Packing Tips for Vacation: Deciding How and What To Pack

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Traveling can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a bit of a hassle, especially when it comes to packing. To make the travel process as smooth as possible, it's important to start with a good plan.

These packing tips are the perfect place to start when planning and preparing for a great vacation!

woman packing clothing in a suitcase for vacation

First, make a list of everything you'll need for your trip, including clothes, toiletries, and any other essential items.

Once you have your list, start sorting through your belongings and deciding what to bring.

Remember to pack light – only bring the items you really need – and to choose versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create different looks. With a little advance planning, packing for your next vacation can be a breeze!

Packing Tips for Vacation: How to decide how and what to pack

Let's dive a bit deeper into each of our top vacation packing tips.

Start by making a list of everything you'll need for your trip

Creating a packing list is the perfect first step to get all of the crowded thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper, so you can think clearly about the task at hand.

This can be done using the good old-fashioned pen and paper method, or by utilizing one of the many trip-planning apps available (MyTrip, PackPoint, TripIt, etc.).

Be sure to include everything you'll need on your trip, including clothes, toiletries, electronics chargers, medications, and any other essentials.

Once you have your list, it's time to start packing!

Create a vacation bag or basket to start corraling items

basket full of items being set aside for travel

In the weeks leading up to your vacation, set up your suitcase, a reusable shopping bag, laundry basket or any other time of container to start collecting items and clothing that you plan to bring on your trip.

We like to toss in things we see that we know we won't be using in the meantime—such as swimsuits during winter—to keep these extra items from taking up space in our minds and get a few early wins in crossing off on the packing list.

Decide what bags you are bringing, before deciding on clothing

man holding two sizes of hard sided wheeled suitcases

This might seem counterintuitive, but it will save you a lot of time and energy, as well as potentially save money on overweight bags.

By first considering which types of bags or luggage you'll be bringing—including a carry-on, personal item, backpack, duffle bag or tote—you can get a better sense of how much space you'll have and what needs to go where.

Once you know what you have to work with, you can start selecting clothing and accessories to fill the space.

This is actually much better than first finding all of the clothes you want to take, because it allows you to decide on your wardrobe based on what bags will be the best choice for carrying and traveling with, as opposed to having to size up just to fit your clothes.

Sort through your belongings and decide what to bring

woman folding clothes while packing for vacation

When it comes time to pack for vacation, it always seems tempting to rummage through a closet to find those awesome articles of clothing you never get to wear.

While that may be a fun idea, sticking to pieces you know fit well and that you feel great in are the most important.

If you are considering lots of options, pile them all on the bed together and try them on one by one to see how they fit and what they can be matched with.

Narrow down your selections and identify any key pieces you might be missing.

Pack light – only bring the items you really need

overhead of suitcase open on floor with clothing and accessories scattered around for vacation

One of the biggest packing mistakes people make is overpacking— bringing too many clothes, shoes, and accessories on their trip.

The cardinal rule of easier travel is to pack light. This can be easier said than done, but it's important to remember that you probably won't need as much as you think you will.

A good way to approach this is to think about the activities you'll be doing on your trip, and what ameneites might be available at your hotel.

For instance, if you're going on a beach vacation, you'll likely need less “regular” clothing than if you were going on a business trip.

Of course, you'll also want to take into account the weather forecast and pack accordingly.

Once you've considered all of these factors, you can start narrowing down your choices and deciding what to pack.

Choose versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched

woman folding clothes while packing for vacation

One way to make packing light easier is to choose versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create different looks.

Packing with a capsule wardrobe of key items that work together will keep you looking great while taking up less space.

For example, rather than packing a separate outfit for every day of your trip, pack a few key pieces that can be worn in different combinations.

A light sweater, a pair of dark jeans, and a neutral blouse will give you many different outfit options while taking up minimal space in your suitcase. Or in the summer, a pair of shorts, a skirt and a few tops can be mixed to create multiple looks.

Make sure you have everything you need before you leave home

overhead of open carryon size suitcase with items and packing list for vacation

Once you've packed your suitcase, it's important to take a step back and make sure you have everything you need before you leave home.

Double-check your packing list to make sure you haven't forgotten anything essential.

If possible, pack your medications in their original bottles so that you can easily access them if needed.

And be sure to pack your passport and any other important documents in a safe and easily accessible place.

Often the easy to forget items are actually the ones we use every day, such as your phone, wallet, or favorite chapstick. This is because we are typically using these items and can't pack them ahead of time, making them easy to forget when running late.

Pack with the return trip in mind

We always seem to accumulate things while traveling—whether that is souvenirs, gifts from grandparents, or tasty treats we had to bring home.

Fold up a reusable shopping bag and bring it along for the trip—they are perfect for stashing last-minute purchases and other items for the return trip home.

Following these packing tips will help ensure that you have a great time on your next vacation! By taking the time to plan ahead, you can avoid any last-minute stress and enjoy your trip from start to finish. Safe travels!

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