Packing tips

I’m heading out for a summer vacation, but I’m not doing the packing. My more organized better half takes care of those duties. I’m always amazed at the amount of stuff she fits into a modest-size bag for the both of us. I picked her brain so she could enlighten us on how to pack.

  • Make a list. First and foremost you must make a list. Otherwise, you are likely to forget something or pack too much.
  • Check the weather. Make sure you know the forecast for where you are headed and pack accordingly.
  • Pack less, but be versatile. Pack clothing that can be worn in just about any combination and don’t fret about wearing the same item more than once.
  • Folding is key. My wife is great at smashing things into our luggage, but she also folds everything into a meticulously small size.

  • Leave your shoes at home. Shoes take up a lot of space so try and limit your shoe selection. Again, wear a pair that is versatile and comfortable.
  • Toiletries get packed into one bag. Our toiletry bag is not unlike this one in that it hangs up and out of the way when you have reached your destination and it keeps all your items together in one nice and neat bag. Also, make sure to put any liquids in a ziploc bag so they don’t ruin your clothing if they leak during your travels. You’ll also need them in a ziploc bag if you’re flying.
  • Unpack when you arrive. When you arrive at your vacation destination, make sure you unpack your items and store them in their appropriate areas. Otherwise, you may be living out of your suitcase the whole trip. That leads to a cluttered hotel room.

Obviously, these rules aren’t the end-all and be-all of packing, but they are a good start to keeping your vacation uncluttered. If you are looking for more ways to consolidate your packing, check out The Packing Book.

13 Comments for “Packing tips”

  1. posted by Jörn on

    I’m going to camp at an open air music festival, and I can just see myself standing there, wondering how I can fit all my stuff in my backpack. Clothing can be packed allright, but the problem I got is: beer cans can’t be folded.
    Your wife doesn’t happen to have some tips on packing for a camping trip?

  2. posted by Anne on is the best place to go for tips on traveling light. It’s really targeted to the business traveler, so you can’t follow the packing lists and whatnot like gospel, but it has great advice and inspiration if nothing else. Especially useful is the method of packing clothes by wrapping them around a central core.

  3. posted by Josh on

    Folding is key? I’m more of a rolling fan myself. I think I can compress things slightly more that way and I have less creases to deal with (less ironing).

    Be sure to check out Tim Ferris’ packing guide:

  4. posted by Erik Mallinson on

    I recently paraphrased the better half packing better with this reply, “me lift heavy things.”

  5. posted by Andamom on

    Okay… A few comments:
    1) Packing for myself isn’t a major issue. I’ve been progressively getting to the point wherein I can mix and max my wardrobe (or do so more easily than before). So, finding various pieces that work on a trip isn’t an issue.
    2) Bags that fully zip or buckle closed are easiest because you can stuff more.
    3) Remember airline restrictions for bringing liquids on board flights. Everything needs to be travel sized.
    4) Most obviously though — you are not travelling with kids. Kids/babies require more clutter — you need diapers, wipes, nose syringe, bottles, juice/milk/formula, multiple changes of clothes, toys, Tylenol or other medicine — etc. That’s just getting out of the house — much more is needed for trips. And trust me, there are only so many ways that you can compress 10 diapers that you need on for a day’s worth of travel — let alone a week or longer.

  6. posted by Demian Neidetcher on

    This might be overly geeky but on trips I’ll take clothes (particularly underwear) that are on their last leg and throw them away after using them in the visiting city. This lightens the load and makes room for souvenirs or whatever I might want to bring back from my trip.

  7. posted by Jenny on

    Demian, I think throwing away your old underwear’s a good idea (unless you’re buying disposable underwear to throw away) for making space. Another site I’ve seen for packing tips and traveling lightly is . Thanks to the above posts for the other sites, I’m going to check them out since I always overpack.

