11 Simple Travel Packing Tips From an Ex-Overpacker
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If you’re guilty of overpacking, raise your hand. 🙋♀️
It’s not hard to get excited about a vacation. Unfortunately, that excitement lasts until I have to sit on my luggage to zip it shut. To maximize luggage space, check out some of my favorite travel packing tips and products that make packing as easy-breezy as vacationing.
1. Start your packing and to-do list 3-5 days before you leave.
This one might be obvious, but it’s such an important step in packing. I make one list for clothes and items I need to pack, along with a to-do list of errands. Starting this list early means I have time to go shopping for missing list items before the trip.
2. Compartmentalize your suitcase with packing cubes.
Packing cubes are surprisingly life-changing. I will fully admit that I thought they would be a waste and pretty much useless, but the organization freak in me is officially obsessed. I even kept the plastic bag they came in to use for wet bathing suits, sandy sandals, and muddy shoes.
3. Stock up on beauty boxes for the best value on travel-sized goods.
I love the Target beauty boxes (can you tell?), but I’ve also gotten sample boxes from Birchbox and Walmart Beauty with great travel-sized products too. Oh, and the freebie section on Hip2Save is not to be missed either! You can also hit up Sephora for some free samples – you get up to 3 per shopping trip and they make perfect substitutes for the full-size products you can’t take with you.
Hip Tip: Make sure you meet TSA requirements with this cute travel bag and refillable containers to make your favorite products travel-sized!
4. Minimize your everyday wallet into a vacation wallet.
Only bring essential cards and cash in a small wallet (will you really need gift cards or store credit cards?) that can easily go from carryon to purse, pocket, or another bag you may be toting around.
I simplified mine (and reduced its size in half!) to only my ID, debit card, one cash-back earning credit card, the airline credit card I booked my trip with (in case it awards me upgrades on the flight), my insurance card (hey, you never know), and my AAA card in hopes that I might get more discounts on the trip.
5. Pack by outfit rather than general stacks of clothes.
Seriously, you’ll save yourself SO much space in your bag from not overloading with things you won’t wear. I even managed to cut down my initial clothes pile by organizing this way! Check the weather a couple days before you leave to get outfit ideas.
Then separate outfits into day and night (bonus points for pieces that can be used across multiple days). Another upside to this method is the time you’ll save during your trip not overthinking about which outfits to put together.
6. Stuff undies and socks into shoes and bra cups.
Shoes, handbags, and bras can leave you with wasted space. Ball up your undergarments, and load them into the open areas of these accessories to maximize space and help these items keep their shape.
7. Lay dryer sheets between clothes to keep them smelling fresh.
I saw that Megan Markle lays dryer sheets in her suitcase when traveling, so if it’s good enough for a future princess, it’s good enough for me. It’s especially helpful when you pull your suitcase out from the basement the night before your trip and realize it has a lovely, musty scent. 🤢 If that’s ever the case for you, too, a quick spritz of Febreeze before packing does the trick.
8. Leave your bulkiest item out of your bag.
Thick and large garments such as jean jackets, chunky sweaters, and clunky shoes take up space and weigh down your bag. These are the pieces you should be wearing on the plane to save on space (and a potential overweight bag charge). Plus, traveling in layers means you’re prepared for whatever temperature the plane happens to be.
9. Nix your heavy pajamas, even in winter.
If you’re staying in a hotel, you can control the heat in your room to make sleeping conditions work for just a light tank and shorts. And some may think it’s gross, but I “recycle” my pajamas to wear twice instead of packing fresh ones for each night. 🤷♀️
10. Carry a mini steamer for the win!
I have a serious romance with my mini steamer. I use it regularly at home, but it’s so compact that it barely takes up any space when traveling. This isn’t an “essential” since I’ve seen hotel rooms have irons, but it sure is handy. And does that “hang your outfit in a steamy bathroom” really ever work?
11. Don’t skimp on some of your travel must-haves:
- Under-eye masks: Use either during or after the flight to banish baggy undereyes.
- Tide-To-Go: #BecauseLife
- Sunscreen: It can be crazy expensive at hotel lobby shops!
- PeptoBismol chewables: I don’t end up using them every time I travel, but man, am I glad I have them when I need them.