Mega List of Tips to Pack like a Pro!

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Summer is upon us, folks, and for most of us, that means hitting the road and getting in a fun vacation with our friends or family!  With all the luggage restrictions airlines impose, I thought it'd be helpful to arm you with a mega list of tips to pack like a pro so you're ready to go!

I love traveling and try to have a trip (or multiple!) in the works at all times!  I could seriously write all day about traveling, but since I don’t want to be strictly a travel blogger I have to spread out my posts a bit to write about other things I love.

So, today, I'm excited to be sharing some of my favorite tips for when  you hit the road on your summer travels!

Last month I shared several travel related posts about places to go and what to do once you're there.  I felt like I’d be cheating you guys if I didn’t also give you some handy-dandy tips on how to pack and eek out the most space in your suitcase!

Fair warning…this post is LONG, but it’s chock full of goodness!

I’m laying it all out there and giving you my best tried and true tips & tricks.  Some aren’t groundbreaking and are suggestions you’ll see on any good ‘how to pack’ list, but that’s because they work, so I felt they were good reminders!  

But, without further ado, let’s get right to those tips!

Planning Ahead

Make a Packing List

The key to not overpacking is planning ahead.  Think through what you need before you start packing (it’s like making a list of what you need before grocery shopping - you won’t forget anything and if you stick to your list, you don’t walk out with more than what you need!).  

If you tend to be a chronic overpacker (you know who you are!), then after finishing your list, go back through, be honest with yourself, and cross off about a 1/3 of the clothes you listed. I promise, you won’t even miss them!

Check Your Airline for What's Allowed

Each airline has their own policy and while most US airlines are essentially the same, budget airlines may differ.  International airlines are typically a little more restrictive in the size allowed for carry ons and some, unlike US carriers will only allow you to carry on ONE bag (not one bag + personal item…ONE bag). You don’t want to get surprised at the airport, so be prepared!!

Limit Your Liquids

Most of us know by now that for US travel (and some international) you need to use travel size bottles and they must fit in a quart size clear, Ziploc bag.  

The maximize size for each container is 3.4 oz or 100 ml.  

Be sure to read up on what is considered a liquid (i.e. mascara is considered a gel and should be placed in your Ziploc bag).  I tend to use a zippered clear bag that I picked up at Target at some point that says its TSA approved, but it seems a tad larger than a standard Ziploc bag.  I stuff that thing FULL and have never had any problems!

Also, look for alternative products that are not liquids to save precious space in your liquids baggy.  I adore this face cleanser and foundation that each come in a stick form…PERFECT for travel!  

Clothes

Plan to Get Multiple Uses Out of Your Clothes

The key to packing light is to take less stuff.  Not exactly groundbreaking, right?  If you are traveling for more than a week, do not take more than a week’s worth of clothes!  You are going to want to mix and match to get multiple outfits out of a few key pieces.  Plan to only pack a few different colors of clothes that all go together so you can get more mileage out of your outfits.  

Use Accessories to Make Different Outfits

If you’re limiting yourself on the clothes that you are bringing with you, you might want to throw in a scarf or two as well as maybe one or two (no more than this!) statement necklaces.  Those few pieces will give you countless different looks with say, a white T-Shirt and jeans so you won’t look like you’re wearing practically the same thing everyday (and wear one of the scarves on the plane to reduce the space in your suitcase and to stay warm!).

Wear Your Heaviest Clothes on the Plane

It’s going to be chilly on the plane anyway, so wear your extra sweater or whatever is your bulkiest/heaviest items on the plane to save precious space in your suitcase!

Pack Clothes that are Less Prone to Wrinkles

While most hotel rooms have an iron, they’re usually pretty yucky and don’t work well.  Plus, who wants to iron on vacation! Save yourself some headaches and pack clothes made from more forgiving fabrics (so that means anything linen must stay home!).

Only Take Your Most Comfortable Clothes that You Love

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten home and realized I stuck with the same few tops because I loved them best and they were the most comfortable.  I could've saved space and weight by leaving the others home.  Be honest with yourself and you’ll be thankful later!

Toss Some Things On the Go

I haven't personally tried, this, but I love the idea!  To really save space in your suitcase and leave room for bringing home souvenirs, stock up on some basic, but cheap T's from Target or H&M before your trip.  

The goal here is to choose cheap things that you like, but that you don't fall in love with.  After you finish wearing them on your trip, either toss them, or even better, ask the front desk of your hotel if you may donate them to local charities (try to hand wash them first, though!).

Packing Smart

Roll Your Clothes

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking…we’ve all heard it, but its true.  Clothes that are tightly rolled take up significantly less space than when you fold them.  They’re also less likely to get wrinkles!  How to properly roll?  Fold them in have length-wise, then roll, baby, roll. 

Use Packing Cubes

I’m a HUGE fan of packing cubes, like these, and I’ve been using them for years.  These allow you to maximize your space by zipping everything up tight so it takes less space.  I use this in combination with rolling my clothes.  Once rolled, you can place them within the cubes, zip it up, and watch it shrink even more

These also help you stay organized…I tend to pack all tank tops in one, pants in another, etc.  You can use smaller ones to corral electronics, cords, or beauty tools & products.  Once you’re ready to pack your suitcase, they all fit perfectly together in your suitcase!  

