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Top 25 Travel Packing Hacks and Tips

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Everyone loves to travel, but few people enjoy the packing that goes along with it. Preparing for a trip doesn’t have to be a headache. There are simple and efficient ways to pack your bag that will make your life easier before, during, and after your travels. Check out these top 25 travel packing hacks that will save you time, stress, and money in overweight baggage fees:

1. Choose carry-on-friendly luggage

Instead of checking a bag, travel like a minimalist and only pack a carry-on. There are several benefits for choosing to fly only with a carry on. One, you don’t have to waste time checking your bags at the airport. Check in online and when you arrive in the airport you can bypass the check-in counter and go straight to security. Two, you’ll save yourself the annoyance of waiting around at baggage claim at your destination. You also won’t have to stress that your baggage got lost along the way. Time and sanity, saved.

2. Roll and compress your clothes

Travel Packing
Roll your clothes instead of folding them

Folding is out. Rolling is in. Rolling your clothes before packing them in your suitcase reduces the amount of space your items take up. Even better, pack your rolled clothes in reusable and compressible plastic bags. These handy travel bags squeeze out all the extra air, saving you even more space. It also spares your clothes unsightly wrinkles and saves you the hassle of trying to find an iron and look presentable when you reach the destination.

3. Prepare to balance your bag

Travel Packing Tips
A well-packed bag is a well-behaved bag

You’ve seen it, or you’ve lived it. Nothing’s more annoying than taking your hand off your luggage for a second only to have it topple over. It causes frustration and disorganization and is just plain irritating. Avoid this by packing your bag in a balanced fashion — your heaviest items (like shoes, liquids, bottles, or hefty souvenirs) at the bottom of your bag where the wheels are and the lightest items on top — and your bag will behave itself when you turn your back.

4. Don’t forget your in-flight essentials bag

Travel packing hacks
Invest in an in-flight bag

Don’t be that person in the aisle of the plane, furiously digging through your carry-on looking for your headphones. People hate that person. Make boarding your flight a smooth process by separating your in-flight essentials beforehand. We suggest investing in a small pouch that can fit all the things you might need during a flight like your phone, tablet, wallet, tickets/itinerary, a pen, gum, headphones, chargers, chapstick, etc. Keep this pouch handy as you board the plane, toss it on your seat, store your carry-on and you’re ready to fly.

5. Use shoes to maximize space

Travel Packing hacks and tips
Utilize the shoe space to the max

Sneakers and dress shoes are clunky items to travel with, but they’re often necessary for backpacking or business trips. Utilize the wasted space inside your shoes by stuffing it with socks or underwear. This will save you a little space and help your shoes maintain their shape in a jam-packed bag.

6. Pack outfits

Travel packing outfits
Plan outfits for each day to ensure you only pack what you really need

Don’t bring those pants if you’re not bringing the shirt you always wear with those pants. You won’t end up wearing them and it will be a waste of space. Make sure that you pack the entire outfit and that you have an event to wear it to. For example, packing a nice dress for a backpacking trip through South America is probably not necessary! Think ahead about your itinerary and plan according to that.

7. Pick a versatile color scheme

Travel Packing
Pack same color scheme when packing for your trip

When trying to decide which clothes to bring, stick with the same color scheme. Dark colors like black are always good choices since they don’t show dirt as easily as lighter colored clothes and they match with anything. The shirt from one outfit should also match with another pair of pants. The same shoes should go with both jeans and a skirt. Black pants are very versatile —they can be worn on a casual stroll in the park or a night out. Pack like this and you’ll carry a lighter load.

9. Travel with a first aid kit

Travel Packing Tips
Don't forget to pack a basic first aid kit in your travel bag

Although it’s not nice to consider sickness striking or an accident occurring on holiday, it’s definitely a possibility. Prepare for these problems by packing a first aid kit. Nothing’s worse than having a case of food poisoning but not being able to drag yourself away from the bathroom long enough to buy medicine at the pharmacy. Bring a few items like paracetamol, stomach irritation medication, and cold and flu tablets that you can reach for when you’re feeling less-than stellar. Band-aids, Neosporin, and anti-itch cream are also good items to include. Don’t forget to bring any personal prescriptions with you or ask your doctor for a refill ahead of time if you think you’re going to run out during your trip.

9. Keep smelling good!

All your items are tightly crammed together after you pack your bag and stay like this for the duration of your travels. What’s the big deal? If you’ve got anything smelly inside (like your running sneakers or dirty laundry) your other clothes will take on the smell of these not-so-nice odors. Bottom line: You don’t want to smell like a gym whether you’re at a business meeting or a bar or anytime really! Combat luggage odors by putting a dryer sheet in the inside pocket of your bag. This will keep you and everything else smelling fresh.

10. Separate dirty laundry

Travel Packing Hacks
Keep your dirty laundry separate during your trip

This is an especially good tip if you’re traveling to multiple destinations and not staying in one place. Keep your dirty laundry separated during your trip so your dirty clothes don’t mix with the clean ones. Make sure you pack a smaller, lightweight bag inside your suitcase to use for dirty laundry on your return trip. It can be a light canvas bag or a reusable compressible bag. You can even check the hotel closet and take the bag they’ve provided for you to do your laundry on-site.

11. Request a “fragile” sticker

Ask the check-in counter attendant for a fragile sticker even if you haven’t got anything breakable in your suitcase. One, this will (hopefully) ensure your bag will be handled with care. Two, baggage marked “fragile” is typically taken off the plane first which means you won’t have to wait too long at baggage claim.

12. Utilize sunglass case

travel packing chargers
Utilize that sunglasse case

An empty sunglasses case is the perfect storage unit for cables, headphones, and small charging devices. It also keeps these similar items altogether in one place, making them easier to find and less likely to get lost or damaged in the bottom of a purse or backpack.

