As a frequent traveler, I’ve got quite a few packing tips up my sleeve. From how to get through TSA in a breeze, to keeping your clothes organized and clean, and even packing for a whole week in just a carry-on, Whether you’re a first-timer or a frequent flyer, here are a few helpful packing tips to get your bags packed like a pro.
9 Packing Tips To Help You Pack Like A Pro
1 – Use An Expandable Quart Sized Bag For Liquids/Gels.
Follow the 3-1-1 rule (three ounces, one bag, per one person) AND take everything you need by beating the system with an expandable quart-sized bag for your liquids. Not all quart sized bags are created equal, you want to look for the ones that say “expandable bottom” on the box (see the photo below).
These expandable quart-sized bags are a godsend when it comes to travel as they give you a bit of extra room to fit everything you need. I usually also pack a few extra empty ones in my luggage since they’re useful for organizing things when you’re on-the-go. Also, if you’re afraid something might leak, wrap it up in plastic wrap before adding it to your quart-sized bag.
Read This: 8 Healthy Snacks You Can Take On A Plane
2 – Don’t wear a belt or bulky metal jewelry when you fly.
Save yourself the hassle of having to take things off and remove precious accessories by not wearing them in the first place. This means not wearing belts or metal jewelry when you fly. Especially those ever popular metal bangle bracelets. If you feel like you absolutely need your jewelry, pack them in your carry-on and put them on once you are through security.
Read This: Best Make-Up For Travel
Unless you have TSA Pre-Check, you’re going to be asked to remove your shoes when going through security. Wear something that you can easily slip off and on again. Anything with laces (such as athletic shoes) become a bit of a hassle as there is typically no place to sit to remove them.
Even when I travel for up to three weeks at a time, I typically get everything I need into two carry-on sized bags. I have an expandable rollaboard that I use for my clothes. I also pack bulky laptop cords and anything else heavy that I don’t need instant access to (such as my podcast equipment) in the bag with wheels.
I also have a folded up Longchamp tote bag in the side sleeve of my rollaboard to use as a purse once I arrive (I prefer Longchamp because it’s super durable and I can pack it heavy without the straps breaking). I also use this as my camera bag as the padded Crumpler keeps the camera protected. (Bonus that it looks like a purse and not a camera bag — easier to blend in and not look like a tourist). Read This: 3 Tips For Surviving A Long Flight
Airlines are starting to get more restrictive on sizes, so be sure to call or check out their website ahead of time to see the size restrictions. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with my rollaboard on long flights. I have had to gate check it, though, when making a connection on a smaller aircraft.
On the way home, I’ll have expanded my rollaboard to make room for souvenirs (typically wine and clothes!) that I bought while traveling. So, I’ll check the rollaboard and carry-on the backpack and Longchamp.
If you can’t carry it, don’t bring it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across stairs when traveling abroad, either to get onto a connecting flight or at train stations. If you’re luggage is too big to carry, you’re packing too much. That’s why it’s best to distribute the weight among two carry-on sized bags (three if you count the fold up bag you brought along).
Also, don’t listen to articles that tell you to get colorful luggage. Black is a great choice for bags. Why? Because luggage gets DIRTY! It’s only an issue when you’re waiting for your bag to come around the carasel at baggage claim and everyone else’s bag is black too. Just add something colorful and to the handles so you can easily pick your bag out of the crowd.
The key to packing light is bringing clothes that coordinate to create different outfits. Pick one or two base earth tones that you can use to easily mix and match the same pieces to make different outfits. I typically go with black and tan, or black and grey.
Lay out all your planned outfits on your bed so you can visually see how much you are bringing and if you have at least one outfit for each type of occasion. Think warm weather, cool weather, rainy weather, casual, and dressy.
Once you have everything out, take two outfits away. I know, this might seem difficult. But trust me, you’ll want some extra room for souvenirs and if you follow the mix and match rule, you’ll have plenty to wear.
If I need more clothes when I arrive, I’ll do laundry. Typically hotels have next-day service. For smaller items, such as underwear and socks, I recommend just washing them in the sink using a little shampoo and then hanging them to dry overnight in the shower. I also go shopping for new clothes when I’m abroad since the styles are so different than what I find home.
When it comes to shoes, you really don’t need more than three pair –one sandal, one dress shoe, and one casual. It also helps to pick something that is lightweight such as Toms Ballet Flats. or a nice leather ballet flat.
If you follow me on social media, you know I’ve left behind my running shoes before in order to make room for wine and cheese in my luggage. Ha! I do travel for food after all. The secret to safely packing wine in your checked luggage is to slip it into a wine skin bag (that way, in case it does break, it will be contained). Then, I’ll roll it up in a pair of jeans or other thick article of clothing.
