We’ve all been in this situation: you’re planning for a long trip, but everything you want to take fills fifteen suitcases over to bursting, and when you get there, you still realize you’ve forgotten something essential. How can we find the best of both worlds? How can we make sure we have everything we need while also packing light and making traveling a breeze? Here is a comprehensive list of some of the best packing hacks for traveling, combined from every possible source imaginable. From travel packing hacks to change the way you pack to frequently asked questions about common packing items, you’ll find everything you’ll need here.
17 Travel Packing Hacks to Change the Way You Pack
Have luggage that’s on wheels.
This can be a game-changer when you’ve been at the airport forever and you’ve had to lug it across the entire place. Your arms – and your back – will thank you.
Use hard luggage
Hard luggage containers provide an extra level of protection for your items, making sure they don’t get broken, smashed, or crushed. Plus, they look a lot more stylish than soft luggage. Most retail stores sell cute matching sets of hand luggage.
Wear heavy items
Wear your coats, boots, and other heavy clothing items instead of packing them to save space in your suitcase. Remember, you can always take them off on the plane; but if you get there and realize it’s too cold, you likely won’t be able to go get them. Do yourself a favor now and just wear them, being willing to simply carry them if all else fails.
Be creative with all those extra little stuffing-holes when it comes to squeezing small things in. Utilize the insides of your shoes or other containers and store bags inside of other bags. Shift things around in your case until you’re able to fit everything you’d like to take.
Go nuts with your packing list
You don’t have to pack everything on your list, but by having a brainstorm session where you write down everything you think you’ll need, you’ll save yourself the trouble later of accidentally forgetting something. Another recommendation is to find one online or use several online lists to make your own.
Pad your makeup containers
Line your makeup containers with cotton balls or cotton pads to avoid them breaking open and spilling out everywhere. Pack them together tightly to add an additional layer of protection and prevent them from bouncing around.
Plan out your itinerary
This is to help ensure that you have everything, but also for your peace of mind. Write down everything you plan to do each day, what you will need for that activity, and what you plan to wear. Then, you can formulate your packing list around that.
Cut back on unnecessary products
You don’t need every single hair styling product you own…and you likely look best with natural hair anyway. Curling irons, blow dryers, and other products take up considerable space in your suitcase, so only pack them if you believe it to be absolutely necessary.
To fold or to roll?
Most people swear by rolling. However, it’s better to fold bulky items such as sweaters and roll lighter, thinner items, such as t-shirts and underwear. This way, you’ll fit as many clothing items as possible (or as many as you want).
Invest in packing cubes – Packing Hacks for Traveling
I cannot stress this enough. I put off packing cubes for the longest time, thinking they just took up extra space in my bag that I didn’t need. However, that space makes really no difference; and the benefits of having an organized suitcase are so enormous that it’s 100% worth it.
Pack nice clothes inside-out
We’ve all been there: you packed your toiletries with your clothes, and one of them leaked, and now all your shirts have bright, colorful patches on them. If something spills or leaks in your back, this will help to prevent obvious stains. It also helps to prevent wrinkles in nicer clothes.
Pack heavier items at the bottom of your suitcase. This will help while you’re transporting it, as it will glide much more quickly and not be top-heavy or tip over.
Use the KonMari method
You can use this method to both help you to fold and organize, as well as to reduce unnecessary clutter. By following this minimalism method, you can greatly reduce the amount of things you take with you AND save space in your bag. A win-win, right?
Wrap your cords in a glasses case
This one saved my life. If you’re tired of having all your headphones and charging cords all tangled up in the bottom of your bag (which also leads to shorts in the wiring), simply wrap them up and place them in an old glasses case.
Wrap up your shoes – Packing Hacks for Traveling
You can do this in a number of ways: wrap them up in plastic bags, in reusable cloth bags, or even in those free shower caps from hotel bathrooms. Just make sure they stay wrapped up in your suitcase if they’re going in with the rest of your clothes, so you’re not throwing dirt and other nastiness all over the rest of your stuff.
Plan your outfits
This can help prevent you from packing unnecessary clothing that you won’t wear and that just takes up space. It can also help to prevent you from forgetting key pieces of your outfits.
If you’re worried about your toiletries leaking, unscrew the caps, cover the tops in plastic wrap, and then screw the tops back on. Voila! It’s as if you never broke the sealant.
Top 25 Travel Packing Hacks and Tips
If that wasn’t enough, here are 25 more genius travel packing hacks and tips that’ll get you through your upcoming business trip or family vacation.
Pack a go-bag
Although typically touted by preppers, having a pre-packed “go-bag” that stays packed all the time and has all the essentials can be a lifesaver. This is especially true for short trips and overnight stays, particularly if they were unexpected. Take it a step further and have it double as your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.
