Travel Packing Tips, The Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Travel Packing Tips
The Ultimate Travel Packing Tips

Travel packing tips and a list?

Yes, please! If you know me, or have read my story, you know that I inherited a wanderlust from my mother. But what you don’t know is that her outstanding packing skills were also passed down to me. We used to say that packing would be our talent in the Miss America Pageant. I learned from my mother at an early age, the art of filling a suitcase.

The Ultimate Don’t Forget Anything Packing List

If you have your own system and it’s working for you, then move down to The Ultimate Don’t-Forget-Anything Packing List list, but everyone else, read and learn. Here are my best travel packing tips.

Listen carefully and please trust me. We have traveled with young, and not so young, children on four week trips, with just carry-on suitcases. (The old kind with bad wheels.) Travel packing tip: Invest in a lightweight suitcase with 360 degree wheels and a hard shell. Plan ahead for laundry opportunities every 7 – 10 days and you should be able to do it. Many VRBO rentals have laundry facilities. Even if you check your luggage on the plane you DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT want to wheel large suitcases onto trains, Ubers, short flights, or while walking to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  You especially do not want to haul heavy bags up the 8 flights of stairs to your European VRBO apartment in 110 degree weather. And I guarantee you do not want cumbersome luggage in a torrential downpour in New Zealand while walking from the airport to the rental car place, or during the freezing cold winter when your rideshare has dropped you off a mile from where you are staying.

When it comes to packing, less is always more. Follow these travel packing tips and you should be fine!

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Trip Prep

I love spontaneity, but not necessarily when it comes to trip prep. I believe in starting the vacation early by getting excited with the planning and packing.  It helps me feel organized and puts me in the travel zone, which is where I love to be.

Don’t dread packing! This is the fun part! Put on some music and get in the mood for your trip! (This is my favorite travel packing tip!)

Withhold Clothes

During the week or two before a trip with the family or by myself, I start to withhold clothes. As they are funneled through the laundry, I set aside those items which we are likely to bring. This way, I am not doing a ton of laundry the night before a trip. I bring the suitcases out and pile the withheld laundry into the suitcases. This was especially helpful when the kids were little and I was literally packing four suitcases.

The Ultimate Travel Packing Tips
The Ultimate Travel Packing Tips

Decisions, decisions

Having a big pile of everything I think I might want, clean and visible, is the best way to start the decision making process without feeling rushed. Like I said, the goal here is LESS IS MORE! Lay everything out on top of the bed before you start.


Here are 10 important travel packing tips and decisions to make:

Decision #1 Travel Outfit. 

This should be your favorite cozy outfit, shoes, scarf, and a jacket which saves you space in the suitcase. Consider setting aside an emergency shirt and underwear for your carry-on.

Decision #2 Shoes.

They may bring you joy, but how often will you wear them on the trip? Make exceptions for a special occasion, like a wedding for which you will wear those Louboutins, just that once, or for the one big hike requiring the Keen hiking boots. But most trips don’t require a pair of shoes that will only be worn once, so put them back in your closet.

Focus on walking shoes, or your most comfortable, all-weather somethings. I always throw in my Vionic flip flops for wearing around the apartment or hotel because they take up no space.

Decision #3 Outerwear.

Look at the weather forecast where you are headed, obviously, and make the most practical decision you can. It is possible that the jacket you bring on the plane is the only one you need.

I always travel with my Lululemon jacket because it is soft, cozy, has zipper pockets, and is washable. When I travel in the winter, I still wear my Lulu and bring the heavy coat on the plane to store in the overhead.

Decision #4 Dressy or formal wear. 

If you don’t want to have all the pictures of you in the same outfit, then you will need to consider mixing and matching. Neutral tones always work.

Create a capsule wardrobe, a collection of clothes which can be worn together because all the colors and textures work in harmony with each other. The same jeans with different tops and mixing up the scarf, jewelry, or belt can create a whole new look.

Decision #5 The Basics.

Do you need one outfit for touring all day and something to change into for evening, or will the same outfit be enough? Weather has a lot to do with this decision point. A beach vacation vs. a multi-city European vacation has its obvious differences.

Remember, if you are travelling for more than a week, you only need a 7 – 10 day supply.

Decision #6 Exercise Clothes.

Some of us like to go for a run in the morning or use the hotel gym before the day starts, so a couple of sets of your favorite, hand washable, exercise clothes are important.

It’s always good to have a bathing suit in the arsenal for the potential beach, hot tub, or pool.

Decision #7 The Necessities. 

How many pairs of underwear, bras, and socks do you need? I count my days and add 5. I really hate to run out of these items. So, with my 7 – 10 day supply system, that means 12 – 15 pairs of underwear.

Which pj’s, t shirts, or “lobby pants” do you need to sleep in and wear at breakfast? You only need a few of these items if you are doing laundry on the road.

Decision #8 Toiletries.

Which items do you pack in the suitcase and which ones in your carry-on? For instance, toothbrush, toothpaste, Advil, and hand lotion in my carry-on, but all other stuff is in my suitcase. Don’t bring the full bottle of anything.

Get these silicone travel bottles for just the right amount of liquids. Place a little plastic wrap under the lid and then place the bottle in a zip lock baggie. See my packing list for all the stuff you don’t want to forget.

Decision #9 Miscellaneous. Are there small, easy to pack things you want to stick in there when you know you have enough room? Don’t go crazy with extras here, because you probably want room for souvenirs!

Decision #10 What goes in your carry-on? Look at the packing list for details. I like to keep my ID and credit card in the zipper pockets of my travel pants or Lululemon jacket so they are easily accessible, and hidden on me at all times.

Carry-on essentials includes medicine. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you will be super happy if you are prepared. I have spent many a morning looking for a pharmacy in a foreign country because one of my kids came down with something! 

How I have taken my family of four to Europe, six times, for free.
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The Ultimate Travel Packing List
Now you are ready for the artistic laying-in-of-the-clothes part.

Follow these 4 simple steps and you, too, can have pageant worthy talent!

  1. Stuff your socks into shoes and place the shoes in the corners and around the edges of the suitcase. If the soles are dirty, use bags to keep the shmutz from your clothes. And those shower caps at hotels make for great sole covers!
  2. Lay down, as flat as possible, any coats, jackets, sweaters, dresses, and pants. People may tell you to roll everything or use compression bags. I am a fan of the lay flat system. You can fit more in and the weight of your clothes keeps things from wrinkling.
  3. Make small stacks of shirts, exercise gear, pjs, etc. across the top and leave a hole in the middle of the piles to stick your toiletry bags.
  4. Roll your underwear into tiny balls and tuck them, and any remaining socks, around the edges.

Pack It Up!

If your bag is one of those 2-sided types with a netted zipper section on one side, and an open one on the other, then use the zipper section for shoes, toiletries, and miscellaneous. All clothes and soft items should go in the other side to be strapped in. 

I always try to fit everything without unzipping the expander. It makes the bag more streamlined and easier to maneuver. 

I like to save the expansion for the end of the trip after I have purchased some things, or have a bag of dirty laundry to stick in.

Hope you enjoyed my travel packing tips! Zip it up and get to the airport! You are ready to fly!



Hi There! I’m Carrie.

Carrie Green-Zinn Bio Page

I’m a native New Englander, turned New Yorker, turned California girl! Following a dance career, working as a dance therapist, and being a school psychologist, I’m now ready to share my passion for photography and travel with you! I absolutely love seeing the world with my family and friends. I know you feel the same! Let’s go! 

A flat lay of MILK photo album travel books
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