by Debra Kerper
I love to travel and just about everything that goes with it, but packing is definitely the exception. It is a necessary evil, though, so I came up with some tips and tricks based on my experience to make the process as painless as possible. I hope you will find my packing tips for travel helpful. I am not sure they will make packing more “joyful” for you, but hopefully a bit easier.
Packing Tips for Travel #1: Pack By Day or By Category?
You need to decide which method works best for you. Do you like to pack all your tops, workout clothes, or undergarments together? Or do you prefer to pack by the day and keep complete outfits together? I use both methods to organize depending on the specific trip and whether I am packing my suitcase or my carry-on.
Generally, I keep my clothes together by category in my suitcase. It’s a good system that makes life easier when unpacking at my destination and I don’t have to think about the events of every day in advance. However, when I have a one or two-night stay before a cruise, I like to pack by day and have complete outfits readily available. That way I have what I need in one convenient place without having to go through my entire suitcase. A better idea is to pack this one-two-day supply of clothes in your carry-on to eliminate the need to open your suitcase at all. An added benefit to adding complete outfits in your carry-on is you have a supply of emergency clothes in the event of delayed or lost luggage.
For shorter stays, a small carry-on will provide you with the needed capacity. On the other hand, an extra large suitcase for long travel allows you to comfortably combine both packing methods, accommodating complete outfits for each day as well as grouping similar items like workout clothes or undergarments together. The extra space of an oversized suitcase keeps everything organized and easily accessible without cluttering or compressing your belongings. This is especially useful for long vacations and trips where you’ll be exposed to different weather conditions and activities and need a more diverse wardrobe.
Packing Tips for Travel #2: Do You Need to Choose a Color Scheme?
My answer is definitely, yes. I recommend choosing two colors to focus on. For example, navy and gray or black and tan are nice combinations. Think about the clothes you have in your closet that you tend to gravitate toward for easy matching and comfort. Staying within your two basic colors allows you to pack a couple of bottoms with some print tops to change things up. I use the following trick to dress up a bit for evening dinners: pack a pair of black pants with a couple of basic black tops that you can accessorize with a pretty scarf or necklace and you have a new outfit for each night.
Packing Tips for Travel #3: What About Shoes?
Limiting your wardrobe colors for your trip makes it easy to choose which shoes to bring. Pack only two pairs if possible, comfortable shoes for during the day and dressier ones for at night. Some people like to bring two different pairs with them such as sneakers for walking and comfortable sandals for the pool or beach. If you must bring boots with you, and some of us love our boots, plan to wear them on the plane. They are too large and heavy to pack!
Packing Tips for Travel #4: Better to Roll or Fold?
There seems to be some controversy over these two methods of packing. Having tried it both ways, I can safely say I don’t generally see a lot of difference in the final outcome. If I pack a top with embellishments, I do take extra care and use tissue paper to help keep the item wrinkle-free. I like to add tissue paper between folds and also to cover these special tops before packing. Tissue paper is also great for packing men’s ties.
Packing Tips for Travel #5: Do I Really Need to Buy Travel-Size Personal Products?
We all know by now that any liquids we pack in our carry-ons must be travel-size. The size is not an issue in checked baggage as far as being allowed, except full-sized products take up a lot of valuable space! Do yourself a favor and purchase travel sizes of hair products, deodorant, body lotion, etc. regardless of which bag you decide on for them. Or, get travel-size containers to fill from the larger containers you use at home. Better yet, if you’re not picky, check before you go what’s provided by your hotel or cruise line. You may not have to bring some of these items at all. Some people buy small hair dryers to pack, but often this type of item is readily available at your destination too.
Packing Tips for Travel #6 Should I Make a Packing List?
Many people like to make packing lists before they start to pack. For me, I pack as I choose what to bring, then make my list when I am almost done, which is generally the night before departure. My list does not include everything; it consists of those items I don’t like to pack until I’m ready to close the suitcase and head to the airport. You know the kinds of things I’m talking about like make-up, phone chargers, IPad, pills, etc.
Packing Tips for Travel #7: Why I Love Packing Cubes
I left the best for last…packing cubes! I’m absolutely addicted to these squares of fabric. I love them so much that I frequently buy them as gifts for fellow travelers. I discovered packing cubes several years ago and will NOT travel without them.
So why do I swear by these magic cubes? They are extremely lightweight, allow me to organize all my things, and come in various sizes and colors so each family member can have their own set. Most importantly, with these cubes, my clothes arrive exactly how I packed them and without wrinkles! I no longer find the contents of my suitcase in a jumbled mess when I arrive at my destination.
I like the cubes with a mesh insert on top so I can easily view what’s inside. The large ones are great for pants, shirts, sweaters, etc. I use medium-sized cubes for items like pajamas, bathrobes, bathing suit cover-ups, and workout clothes. The smaller sizes are perfect for undergarments. I also pack a complete outfit or two in a cube for my carry-on. These little miracles are also just right for cords and electronics, toiletries, and much, much more. I haven’t yet tried the newer cubes with compression zippers, but I plan to buy some for my next trip to Europe. Friends tell me they can pack about 40% more in their suitcases with these cubes.
Happy packing and safe travels!
