Even if you have made several major trips across the country throughout your life, you may still struggle when it comes to packing your bags for your next trip. You may have found yourself overpacking and bringing home piles of clothes that you never wore on your trip.
Other common problems you may have encountered with your luggage could include packing items in your carryon that airport security tosses, paying huge fees for overweight luggage or getting to your destination only to find that all of your clothes are horribly wrinkled.
Knowing how to pack well is practically an art form, and it takes a great deal of planning and organization. You must know where you are going, what the weather will be like, how many days you will be there and what types of activities you will be engaged in while traveling. In addition, you must know some common tricks that will help you pack lightly even if you are on a longer trip and that will help you arrive with clothes that look as if you just pulled them out of your closet rather than from your tightly packed suitcase.
This travel checklist will help you ensure that you do not leave anything at home while simultaneously helping you avoid lugging around suitcases that are much too heavy and sweating your way through the airport.
What to Pack for Short Trips
Short trips should be the easiest to pack for because you will not need many clothes and shoes for your few days away.
- First, try to commit to only one bag, which should be on the small side. You should be able to fit everything you need into this one bag along with an additional personal bag. Plus, if you are flying, using a carryon only will save you a significant amount of time in waiting for baggage, will spare you from rapidly rising check-in fees and will keep you from the worry that your luggage could be lost.
- Next, try to wear your heaviest clothing items and your bulkiest shoes on the plane while being sure to wear the same outfit for both flights. This saves plenty of space in your baggage.
- Be sure to check the weather before you go so that you know what type of clothing you will need and to keep from packing unnecessary clothing and coats.
- Pack the number of undergarments that you will need for your days away, and pack two bottoms, two to three tops and a few small but interchangeable accessories. Then, make sure that all of your clothing is in the same color family so that you can mix and match it.
- Try to bring only one additional pair of shoes. Finally, be sure to bring along specialty gear or clothing you will need for certain activities, such as a more formal dress or a swimsuit.
Of course, you will still need all of your general toiletries and any electronics or personal items that you will use on the flight or once you arrive at your destination. Try to put electronics, snacks, charging cords or maps in your personal bag.
What to Pack for Long Trips
Surprisingly, longer trips may not require too much more packing as long as you choose clothes that mix and match well and you have access to a laundromat while you are away. After all, you will need many of the same electronics, accessories and toiletries no matter how long you will be gone. Try to put in your travel checklist enough clothes and underwear to last you for seven to eight days, and plan to do your laundry once per week.
Start with a capsule wardrobe. This wardrobe should have basic pieces that are wrinkle-free even when rolled into tight balls and that are functional yet appear elegant and fashionable.
If you are traveling for several months or are traveling through several parts of the world, keep in mind any climate changes that you may encounter over your time away. The key to dealing with this challenge is to pack pieces that are lightweight yet easily layered. Thin cardigans, scarves and jacket shells with zip-out linings will become your best friends.
Also, be sure to consider the shoes that you have on your checklist because these items often take up the most space in your luggage. Start with a comfy or bulky pair that you can wear on your travel days. In your luggage, you can include a basic black pair that will match with anything dressy, an extremely comfortable pair for long days on your feet. Either you can consider an additional pair to keep your feet warm if you are heading to a cold climate or a pair of sandals for warm climates.
1. Packing the Main Suitcase
Once you have laid out the items that you need to bring, it is time to start packing your luggage. If you are traveling for a longer period or if you need to pack something particularly bulky for a specific function, such as a formal dinner, you may need to choose a larger suitcase that you will have to check on for air travel.
These suitcases may seem cavernous, but they can quickly fill up if you do not pack wisely. Consider investing in a suitcase organizer that will keep your belongings from shifting during your flight. Be sure to pack your heaviest items on the bottom of the suitcase. Consider which side of the suitcase is truly the bottom once it is standing upright.
Next, fill up all the spaces inside the suitcase. Roll your non-wrinkling clothes into tight balls or bundle similar types of clothes together. Use the corners and sides of your suitcase for your smaller accessories, such as your undergarments or scarves. Pack your shoes in clear plastic bags to prevent your clothing from becoming dirty. Make sure that no space is wasted by putting rolled-up socks inside your shoes.
