Is it time to start planning your vacation? One of the most complicated parts of going on a trip can be packing. It can just seem so overwhelming to try to ensure that you don’t forget anything. Packing effectively and efficiently is extremely important to your travel experience. These vacation packing tips and checklist can help!
From what to pack, how to pack, and more, you’re going to love these ideas to help you get organized for the best vacation ever! I’ve even got tips for those essential carry-on items that will make the journey far more relaxing. Keep reading to find out how!
My first step is always to check the weather forecast and typical weather for the place I’m visiting. This will give you a rough idea to build on. Just remember, some options for layering are almost always a good idea, even if only for the often over air-conditioned planes and airports.
Don’t go crazy with the “what ifs”. Yes, I have been down south in May and it snowed. No, I was not prepared for that. I’m still happy I didn’t take up precious luggage space with winter clothing. The chances of it happening were so small and I was able to layer and avoid outdoor activities those days.
Then, I go through our planned itinerary. For example, if a conference is involved, there are likely cocktail parties I need to take into account. Maybe the trip involves the need for casual clothing for outdoor activities. Or swimming. Or skiing. Go through the set items and the possibilities and make sure you have them covered.
Next, I always make sure to have a checklist ready. It just helps me to visualize the outfits I can put together, to keep track of everything I need to take, and to make sure I bring it all back home with me too! Finally, I double check it all. Am I accounting for all activities? Can I make some items do double-duty and cut back on how much I’m bringing?
More great tips here: How Connecting Flights with Baggage Transfers Work
PACKING TIPS AND CHECKLIST
- T-Shirts & tank tops
- Dress Clothes
- Exercise Clothing
- Dress Socks
- Heels or dress shoes
- Tennis Shoes
- Beach Bag
- Beach towels
- Swim suits
- Bathing Suit Cover
- Beach Umbrella
PRO TIPS: Packing cubes can be really helpful in organizing your clothing and reducing the amount of space it takes up. For small kids, I love to pack a complete outfit in a large zippered storage bag. You can squeeze the air out to compress them so they take up less room and it is SO easy then to just pull out a new outfit anytime you need one. I use them to keep small clothing items like underwear and accessories together too. Pack extra storage bags for transporting damp bathing suits and other such items home in. When it comes to small items, you can put them inside plastic bags and then tuck them down in your shoes. For necklaces, I put down a length of paper towels. Lay a necklace on, roll up inside the paper towel. Add another necklace and repeat. This helps protect them and keep them from tangling.
Personal Packing List
- Body wash
- Makeup remover
- Hair Brush
- Hair Straightener
- Curling Iron
- Bobby Pins
- Blow Dryer
- Hair elastics
- Hair Spray
- Feminine Products
- Daily Vitamins
- Prescription Medicines
- Pain Medicine
- Allergy Medicine
- Anti-Nausea Medicine
- Anti-Itch Cream
PRO TIPS: Keep those samples that arrive in the mail for travel. They can be perfect for short trips. You can also find travel sized items at most pharmacies and some grocery and department stores. Or look for a set of travel bottles that you can refill with your own favourite products each time you travel. The latter is very economical but I’ll warn you, I have yet to find any of those bottles that don’t leak. Be sure to double bag them in your suitcase and leave some space for expansion from air pressure if flying.
When it comes to medication, be sure to take any over the counter meds that you use on a regular basis or are likely to need, especially if going to a foreign country. I have a funny (but could have been scary) story about me having an allergic reaction in Poland and breaking out in hives. I needed Benadryl and had neglected to bring any (which was dumb because I have a lot of allergies). The little song and dance I did to a Polish speaking pharmacist to get my point across of what I needed was hilarious. But, it could have been a misunderstanding. Not only that but not all medications are available in all places! If crossing a border, remember that you must keep your meds in their original containers.
- Cell Phone
- Laptop Charger
- Device chargers
PRO TIPS: I don’t bring a separate GPS because I use the one on my phone but you know your own preferences. I tend to pack ear buds or folding ear phones because they take up less space – noise cancelling are fantastic for obvious reasons. However, you can’t use Bluetooth headphones on airplanes so bear that in mind. I always bring extra portable chargers – the kind you can recharge using your laptop and then take with you to keep your phone fully charged on the go. I never carry CDs and DVDs with me unless road tripping. Instead, I download music onto my devices. For movies, I look for the movies and TV shows that are downloadable on Netflix and stock up on those for the trip.
- Driver’s License
- Emergency contacts
- Car Insurance Cards
- Credit Cards
- Hotel Reservations
- Trip/transportation itineraries
- Health Cards
- Birth certificates (especially for children – some countries really like to see these along with the passports)
PRO TIPS: Especially if traveling to another country, it can be a really smart idea to photocopy your important documents. Leave the photocopies with a trusted friend or family member you could reach out to in an emergency. This can really speed things up! I put our passports and possible supplemental information like birth certificates in a folder together so they’re handy when crossing the border.
Food Related Items
- Sharp knife
- Travel cups
- Plastic or reusable utensils
- Plastic tablecloth
- Reusable plastic plates or paper plates
- Paper towels (or cloth rags and tea towels)
- Wet wipes (or you can put some wet washcloths in a container to use for cleaning up sticky messes)
- Snacks and beverages
PRO TIPS: You may or may not want to bring any of these. We have sometimes gone on road trips and decided that we were eating at restaurants the whole way but even then, keeping a cooler of water and some snacks in the car has been helpful. Coming from a place where 24 hour restaurants abound, I was shocked the first time we couldn’t find any place open one night in Ohio. From then on, we prepared for just such contingencies. Having things like plates and a sharp knife and so on along as well means that you can stop at farm stands or grocery stores along the way and put together a picnic lunch too.
- Sleeping Bags
- Board games
PRO TIPS: Even when road tripping, we generally don’t pack books. We use our devices as Kindles and download a bunch of books there. We also have Texture, an app which allows us to access magazines on our devices too. For games, look for virtual or travel sized versions to save space.
If you’re traveling by plane, check out this list of 15 essential items to pack in your carry on bag.
How to Pack
Packing your suitcase doesn’t have to complicated. There are two basic ways to pack. You can either roll or fold your belongings before placing them inside a suitcase. Folding helps to prevent wrinkles but can take up far more space than the alternative. When rolling your clothing, you are more likely to have wrinkles, but it does take up much less space. I tend to do a combination of both.
I have quite a few amazing wrinkle-free outfits and I roll away on those. But since I don’t want to spend my whole vacation ironing, when it comes to the ones that show every little line, I fold them and may even use tissue paper in between for really delicate fabrics. The choice is entirely yours and based on what works better for you and the fabrics you are packing to take with you.
Consider leaving some empty space in your suitcase when you travel. I sometimes like to bring home souvenirs or local items from the places I visit and this makes it much easier. I’ve taken to looking for prints from local artists. Not only do they really add some personality and character to my home, but they are flat and easy to transport back.
There are many ways to ensure that you are packing effectively and efficiently for your next vacation. Make sure you only pack the things you need and try to take full advantage of your suitcase. For example, mine is hard-sided with wheels. There’s a depression inside formed by where the handle is and it is the perfect spot for small clothing items. By placing them in that depression, I am using up every tiny little bit of space my suitcase allows.