  8. posted by Tig on

    Andamom: My partner and I are spending 3 weeks in Europe with our 7-month-old son (we live in Canada). We have carry-on luggage only. How much more do you really need for longer trips than what you advocate for getting out of the house? We came with a backpack for each of us adults, the baby’s diaper bag for him, and an umbrella stroller, that’s it. 5 or 6 changes of baby size clothes don’t take much space; if they aren’t filthy they can be worn 2 days running, and you can always find a way of washing things (sink, laundromat, or hotel service, at a pinch). We came with 10 diapers, and then bought a new pack here, wipes, as well as some formula and baby food, and a small tube of body and hair wash for all 3 of us (because of airline restrictions on liquids). We brought 3-4 small toys, one bottle, a spoon, the nose syringe, and that’s it!

  9. posted by Andamom on

    Tig – 1) It depends on where you are going and whether the location has diapers and formula (if you need it) — I’d say that most parents I know do not want to fret about these things at their end destination. My coworker went home to India for a month and bought her own diapers for the entire trip because she wasn’t keen on Indian brands — and she brought formula (pre-made with water) because she did not trust the water supply in certain areas. 2) Another issue is the clothing — if your child has a few blow-outs, you’ll want more than a few changes of clothing — and if you are travelling to a destination with a different weather than home, various types of clothing are needed. All of this takes up space. 3) And what about a PNP or a car seat? Some people feel strongly about bringing other items as well — like booster seats, travel swings/bouncers, carriers (like a Bjorn), etc.

    I agree that you can wash things — and you may be able to buy things — but that isn’t hands down always an option.

  10. posted by Cliff on

    Piffle! Kids. The ultimate in lifestyle clutter! Just leave THEM behind, or better yet, never acquire them in the FIRST place. I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of agencies will to help you to unclutter your life from children. 🙂

    Just kidding of course. But, as a confirmed bachelor, I do find myself feeling somewhat smug about this whole diaper phenomenon …

  11. posted by Hanmee on

    Hands-on experience helps the most.

    We went to Ireland for 8 days (excluding flights) with our then 1-year-old son. We took 2 suitcases with us, which wasn’t too bad (we actually had less between the 3 of us than the other adults on the trip).

    One suitcase held all our clothes, toiletries, etc. The other held stuff like diapers, wipes, toys, etc. Our reasoning was that as the diapers and such got used up, that left us plenty of space to pack the souvenirs we bought. It worked out exactly right.

    When we took a trip to Mexico a couple of months later, we did a better job.

    We’ve gotten better over time. We haven’t taken another overseas trip, but we’ve taken a few road trips, including driving 12+ hours (each way) to visit family. (It’s really a ~9hr trip, but with stops here and there, and a brief visit for a relative on the way, it was 12.)

    We took our 2.5-year-old son and 8-month-old daughter, with their ginormous car seats, into our Toyota Corolla (usually what car they are in), and all the needed stuff for a drive up. We drove each way in one day. Fortunately, our in-laws had a crib and booster seats.

    To visit my sister-in-law, we had to bring along the pack -n- play, but we packed even better (this trip was only 4-5 hrs each way, for an extended weekend). We didn’t have a high chair (very necessary for my squirmy daughter), but we made do very well by bringing in her car seat and buckling her in there.

    It just really helps as you do it more and more and just have a good attitude about it (which is good for me to remember because I can be so impatient).

  12. posted by Jacqui on

    If you are staying in a hotel they usually supply an iron and ironing board (you can find out in advance) – so don’t bother ironing your clothes before you pack – if you’re like me you always iron when you get there anyways – why iron twice.

  13. posted by LazyLightning on

    One suggestion… you say toiletries go in one bag, but for me I’ve found it works better to have multiple smaller bags. They are easier to stuff in a crack between clothing piles, in a small pocket, etc. I used to have the big hanging bag, but I found that I was having to leave a big space in my suitcase for it. Now I find that using those free cosmetic bags women tend to accumulate is a cost-effective, convenient method. I just put, for example, essentials (toothpaste, shampoo, etc) in one, makeup in another, and jewelry/hair items in a third.

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