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It’s in the Bag: 6 Secrets for Packing Like a Pro

Packing your luggage

Let’s be honest. Packing isn’t the fun part of traveling. Overpacking. Packing all the wrong things. Forgetting something essential. It’s no wonder Americans rank packing second on the list of top travel stresses, just behind getting through airport security and right before worrying about seat assignments on the airplane.

But packing doesn’t have to be a pain. Read on for six secrets that will transform how you pack.

1. Pack in outfits.

Have you heard the advice to take half the clothes and twice the money you think you’ll need on vacation? It’s not too far off. A recent survey found that people never wear one-fourth of what they pack. Yet, they don’t always bring the right options. More than half of travelers report having to purchase clothing mid-trip.

The secret is in your preparation. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll tend to throw in more just-in-case options. Instead, as part of your pre-travel countdown, set aside some time to study your itinerary and recommended attire for different activities and events. Factor in your destination’s weather. (For forecast precision, check out the Dark Sky weather app we recommended in our Insider’s Guide to 8 Must-Have Luxury Travel Apps.)

When it’s time to pack, lay out what you’re planning to take in outfits. In other words, pull together what you’ll need from hat to shoes, and everything in between, including accessories. Not only will this keep you from forgetting anything, but you’ll also see opportunities for a jacket or pair of shoes to do double duty across outfits, efficiently cutting down what makes it into the suitcase.

Packing with one color palette

2. Pick your colors.

Most travelers report wearing two outfits per day while on vacation. Still, you want to have options. Try to stick within a color palette – and pack more tops than bottoms. This will make it easier to mix and match on the go. Plus, you’ll need fewer shoes!

Women can also take advantage of a couple of super-versatile clothing items. A scarf can instantly dress up an outfit, keep you warm, or serve as a pillow in a pinch. A sarong is also a stylish and multi-functional addition to your packing list. Wear it as a skirt or use it as a wrap on a chilly evening.

3. Rummage less.

Large compartment-less suitcases make it easy to overpack, which also makes them heavy and cumbersome. Going with a smaller suitcase is a smart efficiency strategy. The other secret is to adopt an “everything has a place” packing system. Frequent travelers swear by packing cubes, which enable you to pack similar items together. Cubes come in a variety of sizes to keep your suitcase organized, so there’s no need to rummage. Plus, they make unpacking a breeze.

Along with cubes, Ziploc bags are a must. These multi-purpose tools will keep your liquids contained, isolate wet bathing suits, and organize accessories. Always tuck a few extras into your suitcase pocket.

4. Know when to fold ‘em.

Some people insist you should roll clothing items to reduce wrinkles and save space. Others say folding is the way to go. What do travel pros recommend? A little bit of both.

Roll up soft items like T-shirts, knits, or denim. Pack them first, lining the bottom of your suitcase. Then, fold stiffer fabrics like blazers, skirts, or slacks carefully. Folding these pieces around sheets of tissue paper helps prevent wrinkling. Stack your folded items on top of your rolled clothing, extending them out lengthwise across the bottom of your suitcase.

Between each layer, add a plastic bag from the dry cleaners. This helps keep everything in place while you’re on the move, and it’s easy to unpack by lifting out your clothing items layer by layer.

What to pack for a trip

5. Grab and go.

As you’re settling into your vacation and getting ready for your first dinner or excursion, there’s nothing more annoying than reaching into your bag and realizing you’ve forgotten your favorite conditioner or sunscreen. Expert travelers avoid this type of oversight by keeping a fully stocked toiletries bag packed, replacing items after each trip. That way, they can drop their pre-packed toiletries into the suitcase with confidence. Now, that’s organized!

Here’s another secret of savvy travelers. Pack a zippered pouch within your carry-on that contains magazines, iPad, earbuds, earplugs, sleep mask, and snacks – aka everything you may want to use on your flight. When you take your seat, pop the pouch into the seatback pocket for easy access without ever having to reach for your carry-on.

6. Pack another bag.

It happens to all of us. When we go to re-pack for our return travels, we inevitably need more space, especially if we’ve picked up some one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs along the way. The best advice is to anticipate this going in. Pack an empty bag in your suitcase that you can fill with the overflow. Just make sure it’s a bag that’s appropriate to check at the airport, so you don’t get weighed down with too much to carry on.

We hope these tips help take the pressure out of packing for your next trip. Speaking of next trips, we’re ready to help you plan a Trip of a Lifetime – either individual or group. Call us at (877) 999-4533 or email us at

Waves to you and smooth sailings ahead!

Source for statistics cited: Survey by Trunk Club (a Nordstrom Company) and One Poll, 2019.

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