Back when I was a young traveler who cared more about how I looked than the weight of my suitcase, I used to bring practically everything I owned on trips. How did I know what I would feel like wearing on any given day? The first time we went to Europe I brought 2 large suitcases for a 10 day trip because I thought I needed shoes to match every outfit. That ended up being a huge mistake. I’ve learned a lot since then and want to share my tips with you. Here is what I recommend.
Keep a toiletry bag packed and ready to go. Part of my packing system involves having a toiletry bag packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Buy a case and fill with travel sizes of shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. The minute you return from a trip, top off shampoo bottles, or anything else you may have used and restock what you need for your next trip. If you have run out of something and need to buy another one, do it now while it is fresh in your mind. When it is time to leave again, all you have to do is grab and go.
Bring a garbage bag for dirty clothes and a smaller plastic bag for wet bathing suits or muddy shoes. Pack shoes in plastic bags.
Invest in travel packing gear. Several years ago my husband and I went on an organized tour of Ireland. We were only allowed to bring one suitcase each for a two week trip, which threw us into a panic. My husband began researching packing and we ended up purchasing the following items: Eagle Creek pack-it garment folders for shirts and pants, packing cubes for underwear and socks, portable vacuum packs we could roll clothes in and then roll the air out of, as well as blow up hangers and a small bottle of laundry detergent to wash out clothing in the hotel sink if need be.
Chose your outfits ahead of time. Check the weather at your destination before you leave and decide what to wear each day. Lay out each day’s outfit with underwear, socks, shoe, jewelry, whatever you need for that outfit. Repeat for the number of days you’ll be gone. Throw in an extra days outfit for “just in case”. The really nice thing about this packing system is you won’t get someplace and waste time figuring out what to wear each day.Add swimsuit, robe, pjs, workout clothes, shoes. Lay out everything on a bed or table. Decide what you will wear the day you travel, and set aside. Plan to wear your bulkiest shoes and coat.
Once you have all of your outfits figured out, separate tops and bottoms into two stacks. These will be folded into the pack-it garment folder product. The packing instructions are on the plastic sheet that is used for folding. See how it works below. The instruction sheet goes on top of the pile of clothes before closing the flaps. This system keeps your clothing folded, and takes up less room than if they were loose.
Use packing cubes for underwear and socks. Some even have two sides, one for clean and one for dirty. Roll them up and line them up in the cube and you can see at a glance what is in there. I also use a medium size cube for everything I need for swimming such as swimsuit, coverup plastic bag for after, and flip flops.
Once you have all of your clothing packed into the appropriate containers it will look something like this: Note that I kept a few things out of the folders and planned to stash them in extra nooks and crannies in the suitcase.To pack your suitcase: start with placing any loose items in bottom of suitcase. (For me this was sleepwear and exercise clothing.) Next put in your toiletries bag. Because mine is large and heavy, I make sure that will be on the bottom of the suitcase when I pull it through the airport.
Fit smaller cubes around it. The pack-it folders that contain my shirts and pants go in next. Tuck any extras into open spaces.
Below is the finished product with room to spare! (Just an FYI, that never used to happen.)Oh, I almost forgot, my husband’s idea which is probably the best one of all! Use one small packing cube for cords, chargers, and electronic stuff. This proved to be invaluable on my last trip as every night we needed to recharge our phones, camera battery, iPads plus download pictures from my camera to my iPad. It was so convenient to have all electronic stuff together. Cubes can also be used to organize items in your carry-on.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it really doesn’t take a ton of time, just a bit of forethought. The great thing about this system is that you know exactly where everything is in your suitcase, which means less time in your hotel room and more time out enjoying your trip.