FAQs About General Packing for Travel
Below are some common questions we hear related to general packing tips for travel, along with answers. Enjoy our suitcase-packing tips!
Do you have carry-on travel tips? What should I pack in my carry-on bag?
- Important documents (passport, ID, travel insurance).
- Electronics (phone, charger, power bank, headphones).
- Medications and personal essentials.
- Entertainment items (book, magazine, or tablet).
- Snacks and a refillable water bottle.
How can I avoid overpacking for my trip?
- Plan outfits in advance and pack versatile clothing items.
- Stick to a packing list and eliminate non-essential items.
- Consider doing laundry during your trip if possible.
- Use travel-sized toiletries and limit unnecessary accessories.
What are some space-saving packing tips?
- Roll your clothes instead of folding them to save space.
- Use packing cubes or compression bags to organize and compress clothes.
- Utilize the empty spaces inside shoes to pack socks or small items.
- Minimize bulky items and consider wearing the bulkiest items on travel days.
What type of luggage should I use for my trip?
- It depends on the type and duration of your trip.
- A carry-on suitcase is great for short trips or when you want to avoid checked baggage fees.
- A backpack is convenient for more adventurous trips or if you’ll be moving around frequently.
What should I consider when packing for different climates?
- Check the weather forecast for your travel destination.
- Pack layers for variable climates and consider lightweight, breathable fabrics for warm weather.
- For cold weather, pack thermal clothing, gloves, and a hat.
Can I bring liquids in my carry-on bag?
Liquids in carry-on bags must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule: containers must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less, and fit into a quart-sized resealable plastic bag, with only one bag allowed per passenger.
Is it essential to pack a first aid kit?
Packing a basic first aid kit is recommended, including adhesive bandages, pain relievers, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medications you might need.
Should I bring travel adapters and chargers?
Yes, make sure to bring the appropriate travel adapters to fit the electrical outlets of your destination country, along with chargers for all your electronic devices.
Can I pack food items in my luggage?
Some countries have restrictions on bringing certain food items, especially fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat products. Check the customs regulations of your destination before packing food.
What items should I carry in my personal item for long flights?
Important travel documents, electronics, a neck pillow, a light blanket or scarf, snacks, and entertainment items are good choices for your personal item during long flights.
Remember that packing efficiently and smartly can greatly enhance your travel experience. Always consider the specific needs of your trip and pack accordingly.
FAQs About Packing for a Cruise
What travel documents should I bring for a cruise?
- Passport or other acceptable forms of identification.
- Printed or electronic copies of your cruise reservation and boarding passes.
- Travel insurance information.
- Any necessary visas for the cruise ports you’ll be visiting.
What should I pack in my carry-on bag for embarkation day?
- Essential travel documents and identification.
- Medications and any necessary medical supplies.
- Swimwear and sunscreen if you plan to use the pool on the first day.
- Change of clothes in case your luggage is delivered to your cabin later.
What specific travel tips for cruises can you give me about luggage?
Most cruise cabins have limited storage space, so soft-sided, collapsible suitcases or duffel bags are often more convenient than hard-shell luggage. Consider bringing a foldable duffel bag for souvenirs or additional items acquired during the trip.
How should I pack my formalwear for cruise dinners?
Check the dress code for formal nights on your cruise and pack accordingly. Bring mix-and-match clothing items that can be dressed up or down to save space.
Should I pack formal shoes for every formal night?
Packing one pair of formal shoes that can be worn with different outfits is usually sufficient for formal nights on most cruises.
What essential items should I pack for a cruise?
- Sunscreen and sunhat for days spent on the deck.
- Swimwear for the pool and beach excursions.
- Comfortable walking shoes for onshore excursions.
- Seasickness remedies if you are prone to motion sickness.
- Portable water bottle for staying hydrated on excursions.
Can I bring my own alcohol onboard the cruise ship?
Many cruise lines have restrictions on bringing your own alcohol onboard. Check your cruise line’s policy regarding alcohol allowances.
What should I pack for themed nights or costume parties on the cruise?
Check if your cruise has any themed nights or costume parties, and pack clothing or accessories accordingly. Themes could range from tropical nights to 80s retro parties.
Can I do laundry on the cruise ship?
Most cruise ships offer laundry services, but they can be expensive. Consider packing enough clothing for the duration of the trip or plan to wash some items in the cabin sink.
Is there a weight limit for luggage on cruises?
Different cruise lines may have varying luggage weight restrictions, so check with your cruise provider for specific details.
We have lots more packing tips for travel. Feel free if you have additional questions to add them in the comment section below!
About the Author: Debra Kerper
Debra Kerper, CATA, ACC, has helped people explore the world since 1993. She owns Easy Access Travel, a Cruise Planners Franchise that is part of the American Express Retail Travel Network.
The goal of Easy Access Travel is to ensure that everyone, regardless of age or physical limitations, has the opportunity to travel. Debra, an older adult, has lived with lupus since age 20 and is a bilateral lower-limb amputee. She travels extensively using various types of mobility aids (scooter, wheelchair, etc.). Debra speaks nationally about “How to Travel with Special Needs” and loves to share her expertise with everyone. Learn more at easyaccesstravel.com.
originally posted Aug 28, 2022
updated Aug 2, 2023