Creatively store jewelry
Store small jewelry such as rings and earrings in a pill organizer or empty mint tin. Weave necklaces through straws to prevent them from becoming knotted up.
Pack a separate bag for dirty laundry
Take a bag to separate your dirty laundry from your clean laundry, so you’ll have a clear idea of what clothes you can and cannot wear again. It’ll also keep your clean laundry fresh. You may use any type of bag; you can bring a cloth bag or backpack, but I’ve found that a simple garbage bag can do in a pinch.
Put bags inside other bags
If you want to bring extra purses or smaller bags, put other bags, clothes, and smaller items inside these smaller bags to save space.
Keep dryer sheets in your suitcase
Before you leave, toss a couple of dryer sheets into your suitcase. This will keep everything smelling fresh in a way that is cheap and doesn’t take up more space than necessary.
Invest in a luggage scale
It’s a really simple way to save time and ensure that you’re not exceeding the weight limit. You don’t want to have to pay those overweight fees unless absolutely necessary!
Don’t pack soap
I know it’s tempting – I mean, who knows what could happen? – but I have never needed soap from home while traveling. There will always be soap and shampoo at every hotel you stay at. The only acceptable exception will be if you use a special kind of soap for health reasons. Then definitely pack soap.
Have a luggage tag that stands out – Packing Hacks for Traveling
Be kooky! Be creative! Having a luggage tag that’s specifically eye-catching will allow you to claim your bag at the airport easily—worried about being a target for thieves and criminals? Simply remove the tag when you reach your destination.
Place a “fragile” sticker on your luggage
Especially if you have items in your bag that really are fragile or that you’re worried could break or leak. Some people say this doesn’t make much of a difference, but you never know. If I were a baggage handler, I would take more care with a bag labeled “fragile” even if I was told I didn’t have to. It may encourage them to do the same or even place them nearer the top of the pile.
Buy lightweight luggage.
Not only will you thank yourself any time you have to carry it upstairs, but you’ll also pay less in fees at the airport.
Roll up belts and wrap them around under the collars of your shirts. This will help the collar maintain its stiffness and shape. Plus, it’s a good space-saving way to store your belts.
Keep all liquids together in one place
You may be tempted to pack them in the way that is most functional, such as by keeping water bottles and perfume in your carry-on and shampoo in your suitcase. But in reality, if they’re all together in one place, it will be much easier on you while in the security line.
Use dry cleaning bags
.If you have a particularly nice outfit that you absolutely can’t afford to get wrinkled, considering packing these items into dry cleaning bags.
Invest in protective laptop containers
.Instead of tossing your laptop into your backpack or suitcase, highly consider purchasing a solid, hard-cover laptop case. This will make sure your laptop is protected during each stage of the travel process.
Transfer liquids into pre-measured bottles
.Everyone hates it when they get through security and realize one of their bottles was over 3.4 ounces, and then it gets thrown out. Spare yourself this trouble by investing in TSA-approved bottles and pouring all your liquid items into them long before you reach the airport.
Bring a reusable water bottle
Save money and the planet by simply refilling it along the way. You can also decorate it with stickers from your travels.
Find two uses for everything
Whenever possible, find ways to duplicate the value of items. Find comfortable shoes that could double as dress shoes in a pinch. Pack a clutch that could double as a wallet. 3-in-1 portable chargers are lifesavers as well.
Pack neutral outfits
Especially if you’re going to a European country, nothing makes you stand out as an American tourist more than bright-colored, flashy clothing. Bring several lightweights, neutral outfits that you can mix and match with.
Don’t pack under the assumption that you’ll magically start doing something you haven’t been doing at home, though you’ve had every opportunity to. If you don’t normally exercise, don’t bring exercise equipment. If you don’t normally paint, don’t bring brushes and canvas. Odds are, you’ll have less time than you think you’ll have.
If possible, only pack one bag
Go the minimalist route and only pack the things you’ll absolutely need, find dual purposes for as many of those items as possible, and then use these travel packing hacks to consolidate even further. You may be surprised by how little you’ll have to take with you.
Bring a tiny first-aid kit – Packing Hacks for Traveling
.Just a simple thing with some Neosporin, painkiller, band-aids, vaseline, itch cream, aloe, and alcohol wipes can make all the difference if you get a tiny cut, a headache, or a sunburn. Just make sure it’s TSA-approved.
Put a spare outfit in your carry-on
.My motto is hope for the best, but plan for the worst. You really never know when your luggage will get lost, or you’ll mess up your clothes on your flight. Always have a spare outfit in your carry-on in case you need to change in a pinch or wait for new about the rest of your clothes.
