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Best Packing Tips for Any Trip In 2024

A pink suitcase sits open on a blue, flat surface. It' s filled with pink and lavender colored clothing, stylish women's shoes, and a pair of sunglasses.

Packing Tips For All Kinds of Travel

Best Packing Tips of 2024

My first trip to France, many years ago, included juggling my luggage as well as my children’s. Toting several suitcases, backpacks, and carry-ons all over the country, from Lyon to Provence, Paris to Nantes, and then home again, had me rethinking my strategy—all this baggage made for a less enjoyable experience for all three of us. I learned my lesson and started using packing hacks to travel light.

Whether the travel plans are a quick weekend getaway or an extended three-week adventure (like ours), how and what you pack becomes essential. But it doesn’t have to be a frustrating quandary—you know, the kind where you end up with a migraine at the end and feel exhausted before you even leave. Learning how to pack for any trip efficiently and reliably has allowed me to avoid many mistakes on my travels.

On a more recent three-week trip to Ireland, my partner and I packed everything we needed into one carry-on each. When it came time to pack, it was integrating these tools and tips that made for easy, breezy travel.

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Here Are The Packing Hacks I Use When Traveling

I’m a dedicated list-maker! 

Whenever I prepare for a trip, my first step is to jot down everything I need. Whether it’s scribbling with pen and paper or typing into my phone’s notes app, this process helps me streamline my thoughts and organize my essentials. Transferring everything from my mind to a tangible list makes keeping track of what’s necessary much easier. I add or subtract to the list, continuously updating and refining it, ensuring that I don’t overlook anything crucial for the upcoming journey.

To kickstart the list-making process, I start by considering some overarching and ‘big-picture’ questions.

  • How long will I be away?
  • What’s the weather forecast at my destination? 
  • What activities are on the agenda? 

You should make a packing list for traveling anywhere you’ll be for more than 24 hours. Believe me, it’s worth the trouble. Whether I’m spending a romantic holiday with my partner exploring a new city, attending a work conference, or going on a rugged hiking adventure, understanding the nature of the trip informs my packing decisions.

Next, I begin by identifying the must-have clothing and items. While the initial list may seem extensive, I later trim it down to the essentials without compromising on style or practicality.

An added perk of digitizing my list on Google Docs is the ability to share it with my partner. This collaborative approach ensures that we’re both on the same page and can contribute to the packing process. Plus, it facilitates identifying items we can share, like toiletries and supplies, streamlining our packing efforts.

The Advantages of Packing Light

Opting for a carry-on-only approach not only saves time but also cuts down on expenses. With airlines increasingly charging for checked bags, minimizing luggage can result in substantial savings, especially on domestic flights.

Moreover, navigating through flight delays and potential baggage mishaps is less stressful when your belongings are within arm’s reach. By bypassing the luggage carousel upon arrival, you can hit the ground running and make the most of your travel experience.

The same goes for road trips. While packing the car to the gills is easy, keeping things simple is always less stressful. When we head out on the open road, I still aim to pare down my essentials while maintaining comfort. Take a look at these free, downloadable packing lists on Meraki Travels for ideas on how to get started.

 Luggage Selection Matters

Choosing the right luggage is crucial for seamless travel. Before heading to the airport, it’s essential to verify the size and weight restrictions imposed by the airlines. Oversized or overweight bags could incur additional fees or necessitate last-minute adjustments. No fun! We’ll cover the specifics of how to pack a suitcase in the coming sections.

If you are exploring by car, consider a soft-sided bag.  These are easier, offering flexibility when packed alongside camping gear or coolers in the boot of the car.

Harnessing the Power of Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a game-changer when it comes to staying organized on the go. I absolutely love mine! 

Despite adding minimal weight, they revolutionize the packing process by maximizing space and categorizing belongings efficiently. On a trip to Ireland, I packed three weeks of outfits in my packing cubes, which fit inside my carry-on suitcase. They made me a believer!

Additionally, vacuum-sealed packing bags prove invaluable, especially when traveling with kids and accumulating souvenirs along the way.

Avoid Overpacking with a Purposeful Approach

This is where making that list and checking it twice comes in handy. Combatting the temptation to pack for every conceivable scenario requires a pragmatic mindset. You can effectively streamline your packing list by scrutinizing the itinerary and distinguishing between essential and optional items.

Are you really going to need that formal wear and high heels? Or can you pack one pair of nice slacks that do double duty on the off chance there is a formal dinner event?

This could happen, but will it, really?

Rather than succumbing to the “just-in-case” mentality, prioritize versatile clothing pieces that can transition seamlessly from day to night. And even if that formal dinner manifests on our schedule, take it as a sign. It’s time to go shopping!

Which brings me to the following suggested tip—

Embrace Local Shopping Adventures

Perhaps you will need to shop for formal wear, but you will likely find most everyday items close at hand in whatever location you find yourself. 

Exploring local markets and stores enriches your cultural immersion and presents opportunities to procure overlooked essentials. Whether it’s replenishing sunscreen in Provence, as I needed to do, or stumbling upon unique souvenirs, embracing spontaneous shopping excursions adds an element of adventure to your travels. So, shopping like a local is part of the adventure.

