Our Top 14 Packing Tips to Help Say NO to Overpacking!

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If you’re heading out on a trip, you’ve got to check out our favorite packing tips first!

packing a suitcase using our packing tips

Calling all travel enthusiasts! 🗣

Many people have been traveling now more than ever compared to the past two years. It may have been so long that you’ve forgotten the best way to pack! Have no fear because we’re sharing our favorite and helpful packing tips.

✈️ Hip Tip: Check out our helpful 15 travel tips for when you’re ready to book your trip.

Now, we’re fast-forwarding to the week of your trip! Woohoo! All in all, traveling is a fun escape and should be an effortless process whether it’s for work or a getaway. Now it’s time to pack…which doesn’t have to be stressful if you follow our tips!

Here are some packing tips that avoid overpacking and unorganization:

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

computer with packtor packing list

Even if you’ve somehow procrastinated to where you’re packing the night before, don’t panic! Make a list of everything you’ll need so you can stay organized.

Your packing list should contain everything you need for a trip & what you still need to buy. This avoids any last-minute packing or forgetting any essentials, so make sure you start your list a week or two in advance. If you aren’t sure where to start your list, try using an online packing template like this one.

“One thing I always do to keep my packing minimal is making 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! Also, I never take too many pairs of shoes — they take up so much space, and I always find myself wearing my favorite/most comfortable pair!” – Alli

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

girl wearing black jacket

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. Unless bulky, roll when packing up clothes!

three pairs of leggings rolled up

Rolling your clothes save a ton of room and give you that extra space you may need. For more delicate clothes (i.e. satin and silk), roll them around a piece of packing paper to avoid wrinkles or creases. I wouldn’t roll bulkier clothing like sweatshirts or jackets because rolling will only have the opposite effect on large items!

“Rolling clothes are super helpful. Typically, I can fit way more as opposed to folding!” – Sara

4. Utilize those packing organizers!

bag full of vacation essentials

Packing cubes and organizers basically serve as the travel version of a drawer. It separates all your clothes while keeping them organized! It’s light and versatile, guaranteeing maximum space while packing. Plus, unpacking is even easier!

Compression bags are another clever way to get a similar versatility when it comes to packing. It’s usually slightly cheaper and perfect for bulky items that would take up too much space in a typical packing cube.

“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

5. Based on the weather, pack by outfit!

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

6. Speaking of packing by outfit, keep your suitcase even more organized with a shoe hanger.

putting outfit in pocket of shoe organizer

This hack is AWESOME for so many reasons – and it’s cheap too! (My Dollar Tree didn’t have one, but be sure to check there first!) Or grab this one for UNDER $7 from Walmart.com!

Simply pack one outfit per pocket including everything from underwear to socks. This works perfectly for kids’ clothes and could help teach them planning skills (like not forgetting socks 😉) plus it gives them the freedom to pick their own outfits while on vacation.

putting shoe organizer into suitcase

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.)

Not only do you avoid overpacking, but this hack also prevents you from digging out of a messy suitcase all week as you can just hang it directly on the door of your hotel room! 🙌🏼

Get a visual of this hack on YouTube!

7. Freshen up your suitcase with some dryer sheets.

dryer sheet bounce on suitcase as a helpful packing tip for fresh clothes

No one wants a musty-smelling suitcase! 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.

8. 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. 🤕

9. 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!

10. Have a portable power bank at hand.

aukey charger charging a phone

Some airplanes actually do have built-in outlets, but it’s not the norm. Somehow when we travel our battery goes from 90% to 10% in an hour. 😂 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 purchase a portable charger!

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.

11. Pack your toiletries last.

diy advent calendar — men's toiletries from target

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!

Keep an eye on the ounces of each product as well. When flying, all toiletries have to be under 3.4 ounces unless you check your bag. Full-size items like deodorants and some perfumes are actually already TSA-approved, so you don’t need to buy travel versions of those items.

Some toiletries you need up until the hour you leave! Set them aside as you finish using them so you’ll get a better understanding of what you do and don’t need.

“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

12. Bring along an empty reusable water bottle.

hand holding Target Brita Water Bottle

When most domestic destinations have safe drinking water, why waste the 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.

These Brita water bottles have a filter inside… how convenient is that!?

“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

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

woman traveling through airport with carry on luggage as a helpful packing tip

Collin’s favorite travel tip is to always use a carry-on instead of checked luggage. Not only does it zip you through your travels quicker (see ya later, baggage claim!) but it also 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. 😉

14. For longer trips, pack your carry-on inside your checked bag!

walmart suitcases

This packing tip is only for long trips you intend on bringing 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-distant 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

Don’t know where to go for your travels? Visit these cheap family vacation spots all over the US!