Be sure to bubblewrap anything breakable if you are checking your bag. Also, do not put anything expensive or irreplaceable into your checked luggage in case it gets lost. Once you have everything in your bag, be sure to secure it with the interior straps if your suitcase has these.
2. Packing the Carryon
Carryon bags are packed in much the same way except that you will have to be particularly smart with how you use the little space that you have. Packing only wrinkle-resistant or knit clothing is especially important because you will need to roll or bundle all of your clothes.
Carryon baggage has to fall within strict height, width and weight requirements or else you may have to pay a hefty fee. In addition, be sure to pad anything breakable in case your airline still forces you to check the bag at the gate.
The most important tip for carryon bags is to be conscious of your toiletries. International airport security has strict requirements and only allows bottles of certain sizes in carryon bags. This is not the time to bring every cream, toner and shade of makeup that you own. Instead, pare down your supplies to only the necessities and realize that these difficult choices are not permanent.
3. Packing the Toiletry Bag
If you are lucky enough to be able to pack a separate toiletry bag, such as if you are traveling by car, consider yourself fortunate. You will have more space and a greater ability to bring more products for your hair, face and skin. However, you still do not want to become overly excited about bringing all of your full-size products. Keep in mind that a lightweight, small bag can keep your stress under control.
Another smart move is to choose personal care products that are multifunctional. For example, choose a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner or shampoo and body wash. Instead of bringing day cream, night cream, eye cream and anti-aging serum, choose one small tube of high-quality facial lotion. This will surely save you money, weight and stress.
Remember that you do not have to bring everything that you use daily in your bathroom. If you are staying in a hotel at your destination, you will most likely be able to get many of the basics free in your room. If you are picky about brands, visit a drugstore at your destination.
Keep all of your liquids inside a resealable plastic bag to prevent spills. Consider investing in a special toiletry bag that will keep your items separated in compartments and that comes with a small shower caddy. Also, invest in some refillable silicone bottles. If you fill them back up after every trip, packing will go incredibly quickly the next time you travel.
NB: If you are packing only a small toiletry bag to bring in a carryon, keep the limits and restrictions for international travel in mind.
4. Packing the Personal Item
If you are traveling by air, you will usually be allowed one small personal item, such as a small purse, backpack or computer bag. Pack this bag with your expensive or irreplaceable items inside as well as the items you will need to stay comfortable during your flight. Use the following travel checklist for remembering your most important items:
- Charging cords
- Hand sanitizer
- A travel pillow and eye mask
- Reading material or games
- A small amount of cash and your credit cards
- Personal documents and identification
5. Packing Documents
Speaking of documents, it is vital that you remember your license, passport and any other documents before you leave home. There is nothing worse than getting to the airport only to realize that you left your passport on your nightstand. In fact, double check that you have all of your documents in your bag the night before you leave. Depending on where you are going and how long you are going to be gone, you may need the following:
- Passport and/or visa
- Personal ID or license
- Airline cards
- Traveler’s insurance documents
- Immunization records if needed
- Tickets, booking numbers and hotel reservations
- Contact information for family, friends, hotels, airlines, credit card companies, etc.
- Traveler’s cheques or credit cards
The Ultimate Travel Checklist for Packing
Once you learn how to pack your luggage and personal bags and know what to pack depending on where you are going, the process will become increasingly easier each time you travel. You might find that it is helpful to create a master checklist for yourself so that you do not forget anything.
Simply keep your travel list inside your luggage, and you can pack without worrying that you will arrive without your undergarments or your charging cord for your smartphone. Start with these basics as you craft your personalized travel checklist and be sure to add in the travel documents listed above as well.
Make your own Travel Checklist
Be sure to personalize your travel checklist based on your gender, the number of days you will be going and any personal preferences or needs that you have.
A well-packed suitcase or carryon can set the tone for your entire trip. If it contains everything you need with clothes that are easy to mix and match and with shoes and accessories that help you stay comfortable wherever you go, you will be ready to enjoy any activity that comes your way. By packing as lightly as possible, you can cut away stress, leaving you relaxed and ready for your next business or leisure trip.