Let me ask you a few questions. How many times have you gone on a trip and realized either halfway there or after arriving that you forgot something (usually important)? How many times have you had to fork out extra money because you packed too much? How many times have you had to either forgo shopping or throw some things out because you didn't have enough room in your suitcase to bring new stuff home? How many times have you used a larger suitcase than necessary because you packed more than you actually used on the trip? How many of you are guilty of all of those? Yeah, me too. I used to be a chronic over-packer who always forgot something important like medicine or underwear. Sure, you can buy most things when you get to a destination but it's just a waste of money, especially since you have everything you need. I also used to be a space-wasting packer. My methods were amateur and needed some definite improvement. Today, I rarely forget anything and I always have extra room left in my suitcase. These are my tried and true tips to packing smart.
1. Make a list. My friend Katie over at Arrivederci has the best packing printables that I've ever used and I've used a lot over the last few years. It's a 3-page document starting with your ultimate checklist. It has everything from basics like undergarments and t-shirts to important documents like insurance and passports to specific toiletries, camera equipment and more. I like to start by crossing off anything I don't need. This narrows the list down so I can make sure I don't forget anything that I actually need to bring. The second page include charts that let you plan out what you're going to pack in each bag. This is helpful to make sure you have enough space in your carry-on without over packing it. Finally, she has an outfit planner in case you need to get really specific in your clothing selection. I normally stick to two pairs of pants and then tops and sweaters I can easily mix and match. Download her free printables HERE.
2. Master the art of rolling garments. Not only does this save you space, it also keeps your clothes from wrinkling. I roll my pants, pajamas, shirts, dresses and skirts. Sweaters I deal with on a case by case basis but normally lay them on top when all is said and done. Packing for cold weather is tough regardless of who minimal your packing gets. Everything is bulky and heavy so you have to be patient and treat your suitcase like a game of tetris as you add things into it.
3. Stuff what you can. Underwear and socks can easily be stuffed into shoes and hats. I would recommend stuffing socks into shoes rather than underwear since socks and shoes both go with feet but no one will see but you so do what you have to. No judgement here! I like to save the smaller items for last because they're easy to fill into little holes the rest of your clothes leave as you pack.
4. Minimize. Do you really need ten tank tops and five pairs of jeans? Is it necessary to take a bra for every different shirt? The answer is no. For an average trip, five to seven days, you can get away with 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 nice outfits and a combination of 3-5 shirts and sweaters. The trick is packing items that can easily mix and match because three pieces go from three to seven outfits. Always pack shoes that can easily go with any outfit you're wearing. Shoes take up a lot of space unless they're sandals so you don't want to waste space on those.
5. Save a few things to buy at the destination. Toiletries can take up space and weight. Save both by forgetting them and buying what you can at your destination. Thinks like soap, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner can easily be found in travel-size bottles at a local drugstore and they're not a lot of money. Most hotels usually have soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner so more than half of what you'd buy will already be available to you at no cost. Unless you have a favorite product you're afraid you won't be able to find, just leave it at home and buy it when you get there.
6. Be smart with your carry-on. Things happen. Pack at least one of your outfits in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost. Be mindful of what you're packing in your carry-on too because you'll have to lift that baby above your head when you board. This is a great spot to make sure you leave space. I normally like to leave my carry-on at least halfway unpacked. That ensures room for shopping at my destination and to store a coat while I'm in the airport and on the plane. This is also where you want to include anything of value to you. If you're traveling with an expensive camera, for example, store that safely here. I always carry my laptop in my personal bag and then my camera equipment and any charging items in my carry-on. It makes me feel better to always have access to it.
Packing is stressful but it doesn't have to be impossible. Use that checklist, keep the other tips in mind and you'll be just fine. These tips helped me go from using 2 suitcases + a carry on for a two-week trip to just a suitcase and a personal bag (no carry-on). They've also helped me only use a carry-on for trips one week or less. You can't travel the world with a million bags! The less you have, the easier it will be to move around.