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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 closed. 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.

start your too-do list early to add more items as you think of them hip2save

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.

Hip Tip: Heidi Swapp makes the cutest planners — perfect for creating and organizing to-do lists!


2. Compartmentalize your suitcase with packing cubes.

use packing cubes to organize outfits in your suitcase hip2save

These 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.

use beauty samples from beauty boxes hip2save

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.

save space in your purse by converting to a smaller 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.

packing by outfit rather than loads of random clothes hip2save

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.

Hip Tip: What’s better than saving space? Saving MONEY! Check out these ways to save big on travel!


6. Stuff undies and socks into shoes and bra cups.

pack socks and underwear inside of shoes, bras, and purses hip2save

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 both maximize space and help these items keep their shape.


7. Lay dryer sheets between clothes to keep them smelling fresh.

use dryer sheets to keep clothes smelling fresh hip2save

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.

wear jackets and sweaters on the place to save space in your bag hip2save

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.

hotel room temperature can be changed in any season hip2save

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!

mini steamers are small and come in handy hip2save

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:

undereye masks revive your appearance after long days of travel hip2save
Mine include:

  • Under eye masks: Use either during or after the flight to banish baggy under eyes.
  • 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.

Written by Emily for Hip2Save. Emily lives in Buffalo, NY where she spends her time drinking lots of coffee, scouring the internet for deals, and tackling DIY projects. She’s a big believer of self-care and living the fullest life possible, all while saving money of course.

Join The Discussion

Comments 85

  1. MrsK

    Thank you

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      You’re welcome, MrsK!

  2. Errrrr

    I wear my PJs every night for like a week before I wash them. I didn’t realize people wore new PJs every night. The idea that wearing PJs 2 nights in a row is considered “recycling” is new to me.

    • Ellen

      Glad I’m not the only one.

    • Rochelle

      I came here just to say the same thing 😁

    • Bethany

      Phew!! Me too. Thank you for making me feel normal 😊

    • Lynn

      Goodness, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one. I would prefer to overpack my everyday clothes (cuz in my head, I need a variety of options while traveling) so one pajama option is the only way I travel for shorter stays.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Hi there! I didn’t mean to throw anyone off with the “recycling” term, as I just thought of it as an easy way to describe wearing PJs more than one night in a row. Trust me, I’ve gone longer than 2 nights with the same pajamas before, and I wouldn’t say it’s not the norm (especially given the other responses), but I felt it was worth mentioning since some people prefer fresh jammies every night — which is also totally fine! For the sake of traveling though, one or two pairs of light pajamas makes for a happy carry on bag 😄

      • Angela V.

        We use the term “recycling pj’s” in our house too! I typically “recycle” my pj’s 3-4 night’s at home and 5-6 nights when traveling. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

      • Sue

        Here is a question for everyone how often does everyone change their sheets and blankets?

    • Erin

      Can you imagine the laundry for an entire family who wears clean pjs each night? 😬 We have a ridiculous amount with daily clothing changes!

      • Jdavis

        I have 4 kids and thought the same thing. I have a hard enough time keeping up with clean clothes (the baby spits up on about 8 outfits a day!), but I can’t imagine it with a new pair of pajamas for everyone every night! As someone above said, we go 2-3 nights at home, 2 per week when traveling.

        • Sue

          I make the kids in diapers get a new pj outfit every night. I just think they smell bad.

    • ali

      ditto

    • AP

      Same! I was like, am I gross? Lol. Whew!

    • *Angela-Miles*

      Haha so do I, wear them Monday- Thursday and then change them. I do shower at night before bed so I’ve never thought of my pajamas as dirty LOL!!! 😉 😉

    • matt

      Thanks for sharing this

  3. Pakajax

    Since you mentioned Pepto chewable, one thing that stays packed and ready in our travel bags is a bottle of psyllium husk capsules to help with all the changes our bodies go through while traveling. I could say it’s a “regular” habit to know they are there.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      That’s a great tip too! I’d hate to have something “back up” my fun while on vacation 😆

    • SJ

      I usually have the opposite problem since I don’t eat as healthy on vacation as I do at home. And my body hates me for it!

  4. Sarah

    Anybody know any place to find deals on luggage? My nephew has requested that for his graduation gift. TIA

    • Colleen

      Keep an eye out at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. They usually have good deals on higher-end luggage.

      • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

        Great tip, Colleen! I got an adorable Guess roller bag a while back at Marshalls for such a good price!

    • ecroston

      Amazon has great deals!

    • Dee

      Samsonite has great sales on their website – sign up for emails and they will let you know when and also send you a coupon!

    • Cate

      Kohl’s ,
      Marshalls and Tuesday morning

  5. Antonella

    Ditto on the PJ’s. I always bring Imodium. You never know, and that’s not fun when you’re traveling.

