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Tips to help with packing no matter where you are going

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Of everything involved with travel, packing can be one of the most stressful. I take two to three trips a month including weekend getaways, road trips and international journeys, so you’d think I’d have it down pat.  Well yes, I have learned a few tricks along the way.  And no, I tend to over pack.


Make a list


I have a master list on my computer that I tailor for each trip. I list everything from passport to camera bag; print it out and, as things go in my suitcase or travel purse, I check them off


Packing tools


Roll, don't fold your clothes. They'll take up less space and get less wrinkled.


And use packing cubes. I love packing cubes because they keep my suitcase organized especially if I am moving from hotel to hotel every night; one cube for jeans, one for tops, one for beach gear and so forth. They come in different sizes and colors so you can remember which pouch has what in it. This way I am not digging through the suitcase looking for a pair of socks. I know right where to look. 


Compression sacsPacking cubes


Compression bags


Compression bags are great especially if you are taking along a down jacket for example. You will have a small compact bundle instead of the jacket taking up valuable suitcase space.  Packing envelopes for medication, jewelry and other small items also help you stay organized.  Eagle Creek ( is one company offering packing aids. Their line of Pack-It organizers includes packing cubes, compression bags and packing envelopes.


Small plastic containers and padded pouches are also great to protect items you don’t want damaged in transit.


Weigh before you leave for the airport


If you’re flying, a valuable tool is a luggage scale. I always weigh my suitcase before I leave home to make sure I don’t go over the weight allowed as well as leave a few pounds to spare for souvenirs on the return flight.


So you have your list, your packing aids and your scale at the ready. Beyond the necessities, what to take?


What to pack


Keep your toiletry bag packed.  When you get home from a trip restock anything you are low on and put the bag with your luggage.  That’s one chore you won’t have to worry about when you start to prepare for a trip.


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Check the weather — day and evening. Do you need a jacket, coat or umbrella? Consider where you are staying and where you plan to eat; casual or upscale. What activities? Do you need your bathing suit, tennis whites or hiking boots?


Don’t over pack. I should have this embroidered and hung near my suitcases. This is the hardest rule to follow, but I am getting better.




Have fun!


Travel is a gift; an adventure. Making the packing process easy and efficient guarantees you’ll have everything you need to enjoy your time away from home





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I know what Marilyn means about not overpacking...I recently found a picture of us with our luggage on a 2-person trip to France 20 years ago: a pair of 32" suitcases and a flotilla of small ones around them. Of course, now that we pack Kindle instead of books, that's one down...and overall, we're down to not much luggage.


Another useful packing tool is gallon and 2-gallon ZipLoc-type bags (there are even larger sizes available!). Their big plus, aside from compression and sealing is that you can see just what you've got where.



The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Very useful reminders Marilyn, thanks. Absolutely agree with "don't over-pack" (I still do and get cross with myself when I have unused items at the end of the trip. And yes, Kindles, packing cubes and ZipLoc bags have made great additions to my bag in recent years.


Two other thoughts occur:

1) fast drying travel clothing (wash and wear overnight) helps lighten the load

2) don't pack every last item of shampoo, tea bags, snacks etc etc in the belief that you can't possibly buy x x x-thing in a foreign land - when actually you can get it all, and often, better! (I don't know if this is just a 'Brit thing')

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  Henry Miller

Adding to Mac's point. A big turning point for us was when we started packing for 7 days, no matter how much longer the trip. Usually we have a washer in the apartments we rent, but when not, there's always a laundromat nearby, and usually one that will wash and fold while we tour.


We don't often enough change locations to want to keep everything packed (and anyway, I'm a compulsive unpacker) so some of the tools are less useful to us...but I do remind everyone that shoes are actually containers for socks and the like...nothing goes empty!


We usually start with a baggie of our favorite tea bags, but then we hit the local grocery to see what different brands there are of things. And, at the end of the trip, we hit the discount supermarket for a big brick of pocket packs of tissues. Much stronger and cheaper than the ones we get here, and the 30 or so packs just squeeze into all the leftover space.


Three weeks in Europe, and our souvenirs are kleenex and earrings...hmmm

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Great tips! PHeymont's suggestion of using a laundromat is really useful and the cost is usually just a little bit more than what a luggage locker would be anyway. I have noticed that carry-on bags people  are taking are getting smaller and much easier to handle.

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

An excellent and useful post, Marilyn!  Part of how I pack depends on where I'm traveling.  For example, if I'm on a road trip with a car that has a large trunk, I don't really need to economize with my packing.  I can take everything along that I might need and not have to deal with the hassle of laundry and such while on the road.


If I'm on a trip of a week or less, I never take more than a carry-on bag and my laptop bag.  Longer trips get a little trickier because often I need special equipment (eg. hiking boots, gaiters, layers of clothes, etc).  Even though 'less is more'.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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