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Next time, let’s avoid the huffing and puffing. Enough with the stressing about what to take out of our suitcase so it closes, the wrangling with the overhead bin, the stuck zippers, and the imminent emotional breakdown when airline employees charge us extra for our overweight luggage at check-in.
Truth is, packing for a trip is exciting but stressful. We love choosing the perfect outfits, but worrying about what we forgot sucks. Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or an extended vacation, saving space in order to make room for everything is super important, and if it’s done right, leaves you feeling like a Tetris game master! Let’s break down a few of our best packing hacks and tips. Read on to see how to make packing for your next trip a breeze.
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Know The Baggage-Fee Policy
Knowledge is power. So before you even get started on what to pack, be sure you have the details on your airline baggage policy. Do bags fly free? You will want to know all the baggage fees, weight limits, and carry-on specifications. Trust me, no one wants to see a clothes yard sale at the airport as you pull shirts and skirts from your suitcase and shove them into your daughter’s luggage until the scale shows that magic number.
Roll Your Clothes
Master the military-style roll. This doesn’t mean rolling clothes to the tune of “Taps”; you don’t have to enroll in the army to use this one. It is, however, an intelligent fold-and-roll method.
Essentially this simple trick is executed by using a super-tight roll and flattening the clothing material as you go. Not only does this make everything you are packing the optimal size, it’s also a great way of making shirts, pants, and jackets as wrinkle-free as possible. This is my husband’s preferred packing method for saving space in a suitcase, and it keeps his clothes from showing giant creases and fold marks – double victory.
Consider rolling a whole outfit together this way. Just layer your shirt and pants together (maybe even undies and socks) and then roll it up. This is a great idea for traveling with kids. It helps keep an outfit together and makes it easy to put on by themselves (hallelujah).
Use your Shoes
If you’re packing an extra pair, or five, of shoes for your trip, make every inch count. Utilize the inside of the shoes for small items like rolled-up undies, socks, battery chargers, and small bottles of toiletries, like lotion or powder. I like to also wrap my shoes in a plastic grocery sack or a shower cap when I pack them. It helps keep the dirty bottoms of my shoes off of my clean clothes and keeps the inevitable sweaty sneaker smell contained and out of my suitcase. Yea, yea… I know you don’t have smelly feet. Just humor the idea.
Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes for travel are used to organize the contents of a bag since most bags and large pieces of luggage have only one main compartment. They also help save space, as a fabric cube will act like a compression bag by corraling clothes into a tiny space. There are even specific “compression packing cubes” that take this a step further, which we’ll get into a bit later.
The point is, when you’re cramming your life inside a carry-on-sized backpack, you’ll want to save space where you can—and packing cubes is one of the best ways to do that. Plus, they make it super easy to find things if you organize each by like item and they keep things nice and tidy, which if you are anything like me, by day 3, the suitcase looks like a volcano exploded our clothes.
There are a ton of options for packing cubes too. Cotopaxi makes their signature multicolored pouches in all different sizes, which is what I use. Amazon has different packing cube options, sizes and styles to choose from also.
Use Re-Sealable Bags
Baggies are your #1 best friend. Use them to manage all the things. Especially the small things. I’m not above using ziplock freezer baggies for my packing or suggesting them, either. The resealable plastic bags are so great. You can see everything inside. They are sneaky in the fact that they really do hold a ton of stuff and you can push all the air out of them and make them compressed and compact. Yes, you can also use compression bags designed to do just that. I use the baggies to pack small things that need to stay together, like a hairbrush and elastics or toothpaste AND toothbrush. Instead of finding my son’s toothbrush in my makeup bag, I learned real quick to give him as many ziplock bags as he could possibly need, and then maybe even one more. Not only that, but I throw in a couple of extra resealable bags for my return trip too. I use the extra ones for dirty clothes, wet bathing suits, or the 100 trinkets and pieces of random “memorabilia” my boys seem to find and pocket during our day adventures, like a shiny rock or a penny or a popsicle stick from the “special ice cream store.” If you have young boys, you get it. “Bag it up!”
The Clothing Countdown
We use the packing rule of five. Listen, I try really hard to love it, because I think the logic is spot on, and it is such a great way not to lose your mind when you are trying to pack. But it’s just hard to choose. Anyhow, the rule goes like this: five tops, four bottoms, three dresses, two shoes, two bathing suits, one hat, or one other accessory. That is all you need for a 2-week vacay according to many packing gurus. I’m not sure if this rule jives with Marie Kondo, IYKYK, but that’s a topic for another day…you get the idea with the clothing countdown.
Travel Sized Multi-Taskers
Most of you probably knew about this before I did, but for those of you that are like me, and hadn’t caught on to this travel hack – opting for travel-sized toiletries and make-up that can do double duty is an amazing way to cut down on space in your toiletry bag. Choose a soap and shampoo bar in one or a tinted moisturizer that serves as a foundation and wipes that clean hands and face while removing your make-up too. Also, take advantage of the shower cap, It is a real traveling multi-tasker. It is often left untouched while we are pilfering the tiny shampoo and conditioner from the hotel bathroom but don’t leave it behind. Instead, use the shower cap to wrap up a wet bathing suit or shoes, protecting other items from damp and grime.
Here are our favorite packing travel hacks for family travel. Good for quick weekend getaways and longer family trips.
