Take heart, puzzled packers. This comprehensive guide offers packing tips and tricks for just about every travel challenge. You’ll learn how to pack a bulky winter jacket, which fabrics make clothes that can be worn multiple times, how to keep charger cords from getting tangled in transit, and why you might want to slip a tennis ball into your carry-on.
1. Pack each day’s outfit in its own plastic bag, packing sleeve, or packing cube; that way all you have to do each morning is grab it and go.
2. Save space in your carry-on by wearing a jacket or vest with lots of pockets, such as those from SCOTTeVEST.
3. Pack a reusable cloth bag for dirty laundry.
4. Or consider another option for dirty laundry that you already have at home: a pillow case.
5. Pack pajamas near the top of your bag since they’re one of the first things you’ll need when you arrive.
6. Wrap easily wrinkled clothes in tissue paper to help prevent creases.
7. Pack a scarf. It can keep you warm, dress up an outfit, and cover your shoulders when visiting religious buildings with strict dress codes.
8. Skip the hassle of removing your belt at security by wearing one with a plastic buckle.
9. When flying, consider wearing slip-on shoes that can easily be removed at security and on the plane.
10. To save space in your bag of liquid/gel items, consider solid forms of toiletries such as shampoo bars.
11. Leave bulky and/or uncomfortable heels at home; instead, consider a pair of foldable ballet flats for trips that require a little dressing up.
12. Caught in the rain? Use your hotel’s hair dryer to blow-dry wet items before packing them, as damp clothes and—especially—shoes will build up a major stink after a few hours in an airless suitcase.
13. If you’re carrying a suit or fancy dress, consider a suitcase with a built-in garment bag.
14. Unpack your bag as soon as you arrive in your destination; hanging your clothes or putting them into drawers will prevent wrinkles and make you feel more at home.
15. Save time by leaving a bag of travel essentials—such as a toothbrush and your most commonly used toiletries—packed at all times, ready to pick up and go.
16. Instead of buying travel-size versions of your favorite toiletries, it’s usually cheaper to get the full-size versions and pour them into reusable travel-size containers.
17. Save space by packing products that do double duty, such as shampoo/conditioner or moisturizer with sunscreen.
18. Check to see which amenities are provided in your hotel room before packing items like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and hair dryers; chances are, the hotel has you covered.
19. To keep toiletries from spilling in your suitcase, either stash the bottles in a zip-top plastic bag or put a little piece of plastic wrap between the bottle and the cap to create a seal.
20. Bring a hanging toiletry bag that you can carry easily from one hotel to the next without having to unpack.
21. As your lipstick tubes, eye pencils, or lip liners start to get low, put them in your travel toiletry kit instead of trashing them. Because they’re mostly used up, they won’t weigh much, and you can discard them at the end of your trip.
23. Use empty prescription bottles for cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other small necessities.
24. If you’re traveling with someone else, coordinate with him or her to share common items such as toothpaste or shampoo—that way you’re not wasting suitcase space by doubling up.
25. To freshen up your hair after a long flight, pack a travel-size bottle of dry shampoo in your carry-on or personal item.
26. Pack an oven mitt to put around your curling iron or straightener. That way you won’t have to wait around for your device to cool off before you pack it and get going.
27. While you can use pill organizers for vitamins and supplements, leave your prescription medications in their original labeled containers to avoid raising flags at customs or security.
28. When traveling with medications, pack a few days’ extra in case you lose a pill or your return home is unexpectedly delayed.
29. If you wear glasses, pack a spare pair in case your current ones are lost or broken during your trip. If you wear contacts, bring a few more than you think you’ll need.
30. It’s always a good idea to pack bandages, painkillers, and other basic first-aid items. Buy a travel-size first-aid kit or create your own.
31. Pack a tennis or lacrosse ball; you can roll it under the soles of your feet or along your back muscles to ease aches and pains during your trip.
32. Taking a long flight? Make sure you pack the following key items in your carry-on or personal item: earbuds or headphones, an eye mask to help you sleep, a travel pillow, and hand sanitizer to use before meals.
33. Create your own in-flight kit to stay hydrated with items such as lip balm, lotion, facial mist, lubricating eye drops, saline nasal spray, and sheet masks for your face.
34. If you have food allergies or intolerances, pack a few safe nonperishable snacks that you can eat in a pinch.
35. Short travelers whose feet dangle uncomfortably on airplane or train seats should consider packing an inflatable footrest.
36. If your back (or backside!) often hurts after long flights and car rides, it might be worth investing in an inflatable seat cushion.
37. Pack gum in your personal item. Chewing it can relieve ear pressure during takeoff and landing, and the minty flavor can help mask bad breath after an in-flight nap.
38. Taking a road trip? Pack an emergency kit that includes jumper cables, first-aid supplies, a flashlight, a blanket, a tire pressure gauge, a selection of tools, and nonperishable snacks such as energy bars.
39. Consider packing a whistle or personal alarm for safety, especially if you’re traveling alone.
40. Never put valuable or essential items in a checked bag. Things like passports, smartphones, tablets, computers, e-readers, cameras, house/car keys, prescription medicines, credit cards, and jewelry should all go in your carry-on or personal item so there’s no chance the airline will lose them.
41. Before traveling overseas, check your devices to be sure they will run properly on the voltage of the country you’re visiting. Most smartphones, tablets, laptops, and e-readers will; many hair dryers and curling irons will not, unless you buy one with dual voltage.
42. Pack a universal adapter with multiple USB ports so you can charge all your gadgets at once overseas.
43. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car, pack a multi-port USB charger that will keep your devices powered up using the vehicle’s cigarette lighter.
44. Use a hardside glasses case for items such as jewelry or charging cords.
45. Try to avoid putting breakable items in your checked luggage, either by putting them in your carry-on or having them shipped instead. If there’s no good alternative, wrap the items well with clothing.
46. Pack a sheet or two of bubble wrap so you can cushion any fragile souvenirs you might buy.
47. Use a pill organizer to keep your jewelry from tangling.
48. Loop each necklace you want to pack through a drinking straw and fasten it; this will keep it from getting tangled.
49. An electronics organizer can keep your charging cords and earbuds tidy and separate from each other.
50. If you and your travel companion are both checking bags, include some of your clothes in your companion’s bag and vice versa. That way you’ll both have options if one suitcase is lost or delayed.