Overpacking can cause a lot of stress when you’re traveling. Overpacking and bringing too much stuff can mean there’s not only a lot to carry, but there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t get used, and it’s hard to find space for it all when you go back home.
If overpacking is a problem for you, here are five tips we recommend to anyone who needs to figure out how to pack exactly what you’ll need for your next family vacation, solo trip, or business travel trip.
1. SET A $50 BILL ON FIRE
Because if you overpack on your next flight, that’s what you’re going to do. Depending on your airline and your ticket, you may have to pay to check a bag at the front of the airport.
What you can do instead is join your airline’s loyalty club before you buy your tickets, or pay with an airline’s credit card. They’ll often let you check one bag for free per ticket. In addition to that, you get to take a carry-on bag and a personal item.
But if you’ve grown attached to that $50, or just want to keep it a little longer, stop thinking about packing a suitcase. Yes, they’re great for long trips of two weeks or more, or if you have a lot of $50 bills just burning a hole in your pocket. Otherwise, try packing a carry-on bag like the Maxlite® 5 21″ spinner or the 22″ Expandable Carry-on Rollaboard.
We know people who have packed for 10 days with one of these, so we know it can be done. These next four secrets tell you how it’s done.
(Okay, setting the $50 bill on fire isn’t really a secret, other than to get you to accept these next four.)
2. PLAN YOUR OUTFITS IN ADVANCE
Take clothes that can mix and match so you can create different outfits. Wear the blue jeans with the green shirt one day, and with the yellow shirt on another, and so on. If you’re traveling for a week, you can make three pairs of pants and four shirts work just fine.
If you need a lot of outfits because you’re going to be gone for a couple of weeks, or because you’re going to be outside a lot and getting sweaty or dirty consider renting an Airbnb with a washer and dryer, or use the laundry service at your hotel. If nothing else, you can always wash your undergarments and socks in the sink and hang them to dry. Besides, you can use that $50 bill you didn’t set on fire to pay for your laundry.
3. ROLL OR BUNDLE YOUR CLOTHES
One of the most efficient packing methods we’ve seen is rolling your clothes. Every shirt and pair of pants or shorts are rolled up into an individual bundle. If you do it carefully, you can avoid most wrinkles, although you may need to touch it up with an iron. Flight attendants like Heather Poole use this technique to pack for 10 days. (She was even featured in that article using a Travelpro bag; we were all very proud.)
Another method is to try bundling your clothes. This involves wrapping shirts and pants around a small core bundle of underwear and socks. It helps reduce wrinkles because the larger items are stretched out instead of folded.
The downside is that you have to unpack everything just to get a pair of socks. It’s a great method if you’re staying in one place for your entire vacation, but it’s not a great idea if you’re moving every day or two.
Finally, if you’re traveling to where it’s cold, avoid bulky items like sweaters and sweatshirts. Instead, pack thin layers, and wear two or three thinner garments for more warmth. Layers are much more effective than bulky sweaters or parkas, plus you can always take off a layer if you get to warm. If you need to take a parka, wear it on the plane, and you don’t even have to pack it.
4. PACK ONLY TRAVEL-SIZED TOILETRIES
You may have your special shampoo or mouthwash, which is fine, but don’t pack your entire bottle of it. For one thing, you won’t get it through TSA unless you check your bag, and it’s hardly worth doing that just for a bottle of shampoo. Use that $50 you saved and buy some shampoo when you get there.
Better yet, buy some empty plastic or aluminum refillable travel bottles and pour your favorite toiletries in there. If you need to take more items, take more travel bottles.
And even better than that? If you’re not that choosy about your shampoo, mouthwash, or toothpaste, use the hotel toiletries. You can skip carrying the TSA’s 3-1-1 bag altogether if you either buy your toiletries when you arrive or just use the hotel’s toiletries.
5. DON’T TAKE YOUR OWN PILLOW. IT’S THE ULTIMATE IN OVERPACKING.
Some people like taking their own pillow from home, but that’s a major expense and/or hassle. If you can fit it into your carry-on or personal item, then go ahead. But don’t spend the money to put it in a large suitcase.
Most hotels and Airbnbs have nice pillows and they can be adjusted or moved to fit your particular sleeping habits. But if you have a special memory foam pillow that you need for a particular thickness, there are people who will buy an extra one and then cut one-fourth of it off the end. They’ll use that as a travel pillow because it’s the right thickness but doesn’t take up a lot of room in their bags.
Remember, the next time you’re tempted into overpacking, you’re only going on vacation, you’re not moving. You don’t need to take every comfort of home with you. Just pack those things you need, and then see what you can take out before you leave.
You can pack more efficiently by either rolling your clothes individually or packing everything into a bundle. Rewear your clothing more than once, use travel-sized toiletries, and avoid packing a suitcase. Take a rollaboard or carry-on bag instead.
How do you avoid overpacking on your trips? What tips or tricks do you have for those of us who believe in creating “a home away from home?” Share your suggestions and secrets on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.