Do you love to travel but hate the thought of packing? The struggle is real, but these suitcase packing tips will help you tame the beast of packing in no time and you'll be on your way!
I used to, in my former life, overpack. Always. I was the girl who took two suitcases for a weekend away. And I never wore half of what I had packed. Ever. Figuring out what is essential to pack in your carryon is the first thing to focus on.
And then, I was forced to downsize – I mean really downsize. As in we sold our big, beautiful house – all 3500+ square feet of house, and moved onto our 47-foot sailboat. And I had boatloads (no pun intended!) of clothes. Some I had never worn.
So I learned quickly the joy of downsizing and simplicity. And once I embraced this new, simplified downsized lifestyle, I fell in love with it.
So much so that the girl who used to pack two suitcases for a weekend away, is gone and is replaced by a gal who lives by packing tips and lists and is always ready to hit the road for an adventure! Don't forget to use packing cubes whenever you pack – these are lifesavers!
So grab a cup of coffee and I'll share my packing tips and secrets!
So grab a cup of coffee and I'll share my packing tips and secrets! It is all about the packing process when you are trying to maximize space, especially when you have carry on size restrictions. When you are done reading how to pack a suitcase packing tips, be sure to print the packing list checklist to make your suitcase packing that much easier.
Packing Tips To Pack Efficiently
Packing for Warm, Tropical Climates
For a two week trip to a warm climate, like Mexico, I typically pack 4 short dresses, 1 or 2 maxi dresses, 2 pair of capris, 2 pair of shorts or skorts, 2 lightweight tunic tops, 3 t-shirts, 2 bathing suits, a large scarf that can double as a shawl and a sarong to cover my bathing suit and a jacket or sweater I can wear on the plane if it is chilly. Shoes are easy – a dressy pair of sandals (if needed), as well as a pair of day-to-night sandals, and light-weight tennis shoes, with socks tucked in. A good pair of walking shoes are always essential.
Warm Or Tropical Weather
- 4 Short Dresses
- 1 or 2 Maxi Dresses
- 2 Pair of Capris
- 2 pair of Shorts or Skorts
- 2 lightweight Tunic Tops
- 3 t-shirts
- 2 Bathing Suits
- 1 Large Scarf or Sweater
- Dress Shoes/Sandals/light-weight tennis shoes
When I pack my accessories, I carry a large tote bag that can double as a beach bag, and toss in a small cross-body purse that doubles as a wallet, a pair of sunglasses, my reading glasses, a statement necklace, 2 cuff bracelets and 2 pair of earrings along with my cosmetics in a toiletry bag.
- Large tote bag
- cross-body purse that doubles as wallet
- reading glasses
- statement necklace
- 2cuff bracelets
- 2 earrings
- cosmetics in toiletry bag
If you are planning a trip to Disney, you will want to include these essentials: portable battery charger, your magic bands, a backpack for navigating the parks, sunscreen, water bottles, fans with water, rain ponchos and a hat.
If you are looking for other updates and tips about traveling to Disney World during this time, check out everything you need to know here.
- Portable Battery Charger
- Magic Bands
- Backpack For Navigating the Parks
- Water bottles
- Fans with water
- Rain Poncho
Packing for Cold Winter Climates
For a trip to a colder climate, I typically pack 4 pairs of thermal leggings, 2 medium weight tunic tops, 1 medium weight longer length jacket to layer, 3 tank tops, 2 sweaters, and three pairs of jeans (I wear one pair on the plane). For shoes, flat, comfortable, knee-high boots in suede that can be folded in thirds and packed on the bottom of your suitcase (along with 2 pair of knee-high hosiery socks tucked in the folds), light-weight tennis shoes and a pair of neutral-colored flats that I wear on the plane, along with an all-weather lined raincoat.
Packing For Cold Winter Climates
- 4 pair of thermal leggings
- 2 medium weight tunic tops
- 1 medium weight longer length jacket to layer
- 3 tank tops
- 2 sweaters
- 3 pairs of jeans (1 pair on the plane)
- Shoes – flat, comfortable, knee-high boots in suede
- knee-high hosiery socks tucked in the folds
- light weight tennis shoes and flats
- all-weather lined rain coat
My accessories remain the same as for warm weather climates and are placed in a large tote bag along with my cosmetics, and a cross-body purse.
