Do you love to travel, or do you dread it? For many people, travel is fun, except for the packing part. What to take, what to leave, how will I know if I have everything I’ll need? There’s a fine line between packing too much and not packing enough. Here are seven of my favorite tips to make packing quick and easy.
- Use a packing list. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of what I need to pack, and over the years, I’ve added and subtracted items until I created my Ultimate Packing List. I’ve refined it with items I can’t forget, and I also learn to strike off things I never use. The list template I start with has everything I could possibly need on it, and when a trip comes up, I can print it double-sided and cross out anything I won’t need for that particular trip (like not taking Disney World gear to a conference in Tennessee!) I love it because I never forget anything important as long as I check my list. I’ve made a generic version of my spreadsheet for you, and you can find it here. The spreadsheet document can be opened in Excel or OpenOffice so you can customize it to suit your needs.
- Pack as light as possible. After lugging a too-heavy duffle bag all over the airport during a long flight delay, I had to really ask myself if I was packing smart. As soon as I got home from that trip, I shopped around for a small wheeled case that fits under the seat of most airlines and doesn’t require me to kill my shoulders hauling it around the airport. Its small size also limits what I can carry! Ask yourself, “Do I really need this? If I need it, am I willing to cart it around? Can I find a suitable alternative at my destination?” Most items can easily be found at your destination, and few things are really a necessity in the first place.
- Trim your wardrobe. Pack a simple collection of outfits — only 2 to 3 days worth, choosing fabrics that are quick dry, wrinkle resistant, and that coordinate in colors so you can mix and match. I like to pack black, white and then either red or cobalt blue for a pop of color. Many places have laundry facilities available (especially if you’re staying with family or friends,) and sink washing in a hotel is a snap. Use accessories to dress up your simple wardrobe for maximum impact. Limit the number of shoes you have to carry as well — they’re bulky and take up a lot of room in your bag. Make sure at least one pair is super comfy for those long travel days.
- Tuck a reusable tote bag that folds up into a small package into your suitcase. I find them useful for souvenir shopping, for taking necessities down to the pool, for laundry, and many more uses. They come in very handy!
- BYOB (blanket… and pillow). I admit, I get a little weird about traveling, especially in hotels and on planes, and I like to have my own pillow and blanket. For compactness, I made myself a travel pillow and pillowcases out of scrap fabric and pillow stuffing — large enough to comfortably sleep on, but so smushy it easily crams into my bag. I also have a no-sew fleece blanket that rolls small but is warm and cozy.
- Corral your in-flight (or in-car) necessities. Pack small must-haves in a resealable gallon-size bag or small tote that you can keep handy when your suitcase is sealed up. I like to keep my iPhone and earbuds, my iPad Mini, my glasses, some baby wipes, a snack and a refillable water bottle. Add in your wallet and any must-have medications as well.
- Set your luggage apart. Lots of people have plain black suitcases, so bling yours out a little so you recognize it at a glance. Colored duct tape (arranged in your initial perhaps) or a few brightly colored zip ties are more durable than ribbons or fancy luggage tags. Best bet: get a suitcase in an unusual color.
What are your favorite travel tips? I’d love to hear them — post them in the comments below!