Travelling can be stressful when you feel like you’re living out of a suitcase. Packing strategies for travel can seem simple on paper, but once it comes time to implement, it can seem a little daunting. These are my best packing tips to feel more organized + less stressed.
Travelling can be stressful when you feel like you’re living out of a suitcase.
Attempting to fit a 10-day vacation’s worth of clothes and travel essentials for a family of 4 into a single suitcase sounds crazy but is 100% possible. These are my best packing tips to feel more organized + less stressed.
Organized Packing for Travel
These are the actual tips we use to pack my suitcase and how we only pack a single suitcase for the family when we travel.
To which I earn a small commission, at zero cost to you!
1. PACKING CUBES
Packing cubes have changed my life! We use them for clothing organization and storage. They save so much space and keep me organized! This way you can pack MORE clothes in smaller spaces!
Our go-to secret best way to pack a suitcase for 2 weeks with the family is definitely in the packing cubes. Considering there will be a laundry day somewhere during our trip, this means we need a minimum of 5 days worth of clothing, plus PJ’s and swim gear. Each child gets their own cube, Medium size, and this is exactly the right amount of space for their little clothes. Adults get two cubes each; a large cube for bottoms and a medium cube for tops. We have a collective Toiletry bag, a small packing cube for all of our swim clothes and another small cube for all electronic cables.
The packing cubes we have tried and continue to use – Best Packing Cubes
The best way to pack pants is to roll neatly into their own packing cube. This way, you aren’t likely to get wrinkles in the wrong places from folding them incorrectly. If the cube is packing properly and inserted into the suitcase correctly, the cube should hold it’s shape and trousers will unroll and look the same as they went in – neatly pressed and wrinkle-free.
We use smaller bags to separate the rest of our suitcase. If your packing cubes don’t come with small cubes, they can easily be found at any drug store or Walmart/Target. These are the ones we use, they are from Amazon and are technically called Shaving Kits – anything else costs twice as much and have AWFUL designs on them.
This saves time and space! You can pack more into the smaller bags and fit them into the little crevasses in the suitcase. Also, your bags will be that much more organized when you are going through TSA.
3. GROUP BY FUNCTION
We separate the compartments by function. We have a bag just for medication, a bag for toiletries, a bag for swimwear, a bag for my technology [phone charger, camera, USB cords, etc]. This way I ALWAYS know where everything is and I’m never searching in my suitcase.
This way, if we are hotel hoping, I can easily pack a different cube for each hotel instead of per person, and therefore eliminate how many cubes get opened per night. If there was more than one suitcase, grouping by function also helps organize the car before anything gets unpacked and brought up to the hotel.
4. MAXIMIZE YOUR PERSONAL ITEM
You’re allowed a carry on and a personal item, but this doesn’t have to be just a purse. You can actually bring a duffel bag as your personal item which gives you WAY more space to pack into!
The children have their own backpack and it holds anything they might need on the plane, airport and car ride.
My backpack holds a book, tablet, headphones, wallet and travel documents. If I am feeling particularly productive, I might pack my laptop into my bag or my carry-on. My actual purse is either collapsed into my suitcase or folded up into the front pocket of my carry-on.
5. PURSE INCEPTION
When the kids were younger and I needed a diaper bag, plus my personal item, and my computer, I needed a special way to bring it all on the plane with me that didn’t require someone to grow another set of arms. I realize that babies are allowed a diaper bag at no extra charge, even when they are lap-babies but just because you can bring a bag, doesn’t mean you should.
This is when “purse inception” comes into play. I pack my smaller purse inside of my duffel bag and then I will fill that purse as well. My duffel has what I actually want on me during the flight- a phone charger, headphones etc- plus any diaper bag needs for the baby, and a change of clothes for the both of us.
Don’t think mom needs a change of clothes? When the baby has a blow-out 20 minutes into a 2-hour flight, you will think differently. I had never thought of this before and was thankful that I made the last minute decision to add it to my bag because it was definitely a life-saver.
6. PACK AN EMPTY BAG
I did this when I flew with the kids to Canada and I knew I would be coming back with a lot of shopping. This can be done either by only filling your suitcase halfway or packing everything into a carry-on suitcase and placing that into your regular check-in bag.
We will also pack an empty bag (like a beach bag) on top of the stuff in the suitcase. This way you can have this bag to use during your trip!
7. PACK OUTFITS NOT OPTIONS
Definitely, the best way to pack a suitcase to save space is to pack outfits, and not options. We tend to want to pack options during a trip, but this takes up so much room in your suitcase! I pack specific outfits and then I’ll also pack an extra outfit or two for in case I want to feel more comfortable or the kids force me to change early (even parents need a spare change of clothes).
This is also how I pack the children’s clothes – match tops with bottoms for the first 5 days, and make sure they at least go with each other for after laundry day.
8. STICK TO A COLOR PALETTE
Sticking to a colour palette ensures that you can wear more of your pieces together. You can bring less when everything matches! Our bottoms are usually blue or grey jeans, and a fun/patterned top. Our shoes always match our bottoms and tops can easily mix and match with any bottoms we bring.
Since the children prefer sweaters when the weather turns chilly, we don’t have to worry about mismatching. Myself, however, I prefer cardigans and thus I have to watch carefully which shirt I match with which cardigan. This makes the packing process a little longer but then I know my two cardigans will go with any top I choose to wear that day.
9. WEAR YOUR HEAVIEST LAYERS
We wear the heaviest layers in transit, things I know we will want to have during the trip but take up a ton of room in the suitcase. A sweater, boots and travel pants in the car, jacket on your lap to act as a blanket should the driver lower the temperature (never wear a puffy coat under your seatbelt. It’s a matter of safety, not just comfort).
Flights also tend to be cold so this is perfect for what to wear on a flight! Boots, during winter travel, tend to be easier to take on and off for TSA as well as during the flight, so I prefer this option as well.
10. ELIMINATE WHAT YOU CAN
I tend to plan my looks to be similar and I am not a very high maintenance person anyways. Depending on the location, I may pack a hair straightener but for the most part, I travel in a ponytail, as so does my daughter.
I won’t pack a blow dryer because hotels have one, same with baby diapers – pack enough for the first few days and buy a pack after arriving. Amazon can even deliver items to your hotel room. Try to eliminate what you can!
Sometimes I bring my computer so I can write and edit while travelling but I also look at the amount of time I have available to do these things. If we are planning on having long days, without any breaks in the middle, I won’t bother bringing the laptop since I know it will never be used. Instead, I bring a spare SD card in case mine gets full or I buy one while on vacation.
Know where you can replace any gear that gets lost or stolen. Have an idea of which stores carry which items and specs you need – or have them written down.
Know which stores carry your brand of diapers and/or baby food, as well as anything else you plan on needing while on vacation
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