Packing Tips to Help Make Traveling Easier

So you put off packing until the last minute, then overload the bags to cover your bases. Yep—we’ve been there, stuffed that in too. Next time you’re traveling, whether solo, as a couple or with kids, these tips promise to help lighten your load. 


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Create a Master Checklist

How to Pack

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Create one for each family member on your smartphone so you can easily add or subtract based on variables like trip length and climate. Start with musts such as medications, extra eyeglasses or contacts, chargers and cords. Then list toiletries, basic clothing, underwear and something to sleep in. Also include a  first-aid kit (ibuprofen, antacid, antihistamine, bandages, tweezers) and a charged external battery in case your phone is about to die and there’s no outlet (gasp!) nearby. 

Pro Tip: Cross-pack, especially when checking bags. Missing luggage is a huge drag. Tattoo your brain with this tip from mom of two Nancy Polanco, who blogs at whisperedinspirations.com:

Take at least one day’s worth of clothes for each person and pack in a different person’s bag. That way, if you arrive at your destination but one of the suitcases doesn’t, you’re covered until the wayward bag shows up. Also make sure each family member throws a T-shirt and clean underwear (plus a swimsuit, if a pool or beach is part of the plan) into their carry-on.


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Smart Move: Rolling Clothes

How to Pack

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Tried-and-true stacks aren’t necessarily the way to go when you’re trying to power pack. A few best practices:

Instead of folding clothes, roll them. When it comes to maxing out suitcase space, tight, neat rolls are better than folded stacks.


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Smart Moves: The Belt Trick + More Tips

How to Pack

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Photo by Burcu Avsar

•  Stack bras on top of one another, fold in half and tuck underwear or stockings inside to save space and maintain the shape of the cups. 

•  Turn jackets and button-down shirts inside out before rolling. 

•  Wrap a belt inside a shirt’s collar to preserve its shape. 

•  Fill socks with small cologne bottles or other breakables wrapped in ziplock bags, then pack into shoes.


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Add the Extras and Tweak

How to Pack

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Lay out clothes you’re considering bringing on your bed—editing is much easier with clothes in front of you, says frequent traveler Erin Phraner, a senior video producer at BuzzFeed’s Nifty. Weed out whites (except for T-shirts), stain-prone fabrics and any pieces that wrinkle. For adults and older kids, pair two to three tops to every bottom for mix-and-matching. For younger children, pack extras in case of spills. Bringing bathing suits? Pack two per person so there’s always a dry one. Limit shoes to two pairs plus flip-flops, if needed. Lastly, add an extra pair of undies.

Place entire outfits—top, bottom, underwear, socks—in large resealable plastic storage bags, then label, suggests Phraner. Not only is this a great way to organize, it’s an excellent strategy for weeding out things you don’t actually need.

Delightful little extras
Upgrade your overall travel experience with a few finds you’ll be so happy to have handy. We love: 

Facial Mist
Infused with non-comedogenic oils to replace moisture lost in flight. Wander Beauty Glow Getter Mist, wanderbeauty.com, $28

Hand Cream
Absorbs without any stickiness, and the scent is #sublime. L’Occitane Lavender Hand Cream, usa.loccitane.com, $12

Lip Balm
A beachy take on Smith’s ever-popular Rosebud Salve. Smith’s Tropical Ambrosia Balm with Coconut and Mango, sephora.com, $7

Peppermint Essential Oil
Whiff as needed to reinvigorate. Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil, youngliving.com, $28

Beauty Wipes
Cleanse, soften, moisturize. RMS Beauty Wipes, rmsbeauty.com, $16/20 wipes

Blotting Papers
See ya, oil. Boscia Clear Complexion Blotting Linens, sephora.com, $10/100 sheets

Travel Blanket
Ultrasoft and generous— 55” x 55”—but folds up small. F1 Travel Blanket, flight001.com, $30

Emergency Snack
Natural, non-GMO and gives back to kids in need. This Bar Saves Lives, target.com, $5/4 bars

Eye Patches
Take down puffiness like nobody’s business. Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Hydra-Gel Eye Patches, peterthomasroth.com, $75/30 pairs


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Get Organized at Last

How to Pack

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Veteran travelers swear by packing cubes to organize clothes and other items. Most brands come in a variety of sizes and colors that are ideal for assigning to different family members. (The Flight 001 Spacepaks below start at $42 each at flight001.com.) “Packing cubes make it easy to identify what’s what and what’s whose,” says father of three and travel blogger Eric Stoen. “Color coding comes in particularly handy when we’re not all staying in the same room.” As cubes empty, they can stash dirty laundry. At home, the smallest ones are perfect for corralling cables and chargers.

Top five items travelers are likely to forget to pack?
Cell phone charger, sunscreen, razor, toothbrush and sunglasses. 
Source: SpringHill Suites Travel Attitudes Survey

Pack toiletries with care. If flying with just a carry-on, follow TSA policies to the letter to avoid watching your stuff get confiscated and tossed. The short version: All liquid, gel and aerosol containers must be 3.4 ounces or smaller. You’re allowed to take as many containers as will fit inside one resealable quart-sized bag, and it must be removed from the carry-on prior to sending through the X-ray machine. For more info, go to tsa.gov.


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The Little Surprises

How to Pack

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Photo by Burcu Avsar

Small wonders
Avowed adventurer Eric Stoen, founder of the fantastic family travel blog Travel Babbo, brings a small cache of surprising things whenever his crew hits the road. “We always end up using at least a few of these,” he says.

Instant Coffee
Starbucks VIA is our default.

Playing Cards
Pretty self-explanatory.

Sharpie
Also self-explanatory.

Thermometer
We use the Nokia Thermo because it’s fast, accurate and connects to my iPhone for temperature monitoring.

Travel Detergent
Tide Travel Sink Packets work well, although a hotel’s body wash or shampoo can do in a pinch.

Ziplock Bags
Quart and gallon sizes are useful for packing new liquids (such as purchased local honey) and protecting electronics from rain.

Blister Wool
eNZees is great.

Blue Painter’s Tape
For taping bubble wrap around new purchases, labeling water bottles, doing fast repairs, taping toiletries and sunscreen closed, you name it.

Bungee Cord
For creating a clothesline to dry clothes. We can find a way to set this up in virtually any hotel room.

Electrolyte Tablets
We’ve ended up in the hospital twice with dehydrated kids. Now we carry electrolytes so that it hopefully doesn’t happen a third time.

Extra Earbuds
If someone forgets or accidentally breaks their headphones, we have backups.

Frisbee
Ideal for shrugging off jet lag at a park or beach.