18 Best Travel Tips & Packing Hacks from Our Team & Readers

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Read these secret travel packing tips & travel packing hacks before your next trip!

hand holding plastic glove with different toothbrushes in each finger hole travel packing hacks

Seasoned travelers share top travel packing tips & travel packing hacks so you can say no to overpacking while still having every essential.

1. Make a check-off list before packing 📝.

computer with packtor packing list

It’s never too late to start a packing list before a trip! Your packing list should contain everything you need and what you may still need to buy. Try starting your list 1-2 weeks in advance so you can avoid forgetting any essentials.

Use an online packing template if you’re unsure where to start!

“One thing I always do to keep my packing minimal is make a list of what I need! I always think about how long I’m gone and write out how many of each clothing item I need for the week. This way, I’m careful not to overpack!” – Alli, Hip sidekick

2. Avoid packing your bulkier items and wear them on the plane instead.

Collin standing inside airport with luggage travel packing hacks

Make sure you’re wearing your biggest items to the airport! Yes, that bulky jacket and huge pair of sneakers are your new airport attire! You can also always tie your jacket around your waist if you don’t want to actually wear it.

3. Rolling clothes is one of the ultimate travel packing hacks to maximize space!

rolled clothing on wood table travel packing hacks

Rolling your clothes maximizes the space in your suitcase and keeps things organized too. Consider rolling delicate clothes like satin or silk around other soft t-shirts to avoid wrinkles or creases.

Just keep in mind that rolling bulkier clothing like sweatshirts or jackets may have the opposite effect!

4. Utilize those packing organizers!

hand holding packing cubes with clothes inside

Packing cubes and organizers serve as the travel version of a drawer. It separates all your clothes while keeping them organized and they’re lightweight and versatile. Plus, unpacking is even easier!

“Packing cubes in general are super handy to have. They are lightweight and group various essentials together like toiletries and clothing. Since each category is in separate bags, it’s perfect for organization. I would keep swimsuits in one, cords for electronics in another, shoes in the next, and so on!” – Lina, Hip sidekick

5. A compression bag will give you more bang for your buck.

compression sacks with sleeping bags and clothes sitting on wood floor

Compression sacks are another clever way to maximize your packing. This is especially great when you’re limited on the things you can pack like when traveling via airplane or hiking. This type of bag is usually more affordable and perfect for bulky items that would take up too much space otherwise.

Hip Tip: We shared over 30 of the best travel accessories to take before your next trip – including a compression sack!

6. Plan around the weather during your trip and only bring the staples.

packing a carryon bag
You don’t want to pack for a sunny vacation just for it to rain the entire time! Keep an eye on the weather and plan what outfit to wear each day. You can always mix and match your outfits, too, so you have room to bring home some souvenirs, too! This way, you save time and don’t overthink when choosing outfits.

“I always check the weather where I’m going and plan outfits accordingly. Staple pieces are key and can create lots of mixing and matching and cut down on the amount of clothing/shoes you’re packing.” – Sara

7. Hanging shoe organizers are travel packing hacks the whole family can benefit from.

putting outfit in pocket of shoe organizer travel packing hacks

This hack is a cheap solution to buying new packing cubes, and it’s even more suitable for smaller kids clothing too. Pack one outfit per pocket including underwear and socks. Plus, it will likely make getting them dressed on vacation a breeze too.

Walmart, Amazon, and even Dollar Tree have plenty of affordable options if you need a shoe organizer for this packing hack.

putting shoe organizer into suitcase travel packing hacks

If you plan on using one organizer for everyone, consider allotting one row to each person and adding name tags. (Note that adults may need to use two pockets – one for a top and one for a bottom since they are bigger.)

Get a visual of this hack on YouTube!

8. Freshen up your suitcase with some dryer sheets.

use dryer sheets to keep clothes smelling fresh travel packing hacks

No one wants a musty-smelling suitcase or the chance of stinky shoes making your clothes smell dingy! Lay some dryer sheets out when traveling to have your clothes smell fresh and clean. You can also leave dryer sheets in suitcases to keep them smelling fresh while you’re awaiting the next trip.

