The Ultimate Vacation Packing Guide: 10 Tips and Tricks

packing for travel

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Packing for travel can be daunting and something I’ve always put off until the night before I leave. Years ago, this procrastination would lead to forgetting something key, and inevitably I would find myself at the hotel gift shop picking up some overpriced items. Or I would overpack and be exhausted just getting my bag through the airport and into the overhead compartment.

Everything changed when I got organized. Suddenly, the packing was easy and quick, and these days, I rarely find myself missing something when traveling. Being organized means having the right bag, travel items, packing technique, and using a list.

Things to think about: will you be checking a bag or only taking a carry-on? What’s the weather like where you’re going? What activities will you be doing, hiking in Maui perhaps? What type of dining will you be doing? Will you be attending a religious ceremony?

Packing for Travel

Use a travel packing list every trip, every time

This may seem obvious or unnecessary, but coming from experience, I have found a list is the best way to ensure that I end up at my destination with the items I need. Since each trip is a unique adventure, your list must also be customized to your liking. Mine started as a basic spreadsheet that has evolved over the years to have different types of destinations and weather categories for travel.

Roll your clothing

Packing for Vacation 10 Tips and Tricks

Rolling your clothing will keep your bag tidy, allowing you to find items easily. With a good technique, you can avoid getting creases in your clothing. Try to roll tops from the bottom up and fold in the sleeves before rolling.

Try folding pants lengthwise and rolling from the waist down. Rolled items are also handy for awkward spaces in your bag or to help a hat keep its shape. I like to roll everything before I put anything in my bag, so it’s easy to see when I double-check my list. 

Use travel cubes, compression sacks, or plastic zipper bags

Using bags to organize your travel bag helps with efficiently using space. Use them to organize clothing by type, outfit, or specific weather conditions. They help you stay organized while looking for a specific item or should TSA decide they need to dig to the bottom of your bag. 

Pack dual-purpose clothing

Everything in my bag is multifunctional unless I bring an outfit or gear for a specific event, i.e., a wedding or ski trip. Try to bring solid or neutral-colored clothing that works well together so you can mix and match. Layered options are also good, especially in a different climate with varied daytime temperatures.  

Wear travel-friendly clothing

Travel-friendly clothing includes multifunctional clothing such as pants that zip into shorts. Shirts with a UPF rating are great if you plan to spend a lot of time in the sun. Some fabrics, such as linen and twill, are more prone to wrinkles. Consider clothing made of Merino wool. Merino clothing is breathable, moisture-wicking, naturally destroys odors and dries quickly.

Pack a laundry bag

These come in many different styles; when folded up, they will not take up much room in your luggage. Also, it gives you a place to put your dirty clothes or can protect items from muddy shoes while packed in your bag.

Use a clear liquids bag

Use a clear bag just for the liquids you’ll be packing for two reasons when the TSA agent is checking your bag, they’ll be able to see what you have and not rummage through your luggage too much, and two, easier for you to find what you are looking for in the bag. Current TSA guidelines can be found here.

Choose your personal item wisely

Along with a TSA-approved carry-on, most airlines allow one personal item that will be stowed under the seat in front of you. Try to choose a bag that will hold all your essential items, anything you can’t do without should your luggage get lost, such as medications, identification, credit cards, an extra change of clothes, etc.

Also, consider the length of your flight and what items you may want for entertainment or comfort, such as snacks, books, electronics, noise-canceling headphones, pillows, extra clothing, etc.

Do laundry on your trip

This space saver in your luggage allows you to wear clothing multiple times over a trip. That is, of course, your accommodations have laundry available to use. Using hotel laundry can get expensive, but if you have an Airbnb, VRBO, etc., they may have it as an amenity.

This is a huge one for us since it allows us to pack lighter. Often, we try to wash everything before returning home so we can unpack without the added laundry. 

Simplify toiletry products

Packing for Vacation 10 Tips and Tricks

Limiting the number of toiletries you bring will free up some space in your bag and reduce any additional TSA searches, and you may find that you don’t need to use as many products when you get back home. Depending on the trip length, I often forgo certain items that I know a hotel may supply, or if it’s a longer trip, I sometimes opt to buy full-size products at my destination to avoid having to check a bag.


Packing for travel can be overwhelming, but being organized can make it easier and more efficient. It is important to consider factors such as the type of bag needed, the weather, planned activities, and dining options.

Using a list can also help ensure that all necessary items are packed and nothing is forgotten, avoiding the need to purchase overpriced items at gift shops. By being organized, travelers can avoid the stress of forgetting something important or overpacking, making for a smoother and more enjoyable trip.

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