Whether you’re preparing for a quick weekend jaunt or an extended vacation, packing for a trip can be stressful. With so much to remember, you may understandably worry about forgetting something essential. At the same time, you don’t want to over-pack and end up lugging around extra stuff everywhere you go. Striking the right balance while packing is a fine art, but as you become a more seasoned traveler, packing will seem like second-nature.
In the meantime, we’ve put together a helpful guide to packing for your upcoming trip. This covers everything from clothing and toiletries to documentation and everything in between. By following this guide, you’ll be packed with confidence and ready for your trip!
Start With The Right Luggage
Packing is so much easier when you have the right luggage, so let’s start there. Depending on the length of your trip, you may need anything from a simple backpack or duffel bag to a full luggage set that includes hard-shell suitcases.
Generally, if you’ll be traveling for more than a day or two, you’re going to need a larger suitcase to accommodate all the essentials and then some.
For baggage that you’ll be checking with the airport, make sure you have something durable and hard-sided. After all, checked bags aren’t always handled with the utmost of care by airline workers—so soft-sided suitcases are very prone to damage. A hard-sided suitcase will provide better protection for your belongings while also being easier to clean than a soft surface.
When shopping for luggage, be sure to look for convenient features that will make it easy to pack for your trip. The more compartments, the better! Storage compartments make it easier for you to keep your belongings organized, which will make finding things during your travels a breeze. Be sure to also look for luggage that will be easy to maneuver around the airport and airport security; bags with free-spinning wheels and telescoping handles are a great option here.
If you’re bringing a carry-on, opt for something small that will get the job done. A backpack is generally the best choice because the right backpack can fit plenty of essentials while still being easy to carry and store in an overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. When packing your carry-on, consider some essentials such as:
- chargers for your electronics
- headphones and electronics
- travel pillow
- lotion and lip balm for dry airplane air
- sleep mask
Organize The Essentials
When it comes to packing your main suitcase, you may be at a loss on where to begin. Of course, the items you’ll need to pack will vary a bit depending on where you’re traveling, but there are some essentials you won’t want to go without. These include:
- lightweight clothing (lots of layers are best)
- walking shoes, socks, and compression socks
- rain jacket and/or umbrella
- hat, visor, and/or sunglasses
- swimsuits (if traveling somewhere warm)
- extra chargers for electronics
- electrical adapters (if traveling internationally)
When packing essential items such as clothes, it’s best to choose items that can be easily mixed and matched. This way, you can potentially create several different outfits. Try to give yourself a good variety to choose from, including some more causal outfits and a couple of nicer options as well.
What About Toiletries?
When packing your toiletry bag, there are some important considerations to keep in mind—including the TSA’s strict regulations on traveling with liquids. The good news is that if you’re checking your luggage with your toiletries, you won’t need to worry about this. The only concern is if you’re bringing toiletries in your carry-on, in which case you cannot bring bottles greater than 3.4 ounces in size, and all bottles must be placed in a clear zipper bag for easy identification.
When packing your toiletries bag, there are a few basics you won’t want to be without. These include:
- shampoo, conditioner, and body wash/soap
- toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
- contacts and contact solution
- any prescription medication you take (recommend keeping this in a carry-on)
- any OTC vitamins or sleeping aids such as melatonin
- makeup and makeup remover
- personal hygiene items
- razor and shaving cream
- sunscreen and bug spray (depending on your destination)
Extras to Consider
Aside from the essentials, there are some other items you might want to consider tossing into your toiletry bag or packing cubes if you have room:
- sewing kit and stain remover
- body spray, perfume, or cologne
- laundry detergent (if you’ll be doing laundry while traveling)
- hair products (serum, hairspray, mousse, etc.)
- your own towel and washcloths
No matter where you’re traveling, it’s also a good idea to pack a basic first-aid kit that includes:
- bandages and gauze
- pain relievers
- allergy medicine
Set Aside Important Documentation
Depending on where your travels will take you, there is some specific documentation you may also need to bring along with you. If you’ll be traveling internationally, for example, you may need a passport or a visa. This is not something you’ll want to wait to obtain until the last minute, especially since these documents can take weeks or even months to process and mail out to you. There are expedited services available, but they will cost you.
Below are some documentation basics that you may need to have with you when traveling:
- your passport and/or visa
- government-issued identification (driver’s license, state ID, etc.)
- your health insurance card
- travel insurance documents
- any frequent flyer membership cards or hotel membership loyalty cards
- your tickets and/or boarding passes
- credit cards, traveler’s checks, and/or cash
- a list of emergency contacts
- a copy of your trip itinerary for reference
When it comes to travel documentation, there are a few other tips worth keeping in mind. For starters, make sure that none of your required forms of identification are expired. Passports, driver’s licenses, and state IDs all expire. You will not be permitted to board a plane if you don’t have valid identification, so be sure to renew anything that is expired (or due to expire during your trip) before you embark.
If you’ll be using a credit card during your travels, make sure you contact your credit card company ahead of time to let them know where you’ll be traveling and the specific dates of your trip. Otherwise, your credit card company might view your charges as fraudulent activity and place a hold on your account, which can be a headache to deal with while you’re traveling!
Finally, in the event that you lose any of your documentation during the trip, it’s always a good idea to make copies of documents such as boarding passes, passports, driver’s licenses, and the like. You might even consider emailing yourself copies of these documents so you have them readily available on your phone if needed. And when it comes to packing these items, remember that it’s always best to keep important documentation with you at all times; don’t leave these items in a checked bag.
Take Some Security Precautions
Travelers and tourists are common targets for pick-pocketing and other crimes, so you might want to take some additional precautions while packing and traveling.
Keep Valuables Close By
Rather than carrying your valuables in a purse or backpack while traveling, consider a money belt, leg wallet, or other more concealed option for storing your cash and other valuables. This will make you less prone to theft.
Consider RFID Protection
If you don’t have one already, consider investing in a wallet or passport holder with built-in RFID protection. This will protect you from RFID scanners, which can be used to steal credit card and passport information.
Secure Your Luggage
Always make sure your luggage is secure while traveling. It’s never a bad idea to place travel locks on your luggage; just keep in mind that the locks may be cut off if your bag is selected to be searched by a TSA agent or other security agent. Bringing extras of these locks can be useful so you can re-attach them when you arrive at your destination.
Get Your Home In Order
Now that you’re all packed, all that’s left to do is get ready to leave! Before you do, there are a few steps you can also take to get your home in order. If you’ll be gone for an extended period of time, you might want to set up auto-pay on your bills so you don’t miss any due dates while you’re away. You might also want to find somebody you trust to check in on your home, check your mail, and care for pets/plants in your absence.
Finally, save energy while you’re gone by lowering the temperature on your thermostat and water heater. You may also want to unplug appliances and shut off most of the lights in your home.
Whew! There’s a lot to remember when packing for a trip, regardless of whether you’ll be gone for a short weekend or an entire month. Hopefully, this list will help you stay on top of all the necessities and make packing less stressful.