Pack Cotton Clothes
Unless you love to iron…wait, do people even iron clothes anymore? The point is wrinkle-resistant fabrics make traveling and wearing your favorite outfits so much easier, so maybe skip the rayon and linen and load up on cotton, polyester, cashmere, and wool. It’s the best way to stay wrinkle-free. Sure, cotton and wool may be a bit of a bulkier fabric, but if you adopt the roll-up method, you will have no problem fitting your more forgiving fabrics into your bag or carry-on luggage whether you are taking a quick road trip to the coast or planning for a long trip halfway around the globe. We also love our spray that removes wrinkles if the linen pants must go on the trip.
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Organize and Prioritize
Put the clothes you plan to use first or most often on the top. Or, if you go the cube route, put those items in the same cube. Then you can pull them out quickly and without making a total mess of everything else in your luggage. That’s the hope, anyway. Organize your suitcase with the heaviest items on the bottom and smaller items on the top, this helps with having to pull everything out to find one small travel bag and swearing it’s “somewhere in here.”
Make a Packing List
When it comes to packing, don’t waste precious time. Start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your travel date. And make a packing list. It gives you a minute to write down items that you want and need on your vacation. I do this religiously because when you have kids and a job and a partner and a dog, it’s safe to say if momma doesn’t write it down or pack early, she doesn’t pack at all! She’s busy packing everyone else and basically doing all the pre-travel setup. I’m not going to say that creating a packing list will ensure that you don’t forget anything, but odds are definitely in your favor for forgetting fewer things. LOL.
Do Laundry While Vacationing
Does your vacation rental or hotel come with washer and dryer amenities or a laundry room? Check out the amenities of your vacation spot. That way, you can pack less, knowing that you will be able to wash your clothes while you are on your vacation.
Pack Dual-Purpose Outfits
Think about pants that can zip off into shorts or swim trunks that can also be worn as shorts. The same goes for a dress that can be casual for daytime sightseeing and strolling but also dressed up for a special evening out. A jacket that doubles as a travel pillow is another dual-purpose item that can save some space while traveling.
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Layer, Layer, Layer
Wear layers and pack in layers. First, your on-the-road wardrobe should feature plenty of layers, which will help you jet-set through multiple climates in style and comfort. Second, the items in your bag should be packed in neat layers for easy screening at airport security. Also, if you are traveling with fragile items, there is no need for bubble wrap. Layering your breakables in between soft clothing can keep them safe from breakage.
Keep Essential Items Nearby
It’s very important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, phone, credit cards, cash, jewelry, electronics, and other valuable and essential items should always be brought onto the plane with you. I also carry a first aid kit, which is always a good idea and essential when traveling with kids because you’ll either need it for a scratch or sometimes the baby doll needs one, am I right? An extra outfit rolled up into a ziplock bag in my carry-on, I consider essential because if you have ever made it to your vacation destination, but your luggage didn’t – well… that ziplock outfit comes in real handy and definitely feels essential.
One Personal Item
It’s standard for airlines to permit each traveler to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard planes. Forget wasting your personal item allowance on a small bag or teeny-tiny purse! Bring a larger tote bag that you can easily stash under the seat but still gives you more space for stuff and easy access to your things during the flight. Be sure if you are traveling with kids that you also utilize their personal item allowance wisely too. A tiny unicorn kiddie backpack is cute, but consider a larger backpack that can fit toys, a travel game and quiet pastime activities for a long flight, a blanket, and maybe even a change of clothes as well as that little unicorn backpack.
Best Luggage Choices
Hard-sided, soft-sided, patterned or plain whichever kind of luggage you prefer, there are plenty of brands. I’m a real big fan of matching sets so If I find a polka dot lavender carry-on, there must be a matching, standard suitcase size too, or I’m in a tizzy! If you consider yourself any kind of traveler, Samsonite is a name you know and trust. There is a reason they have been the luggage name of the century – they have good products and good customer service. They know baggage! OK, not family baggage or emotional baggage but the suitcase variety for sure. TravelPro, is luggage that is well, a pro at traveling. What’s not to love about ultra-premium, lightweight luggage that has tons of pockets and places for stashing stuff?!
It’s important to note that TSA has regulations regarding liquids, gels etc. To that end, they will confiscate a full water bottle from you at security, but you can and should bring an empty water bottle through the screening and fill it up at a water fountain as you head to your gate. They’ve done studies on airplane water tanks, and let’s just say travelers might want to wait on that coffee or tea!
What’s left to say except Bon Voyage!
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I grew up with a red Webster’s Dictionary on the kitchen counter, which is where my love of words and crafty writing was born. My constant word doodling and storytelling was also a pretty good sign I was destined for the writer’s life too. I am a master brand storyteller, creative ringleader and kick-a content creator, based in Park City, Utah, where I live with my three incredible kiddos, my guy, and three of the goofiest doodle doggies you’ll ever meet. My specialties include copywriting, content creation, word smithing, editing, proofreading, SEO marketing, brainstorming, and picking brains. I’m also very good at multitasking, single-tasking, and “I’ll just do it myself” tasking. Last, but certainly not least, I specialize in spontaneous bursts of sheer brilliance. I traded life near the Pacific Ocean for mountain town living in Park City, which actually feels like a chill beach town…so, it’s a pretty even trade, except for the snow – obvi!