Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Top Ten Travel Packing Tips

The next class I’m teaching at University of Texas Informal Classes is Travel Packing.  This is a three hour class that is jam packed full of ideas for minimizing what you carry and how much you pay to carry it!  There are so many reasons to KISS (Keep it Small, Silly!).
  • Saves you on fees at the airport (including airline fees and renting a dolly)
  • Allows you greater mobility when you are moving from place to place
  • Reduces the amount of stress to your body (you don’t want to throw something out while you’re on vacation!)
  • Leaves room for souvenirs
  • Gives you more control over your inventory (why carry dead weight?)
  • Reduces the possibility of lost luggage.
  • Reduces the possibility of damage to your luggage (and contents)
With all this in mind, here are some of the hacks I use on each trip to keep the weight and size of my luggage down to a minimum and my organization at peak!


I have found that what works best for me isn’t always what works best for the next person.  However, having said this, between what I use (a carryon and a shoulder bag) and what my last trip partner used (a Rick Steves bag/backpack and an additional daypack), I was the more flexible and less stressed of the two of us.  So, my recommendation to you is just that:  A shoulder bag and carryon.  Make sure that you check with your airline’s luggage information page to make sure your bags are the proper dimensions.

Label your bags.  Make sure each bag has an external and internal label.  That way, if the bag is lost or the tag ripped off, there is still information inside the bag to locate you by.

Don't check your bags if at all possible.  This saves you airline fees, lost or damaged luggage, and worry in case your flight is cancelled.  Recently, I was at an airport where my flight was cancelled due to weather.  I had my bag with me to quickly get onto another flight whereas others who had checked bags had a heck of a time locating their luggage before getting it onto another flight.  You'll also save time by not having to pick anything up at the luggage carousel after your flight.

Don’t Pack Anything You Can’t Afford to Lose

You’re going overseas – possibly for an extended period of time.  Leave the Rollex watch, the diamond studded tiara, and your Jimmy Choos at home!

Use your SmartPhone

The SmartPhone is one of the greatest travel hacks you could ever take advantage of! It takes pictures and video, you can audio record your travel journal instead of handwriting it, there are apps you can use to figure out everything from train times to museum opening times and bus stops, you have a built-in GPS, and wonder of wonders… you can use it as a phone!  Please see my article on “To SIM or Not to SIM”.  This should help you understand how to get your own phone to work overseas without paying your service provider an arm and a leg on this side of the pond!

Pack in the Order You Need to Remove Things

Pack things I need to get to in a hurry in your shoulder bag.  You don’t want to have to pull down your suitcase from the overhead bin, unzip the pockets (internal and external) trying to find something last minute.  So, keep it easy.  Your shoulder bag will be under the seat in front of you.  Things you might want to get to in a hurry are:
  • My tripbook (which includes event tickets, travel insurance, itinerary, lodging information, etc.)
  • Passport
  • Camera
  • Reading material
  • Medications

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes keep your clothing (and anything else) organized and neat.  Typically, packing cubes are made of a mesh or breathable material and can be purchased online and in stores.  But why do that when you can just save those tough plastic zip bags that your sheets and blankets come in and use those? 

The benefit of these cubes is that if you need something (such as underwear or a shirt), you just pick up the “underwear cube” or the “shirt cube” rather than rummaging through your entire suitcase looking for what you need.

Pack for Multi Use

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have multi-purpose items in your suitcase!  If you have a pair of hiking pants that have zippered legs, you can transform the hiking pants to hiking shorts!

That’s two pairs of pants for the packing equivalent of one.

Instead of purchasing a lined jacket, bring a fleece jacket plus a waterproof jacket.  Now, if it’s raining, but warm, you have the waterproof jacket.  If it’s cold and raining, you slide the waterproof jacket on after donning your fleece jacket.  If it’s cold and not raining, just use the fleece jacket without the waterproof jacket.  In any eventuality, you are covered!

For Snoring

If you have a travel partner who snores, you can reduce the amount of “awake” time you spend by:
  • Bringing noise canceling earbuds for your smartphone (which you’ve loaded with lovely music to sleep by).
  • Bringing ear plugs

Pack Snacks

Don’t get caught hungry! There may be times you are unexpectedly in a place where food is scarce.  I typically pack trail mix or dried fruit, but ensure that you take care of your physical needs by packing a couple of bags of your favorite treats.

The Wonder of ZipLocs, Vacuum Bags, and Reusables

My greatest fun is to see how much of my leftovers at home can go to support my travel pack.  We’ve already discussed using old sheet/blanket zip bags as packing cubes, but other items you might consider include:
  • Old medicine bottles to store ear plugs, flash drives, and SIM cards
  • A Hefty trash bag for dirty laundry
  • Ziploc bags for liquids, makeup, and extras for your trip (you never know when you’ll need one!)
  • A space bag which reduces the volume of your clothing or other soft goods when you need that extra room for souvenirs!
  • A plastic shoe box (you can get them at Big Lots or other discount places). On my last trip, I took something fragile overseas and needed a way *not* to squish it.  So, I opted for one of these plastic containers.  Not ONLY did my fragile contents arrive safely, but fragile things I had bought overseas now had a safe hiding place for my trip home!  I’ll be using this again in my travel packs.


Take a picture of your suitcase and the items within.  If you do lose your bags, you’ll have the real photo to show the airline or train attendant as well as give them an idea of what was inside.  If you’re going to a foreign country, take pictures of your hotel and the street sign of the street you’re on. That way, if you don’t speak the language, you can show your taxi driver where to drop you off.


There are a lot of other hints, tips, and tricks you can use to pack by.  I watch a lot of YouTube videos as well as come up with things that just worked for me.  Note what works and what doesn’t because each trip you take is a learning experience and will take you through your next trip and the next.  You’ll get better and better with each travel pack, and more importantly, you’ll be making the most of your travel time!

Please feel free to share any of your own travel tips here.  I’m always looking for new things to try!

My UK 2016 Packed Luggage

1 comment:

  1. I think we traveled with a lot less luggage because we rented a house for a week and were able to wash our clothes rather than having to pack for 16 days. I'm fully addicted to that way of traveling. We carried on our ebags Junior weekenders and a small roller for gifts coming and going. Worked great and yep--no stress!