20 Packing Hacks of Travel Bloggers
Fun is preparing for vacation. Stressful is attempting to pack for one.
A recent survey of 2,000 Americans, conducted by OnePoll and Nordstrom's Trunk Club, found that 65 percent of people find packing difficult. And the headaches don't end there:
- A third of respondents said they pack within 24 hours of a trip, with last-minute decision-making contributing to their stress.
- 62 percent of travelers admitted that they overpacked.
- Three of five respondents fessed up to having to purchase something while on their trip.
- Another 25 percent said there were items they packed that they never used. (The things most often unworn include jackets, socks, long-sleeved shirts, shoes, sweatshirts and jeans.)
Packing lists are a dime a dozen, so why are Americans having such trouble packing?
Instead of providing you with another packing list, we turned to the experts: travel writers and bloggers who spend a lot of time on the road, and know from extensive experience what to bring and how to minimize.
Check out their following go-to hacks to achieve packing bliss. Or, at the very least, a little less packing anxiety.
"I always travel with a sarong. I’ve worn mine as a swimsuit cover-up and a shawl, used it as a towel and a picnic blanket, hung it as a curtain in uncovered windows, covered up with it like a blanket, and probably more."
Jennifer Ambrose of Passions and Places
"I get shampoo sample packets (not bottles) at a beauty supply store. They pack flat, are sealed and can be tossed. I think you can get powdered toothpaste, too, for carry on."
Kara Mickelson of Style Delicious
"I practice 'throwaway packing.' I save my on-its-last-legs clothing in a special drawer for when I travel, and then I wear the item one last time and throw it away. (Note: I don't actually throw it away in the garbage — it usually makes its way to a donation bin or lost and found.)
"I love doing this because I travel with only one carry-on bag. Having a few 'throwaway' items means that I have some variety in my wardrobe at the beginning of the trip and once they are gone, my pack is a bit lighter and I have room for conference materials or souvenirs. I've also done this for make-up and skin-care samples, earrings I hate, even shoes."
Vanessa Chiasson of Turnip Seed Travel
"I keep my rolls organized in packing cubes, so that I don't need to shuffle through my whole bag just to find a shirt — I can just open up the 'shirts' cube and see all of my neat little rolls right there waiting to be worn. As a backpacker, this kept me sane during my year-long honeymoon, because every few nights I was unpacking in a new hostel, and throwing five neatly organized packing cubes into a locker is SO much easier than trying to dig through my giant backpack to find a wrinkled shirt!"
Lia Garcia of Practical Wanderlust
"Extra gallon-sized Ziploc bags can also be used if you can't afford packing cubes. Parents [can use them] to pack each child's outfits so they are easy to find, label and distribute each day."
Melissa Marie of Arizona Central
"Instead of packing cubes, I am obsessed with compression bags that you simply roll to squeeze the air out. They offer the same organizational benefits of the cubes, but take all of the air out of your clothing so you can actually pack more in less space. Plus the bags are clear, so you can see everything that’s in them.
"It’s amazing how much air gets trapped in sweaters and sweatshirts and even dresses. Compression bags also help prevent your clothing from smelling musty if you’re staying in a beachside bungalow, for instance. I literally can’t travel without them!"
Jill Schildhouse of Jill Schildhouse
Toiletries at the Ready
"I keep my toiletry bag always packed — the toiletries part always seems to be the most time-consuming part of packing, and now I don't have to worry about it. When I get home from a trip, I note what I'm out of or running low on, but otherwise it goes straight from the suitcase and into the closet, packed already for the next trip. As a frequent traveler, this is the single biggest game changer I've come across."
Sarah Stodola of Flung Magazine
"I use the app PackPoint to help me not only remember everything before I go, but to make sure I remember everything as I move from one location to another — to check my hotel room for anything I’ve forgotten."
Jessica Gately, freelance writer
Bring a Scarf
"I always pack one or two scarves, which are versatile enough to spice up an outfit, and function as a bathing suit cover up, blanket on the plane/train, picnic blanket or shawl."
Kaeli Conforti of The Points Guy
Less Is More
"I have two reversible dresses — they are lightweight and dry quickly, and usually all you need for evening meals, at least."
Fiona Tapp of Fiona Tapp
Jot It Down
"I write out my full packing list before I start packing. (What can I say, I’m a list-maker!) I find I’m way less likely to forget anything that way, and it makes it easier to decide what to cut if I need to pare it down. It also helps me see if I need to buy or fix anything before I go."
Jennifer Ambrose of Passions and Places
"I always pack a thin cotton or canvas bag in an accessible place in my carry-on. It doesn't take up much space, but it often comes in handy. I use it to keep my dirty clothes separate. It also saved the day when I bought too many souvenirs — I stashed my everyday cross-body purse and the extra stuff into the tote, then carried it on as a personal item. It can also be used as a beach or pool bag!"
Leandra Beabout of Leandra Beabout
Take a Picture
"Take a photo of your suitcase and the contents just in case your bag is lost and you need to file a claim. Interior photos help when you need to itemize contents for a claim report."
Nancy D Brown of NancyBrown.com
Prepare for the Worst
"[Having had] too much experience with unexpected stays without checked luggage, I’ve learned to pack my carry-on with a change of undies and extra T-shirt, plus plugs, socks, earbuds, an empty water bottle and makeup."
Rebekah West of Wonder Spaces
"I put sunscreen, makeup, moisturizer, etc. into contact-lens containers so I can take them in my carry-on. [This ensures] no leaks, and there doesn’t even seem to be a need to put them in your liquids bag."
Johanna Read of Travel Eater
"To prevent shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. from opening and leaking all over my clothes or the inside of a Ziploc bag, I just take off the lid, rip a piece off a plastic bag, put it over the top of the bottle, and then screw the lid back on. That way, even if the lid flips open in transit, nothing will get past the plastic."
Keridwen Cornelius, freelance journalist
Except the Kitchen Sink
"I always pack a flat, rubber sink stopper, which I use for sink laundry, soaking clothes, steaming my face or the occasional bathtub that doesn't have a decent stopper."
Maggie Downsof MaggieDowns.com
"I always try to pack basics in one color only. Example: black pants and shoes. Then I add tops to mix and match and dress up or dress down. I never take anything I would be heartbroken to lose. I try to pack fabrics that fold tiny and do not require ironing and, because I really don't love packing or unpacking, I aim for minimalism."
Susan Manlin Katzman of SweetLeisure
"I roll all of my clothes rather than fold them, and sometimes I roll them together in a giant roll rather than rolling each individually. It saves a ton of space in my suitcase and it ensures that my clothing doesn't get wrinkly! It also makes the packing (and unpacking) process faster."
Lia Garcia of Practical Wanderlust
"I wear my bulkiest items on the plane and limit myself to one pair of shoes (sometimes two if the second pair is like flip-flops or something else very small), wear most things twice (unless it's a hot climate) and make sure every item goes with something else."
Katie Hammel of Far & Wide