    • Deb

      Me, too. Although travel usually gives me the opposite problem. 😒 TMI?

      • urvi

        When we travel, we grab some yogurt for the room or on the go. Mandatory a cup for each of us everyday.
        I have a globe-trotting fam member and he swears by it to keep his gut health.

  6. Sue

    I always wear my pjs multiple nights. You mean everyone doesn’t do it?

    • Pakajax

      I do.

  7. Sassy_T

    I am not so sure about stuffing my undies into my shoes. Socks-yes, but undies-no. I have an issue with smell and its not like shoes smell rosy all the time. Hahaha so I will stuff them into my bra cup! 🙂 I always pack a week in advance but lately I have been slacking off (first time mom). Thanks for this information. How many diapers would you suggest packing for a weekend trip for a one year old?

    • becki

      by the time my kids are 1, we use about 5 diapers per day (change 1 in the morning when wake up, 1 when i put her down for nap, 1 after wake up from nap, 1 around dinner time, and new diaper before bed, as our general routine.)
      so to be safe, i pack 6 per day for a trip, then i also top off the diaper bag, and those i consider extras.

      • Sassy_T

        Thank you Becki! I appreciate the feedback and will probably pack the same amount you listed.

    • Tiffany

      We usually pack 4-5 diapers per day, so about 10 for the weekend with a couple extra in a purse or “dad” bag for travel time. If our trip is longer, we’ll do the same amount & just plan to buy a small package on the trip. We buy cheap & find it helps save space–for a couple more favorite toys/books. HTH!

      • Sassy_T

        Thank you! I will probably just pack extra. And he uses about the same amount you listed up there.

    • Julie

      Since this is a saving money website, I’d recommend overpacking diapers (8-10/day), because buying a pack of diapers on a trip will cost way more than the pack you bought at home with coupons and a deal. A generic pack cost us $15 when we forgot diapers on a weekend trip, and my stockpile diapers cost $2 including tax for Pampers/Huggies. When I tried Luvs, kiddo blew out of every diaper in lightening speed, like 15 diapers a day!

      • Sassy_T

        Thank you!!! I dare not buy LUVS, no offense to those who use it.

  8. Sarah O.

    Thanks for the tips!

  9. lou

    Thanks for the travel tips! I am ordering the steamer! We are going on a cruise and it sounds like a great idea to have one along!

    • becki

      google “cruise line prohibited items”. most lines prohibit electrical items and items with a heating element inside, and it will be confiscated out of your luggage.

      • lou

        Thanks for the tip! I didn’t know!

      • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

        That is a great tip to know. I’ve recently flown with the steamer in my carry on no problem but I haven’t tried it on a cruise. Thank you, Becki!

        • April Rose

          Steamers and clothing irons are both prohibited usually on cruises. Be sure to check your cruise line documents or web site. They have some unusual items that are NOT allowed.

    • Tp47832

      Can’t have a steamer on the cruise. Most Cruise lines have laundry on every floor

  10. ecroston

    I’m on business travel for a week per month and have to pack by outfit because I need clothes for the Navy yard/ship, for dinner/out after work, for lounging, then pj’s/pool/etc. Such a pain to pack so much for completely different outfits, not to mention bringing along 2 laptops! I always pack the day before so I can’t second guess my choices =)

  11. quinntress

    These are all great tips, I was happy to learn that I’m following the majority of those! One more tip, I’ve been checking Pinterest boards for wardrobe capsules, outfit ideas, neutral colors & basics that work well together,etc. when packing;i.e. 9 pieces to create multiple outfits & took a print out of the outfit ideas. Picking out outfits was super e z & one less thing to think about on my trip.

  12. Lolie

    Thank you! Great tips for packing! I always over pack, lol! Hopefully this will help me cut down on the number of items I pack.

  13. Marie

    All of these are great tips however number 6 is a sure fire way to get your bag pulled and inspected at the airport because it will be deemed a threat and will delay your screening process.

    • je

      How will stuffing your shoes with socks be deemed a threat? I’ve always done this in both carry-on and check-in and have never had issues.

  14. cleo

    I have always done #6 and had no issues.
    Also, I tend to pull out everything I might want one week in advance and put on my guestbed, and then pare down to about half of that as the week progresses!
    I helps me figure out what I need to get/wash/iron/FIND before I leave….

  15. retireewannabe

    I buy the jumbo Hefty zipper bags and put socks, underwear, etc in those and push the air out. We went on a 20 day Alaska cruise where we needed everything from puffer jackets and gloves to bathing suits. The bags condensed everything so easily and are definitely reusable.

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Sounds like a lovely trip! And that’s a brilliant tip!

  16. Hannah

    Do any of you have a favorite travel rewards credit card? Or a card with no overseas transaction fees?

