We’ve all been there – it’s the night before (or morning of) a big trip and you haven’t packed a single thing yet. Forget making a packing list; you barely have time to throw some things into your suitcase or backpack. And sure enough, after racing around to make sure you have everything, you forget something and it adds extra (unnecessary) stress to your travels.
Even though I’ve been traveling fairly consistently for years, there are still times when my schedule gets the best of me and I find myself with very little time to pack. Thankfully, I’ve been doing this long enough now that I have my “packing game” down to a science of sorts and it’s rare that I forget things. (Ok, so I forgot to pack a brush on a recent trip to Illinois and had to stop at Target to buy one, but I just recently got bangs and I never needed to pack a brush before that trip!)
So without further ado, here are ten of the things that totally upped my packing game:
I SWEAR by these packing cubes and haven’t packed my suitcase or backpack without them since I purchased them. Whenever anyone asks me for packing advice, they are the first thing I suggest. Basically, they turn your suitcase (or backpack) into a traveling set of “drawers” and they make me feel so much more organized. They also help me take advantage of every bit of space inside my suitcase.
I currently have two regular cubes (for tops and bottoms), one tube cube (for underwear and socks), and one quarter cube that I use for toiletries that don’t need to go in my liquid bag when I fly. (When I’m roadtripping and don’t need to worry about a separate liquids bag, I use this toiletry bag, which I love.)
For most of my life, I’ve traveled in a style (and frequency) that lends itself to using a suitcase more than a backpack. Years ago, I decided to suck it up and buy myself a good suitcase. I headed to my local mall, walked into Macy’s, went straight toward the Samsonite display…and then promptly had a minor freak-out when I started looking at the price tags. But thankfully, I was at Macy’s, where it seems as if everything is on sale all the time, so I was able to get a decent deal on a suitcase that has since proved itself time and time again. They no longer make the exact model that I have, but I don’t think you can go wrong with a Samsonite. (Definitely get a “4-wheel spinner” so you can wheel it alongside you, in addition to pulling it behind you!)
3. Plastic Bags
People have all sorts of ways sorting their dirty clothes when they travel. (Eagle Creek even makes a clean dirty cube to keep your clean clothes separate from your dirty clothes.) This might surprise people who know me, but I’m not really fussy when it comes to this. I always keep one or two grocery bags in my suitcase and use them for my dirty clothes when I travel. I also always keep a zpiloc bag or two stashed in my suitcase, which can be helpful for things like jewelry, medicationss, cords, etc.
I’ve used all sorts of camera bags, including a messenger style Crumpler bag and a fancy purse-style bag from Epiphanie. Over the years, though, I realized I needed something that could house my DSLR and lenses while I was doing things like hiking and riding horses. I finally ended up purchasing the Clik Elite Impluse Sling and I love it. In addition to keeping my camera safe and accessible (and being one of the most comfortable bags I’ve carried, whether I’m hiking or walking miles around a major city), it’s become one of my favorite bags to use as my “one personal item” when I fly. There’s plenty of room in it for my phone, iPad mini, travel documents, snacks, and more! I also have a couple of carabiners attached to it (for things like my Vapur Reflex and such). I don’t think the grey color I have is available anymore, but you can buy it in black for a STEAL of a price here.
5. iPad Mini (+ iPhone)
I used to pack my laptop with me whenever I traveled, which I had to pack in my suitcase because none of my camera bags (which I use for my “one personal item”) have space for it. Then, I purchased an iPad mini and a keyboard case and decided to pack that instead of my laptop for a shorter trip. At first, I missed my laptop, but that didn’t last long. The iPad takes care of all my social media and web browsing needs when I’m on the move, especially when combined with my iPhone, and it fits in all of my camera bags. Extra bonus = you don’t have to take tablets out of your luggage when you go through security at the airport.
Have you heard of Birchbox? It’s a subscription box service that sends you samples of beauty products for the awesome price of just $10.00 a month. Sometimes, the products are too tempting and I have to try them right away (especially the hair products). Most of the time, though, I add the samples I get each month to my (huge) collection of travel-sized toiletry items. This makes packing easier, because I have a huge selection of ready-to-grab toiletries. (It also adds a little element of fun to living out of miniature tubes, since I get to try new products!) If you’re interested in trying out Birchbox, you can sign up here!
7. Ready to Go Toiletries
Speaking of toiletries, did I mention that I have a huge collection of them? In order to be able to pack on a moment’s notice, it helps to have everything you need ready to go. To help with this, I purchased doubles of my most-often used toiletries and beauty products. I’ll be honest – it’s definitely not fun to pay for twice the amount of products, but it’s so worth it to be able to just grab an already-packed toiletry bag and throw it into my suitcase. (I also bought extras of things like nail clippers, tweezers, etc.)
For things that I don’t want to purchase doubles of (like, my $40 foundation or my $36 powder, because they’re pricey and larger than I’d like), I have purchased the travel size options. Not sure where to get travel-sized versions of your favorite products? Both Sephora and Birchbox have a good selection of items. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, then you can always use a set of containers like this one.
Is this a total “extra” that you absolutely don’t need? Yeah, probably…but I love this thing. I’ve gone through so many different liquids bags, from store-bought ones to your basic Ziploc bag, and none of them have ever compared to this one. I love the size and shape of it and it’s made of a much more durable material than anything else I’ve ever tried. It’s definitely worth the $4.95 price tag.
9. Extra Chargers
What’s one of the things people most often forget when they travel? Their chargers. I forgot to pack my chargers one too many times and finally decided to just buy extras of any chargers I use regularly. I keep these extra chargers in a small zippered pocket in my suitcase at all times so that whenever I begin to pack for a trip, they are already in there and ready to go. No more forgotten chargers! (Here’s a tip for if you ever do forget your chargers – check with the front desk of the hotel/hostel where you’re staying to see if you can “borrow” from their collection of chargers that other travelers may have left behind previously.)
10. Sunscreen Stick
Confession: the sunscreen dilemma used to cause me a really (really) silly amount of stress when packing and traveling. What do I mean by the “sunscreen dilemma”? Well, I am about as pale and pasty as they come and any summer travel I do requires that I either pack sunscreen or purchase it at my destination. If I pack it, I have to make sure I can fit enough of it in my liquids bag to get me through my trip. If I purchase it on my trip, it can be more expensive (depending on my options) and I always end up with leftover sunscreen that goes to waste if I can’t bring in on the flight home. Enter…THE SUNSCREEN STICK.
This. Stuff. Is. AWESOME. I make sure that I always have one of these at home, ready to go. I love that I can just throw it in my suitcase, since it’s not a liquid. And whenever I need to reapply sunscreen on the go when I’m traveling, I can use this without getting my hands all greasy. It’s good for both your body and face, and I’ve found that it doesn’t run into my eyes on even the sweatiest of my travels.
Now it’s your turn! What items have helped YOU up your own packing game?