About the writer:

Chelsey is a writer & photographer with both a Bachelor's and Master's Degree from Arizona State University. She holds 3+ years blogging experience not only for Hip2Save, but various other publications in the health, lifestyle, and education field.

Join The Discussion

Comments 29

  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.

    • BlueWaterGirl

      Sherry. We travel to Europe a couple times a year but as I was reading your comment, I could have written it! Spent 6 weeks in Spain and Portugal right before Covid hit for 1 of our trips, we planned on spending 3 months in Portugal during the pandemic because I’m also a Portugal citizen and could. Unfortunately we haven’t and life is getting in the way, but agree on the BNBs with washers, etc. Safe travels!

    • 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.

    • candie

      Have never used packing cubes. Just wondering why you find them helpful?

  12. Pat Goff

    I am lucky. When I travel to Germany I don’t take much cause I have clothes at my mothers and she has the bathroom stocked with toiletries. LOL

  13. Becca

    We took a 13 day trip to Rome, Venice and Paris. There were 3 of us and we each used a rolling suitcase (technically it was the size you could carry on plane but we had free checked bag each so we checked it) and each a backpack. I researched and watched tons of packing videos on YouTube. We planned out each outfit and each day. We like to put some of each of our clothes in each suitcase in case a suitcase is lost, everyone still has some clothes. So what I did is I designated one bag to our 5 days in Rome, one bag to our 3 days in Venice and one bag to our 5 days in Paris. We did not re-wear any outfits. We had fresh clothes and undergarments every day. The only thing we did re-wear is pj’s. We each brought 3 pairs – one for each city. In the suitcase for Venice, we put our extra shoes because that suitcase only had 3 days of clothes. We rolled clothes and packed very efficiently. In each suitcase, I had a list of what each outfit was for each day for each of us. SO we didn’t accidentally wear a shirt and shorts or skirt together and then not have something that matched what was left. In our backpacks, we had medicine, a light jacket, toiletries (brush, toothbrushes, etc) as well as our electronics and some snacks. IT was the smoothest trip we ever took and we all agreed it was the absolute best way to pack. We use this technique for all trips now. The benefit for that trip was it was summer – so we did not have any heavy weight clothes or jackets. So that for sure helped. I know it was a lot of work to come up with a system that worked for our family – but now we have it down and packing for trips is so easy and we never forget anything. Hope my suggestions help someone.

    • 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

      • Sara

        I had the opportunity to bring a personal bag with me on my trip, and I chose to use a backpack for this purpose. Additionally, I received a free checked bag, which was the same size as a carry-on bag that could be taken into the cabin. Initially, I was unaware that I could check this bag for free, but I discovered this option when I was at the airport on my return journey. It turns out that the tour organizers did not provide clear information about this. They had mentioned that we were allowed to bring one personal item and one carry-on, but they didn’t specify the option of checking the bag for free.

  14. 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.

  15. Sara

    I returned from my trip to Europe just three days ago. We visited Portugal, Spain, France, and the UK, with France being our first destination. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best experience with customs in France. They were rather unfriendly and implemented strict rules regarding liquids. They provided ziplock bags to ensure that only liquids that fit a quarter-sized bag were allowed. Anything that didn’t fit had to be discarded. Additionally, they even inspected our refillable bottles to make sure they were empty.
    Based on my experience, I don’t think it’s worth bringing a refillable water bottle to Europe. None of the hotels we stayed at had water fountains or ice machines available. Considering the high cost of Hydroflask bottles, especially with additional features, we were concerned about losing them. Moreover, the hot weather added to our worries, so we decided to leave our water bottles in the hotel. It was interesting to note that Europeans prefer drinking water and sparkling water over soda. This made us crave a large soda with plenty of ice, but it was quite difficult to find. Only KFC had self-serve soda machines; McDonald’s didn’t provide lids for drinks when dining in, and they didn’t fill the cups to the top, with limited ice. The price for a medium drink at McDonald’s was €2.99 Euros with no refills.

    • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

      Sorry to hear about your experience with customs in France, Sara! That does sounds frustrating! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the water bottle. Good to know that you didn’t spot many places to refill it. 🤗 💗

    • TS

      I really disagree with this tip. We always take water bottles! One per person. Not expensive ones. We fill ours with tap water from the sink. Tap water is safe to drink all over Europe and sometimes restaurants are hesitant to give it to you. Taking a water bottle is the only way I can stay hydrated.

  16. 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! 🙌 ❤️

  17. 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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