19 Packing Tips Frequent Travelers Swear By When Packing for a Trip

Packing for a trip may not be your idea of a fun time. It’s often tedious and stressful—but it really doesn’t have to be that bad. With a handful of great packing tips, you’ll learn how to pack in a way that makes your travel experience better, not worse. And who better to turn to for those tips than frequent travelers who have had their fair share of packing fails and wins?

I personally learned the hard way that traveling with excessive luggage can really weigh you down (literally) whether you’re flying or traveling by train or bus. I used to travel while holding a full-time job, so I only took three- to four-day trips. When I first transitioned to traveling for longer periods, I brought a 75-pound bag on a month-long trip to Europe only to find myself deeply regretting the decision when I had to lug it up several flights of stairs in old buildings with no elevators. You can bet I never made that mistake again, and now I make sure I can easily carry anything I pack.

There’s also the fact that luggage is expensive if you’re flying. Airlines seem to be charging more and more for checked bags, and some fare options can get you a great price but don’t allow even a carry-on. Learning how to pack efficiently can save you some serious cash.

As the saying goes, when packing for a trip, it’s best to take half the luggage and double the money. Of course, that’s easier said than done—especially for anyone who wants to look fashionable on a long-awaited vacation.

To help you pack with ease, here are 19 clever packing tips that frequent flyers and travel experts (including yours truly) swear by. First things first, though: Whether you’re looking for air travel packing tips, packing tips for international travel or domestic travel, or just ideas to use for a quick weekend getaway, it’s essential to travel as safely as possible with COVID-19 in mind. Here’s more information about the safest way to travel right now, including being fully vaccinated, masking up when recommended (like in crowded indoor venues), reading up on travel restrictions, and more. Now, on to those packing tips!

1. Bundle your outfits.

“We find it’s easier to pack outfits together,” Martha Villaroman, family travel blogger of Go Places With Kids and mom of three, tells SELF. “For example, roll your shirt, pants, underwear, and socks together to form one bundle. Then in the morning, you can quickly grab the bundle of clothes that you need.” Bonus: Rolling your clothes prevents wrinkles and allows you to easily identify items that you’ve packed.

2. Use packing cubes.

Packing cubes ($25, Amazon) help compress and separate your clothing and are your best ally for efficient suitcase packing. Organize cube contents by day according to your itinerary or by types of clothing. This helps keep your suitcase neat and keeps you from having to unfold and displace everything to locate one outfit. If you’re traveling with vintage or weather-sensitive clothing, consider a vacuum-sealed compression bag to protect your clothes during transit.

3. Opt for as many wrinkle-proof fabrics as possible.

“Our favorite and easiest packing tip for travel is to bring nonwrinkle clothing that doesn’t arrive all creased,” Mar Pages, cofounder of Solo Female Travelers Tours, tells SELF. “Consider these fabrics the next time you are shopping or packing for a trip: polyester, denim, wool, knits, spandex, and lyocell. Avoid 100% linen or linen-cotton blends, which are more wrinkle-prone.”

4. Buy solid toiletries.

“Liquids always take up the most space and tend to spill too,” Lavinia D’Sousa of Continent Hop tells SELF. They’re also a little annoying to pack if you’re only checking a bag and need everything to be TSA-compliant. D’Sousa’s solution? Opting for solid shampoo bars and soaps instead. You can buy solid perfume, makeup remover, bug balm, sunscreen, and even toothpaste tabs. If you are carrying liquids, try placing plastic wrap under the caps to minimize leaks.

5. Make your clothing multitask.

One of the most essential travel tips for packing light is to bring items that have multiple purposes. “The scarf or stole is the most versatile item you can carry,” D’Sousa says. “It can act as a sarong, a wrap for all your dirty clothes if needed, and you can wear it around your shoulders when covering up to visit a [religious location].” In general, bringing clothing items that you can wear for multiple occasions or mix and match with other items to create new outfits is a smart way to pack efficiently. The same concept applies to your hair tools and skin-care products—think: a 2-in-1 hair straightener and curler, a tint that can be used for blush and lipstick, and a soap that doubles as shaving cream.

6. Choose a clothing color scheme.

“As a full-time traveler with limited wardrobe space, I create a capsule wardrobe with items that effortlessly go together,” YouTuber Alina McLeod tells SELF. “That means choosing neutrals with one or two pops of color.” When everything coordinates, it’s easy to layer when you move between different places and changing weather. “This allows me to utilize all the items I bring instead of having four or five random outfits that don’t really mix,” McLeod adds.

7. Use the pillowcase hack.

Nina Ragusa of Where in the World Is Nina recommends a hack that has gained TikTok notoriety this year. Grab two pillowcases: one that zippers and one that doesn’t, she suggests. “Stuff clothes in the zippered pillowcase, then cover it with the regular pillowcase. Now you have more room in your bag for other items, you’ve got a pillow to sleep with on your flight, and you got to bring those 10 extra outfits you swear you’re actually going to wear.” This hack is great because most airlines don’t count a pillow as a carry-on, Ragusa explains.

8. Make a virtual packing list you can actually check off.

Of course you know a packing list might be helpful. But instead of one you simply look at and mentally cross off, make sure no essential travel item is left behind by preparing a packing list to actually cross off as you load your suitcase. Today, several apps make this easy, with premade themes and templates for activities like road trips or hiking. Popular apps include PackPoint, Packing Pro, and PackTeo.

9. Keep a toiletry go bag.

“Our packing tip is amazingly simple yet saves tons of time every time we pack,” Mikkel Woodruff of Sometimes Home tells SELF. “Each of us has a separate toiletries bag with travel-size products—including things like a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, eye drops, etc.—that’s always ready to pack in a travel backpack or our luggage.