13. Carry on a spare outfit

It’s always a good idea to pack a complete change of clothes in your carry on, including underwear and socks. Sometimes checked baggage gets lost and it could be a few days before you’re reunited with your things. Having something to sleep in, plus clean clothes for the next day will help ease the pain of lost luggage.

14. Invest in bar shampoo and conditioner

Travel Packing for Shampoo
Shampoo bars are eco-friendly and travel-friendly too

Stop stressing about how many milligrams of liquid you can take through security by investing in some bar shampoo and conditioners. They look and feel just like soap and easily pass through security. “Lush” makes some amazing-smelling products that you’ll want to use whether you’re traveling or not!

15. Waterproof your bag

This is a genius idea for protecting the contents of your luggage from water with things that you are already packing anyway — it’s just a matter of arrangement! Waterproof your bag by placing rainboots at the bottom, plastic zip lock bags with toiletries on the sides, and a rain jacket or light waterproof jacket spread across the top. Tah-dah! Your luggage is now ready to brave any weather.

16. Use packing cubes

Travel Packing Cubes
With packing cubes, travel packing has never been easier

Packing your clothes and other items in packing cubes will make you feel like the most organized traveler on the planet. These zipped cubes come in different sizes and make it easy for you to categorize your things. You’ll never have to go rifling through a suitcase again. Bonus: they can also be slipped right into hotel drawers, making unpacking in your destination a one-step process.

17. Store your jewelry creatively

Use an old mint container to stow your small earrings and rings. Use a button to fasten your earrings onto – this will keep the pair together and keep them from getting jostled around. If you’re bringing necklaces and bracelets, try this clever hack — thread them through a straw to keep them from getting tangled and knotted!

18. Be shower cap savvy

Usually a few pairs of shoes are necessary for one trip. What’s not necessary is having those shoes rolling around in your luggage with the rest of your stuff. If you forgot or don’t have a plastic bag, grab a shower cap from the hotel bathroom. Place your shoes soles down in the cap and you’ve got instant protection from the dirt and grime.

19. Sarongs are your new best friend

Travel Packing Sarong
Sarong has multiple usage, especially when you are traveling

Whether you’re a guy or a girl, sarongs have so many usage and they are major-must for travelers and backpackers. Sarongs can be used to lie on at the airport during a layover, as a blanket during a chilly flight or bus ride, as a towel, as a beach cover up, or as a shawl to cover the shoulders if you’re visiting a religious place. You’ll find a use for it on every trip.

20. Don’t overpack

Packing Tips
It is a challenge to not overpack, but it is not impossible

Much easier said than done. Everyone’s guilty of overpacking at some point and there are a few simple tricks to avoid it. One, don’t bring something that you think you might wear if you’ve never worn it before. It’s pretty much guaranteed you won’t wear it on your trip. Second, lay out all the stuff you want to bring. Then only take half. This takes some practice, and you have to be a bit ruthless at times but having an over-packed bag can really bum you out during a trip. Plus, doing this will save room for souvenirs!

21. Use mini containers

travel packing bottles
Use mini containers for all your favorite lotion and gels

Of course, you want your favorite body lotion and you need to take your prescription medications and supplements. But this doesn’t mean chucking the whole bottle or pill container into your suitcase. Use mini containers to just take what you need. Empty contact lenses cases work great for lotions and gels. You can also find little twist-top pill containers in the pharmacies, so you can take all your little necessities without the bulk.

22. Protect breakables

You can always ask for the “fragile” bag tag, but it’s not a guarantee that your bag won’t get dropped or handled roughly during the journey. If you’ve got breakable things like perfume/cologne bottles, a camera, or pottery souvenirs (for example), wrap them in a scarf, sarong, or sock. Pack them in the middle of your suitcase and surround them with additional padding like a sweatshirt.

23. Tag your bag

There’s not a whole lot of variety when it comes to luggage and many bags look the same. Try to buy luggage that’s bright in color or decorate it with bag bands so it stands out in a crowd. You have less of a chance of someone grabbing your bag by mistake if you personalize it. Bonus: Bag bands also double as security in case your bag rips or pops open. It’ll keep your suitcases or backpack closed and keep your things inside from getting lost.

24. Wear your heaviest clothes

If you’re traveling with multiple pairs of shoes, wear the ones that take up the most space in your luggage. For example, if you’re bringing sneakers and flip flops, it’s always better to wear the sneakers and pack the smaller sandals. The same logic applies for your clothes. Wear the puffy jacket on the flight (it’s cold on planes anyway!) and layer your underneath clothes so you can strip down if you get too warm. This will keep you from lugging around heavy things in your suitcase and save you room.

25. Make a packing checklist

Travel Packing list
Prepare an all-time travel packing list

Create a list of all the pure essentials you need whenever you take any type of trip, and save it on your phone. This list will help you if you're packing last minute or don't know where to start. Here is a standard list of things you might want to include: 

  • Toiletries
  • Prescription medications
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Something to sleep in
  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Other electronics that you absolutely need
  • Chargers
  • International adaptor plug
  • No-foreign-transaction-fee credit card
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Travel ID / Passport
  • USD 100 in cash
  • Mini first aid kit
  • A sweater/shawl/sarong for plane and bus trips
  • A few re-sealable plastic bags
  • Four tops that can be mixed and matched with the bottoms
  • Three bottoms that can be mixed and matched with the tops
  • Two pairs of shoes (one casual, one dressier)

Of course, if you're taking a beach trip or a hiking trip you would include the other specifics, but this is a good list to get you started. Follow it and more than half the packing will be done!

For more travel-related hacks and tips, read our Ultimate Travel Hacks and Tips article.

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