As a toxic-free or more sustainable alternative, you can also drop a few of your favorite essential oils on a piece of felt or paper and hide it somewhere it won’t rub on clothing.

9. Bring an all-inclusive first-aid kit!

hand holding travel first aid bag in store

Anything can happen on vacation, so it’s always good to be prepared. Dollar Tree and Target have amazing first aid kits with Band-aids, gauze, antibacterial ointments, tweezers, and antiseptic wipes. Everyone has different medical needs, so you can refine them periodically by what you or your family need. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 🤕

10. Grab some Ziploc bags for packing away smaller items.

masks inside Ziploc bags
These are holy grails for storage! Whether you want to separate your items, bring snacks on the go, or put your electronic cords in one place, it can be extremely helpful to carry around some spare Ziploc bags.

Toiletries are likely to spill or overflow, especially due to the pressure if you’re flying. Ziploc bags can come to the rescue and avoid anything spilling on your other belongings!

Stasher reusable silicone bags would make a great versatile and more eco-friendly option too!

11. Have a portable power bank at hand.

hand holding two travel wireless battery charging packs

Many people are doing away with cords and swapping them for a more travel-friendly and convenient wireless charger. Traveling is when you need your battery the most. If you’re not interested in battling your way to finding an outlet in the airport, it’s best to always have your own backup battery pack on hand.

Hip Tip: If you’re flying by plane, make sure you put the power bank in your personal carry-on and NOT in your checked-in luggage as they are prohibited in cargo transport.

12. Pack your toiletries last as you use them.

suitcase with various toiletries on top for travel packing hacks

It’s so easy to buy too many toiletries or worse…forget them! Utilize any full-size products you have and fill up empty containers. This way, you aren’t buying mini versions of stuff you already own. You can keep these containers and repurpose them. If you have beauty boxes full of samples, you can use those instead, too!

Remember, all carry-on toiletries must be under 3.4 ounces.

“For toiletry essentials, I always pack those right before I leave. As I’m getting ready, I set aside each thing I used so I know I won’t forget it, and everything else stays.” – Sara

13. Bring along an empty reusable water bottle.

hand holding blue unfilled collapsible water bottle hydrating travel packing hacks

When most domestic destinations have safe drinking water, why waste money on plastic water bottles when you can just take a reusable one? Fill it up post-security at the airport or even ask the cafes if you feel uncomfortable using water fountains. This packing tip is environmentally friendly and a great way to save.

I highly recommend this CamelBak collapsible water bottle that takes up minimal space.

“Before leaving for the airport, I fill up my water bottle and drink it on the ride. I make sure I finish it before hitting the security line and fill it up right after so I’m ready to go before boarding. This ensures I get plenty of water before the flight to avoid dehydration or headaches, and then I can avoid the $5+ water bottles at the airport shop. It’s a win-win!” – Emily

14. Use a carry-on to instinctively limit overpacking and make flying a breeze!

hands pulling black zippers apart on top of tan luggage

Only bringing a carry-on will zip you through your airport travels much quicker and it forces you to be mindful about your packing.

If it’s a short trip, my Hip teammate Alli mentioned that she always travels with a duffel bag since it’s even easier to maneuver and takes up less space. There’s only so much you can fit, so you’ll think twice about stashing in that extra bulky cardigan you know you won’t end up wearing. 😉

Hip Tip: Why I carry on luggage always”…according to Collin, Hip CEO. She shared her travel packing hacks and why she only ever brings a carry-on.

15. Putting carry-ons inside checked bags are genius packing tips for flying and bringing home souvenirs.

walmart suitcases

This packing tip is only for long trips where you intend to bring home goods and souvenirs. If you’re planning on grabbing a ton of stuff from your adventures, pack your belongings inside a carry-on. Then, pack the carry-on inside the checked bag, using the extra space around it for more must-haves.

Many international airlines will give you a complimentary carry-on space, so utilize it! This is especially great for week-long vacations or when you’re visiting a long-distance family member. It’s basically two suitcases for the price of one.

