Top 15 Travel Packing Tips from a Full-Time Travel Blogger

Travel Packing Tips blog post cover image.  Text overlaying an image various items ready to be packed for a trip.

The tickets are booked, the vacation is planned, and the easy part is over… right? Until it is the night before your flight and you realize you have no idea what to pack!

Packing can be a very stressful thing, especially for people who don’t get to do it often. Anything left behind is something you will be without for your entire holiday and in the worst scenarios, is irreplaceable.

Below are the top 10 travel packing tips gleaned from a decade of stressful last-minute trips where packing efficiently and effectively was paramount.

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Packing Tip 1 – Print a Travel Packing Checklist

Creating a travel packing list is perhaps the most important of the travel packing tips.  Graphic of our free printable travel packing list.

Every trip has some absolute essential items you always need to bring. 

To ensure you don’t forget anything, our most important travel packing tip is to create (or find) a printable checklist with the items you will need to pack and the things you will need to do before every trip.

This means the true essentials. 

Your list should include the items you cannot be without, such as medications, extra contact lenses, and so on. For us, that includes all of our camera gear including spare memory cards, batteries, and filters.

It should also include action items for the things you need to do before leaving your home. These are things like turning off the thermostat, checking outlets, setting up travel alerts with your bank, and so on.

Having a printable checklist that you can tick off as you go will not only ensure you remember everything important, but it will also help you relieve stress and feel confident that you have everything you need.

If you do not want to spend time coming up with one on your own, we have created a one-size-fits-all version that you can print and download using the button below.

Packing Tip 2 – Print a Trip-Specific Checklist

Landscape photo with a tall palm over vibrant turquoise water and white sand at Lanikai Beach, Oahu.  Travel packing tips: create a trip specific packing list depending on where you're going.
Packing for tropical beaches in Hawaii will be very different from a trip to photograph the northern lights!

The essentials checklist in our #1 travel packing tip is the one that you will use every time you go anywhere. It includes the things you will always need to do and bring prior to traveling.

With those out of the way, there will be some other things that you will specifically need to bring based on the location or type of trip you are planning. After all, you do not pack the same way for Iceland and Hawaii!

The second travel packing tip is to research and create a second checklist that includes the items you need to remember and/or order specifically for this trip.

Staying with our previous example, Hawaii will not allow sunscreen that is not reef-safe. Accordingly, you would want to make sure you have reef-safe sunscreen on your checklist, as well as perhaps waterproof bags to protect phones and electronics from corrosive salt water spray, and so on.

Printable Hawaii Packing List
Create a trip-specific list, such as our Hawaii Packing List.

If you happen to be going to Hawaii, we have actually created this entire Hawaii Packing List guide with a printable checklist and everything you need to know already!

Packing Tip 3 – Check Airline Luggage Fees

A plane descends between palm trees.  Travel packing tips: check airline luggage requirements.

Different airlines offer different inclusions when it comes to luggage. While some may include a checked bag with your ticket price, others charge more even for carry-on luggage. You will, therefore, want to confirm what luggage you have included with your ticket price.

This is especially important for travel on budget airlines, such as Spirit in the US and Ryan Air in Europe, as they will typically not include even carry-on luggage, and when luggage is included it is typically a much smaller size and weight allowance.

If you need to add luggage to your ticket, you will usually get a better rate doing so in advance. Paying for extra luggage or weight at the airport can add up very quickly and large fees at the airport is not the best start to your vacation.

Packing Tip 4 – Use Packing Cubes

Of all the travel packing tips, this one is our favorite! Packing cubes are the thing most underrated by novice travelers. They are one of the simplest, yet most powerful travel packing tools available.

First, packing cubes save a ton of space. You will be shocked at how much you can actually fit!

Second, packing cubes help you keep your suitcase well-organized. When you are on the go and living out of a suitcase or backpack, having your clothes and items compartmentalized makes it easy to find that one cord or shirt you are looking for without having to take everything out.

Packing cubes are also very affordable and something you only need to buy once. Use the button below for our recommendation.

Bonus Travel Packing Tip: Roll clothes to save space, even in the packing cubes! You will be amazed at how much more you can fit by rolling over folding.

Packing Tip 5 – Buy an Airline-Approved Carry-On Luggage Set

At this point, airlines have standardized the acceptable dimensions of carry-on luggage, and it is really quite large. Better still, most include it within the ticket price.

In addition, passengers are typically allowed to have a “personal item” on them as well which includes anything from a handbag to a backpack.

