Last Updated:Packing for a trip, whether it’s a long weekend away or a 6-month round the world adventure can be pretty stressful. While I’ve talked about my favorite travel clothes for women to pack, I have never given my two-cents on the best travel packing hacks out there. I’ve been traveling on and off for over 10 years now with everything from winter getaways in Europe to summer adventures in Mexico, from short 2-day trips to a serious 5-month adventure around Asia.
Needless to say, I’ve tried a lot of travel packing hacks along the way. Some are absolutely fantastic and some are horrific. This is for travelers who want to take all the necessities but aren’t stressed about packing absolutely everything. I’m not by any means a carry-on packer and I’m okay with that.
Travel Packing Hacks You’ll Love
1. Plan What You’re Going to Wear
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t overpack (or underpack, which is apparently a thing for some people?) is to plan out what you’re going to wear for every day of your trip. This is really easy if you’re only going somewhere for a week or less. But it’s easily done for longer trips, too. Think about whether or not you’re going to be able to do laundry while you’re on your trip. If that’s a possibility (which is almost always is), you really only need to pack for a week to 10 days.
When you plan out your outfits you not only pack exactly the right amount of clothes, but you also get rid of basically all of the stress each morning on your trip because you only have a finite number of outfits to choose from.
2. Use Bags (or Cubes)
While most of the world has probably already told you about packing cubes, I prefer to use small bags to organize my stuff. Mostly because I already have a ton of small bags, but also I’m vain and I think they’re much cuter than the generic packing cubes that you can find on Amazon. Although if you came here looking for a packing cube recommendation, most of my friends rave about these Eagle Creek packing cubes ($22.99).
For my makeup, I swear by these canvas bags by Pamela Barsky. They’re funny, stylish, easy to clean, and they are the perfect size for travel. They ensure that I never pack too much makeup, but they still fit plenty of goodies. See more here.
I use smallish bags, usually the sort that you get as a free gift from a makeup counter, to put dirty undergarments, toiletries, first aid stuff, and jewelry. I don’t worry about bagging up my clothes because the next tip is so much better than bagging up your clothes.
3. Lay It Flat
I have been a roll-it supporter for many years. I actually only came over to the lay-it-flat team about two months ago. It is amazing how much more space you create when you lay your clothes flat rather than folding it. Obviously, this only works if you’re traveling with a suitcase, not a backpack. If you’re traveling with a backpack, rolling your clothes is still the best way to pack that.
However, if you do have a suitcase, start at one corner and lay your clothing flat, one piece at a time, clockwise until you have even layers of clothing. It also keeps them from wrinkling which is always a problem I have when I roll my clothes.
4. Stuff Your Shoes
This should be an obvious one, but if you are packing shoes, don’t waste the space inside of them. I usually put socks and underwear inside my shoes or bottles of things that are delicate like perfume that I want to protect and know they won’t burst. This serves not only to take up less space, but also keeps the shape of your shoes. There’s nothing worse than squishing a nice pair of boots in your bag to get rid of those wrinkles.
5. Wear the Bulky Stuff
If you’re going somewhere and you’re taking bulky sweaters or coats, wear them instead of packing them. A coat or thick wool sweater can ruin the whole balance of your suitcase and they take up way too much room. Plus, if you’re going somewhere cold, you’ll want to have all of those warm clothes on when you arrive anyway.
6. Think About The Weight Distribution
You know when you pack your suitcase or backpack, then zip it up and stand it upright and it falls over? That’s because the weight is all wrong. I used to think this was a problem with my suitcase being front heavy, then I realized it’s because I put all of my heavy stuff near the top rather than thinking it through while the suitcase is laying flat.
When you pack a suitcase or a backpack, be sure to pack the heavy things near the wheels or towards the back of the backpack. That way, it won’t tip over and will be easier to carry, too.
7. Don’t Bring All Your Makeup
Instead, use little hacks like putting a few squeezes on concealer into a contact lens case. This was one of the best things I ever discovered. I used to cart around my entire makeup bag with a full-sized face cream, a full-sized foundation, all of my brushes, and at least 6 tubes of lipstick because you never know!
Now I buy small travel-sized lipsticks because 1) I get bored of colors before I use the whole thing anyway and 2) they are so much easier to travel with – even when I use them day-to-day in my purse. I don’t bother bringing my foundation and concealer when I’m going somewhere hot because I’ll be working on my tan and I sweat so much that stuff just melts right off anyway.
My go-to travel makeup bag usually contains waterproof mascara, my beloved Anastasia eyebrow pencil, a few lipsticks that I love, and my tweezers because eyebrows seem to grow much quicker on vacation.
8. Get Yourself a Luggage Scale
This is by far the best investment I’ve made for my travels. There is nothing worse than guessing whether or not you’re overweight. That goes for your carry-on luggage and your checked luggage. If you only take on travel packing hack from this list, it should be this one. I bought this scale from Amazon a few years ago and the battery only just died. They’re cheap and easy to replace and it works perfectly now that the batteries have been replaced.
Most decent scales allow you to swap between kilos and pounds so that no matter what the airline tells you the weight is, there’s no question. They’re also really small, so you can pack them for your trip and when you’ve purchased all those souvenirs in Mexico, you can check the weight to make sure you won’t have to pay that overage charge.
9. Reusable Travel-Sized Bottles Are Your Best Friend
For some reason, I resisted buying these sort of things for years and years. It wasn’t until around mid-2017 when I was doing a lot of one or two-week trips that I realized what I was missing out on. They make it SO EASY to travel carry on for short trips, they are easy to clean, you can actually take your favorite face cream, sunscreen, bug spray, shampoo, body lotion (I could go on) with you without worrying about carrying 10-pounds worth of toiletries. They also fit easily into a carry-on or checked bag and don’t take up nearly as much space as your normal-sized bottles.
This starter kit ($8.99) literally comes with all of the different types of bottles that you might need.
10. Ditch the One-Use Plastic Freezer Bags
This is a travel packing hack AND and an environmentally friendly hack. I used to use big plastic freezer bags to put all of my toiletries in so that in case they burst a little on the plane, they didn’t get all over everything else. As I started traveling more frequently, I really started noticing how wasteful it was, and I even tried to reuse them as much as possible. Unfortunately, they would burst or tear at some point and I would have to replace them.
Would you know it, they make bags specifically for this very purpose and you can just use it again and again and again. The best part is that it has a lining that makes it super easy to clean and the one I bought recently (this L&FY one) is super cute and fits toiletries for both myself and my boyfriend (and he loves a good travel toiletry).
11. Go for Multi-Use
I have a camera bag that also doubles as a purse. That way I don’t have to bring both. I have a pair of really comfortable walking sandals that are cute and fashionable that I can wear during the day to explore and dress up at night with makeup and a nicer outfit. I have belts that I can wear with jean shorts or use to cinch my waist in a dress when I go out for dinner. Pack items that you can use not only for one thing, but that will come in handy for several outfits, for different times of day, and that aren’t one-time-use items. Leave those sort of things at home.
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