This also makes it less likely that things will fall out and get lost if your bag is selected for random checking by the TSA (they generally won’t unzip all the cubes, they’ll typically feel around to be sure everything is okay).  

Place Bottles of Liquids in INDIVIDUAL Ziploc Bags

Repeat after me….Ziploc bags are your friends!  Any liquids that are not in my 3 oz or less zippy bag are in my checked suitcase.  I NEVER pack these without putting each one in their own Ziploc bag.  

Why?  Because the baggage hold on airplanes isn’t pressurized like the main cabin.  That means your liquids could ooze out of your bottles and onto the contents of your suitcase.  Or, maybe you didn’t quite tighten the lid on your argan oil last time and when you arrive at your destination, it’s all over your clothes.  Not a good scene!  

You could dump them all in one ziploc bag, but if one of those bottles does leak, it gets all over the other bottles making a mess.  Also, if its in its own baggy, then you can still use the product and not go without your must-have product while on the go!

Pack Things in Your Shoes

Your shoes are often overlooked packing geniuses!  Stuff your socks or underwear in them, or your hairbrush so you don’t get strands of hair on your clean clothes!  

Use Elastic Ponytail Holders to Wrangle Electronics Cords

I’ve found rubber bands to be unreliable because they break!  But, we all have extra ponytail holders lying around.  These stand the test of time, won’t break, and look a heck of a lot prettier than an ugly rubber band!  Use one of the many free makeup bags you’ve picked up as ‘free’ gifts over the years to store all of them together so you an easily find them in your bag.

Always Place Heavier Items near the Bottom of Your Suitcase (near the wheels)

Placing your heavier items near the bottom will ground your suitcase when it’s upright and keep it from tipping over because it’s top-heavy.

Streamline Your Makeup Products

Sorry ladies, but you can’t take it all with you! Invest in a kit that has eyeshadow, blush, and bronzer all in one compact, or even better, make your own by depotting your makeup.

Other Good Ideas

Get a Good Backup Charger for Your Phone/Tablet

With all of the gizmos and gadgets that we take with us these days (smart phones, tablets, e-readers, etc.) you NEED a good backup charger to keep your batteries topped off.  

I’ll be honest, I generally travel with 2-3 backup batteries.  I have one that is built into my wallet that I use for my phone and another one that I use for my iPad and Nook.  It’s a bit overkill, but I’d rather have too much power with me than not enough (plus, my travel companions rarely think to bring a back up battery and they end up wanting to borrow mine! So, I come prepared!)

When shopping for a portable backup batter, I would recommend getting one with at least 4000 aMH.  That will give your phone about 2 charges.  If you have tablets and e-readers as well, you’ll want to get one with even more (or multiple ones).

Wash Your Clothes on the Road

Since I told you to only take one week’s worth of clothes if you’re traveling more than a week, you might be thinking I’m telling you to wear dirty clothes!  Unless it’s really hot or you tend to sweat a lot, you can generally get more than one wear out of some of your clothes (not advisable for undershirts, tank tops, and underwear, of course!).  

Another great way to get more mileage out of your clothes is to do a small wash mid-trip.  Book an Airbnb instead of a hotel.  Not only is it cheaper (and a heck of a lot more charming!), a lot of them come with a washer/dryer!  

In any travel products section of Target, Walmart, etc. you will find packets of Tide and Woollite.  You can use these in the machine, or if you don’t have access to a machine, do a little handwashing.  While no one wants to have to do laundry on vacation, it certainly makes packing a lot better and it’s not really that bad.  

I don’t like to wash jeans or something heavy like that while on the road, but I will wash shirts, tank tops, and underwear.  If I’m hand washing, I generally just use the sink in the bathroom, squeeze the excess water out with a towel and depending on the item, either hang it in the closet to dry or lay them out on a dry towel. 

NEVER Leave for your Trip with a Full Suitcase

If you’re planning on bringing home souvenirs, NEVER depart for your trip with a full suitcase.  I always pack my suitcase 1/2 empty so I have plenty of space to bring souvenirs home (I do check my suitcase if I’m going on vacation for this very reason, but I only pack it 1/2 full).

I’ve traveled a lot…both for work and fun.  I’ve run the gamut of traveling super light to taking everything but the kitchen sink.  I’ve never regretted not bringing something when I packed light.  Whereas, I’ve ALWAYS regretted overpacking!  Remember, unless you’re going somewhere remote, you can always pick things up at your destination.

If you’re not a pro at packing light, just remember that you won’t die without having all of your things with you.  Be honest with yourself and pick your most needed items and go with it!

Bonus tip…if you buy breakable items while on your trip, you can pack those in your suitcase without them breaking!  I do this every time I travel.  Your clothes act as a perfect insulator!  Layer some clothes on the bottom of your suitcase to pad it, then wrap your breakable item in your clothes.  Lay this on top of the pillow of clothes and add another layer of clothes on top of it.  The two layers of clothes are cushioning it from any impacts the suitcase may take (and if you have a hard case suitcase, you’re in even better shape).  With this said, I wouldn’t put something expensive or too delicate in my checked bag, but so far, I’ve never had anything break!

Helpful Links

My favorite products for traveling

Before we go, just wanted to share a few of my favorite things for when I hit the road!

So friends, what are YOUR favorite packing tips? Leave me a comment and let me know!