“When I travel to Germany every year, I put my empty carry-on into my checked suitcase. On the way back, I have a full suitcase because my mother sends me home with things that I can’t get over here.” – Chrissy, Hip reader

16. Use an envelope pillowcase to disguise more outfits without paying an extra baggage fee. 

hand holding open white pillow case with sweaters inside

Some airlines will allow you to bring a comfy pillow without it counting against you. While these airlines are limited, others will let you bring one as long as it fits in your carry-on backpack or suitcase. If the airline you’re flying on allows you to bring a pillow, you may be able to bring those extra sweaters after all. 😉 An envelope pillowcase or one with a zipper will keep your belongings from falling out and are among the ultimate travel packing hacks around.

17. Use an AirTag to track your checked luggage. 

Silicone Case for AirTag on luggage

By placing an AirTag or another TSA-approved tracker inside your luggage you can conveniently keep tabs on your belongings even when it’s not in sight. Although our photo above shows it on the exterior, we do recommend placing your tracker inside your luggage for safety reasons.

18. Knowing the weight of each suitcase are crucial packing tips for travel before you leave. 

person stepping on white scale

Every airline has a weight limit if you’re planning to check a bag. Typically it’s 50 pounds, so weighing your suitcase before you leave is a great tip if you know you’ve packed it full. This could save you from shuffling your belongings around in the middle of TSA or worse, being forced to throw something away.

As a tip, weigh yourself at home, then weigh yourself while holding your suitcase and subtract the difference. Do it twice to confirm your scale was accurate. 😉

There are plenty of ways to save money while traveling too!

About the writer:

Sara is a self-taught blogger & photographer and brings 9+ years of experience to her craft. Her work has been featured in numerous esteemed publications, spanning building, travel, and fashion. Beyond her creative pursuits, Sara’s primary mission is to empower others to embrace a toxic-free & sustainable lifestyle.

Join The Discussion

Comments 21

  1. Sherry

    We traveled to Portugal and Spain for 6 weeks. We just brought a carryon and a backpack. We packed some things we didn’t need. We plan on going to eastern Europe for 3 months when it opens up. I plan on taking the same luggage but with less stuff. The trick is stay at BNB’S with a washer, take washable and comfortable clothes, small containers of products you use. Train travel is essential over there and it is easier to hop trains with less stuff. Your tips are all spot on.

    • Suzanne H

      When I was younger, I train hopped around Europe several times with a friend. We used to save up our ratty underwear and then we would throw them out after we wore them. We did the same with socks. Now I know I can recycle textiles but didn’t then. As time went on, it was nice to have our backpacks getting lighter and lighter!

      • Jodi P

        I do the same thing! It makes room in the baggage for souvenirs or new clothes bought on the trip.

  2. Bunny

    For super long trips (talking months here!) I pack clothes I’m ready to part with. When we’re getting ready to fly home, I leave the cleaned and washed clothes on a nearby park bench. They always seem to get recycled very quickly by someone else.

  3. jat54979

    My husband and I are taking a trip to Tennessee in August for our Anniversary. I’m so glad I booked the hotel a month ago because now the price has doubled! For packing toiletries I use all those sample size products I get from beauty boxes.

  4. Emily

    I am totally a “personal item” convert. It started as a way to avoid baggage fees (looking at you spirit airlines), but ultimately I like how mobile it makes me. Going through the airport is a breeze when you aren’t wrangling multiple bags, taking a bus/train/uber after getting off the plane is easier, and it forces you to be very diligent about what you’re packing.

    You’d be surprised how little you actually need on vacation if you only pack in a backpack! (and those packing cubes are an absolute godsend if you choose to pack this way)

  5. Chrissy Goff

    When I travel to Germany every year I put my carry on into my checked suitcase (it is empty). On the way back I have the suitcase full (do the same with my granddaughter’s bags) because my mother sends me home with everything but the kitchen sink. Things that I can’t get over here (one time she sent me home with rolls of wallpaper) and family items as she is afraid of dying over there and us not getting family items. Once year it will be Christmas items, another dishes etc. I wanted to just pack up her apartment and ship it so she could move over here (it used to be cheap or was when my brother moved here years ago) but she wants to die a German not an American. Now it is to late as she is 80. Sometimes I have to put my purse into a backpack just to fit everything. Years ago I had a friend that worked for the military and he used to mail my packages for me (APO to NY was free so only paid money from NY to AR) however he retired and has returned to the states. I am sure it will be fun to travel this year.