There are a few good reasons to pack for a trip into carry-on luggage only. The most obvious is the price as airlines typically charge anywhere from $30-$80+ for checked bags. Another thing to consider is that checked bags can get lost, and this can have a massive impact on your life, not just your vacation. Finally, it saves time waiting for your checked luggage on arrival so you can maximize your holiday time!

If you pack well, use cubes as recommended, and purchase a maximum-sized carry-on luggage set, you should be able to pack for most non-arctic climates without having to check bags.

You can find the same affordable, full-sized luggage set that we use with the button below.

Packing Tip 6 – Pack all Chargers, Valuables, & Irreplaceable Essentials in CARRY ON ONLY

Travel packing tips: Pack valuable items in carry-on luggage.
Valuable and irreplaceable items are ready to be packed into carry-on luggage.

This is an important one! 

When packing for your trip, ask yourself two questions:

Q1: If I check a bag and it does not arrive, what things can I not be without for even a few days? 

Q2: If my bag gets lost forever or items go missing, what things are irreplaceable?

Regarding question 1, the obvious items are things like medications, contacts/glasses, phone or laptop chargers for work trips, and so on.  

With question 2, this could be things like jewelry, equipment, hard drives, etc.

It is rare that things go missing or that bags don’t turn up at all, but it does happen. Be sure you pack these items ONLY in your carry-on to ensure there is no chance of starting your trip without something important or losing it altogether.

We recommend using an electronics organizer to help keep your chargers, headphones, etc. tidy within your carry-on. Additionally, a small medication bag is ideal for keeping all of your medications safely in one place.

Packing Tip 7 – Box Out Space for Souvenirs

Leaving empty space for souvenirs is one of the best travel packing tips.
Keep some empty space in your suitcase for souvenirs!

Of all the travel packing tips on this list, this one may seem the most obscure! If you are planning on shopping or bringing home souvenirs, put an empty box in your luggage.

While this seems strange, it will ensure you will have at least as much space available for the return trip for items that you pick up on vacation.  By adding a box rather than just leaving empty space, it avoids your items moving around in your bag which can cause things to break or become wrinkled.

You can simply discard the box (recycle please!) when you arrive.

As an added benefit, any traveler will tell you that getting everything back into a suitcase is always harder than packing the first time. This travel packing tip also guarantees you have a little extra space when it comes time to get your personal articles back into your luggage.

Packing Tip 8 – Bring a Wearable Accessory to the Airport for Safe and Easy Access to Documents

Getting through the airport becomes easy with practice, but is very stressful at first.

You will be frequently pulling out passports, IDs, cards, phones, boarding passes, etc throughout the process of getting through the airport and onto your plane. 

Be sure to use a wearable travel document organizer. This can be a fanny pack, over-the-shoulder purse, or any other accessory that is well-guarded while also being accessible and convenient.

Personally, I just use a fanny pack when I travel. In it, I keep my wallet, passport, boarding pass, phone, charging cable, headphones, and a contact case/glasses so that I can access these important items easily both at the airport and on a long flight.

Bonus Tip: Be sure to download your airline provider’s app! These days, many planes do not provide onboard entertainment but instead provide a free app with movies and shows to watch from your phone. If you do not have it downloaded, you may be without!

Packing Tip 9 – Packing Order Matters!

A woman sat on the floor next to a suitcase organizing clothes to pack for a trip.  One of the most important travel packing tips; packing order matters.

Before packing everything into your suitcase, think first about what you will want to wear for your flight. Then, think about the first items you will likely be accessing or need to have on you at all times.

Leave out the exact clothes and shoes you will be wearing to the airport.  It is frustrating when you realize your cozy flight pants are packed and you’ll have to dig them out just after getting everything put away!

Similarly, think about any items you already know you will need. For me, it is a contact lens case and glasses for long-haul flights where I will be sleeping, as well as a phone charger.

If you really have the foresight, think about the first outfit you will wear on arrival and pack that last so it is on the top and easily accessible. This is even more valuable if traveling with kids! Whether you’re planning on immediately hitting the pool or getting ready for bed, having everything you need near the top will make it so much easier upon arrival.

Packing Tip 10 – Place Heaviest Items at the Base (where the wheels are)

Most people never consider weight distribution when packing for a trip, but it can be an important thing to note.

Make sure you pack the heaviest items at the base of your suitcase where the wheels are!

This is important for two reasons:

  1. The bag will be easiest to roll when the weight is at the bottom, near the wheels. 
  2. You do not want heavy items crushing your other belongings, causing creases in clothing, or potentially compromising the integrity of containers holding liquids.

Packing Tip 11 – Choose Solid Toiletries

Consider replacing liquids with solid forms when possible. Not only are these more eco-friendly, they also take up less space and weight, and help to avoid a liquid explosion. Plus, they don’t count towards your liquid allowance if packing only carry-on luggage.