Packing Tips During COVID-19 Travel
Traveling looks very different this year. Covid has made traveling a bit more complicated this and has definitely added some extra items to our packing list. I travel with these essentials at all times whether I'm driving or flying! Take a peek at these handy items below:
- Face mask
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet Wipes
- Hand Cream
- Face Mask. Face masks are essential during these times and mandatory for flights. Pick out a couple that go with most of your outfits and use it as a stylish accessory when you go out. Plus, having a cute face mask for kids makes it more likely that they will keep them on! Tip: practice wearing a mask with your toddler before you leave on your trip.
- Hand Sanitizer. As a frequent traveler, I've always had hand sanitizer in my bag, but its especially handy now. I like the ones that easily clip onto a carry on or backpack for easy access!
- Wet Wipes. When it comes to flying, wet wipes are great to sanitize arm rests or even clean your hands before and after having a snack. These are great for road trips and rest stop visits, as well. If you are in high traffic areas, these definitely come in handy.
- Hand Cream. This item is easily forgotten, but one I can't live without! With all this frequent hand washing and sanitizing my hands quickly get dried out. I pack a travel size hand lotion in my cosmetics bag so I can easily reach it while traveling.
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Top Packing Tips & Secrets
- I begin my packing by reviewing where we are going. Is it going to be warm? Is it going to be cold? Or will it be warm during the day and chilly at night? Once I have done a weather check, then I can begin the process of choosing my clothing. I usually lay ALL of the possibilities out on the bed. Do I want to have a carry on bag? Do I want to have checked bags? This is the first step in determining how I am going to pack a suitcase.
- The size of your carry on luggage matters as well as the weight of your checked bag. When you are planning your travels, remember that you want to pack light so your checked bag doesn't cost you more. Carry on bags are usually included in the cost of your flight, but you still need to keep them under a certain weight and size.
- You may want to consider using a duffel bag for your carry on bag. You see a lot of frequent travelers carrying a duffle bag as their carry on bag.
- Another tip for your carry on bag, is to add a dryer sheet to keep your clothes smelling fresh and clean during your travels.
- Step two is to decide on a color “theme” to ensure I will not overpack. If I am confident that I will be traveling for less than 5 hours I can choose clothes that may wrinkle, but don't have time to let those wrinkles “set in” (I hate to iron, and I refuse to iron on vacation!). Choosing wrinkle free clothes is always my preference for trips longer than a few hours.
- The third step is to begin to put outfits together for each day, or each activity. After this step, I usually have only decided to take about half of what I originally pulled out of my closet. So I now put away those clothes that I have decided NOT to take.
- Then, the rest is fairly easy. I gather my undergarments together and add them to the stack of items to be packed. Then, I gather a swimsuit or three (depending on the locale and mode of transportation) and add these to the stack to be packed.
- And finally, it's time for footwear. I always take a pair of light-weight tennis shoes for fitness and walking/hiking. If the occasion calls for dressier clothes I will also take a pair of dressy flat sandals. If not, I will put in a pair of walking sandals and a pair of sandals that can be worn day to night.
- Step four is the actual packing stage. To even out the bottom of the suitcase, shoes are wrapped in grocery bags (you can later reuse these for dirty laundry, or damp swimsuits). Then it is on to pants, shorts, and skorts. These are laid out, and then rolled, bottom to top. Roll your pants and put into my suitcase. Next, are dresses. They are rolled and put into the suitcase (placed next to and on top of the previous layer). Following the dresses are tops; rolled and placed on top of dresses. On top of the dresses (unless your suitcase has a zippered compartment) place your undergarments (and bathing suit). If you have dress clothing – suits, fancy dresses, etc, place these in an old dry-cleaning bag (or garbage bag) and place on top.
- Cosmetics are all travel size. I place a small square of saran wrap over my bottles and then cap the bottles to prevent spills. Then, all of my liquids are placed in a quart size bag for TSA. When cleared through TSA, the bag will be tossed in my tote bag. All of my makeup is in powder form, so no need to separate it for TSA.
There you have it – the top packing tips that keep me on track and organized when traveling! For the travel gear that we use and packing resources, click here.
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Which of these packing tips, tricks and essentials did you find most helpful? Do you have any need-to-know packing tips you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!