    • Ms

      I use Capital One Quicksilver visa. It has no foreign exchange fee, 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and it’s visa (more widely accepted than Discover, which is also has no foreign exchange fee).

      • Sara

        I have the Quicksilver card, but it is a World Elite Mastercard. Capital One switched the Quicksilver card to Mastercard for about a year. It has the same terms as the Visa version, except that the Mastercard version comes with a complimentary Shoprunner membership.

    • urvi

      I swear by my Chase Sapphire card.

    • je

      I also have Capital One for no foreign transaction fees. I believe any Capital One card has this benefit.

    • Laurie

      We got the Chase Sapphire Preferred last July and used the signup points and points we earned by Jan to pay for two tickets to our upcoming overseas trip. You can google it to see all of the great benefits it comes with and the annual fee is waived the first year

  17. Sara

    I make a list several weeks in advance. I don’t start packing until the night before. I have the time then because I don’t sleep the night before a trip.

    I don’t pack by outfit. I can fit a 10 day WDW trip into one large packing cube. I can fit two pairs of size 14 jeans, seven 2X tshirts, one pair of pajama pants, one pajama shirt, two bras, two pairs of socks, and five pairs of underwear in that packing cube cube. I would be wearing a tshirt and jeans. I wash certain things in the bathroom sink. I buy a tshirt on every WDW trip. I rewear one tshirt on the last day. I used to only bring the sneakers that I wear on the plane. Now I bring one pair of yellow Converse shoes, a pair of black socks, a red and white polka dot dress, and leggings for my Minnie Mouse costume. I go to the Halloween parties. I can fit all of this in one 22″ spinner suitcase.

    #6 won’t work with wirefree bras.
    The Tide-To-Go pen has never completely worked for me. When it did have an effect, it only faded the stain.

  18. Mandy

    An old professor of mine once said she only travels in black and white. Everything goes with everything, one pair of shoes matches everything, and you always look super chic. She brought a few lightweight scarves to add some color and flair, but I always thought that was a brilliant idea. She went to Rome for two weeks with just a carry-on!

    • Sandy

      I’ve learned this too! Black and white or solids. Yep – a couple of colorful scarves can go a long way!

    • Fei

      Such a great ideas! love that!

  19. Diane

    Thanks for the tips! I agree with you about the packing cubes. I travel frequently and have been using them for several years. They really help with organization. Also, I always have packed and ready-to-go a makeup bag, TSA-approved sized liquids in a zip-lock bag, and a small packing cube with essentials such as aspirin, Benadryl, Imodium, antiseptic wipes, Neosporin, and band-aids. Refill as needed after each trip.

    • Diane

      I forgot to mention – I bring a plastic bag that you roll to compress the air out of to use for my dirty laundry when I am returning home.

  20. Dee

    Many just pack shoes in suitcases but as you know, you track so much dirt and other stuff on your shoes – good idea to either put them in grocery bags – keeps your clothes clean! Another option is to put each shoe into a shower cap (I saw a package of 8 shower caps at Dollar Tree for $1) – the grocery bags are free so I go with that! I also pack garbage bags to keep any dirty laundry separate from leftover clean clothes (helps to keep the inside of your suitcase clean!).

    • Sandy

      We are a family of 5, so we use one carryon/duffel bag for all our shoes and dirty laundry.

  21. kay

    I learned from a friend – save a general packing list on your computer, and then print it each time and add/subtract things as needed. It’s made my packing way easier!

    And for my kids (ages 2 and 4) I now have a visual packing list – simple pictures of shirts, pants, socks, etc. I print it and just draw on check boxes for however many things they need (so 4 boxes next to shirts or whatever) – I give them a packing cube, and double check what they packed, but it’s been a hit with them (they love having some control over what shirts they bring and such!) and it’s cut down on the number of toys they bring (I have ONE check box next ot a picture of a teddy bear…. they know they can pick ONE favorite stuffed animal).

    • Emily (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      What are great idea! Plus a fun (and brilliant!) way to get kids involved in the packing process. Thank you for sharing!

    • je

      I love that idea for the kids! I always just ask them what they want to pack but it would be easier to just have them pick the amount using a list.

    • jen-CT

      I also do packing lists (in Word) on the computer… and save it with a new name for any needs special for that trip. I make a simple one for the kids too (one column per kid) so they can pack easily for themselves. Just leave their suitcase with their section cut out in their bedroom. Huge timesaver!

  22. Kelly

    Thank you! I am packing for a quick trip to visit some friends and it suppose to be cold!

  23. Priscilla Behrens

    Maybe this was suggested and I missed it in all these comments but, something my kids have been doing for years now is packing one outfit (or 2 if they are small) in 1 ziploc bag (top, bottom, undies, socks). That way, they can just pull a complete outfit out of the suitcase and they can look through the choices without messing everything up. My 20 year old daughter still packs like that. I use the packing cubes for myself though.

