairs of shoes overall, including the pair you wear on the plane.
- Before you pack it, ask yourself whether you’ll really wear an item or not. It’s very tempting to pack all our pretty clothing so we have the perfect pieces to wear but in reality you’ll likely end up reaching for the same two or three things repeatedly. We all relax on vacation and tend to forget how important dressing up is back home.
- Lay out everything you’d like to pack on your bed. Then remove 2-5 items before actually packing your suitcase.
- Do one final weather check 24 hours before your trip begins and remove any weather-related gear you won’t need.
STEP 2: PICK DISTINCTIVE LUGGAGE AND TAG IT.
Hopefully this has never happened to you. While on a work trip at a former job, my boss’s luggage was inadvertently grabbed by an attendant off the baggage claim due it being very similar to one of that party’s bags. The party didn’t realize it until they got to their destination — over an hour away from the airport and nearly two hours away from where we were staying. Although the party made huge efforts to contact us as soon as they realized their error (more on that a few paragraphs below!) my boss was unable to get his bag in time for a big client presentation. That lost luggage contained a work laptop with said presentation on it (which luckily I also had on my laptop) and my boss’s notes, which he was forced to present without. Not only that, my boss’s only suit was in his misdirected suitcase so he attended the client meeting in a sports coat and khakis which smelled like airplane.
Don’t put yourself in this avoidable situation! Instead of picking solid-colored luggage that could easily be confused for someone else’s bag, pick a bag that’s unique and special. Whether it’s something vintage-inspired with strong bold colors like the Sweetheart Small Carryon Bag ($780, also often available here) above, or something with a strong pattern like the options in the shoppable gallery just below, make your bag stand out! Avoiding the basic blacks, reds, blues and greens of most luggage will save you from de-planing or baggage claim confusion. If you really like those colors, look for a bag with texture or pattern to help it stand out from the pack.
What if you already own a bag that’s one of those basic or very popular bags? How can you make your bag stand out? With a great luggage tag! I personally like to match my luggage tag to my passport case because it helps should a situation arise where I need to prove a bag is mine. I carry my passport case even on domestic trips (sans passport) because it’s such a handy travel tool!
If you move or change your phone number, don’t forget to update to update your luggage tag! My boss’s reunion with his bag was delayed in part because it listed an old phone number and the party that accidentally grabbed it had a hard time tracking his new phone number down. Luckily, they didn’t give up! Make things easier on the airline, travel company or accidental bag-grabbers. Check before each trip to make sure your information is up-to-date on your luggage tag.
Below, some of my favorite passport cases and luggage tags.
STEP 3: SET ASIDE YOUR IN-FLIGHT ITEMS.
Nothing is worse than having to repeatedly stand up, open the overhead bin, pull down your bag and get something out. If you’re not sitting in the aisle seat it’s also a quick way to make an enemy of your row-mates on a plane. Save yourself the trouble! Instead of trying to cram everything into your suitcase, make your personal item carry-on a large bag and use a mesh pouch inside of it with all your in-flight needs, such as earphones, earplugs, a pen, snacks, vitamins, Passport, wallet, playing cards, whatever. This way they’ll be handy when you need them on the plane.
Instead of groans when you get up, your rowmate will love you for having a pen at the ready when the customs forms come around or a tissue ready when they are struck by an unexpected sneeze.
STEP 4: USE THE MARIE KONDO FOLDING METHOD.
Has this ever happened to you: you’re sure you’ve packed something, but can’t find it in your suitcase until it’s much too late? Using the Marie Kondo folding method will help you avoid losing anything you’ve packed in your suitcase.
What is the Marie Kondo folding method you ask? This short YouTube video explains it perfectly.
Basically you fold your clothing in such a way that it makes a rectangle that stacks easily in your suitcase, like the spine of a book. Whether in a drawer at home or in your luggage for a trip,your clothing will take up less space in your suitcase using this method. Because it stands up and stacks perfectly you’ll be able to easily see everything you’ve packed! Plus this method makes unpacking at your resort or back home very simple and quick!
Above, I used the Marie Kondo folding method to pack for a recent Costa Rica trip. I like this method even better than rolling my clothes because I can see everything. I love how it was no mystery what items I’d brought once I arrived or where any item was in my suitcase. On vacation, things should flow and be hassle-free. This is the most hassle-free way to pack your suitcase!
Here are a few more space-saving tips:
- Stuff your underwear, socks and other intimates into your shoes, hats, and bras to save space inside your luggage so you have more room for other items.
- Buy uniform containers for all your travel liquids, which saves space in your toiletries bag and makes things stackable. PRO TIP: Many makeup boutiques and counters will give you sample containers that are teeny tiny and perfect for things like foundation! You can also use old pill bottles for things like lotion, Q-tips and so on.
- Instead of packing potentially bulky items, like umbrellas which you might not even need, leave home things that you can purchase on your trip inexpensively.
- Split certain toiletry packing, like sunscreen or shampoo, with a traveling partner so between the two of you there’s only half as much to pack!
- Instead of bringing your own soap and shampoo, consider using the resort’s room offerings instead.
- Use snack-sized Ziploc bags to pack your jewelry. This keeps necklaces separate so they don’t twist together, and eliminates the danger of losing a lone earring somewhere in your luggage.
STEP 5: PLAN AHEAD FOR TECHNOLOGY NEEDS.
It’s almost a guarantee that your resort room’s outlets will be in high demand. Amazingly, most hotels are lacking when it comes to plugs for guests’ many charging needs. Rather than fight with my fiance over outlets I just bring extra ones along with me!
My absolute favorite travel outlet solution is the 3 Outlet Portable Travel Surge Protector, which costs less than $15 and also has two USB ports. For sizing reference, it’s about as tall as an iPhone 6 and a little wider and thicker — but not much! The cord wraps neatly around the body and protects the prongs, making this a very easy item to pack. Coming in close behind is the Multi Outlet Wall Mount Adapter Surge Protector ($18) which has a better outlet layout and 4 USB ports (this thing can do a lot of charging!) but you can’t fold down the prongs, so it’s a little less handy to pack than my top choice.
Below, my favorite travel charging accessories that you need to bring on every trip!
What tips make your suitcase packing easier? When is your next trip or vacation happening?