I had actually never heard about these before researching, but they are genius. Imagine a scarf, blanket, towel, shawl, and skirt all in one. Versatile and a space-saver, and very fashionable as well.
Scan/photograph all important documents
Especially if you’re going overseas, it is crucial you have documentation of your passport. You’ll know what counts as “important documents” better than we do, so many sure back up your back-ups.
Binder clips for cords
Another thing you can do in a pinch if you don’t have a space glasses case is use binder clips to organize and secure your wires and headphones. You can even color-code them and use them to keep cords separate on the floor of your room as well.
The 12 Essential Packing Hacks to Live By
Here are our last 12 essential packing hacks to live by. Enjoy!
Invest in a universal charging station
Not only does this help to consolidate your items, further saving you space, but it’s great if you don’t want a mess of cords or if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t really have compatible outlets. Another option is solar-powered chargers, particularly if you plan to go camping.
Bring zip-lock bags – Packing Hacks for Traveling
They have thousands of uses, and you never know when one will come in handy.
Leave empty space in your luggage
This is by far one of the most important travel packing hacks on this list, and yet it’s also one of the most overlooked. Make sure to leave some empty space so you can come back with souvenirs!
Keep valuables in your carry-on
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Maybe I’m jaded after growing up in the city, but I like to keep my expensive items close to me at all times.
Bring a universal adapter – Packing Hacks for Traveling
This is a lifesaver if you plan to spend a lot of time outside your hotel room. The outlets in different countries often look different from each other, so you’ll want to prepare ahead of time for that, and this is one of the best ways to do so.
Don’t bring towels
Similar to the soap issue, I have never yet been to a hotel that didn’t offer towels.
Better yet, don’t pack anything you’ll find when you get there
Think ahead about what items you’ll be able to obtain for free or cheap once you arrive and then skip those.
Download free digital tour guides
This is great for sight-seeing if you don’t want to pay for a tour, and you can use them at your own pace and customized them for yourself. You can also use them even in areas that have no wifi.
Travel with a lightweight backpack – Packing Hacks for Traveling
This can double as your carry-on, but when most people travel, they spend a lot of time away from their hotel. Having a backpack that you can take an entire day’s worth of stuff in is a necessity, and the lighter weight it is, the more your shoulders will thank you at the end of the day.
Plot your itinerary
Download one of the many travel planning apps available for free online, and use it to plot exactly where you want to be at different times. This will also help you pack, as you’ll be able to determine what you’ll need for each day.
Keep back-up prescriptions on hand
Again, always keep these available in case your luggage gets lost. This is something you won’t be able to just go to the store and replace if you lose it.
Pack a disposable poncho
Not as frequently thought of, but it can really spare you a lot of trouble if you get caught out in the rain. They’re typically very inexpensive as well, and you can find them at most dollar stores.
How Do You Pack a Travel Pack?
To pack a travel pack, think like you’re trying to solve a puzzle. Try to fit together as many pieces as possible to save you the most amount of space. Evaluate everything before packing it by asking yourself, “do I really need this?” If not, don’t pack it. Roll up lightweight clothes and fold heavier items. Secure items that could leak in a space away from your clothes and other items that could be damaged by liquid. Ultimately, there’s no one “right” way to pack a travel pack: it’s really based on your needs.
What Should You Not Pack When Traveling?
When traveling, do not pack anything you think you’ll be able to obtain for free or for cheap when you arrive. For example, never pack soap, shampoo, or towels if you’re going to stay in a hotel. If you’re going somewhere where you can get cheap snacks or toiletries, consider not packing those, either. Finally, don’t pack anything if it’s so valuable you would die if you lost it (provided you don’t need it to survive). Items you take with you while traveling always have the potential to be lost, damaged, or stolen.
How Do You Pack Clothes in a Small Bag?
To pack clothes in a small bag, first tightly roll any light clothing items. These may include underwear, socks, bras, t-shirts, dresses, blouses, sweatpants, or pajamas. Then, tightly fold bulkier items, including jeans, sweaters, cardigans, or jackets.
Additionally, you may want to follow the 5-4-3-2-1 rule for packing clothing. For every week you’ll be there, never pack more than 5 sets of underwear (socks, underwear, bras), four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes, and one hat, scarf, or other accessories.
In summary, there are so many ways to be creative and smart while packing. From clothing to toiletries, to the type of suitcase you bring, you have multiple opportunities to reduce your burden and make traveling much easier (and subsequently, more fun). With these travel packing hacks for traveling and tips, you’re already on your way to becoming a veteran traveler. Just be smart, and always continue to look for intelligent ways to consolidate your items and save space. You never know what kinds of things you’ll be able to add to this list!