  6. Jen S

    I just got back from a trip and we only use carry-ons. Love it! It was my first time using a set of packing cubes I bought at Aldi’s a year ago. Love them! I didn’t even have to roll anything!!! As for toiletries, I read somewhere that contact lens cases are the best for small amounts of makeup foundation, etc. Just be sure to label compartments. I wish I had time to buy them before the trip!

  7. yjr2004

    I just got back from a trip to Hawaii. We only do carry-on and backpacks. The best thing I have found for packing is compression bags. You can fit so much stuff in a carry-on suitcase and still have room. These work really well for my teenage daughter. She is always the over packer, but with these bags she can pack a lot.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for sharing! Great tip! I tend to overpack too!

    • maria

      I was going to say the same thing… The compression bags fit so much! Great for things that don’t really wrinkle like sweaters, socks, underwear, even baby items. This was the only way my husband and I did a trip through Europe and Greece with only backpacks. Also having a few stops where we could do laundry helped.

  8. Freedom

    I have adopted most of these tips as well over the years. Leaving tomorrow for 2 week vacation. Carry on and personal bag family only as well.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Have a wonderful trip!

  9. Fmjk

    I save up the paper perfume samples that fall out of all my magazine subscriptions…They go into our suitcases to keep them smelling nice. Once we get to our destination, I use them to line the drawers where we are staying!

  10. Mitali

    Great travel tips! I just took a trip last month to the midwest for my brother’s wedding. We had a lot of bag space fortunately because we flew Southwest. Even then, I thought of ways to save some space. My best tip is that Lush makes waterless toothpaste tabs that you can keep in your carryon luggage. For long trips, you don’t need to worry about stocking up on those tiny tubes–lots of waste and they take up space depending on how many you’ll need!

  11. Sara

    Packing cubes changed my (traveling) life! I personally like eBags and buy them only on sale (25-30% off). Each person in our family of five has three medium cubes in their favorite color. We can pack everything we need for 10-14 days in one checked suitcase and a small backpack for each person. Thanks Delta Amex for the free checked suitcase. When the mister and I are traveling alone, it’s a backpack and carryon for each of us, and packing cubes save the day. Also, my mom taught me this trick- if you travel with a neck pillow, take the foam out and stuff your neck pillow with clothes! I did this on our trip to Norway and fit a couple of sweaters in the neck pillow.

  12. Tracey

    Most airports have a Starbucks so that is a great place to get triple-filtered water for free. I think they will fill your water bottle now as opposed to getting a plastic cup, but not sure.

  13. Mell

    So you each had three bags? A carry one you checked and a backpack and what other bag? Love your idea! Thanks for sharing

  14. DML

    Thanks for the great tips! My favorite travel tip I’ve used for 20 years now is pack old clothing. You know the under-garments that really need to be tossed because the elastic is worn or that “painting” shirt that has too many holes or even pants with a hole in the back pocket. After I wear those old items or sleep in that old shirt, I throw the item away. I get to declutter my closet and I have less laundry when I return home.

    • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

      You’re most welcome, DML! Thanks for sharing the tip about packing old clothing. Sounds like a great way to clean out your closet and I love the idea of having less laundry when you get back home! 🙌 ❤️

  15. TS

    We try to fit everything into carry-ons but when we can’t, we share checked bags. I give family members different colored packing cubes and we fit them into the checked bags. Depending on the trip, we might check one suitcase for 4 people, or two suitcases for 4 people. Another tip is to use solid toiletries instead of liquid whenever possible. Trader Joe’s sells a shampoo/conditioner bar and a balm in a tin. We have tooth powder instead of tooth paste. These items do not have to be removed when we go through security, which is a load off my mind during that hectic process.

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