  24. Jen

    Leaving for Rome on the 28th, any suggestions?? First time traveling abroad … TIA, Love Love Love H2S community!! 💕❤️

    • Shannon DeLoach

      Jen, my family was in Rome this summer. You can buy a skip the line pass on Vatican’s website to save time and money versus a lot more for the travel company skip the lines. Buy a skip the line ticket for Colloseum and Roman Ruins at the Roman Ruins Ticket counter which is again cheaper than travel company tours. Go as soon as they open too. Eat lots of gelato! Eat lots of pasta! Eat lots of pizza! The small gelato and pizza places that are walk up have no tip. Enjoy Italy.

  25. SJ

    I pack outfits in Ziploc bags. Keeps everything together and would be easy to color code with some duct tape by day or by person. Then dirty clothes can go right in the same bag clean clothes come out of………I also like packing some snacks along with a small, collapsible cooler in my luggage. It’s SO expensive to get snacks from a vending machine at a hotel! (I know! I paid $3 for a small bag of Skittles from a vending machine in Vegas! Ouch!)
    Granola bars, protein shakes, fruit snacks, Apple sauce pouches, yogurt pouches (go go squeezies are shelf stable), dried fruit….this is especially helpful if you have kids 😉

  26. GotItTogetherish

    Awesome tips! Thanks!

  27. K3llyb

    I try not to pack by outfit because I don’t really need 5 pairs of jeans for 5 outfits and it can get bulky real quick. Pick a color scheme and stick to it so everything works together. Pack an emergency outfit in your carryon in the event you get separated from your checked luggage. Wear your bulkier items to save space in your luggage. I can’t stand stinky shoes mixed with clean clothes so I wrap my shoes in reused grocery bags. On the plus side I can then reuse those bags later in the event I have wet stuff to bring home that I don’t need leaking all over everything. Caribineers are great bc you can clip on things to your bag that don’t fit right. I get hot in the airport sometimes and this way I can clip my coat to my bag and know everything is together. I have kids so I need two hands at all times to wrangle them. If you can get a charging station if you have tons of devices to charge because there are almost never enough plugs in a room or stateroom if everyone’s got their own gear to juice up. Get a white noise machine or app to help you ease in to sleeping in a new place/room/hotel whatever. And while liquids are touchy to get through airport security ice is not so fill up a bottle halfway with water throw it in the freezer and you can get through security fine. Once in the other side fill it up the rest of the way from a water fountain. If you lose it you won’t be heartbroken and it’s far cheaper than buying water.

    • Fmjk

      Great idea on the charging station! I have started saving all the perfume sample sheets that fall out of the Kohls/Macys mailers and I keep them in our suitcases while they are in storage… then using them between clothes when I pack to keep things sweet smelling.

  28. Kathleen H.

    Here’s what you do…..roll everything. Yes, fold in half and roll. Tops, pants, shorts, jackets, dresses. Fold in half, sideways, and then roll. No wrinkles, no need for ironing, and everything fits in your suitcase plus room for more. Try it!!

    • PrincessMom

      I do this, totally agree, it’s the way to go! 🙂

  29. Mary

    Thank you, I am preparing my must haves traveling kit!

  30. chickie00

    #7, I haven’t bought/used dryer sheets in years. I use wool balls in my dryer. For packing with a fresh scent, I use my Essential Oils. No inhaling yucky chemicals. 😉 I also bring/use my EOs for upset tummy, relaxing, etc issues. Just a more natural thought. 🙂

  31. *Angela-Miles*

    It’s a good thing most of my trips are road trips because I like to bring everything but the kitchen sink bahahaha 😉 . When I flew it was tragic to me everything I had to cut out LOL. I did buy some super cute packing cubes on Groupon that helped alot. They have all different designs and were only $8. Held up pretty well for the price. I also recommend the Joy Mangano mini steamer, so pretty (many color options) and reliable!! My shoes go in plastic grocery bags in my duffle bag, never in my luggage. I like the idea of dryer sheets for the clothes, thanks for the tip…i will be trying it next time. I always take plenty of clothes because I change my mind easily about what I want to where. I can have it planned out and then wake up the next day and not be in the mood to wear a certain piece of clothing at all lol. Rolling clothes really does help with space saving. Having plenty of antibacterial wipes are also a must.
    Whenever I go somewhere in the car I have my suitcase, duffle bag, makeup bag, overnight bag and purse with me Lol. Our family loves road trips we think of it as part of the vacation memories, even though the trunk is packed to the brim LoL 🙂 😉 🙂

  32. Courtney

    I pack all liquids/creams/lotions in gallon-sized zipper freezer bags. That way, if anything “explodes” and leaks it’s contained in the bag and not all over my clothes. Any time you fly or even drive from lower to higher elevations, it’s a potential problem, but not for me anymore. 😊

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