While this started as one of the best travel packing tips, it’s actually been great for everyday life too! Solid toiletries mean having less clutter in the bathroom and helping to protect the planet.

Below are some of our favorites that we still use even when we’re not traveling:

Packing Tip 12 – Seal All Liquids

Most people will still need to pack some liquids, so make sure they’re well sealed! This may seem to be one of the more obvious travel packing tips, but still, one many people forget.

Liquids that leak in your bag can have horrible consequences. Imagine the damage that cologne, perfume, shampoo, or lotions seeping into your clothes and electronics could cause. Even if the lids are on, pressure changes in flight can cause them to burst or break.

On a personal note, I once had the spray top on a cologne bottle get crushed so that it was slowly seeping out the entire journey. For the entire vacation, I smelled like a desperate college kid on a first date!

So don’t just rely on lids and bottles! Make sure liquids are secured so that even if the container failed, the liquids themselves do not contaminate your clothes and belongings.

One of the best ways to prevent this is with LeakLocks Toiletry Skins. These reusable toiletry skins provide leakproof covers that fit both travel and standard-sized containers.

If you prefer a DIY method, follow these steps:

  • Take off the container’s lid.
  • Cover the top with a small piece of plastic (plastic wrap or a small cut-out piece of plastic bag work well).
  • Replace the lid over the plastic, thus providing a seal.

If you’re unable to remove the lid, you can also use tape to keep it closed.

Packing Tip 13 – Weigh Your Bags

Before leaving for the airport, ensure you’ve checked the weight of your packed bags to avoid additional charges. Make sure you know the luggage allowances for your airline and ticket (see travel packing tips #3) and ensure your bags fit within these parameters.

You can do this with an inexpensive suitcase weight scale. Alternatively, if you have bathroom scales, weigh yourself with your suitcase, then just yourself. Deduct your weight from the combined weight to work out the weight of your suitcase.

Packing Tip 14 – Wear Your Bulkiest Items on the Plane

Ok so you don’t need to go full on Joey (yep, Friends nerd over here), but it is worth wearing a couple of your heavier items of clothing!

This is particularly important if you’re traveling to a cold destination. Winter jackets and boats take up a lot of space and weight in your bags which can be saved by wearing them on the plane. As well as saving you time, jacket pockets are useful for stashing away other heavy or delicate items (such as cameras!).

Once on the plane, you can always kick your shoes off and place your jacket in the overhead bin or roll it up into a makeshift pillow!

Additionally, airplanes tend to be cold so it’s worth wearing long pants and a sweater to keep comfy on the journey.

Packing Tip 15 – Make Sure You Can Identify Your Luggage

You may think it’s pretty obvious which bag is yours, until you’re staring at black suitcase after black suitcase coming around the belt. You’ve even bought a brightly colored suitcase, just to discover someone else had the same idea!

Even if you’re certain you can spot your own bag, you’d be surprised how often people carelessly grab the wrong one. Make sure your bag is easy to spot by adding a unique luggage identifier to it.

You can go all-out and buy a suitcase cover or keep it simpler with luggage straps. Alternatively, if you prefer something you can do with what you have at home, tie some brightly colored ribbons to your handle or draw on your suitcase with a sharpie!

Additionally, make sure you have a luggage tag on it with your name and contact information just in case your bag decides to go wandering off on its own adventure. This will also add another identifier to your bag to make it easier to spot.

Resources for Planning Your Trip

Ready for your next adventure? Here are our favorite resources and travel tips:

Flights: We always check Skyscanner first. Their flexible search functions make it easy to find the best and cheapest flights.

Accommodation: For hotels, our favorite platform is Booking as they consistently offer the best prices, along with their genius program and mobile discounts. For local stays, we love VRBO.

Rental Cars: Compare car rental prices and find the best price with no hidden costs on Rental Cars.

Tours and Airport Transfers: From airport transfers to day tours and multi-day tours, we use GetYourGuide and Viator. Both have an excellent range of tours, but often offer slightly different options so we like to check both!

Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home before you’ve ensured you’re covered for both medical and travel emergencies. World Nomads is a great option for protection against unforeseen events.

Camera Gear: You can find everything we have in our camera bag here, but the main camera we use for most of our photos is the Sony a7riii with a 24-105mm lens.

Packing: We never pack our bags without packing cubes! They help organize your gear and make everything easier to access. We also always carry a mini first-aid kit. You can find our favorite travel essentials on our Amazon Shop.

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Top 15 travel packing tips from a full-time travel blogger.  Don't miss these important tips for maximizing your space, saving money, and having an incredible vacation!

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