Packing can be the most stressful event around planning a vacation. Through lots of trial and error (and tears), I’ve come up with a few tips from my own jet setting experience and also found many good tricks online that I’ve consolidated below.
Suitcases can make or break a trip – Do your research as new materials and technology are constantly changing. The most important thing is that it’s light and durable. Size also matters! I like to stick with 24 inch luggage as I know I can stuff the suitcase to the max and likely am not over-weight. I have also found I like the hard shell best as it can take a lot of battering from the airliners and still be in good shape. And I must say, once you go spinner (4 wheels), you don’t go back. I can lug my luggage all over an airport and not be worn out. It’s a matter of preference.
Don’t fold, roll – I have found that rolling my clothes not only allows for more clothes in my suitcase (careful with weight!) but that it also prevents them from getting that wrinkled crease right down the front of my shirts/dresses. It’s actually quite amazing at how much more you can pack with this method!
Men’s collared shirt – Consider lining those stiff collars with a rolled up belt to keep the form when you don’t have a hanging bag.
Layer – For changes in weather throughout the day, simple cardigans are easy to wear and stuff in a purse as the climate changes. Further, layering can change up the look of your outfit if you’re relying on limited clothing options.
Stick with basic color schemes – Complimenting colors will help to ensure you always look put together while you can mix and match your clothing throughout your trip without looking as if you’re wearing the same thing in all your photos!
Manage your jewelry – For necklaces and bracelets, strand the chain through a straw (cut to size) to keep from untangling. You can also use buttons to keep your earrings together (dangle or studs)!
Shoes, shoes, shoes– store shoes in a shower cap to avoid “stepping on” your garments with dirty shoes. The great thing is that most hotels have shower caps for you to keep. Ladies, if you must, carry only one pair of nude heels, they’ll go with everything. Otherwise, shoes should be COMFORTABLE. Blistered feet can quickly sabotage a perfectly good vacay.
Chargers/Cords – store cables/cords/chargers in a pencil case or sunglass case to avoid tangled messes and keep them organized in one place.
Hair tools – Don’t even bother bringing your fancy hair straightners and curling irons. Many (the Chi in particular) will blow out as soon as you plug it in and it’ll be dead forever. I have found that the cheaper (i.e, Revlon) brands will last throughout the trip and if they blow, there’s no major loss. Also, most hotels will have hair dryers but it’s a good idea to check on your hotel’s websites to verify. They are big and take up a lot of valuable room and weight so it’s best to leave those at home! Also, oven pads are great to wrap around your straightner/curling irons when you need to pack them still hot.
Liquids – Put a piece of saran wrap under the cap of your liquids so that the pressure from the cabin during flight doesn’t cause a massive explosion in your suitcase. Nobody looks cute walking around with hair gel stains on their shirts. I have often put them in sealed zip lock bags to serve the same purpose.
Razor Ruin – I once sliced all 4 knuckles on my razor as I dug through my carry on searching for liquids as I was going through security. Blood everywhere! It’s amazing how fast you’ll retrieve band-aids when you feel 20 hurried eyes behind you…. What I should have done was place a binder clip over my razor blade to ensure I didn’t lose any fingers…
Copy That – Make a photocopy of your passport and/or ID when you travel to keep in your suitcase. In the event that you lose or God forbid, mugged and find yourself without your travel documents, you will be able to regain a copy of your passport/ID at the US embassy much faster with photocopies.
Smell like daisies – Stuff a dryer sheet in your luggage to keep your clothes smelling fresh. Keep a few smaller trash bags as well for dirty clothes to keep them separated from clean garments. This will help keep you smelling fresh throughout your jaunts.
Mind the weight restrictions – Keep in mind your airline’s weight restrictions for not just checked luggage but carry-on luggage as well! Overweight fees can be hefty depending on the airline and some airlines will make you check your carry on if it is not the proper size or weight (Ryan Air is notorious for this). If you have two pieces of luggage, put your heaviest items in the smaller bag such as shoes, jeans, and liquids to help limit the risk of going overweight. Weigh your bags before walking out the door so you don’t risk being that person opening up their luggage and shifting things around in the middle of the airport. No need for the added stress! In the event that you’re just a smidge over, a pair of jeans weighs about 1lb and can easily be moved to another location without too much effort.
Another tip on checking luggage? You can almost always gate check baggage (unless it’s abnormally large) so take two large carry-ons and ask them to gate check one. It’s free.
Carry-on – Passport, ID, credit cards, valuable jewelry (if you’re brave enough to travel with), electronics (and their chargers!!!) and any other valuables are safest in your carry-on. You’ll regret checking that expensive watch in the event of lost luggage. For business travel, consider carrying on ALL important documents in your carryon.
Know your carry-on Limits – Some airlines such as RyanAir will only allow ONE carry-on bag and not an additional personal item. Stuff those purses in your carryon or risk having to check it.
Get your luggage quickly– By slapping a “Fragile” sticker or tag on your luggage (even if it’s not carrying fragile objects), your luggage will likely be handled better and also placed on top of the luggage pile resulting in your bag being pulled off the plane first.
Duty-Free purchases – Make sure that your duty free bag is sealed upon purchase and STAYS sealed. You will be forced to mail or throw out newly purchased duty-free liquids that were carried on in layover destinations…and I speak from experience, mailing wine is NOT cheap!
Know your 3-1-1 – Most carryons allow each liquid container to be 3.4 oz or 100ml that should be contained within a zip lock bag. Some airports don’t require you to remove your liquids from your carryon during security checks but these are few and far between. And while most food is allowed, certain things such as peanut butter are considered gel and are not allowed. Mascara, lip gloss, and aerosol items are also classified as liquids or gels. According to the TSA website, “Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.”
I found this article by a stewardess for tips on packing for a 10 day trip very helpful.
I also like this article on WHAT to wear in various countries.
Other useful travel products
Longchamp “Le Pliage” – What I love about these bags is that they’re super durable, resistant to light rain, easy to pack when not using, spacious and not bogged down with unnecessary material.
I like these bathroom totes as it’s so easy to find things in and hangs from the hand towel rack easily. Other dop kits I have found to be more frustrating than useful.
Not all hotels offer adapters/converters. Remember, converters convert the voltage while adapters adapt to the changing plug prongs. You will need both. Samsonite has been tried and true for us.
JetBags resealable Padded Wine Bags – Anyone looking to bring wine back in their luggage should consider the appropriate padding and absorption in the event of breakage.
I’m always looking for new packing tricks so please do share your tried and true tips!