9 – Four Packing Tips To Remember To Pack Like A Pro
ROLL IT UP — The best way to ensure your clothes are wrinkle free when you arrive is to roll them instead of folding them.
BAG IT UP — Compartmentalize your clothes, either by outfit or type, by slipping them into clear gallon-sized storage bags. This will help you stay organized, will save you a bit of packing space since you can press the air out of the bag, and it will also keep your clothes clean if you’re packing/unpacking in multiple destinations. I also bring an empty bag to stuff dirty laundry in. No need to buy expensive packing cubes, brands such as Ziplock work just fine.
SCENT IT — Stick a dryer sheet or lavender sash in with the clear storage bags to keep your clothes smelling fresh. Make sure to add one to your empty dirty laundry bag too.
LEAVE IT — There are a few items you don’t need to pack. This includes hair dryers, shampoo, sewing kits, and soap. Most hotels will have these, so only pack them if you must. For instance, I bring unscented soap since I’m allergic to most fragranced soaps. All the other stuff I leave at home.
10 – Pack Like A Pro Shopping List
Disclosure: The brands mentioned in this post are all items I purchased on my own and have used for years. It’s my preferred packing system. However, there are affiliate links included that, if you make a purchase through them, The Travel Bite will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps support our site so we can continue bring you travel tips and stories. Thank you!
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Originally Published Jul 10, 2015. Updated 2018.
You are not allowed to have any type of liquid whether in a Wine skin or Wine bottle in any luggage carried onto the aircraft unless it is duty free and your last leg of space. Also in Canada it is not an expandable quart bag it is a regular plastic litre bag and may not be expandable. The customs official are very strict about that and at this time if your carry on luggage on Charter flights weighing more than 5kgs. then it must be checked. Regular flights are not as strict but similar please check with the airline and or a real Travel Consultant to ensure what you are and are not allowed without or with payment as this changes constantly.
Rachelle Lucas says
Perhaps you misread, but the wine is in the checked bag. I bring wine skins with me when I travel and they’re empty on the way there, but filled with great wine on the way back. 😉
I’ve also used the expandable quart bag on several trips throughout Canada and never had a problem. I do agree that Canadian customs are strict.
Thank you for including your tips too!
The other tips are quite good and one other item that I tell my clients is the following. If travelling with a companion pack 50% of your items in one suite case and the other in the second suitcase that way you will never be caught without a change of clothes.
When heading for a warm climate pack your bathing trunks for the men and bathing suit for the ladies in your carry on with a cover-up and flip flops that way on arrival if the room is not ready you may go to change into your bathing suit and enjoy the pool while waiting for your room and especially for the kids this is great as you will not hear one of these, Gee Mom when can we go swimming! And in any case why would any woman place an object that took a half day to buy in a piece of luggage you may never see again. Never pack anything in your checked luggage that you cannot afford to loose. Tags there is a special way to also tag your luggage so that your luggage never will get lost again.
Would love to know the tag trick, I’m always nervous
Mandy Hammond says
Amazing article! You have considered every packing detail. I am traveling very often and your recommendations are very helpful for me. Best regards
Ana O says
I never thought about putting a dryer sheet with my clothes. And I’ll definitely look into the Wine Skin. We bring a lot of wine from Argentina every time we visit and so far we’ve had no accidents but you never know!
I’ve been rolling my clothes for a while and it works like a charm. Even my 15 y.o. niece started rolling her clothes too!
It also helps not to take too much at once.
Extra tip: Instead of using plastic wrap or cling film for ypur leak-prone stuff, use two plastic bags. Put one inside the other, and then use that for your bottles with lotion or shampoo or whatever. The plastic wrap will be difficult to put back after you’ve removed it the first time, it has a tendency to just turn into a messy ball of plastic… 😉
Rachelle Lucas says
I’ve done that too! I also pack a few extra for souvenirs. Just double-bagged some honey I brought back from Colorado.
I love zip-lock bags, no hassle with rubber bands or plastic clips, just neatly zip it up!
Well done! I have used all of these tips for many years. That is how you do it!!
Great article! And a side note / extra usage for those ziplock bags … If you or your travel buddies have motion sickness, carry a gallon-sized ziplock in your purse or bag when you are out. Hopefully it won’t have to be used, but when it is needed, it’s there. I unfortunately have experience with this and honestly being able to zip it up and throw it away made me feel better than just having a plastic bag where the *contents* were loose. -__-
I hope nobody ever needs to use that tip but that it’s helpful to those that do!
Rachelle Lucas says
That’s a great tip! And plastic is always better than those paper bags they put in the seat pocket if you know what I mean.