You can always check with your hotel concierge or look up the nearest store on a map app. Some of the best stories stem from small adventures and encounters when shopping like a local. Leave the bulkier bathroom supplies at home and consider a shopping trip upon arriving at your new destination.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Last-Minute Packing Frenzies

Leaving packing until the night before or at the last minute generally leads to hurried overpacking. You may also find the tendency to forget things due to the stress that comes with eleventh-hour travel prep!

Starting the packing process well in advance allows for thoughtful consideration of each item’s necessity and practicality. You can approach packing with composure and foresight by consulting your meticulously curated list and accounting for unforeseen circumstances.

I begin packing two days before departure time, at the bare minimum. This lead time allows me to assess what I need, consult my list, and watch my destination’s weather. For the sake of argument, say the forecast upon my arrival is rainy all week. I better bring that Macintosh, but ditch the umbrella—it’s too bulky! I can buy an umbrella if needed.

Thinking ahead allows for level-headed planning. For example, are your favorite jeans still sitting in the washing machine? If you pack at the last minute, you will pack them wet. But giving yourself a grace period allows you to have clean and dry jeans for your trip.

Consult your list. As you pack items into your cubes or bags, check them off your list. Done!

Don’t forget to check out Meraki Travels’ downloadable packing lists to save you time on prep for your adventure.

Now you’re ready to zip up your carry-on and store it by the door, ready to head out in the morning. I keep my electronics, charging cords, and small toiletries bag out until the morning I leave, then throw them into my shoulder bag. I prefer to keep these items handy and accessible.

In addition, I carry a pair of warm ankle socks in case I want to slip off my shoes on the plane. Other items going into my bag include my passport and wallet, a book, my laptop and cord, a hairbrush, make-up, lipstick, and even an extra clean pair of underwear—an exception to my “just-in-case ban.” 

When it comes to what goes in your shoulder bag or backpack, think easy access because your carry-on will be stowed in the compartment above you. You really don’t want to be that person who constantly gets up and down to retrieve items from their suitcase, annoying their fellow travelers.

Harness the Versatility of Double-Duty Clothing

The concept of double-duty clothing may be the most crucial packing tip, especially if packing for carry-on travel. Opting for versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched for various occasions ensures wardrobe flexibility without sacrificing style.

The idea is to pack only clothing that can serve multiple purposes. One idea is to pack a light yet simple dress that can be trussed up with heels and a scarf (for that formal dinner) or, alternatively, worn with sneakers for a casual, dressed-down look, perfect for that romp around town. The key here is the more versatile the item, the better! Ask yourself, can I wear these jeans or shorts more than once?

Strategic accessories like scarves and statement jewelry inject personality into your outfits while conserving packing space. Prioritize comfort and confidence when selecting clothing, opting for pieces that align with your personal style and preferences.

Keep the color scheme simple. Go for basic or neutral colors. Much of my wardrobe consists of blacks, whites, and greys, as well as one pair of favorite jeans. Jewelry, scarves, or a fun jacket can add a splash of accent color and be interchanged to create a different look. There’s no need to bring your entire closet.

One last tip: Pack the clothes you feel good in, are comfortable in, and fit you. Are your pair of pretty designer slacks truly practical, or does the waistband cut into your skin every time you sit down? Think twice about the “too-tight” slacks. Pack clothes you feel great in!

Strategize Laundry Options for Extended Stays

For longer trips, say a week or more, incorporating laundry into your travel plans reduces the need for excessive clothing and promotes sustainability. You may not need to pack ten days of underwear, only five, and then handwash them in the bathroom sink if necessary.

Whether utilizing hotel facilities or packing travel-sized detergent for handwashing, planning ahead for laundry fosters a minimalist packing approach.

Check what is available when booking your accommodations. Remember to take coins since you may need to exchange currency; those machines are not always free.

Most accommodations, including VRBO, will have laundry facilities for use.

The key here is to know what to expect and what is available before you go. If you need to adjust from there, you can. Be nimble.

Optimize Space by Wearing Bulky Items

This applies to any airline travel. Every travel guru, from Rick Steves to Samantha Brown, recommends maximizing space within your carry-on by wearing bulky items, such as jackets and boots, during transit. Remember, space is at a premium. This strategy minimizes the volume of your luggage while ensuring essential items remain accessible during the journey.

I tend to wear an oversized scarf or wrap to dress up my wardrobe later and as an extra blanket or cushion on the plane. I even wiped down the tray table with it! It’s convenient.

Streamline Shoe Selection for Efficiency

It’s important, if not essential, to minimize the number of shoes in your luggage. It also happens to be the hardest thing to do, but remember to wear your heaviest and bulkiest pair on the plane, leaving room for 1-2 pairs in your baggage. 

Minimizing shoe options streamlines packing and maximizes luggage space. By coordinating footwear with planned outfits and prioritizing versatility, you can strike a balance between style and practicality.

The best way to begin is by planning outfits around your shoes. Remember that list?

Make sure the shoes you choose are versatile enough to be worn with several outfits and on various occasions. I recommend a pair of solid-colored heels or flats and a pair of dressier sneakers. Keep it simple, and your wardrobe will go a long way.

One more trick: Use shoes as storage compartments for rolled-up socks and toiletries. This will optimize space within your luggage, which is valuable real estate.

Prioritize Travel-Size Toiletries for Convenience

Carry-on only requires making sure toiletries and other liquid items meet the in-cabin and security requirements. The best approach is to stock up on travel-size toiletries.

Retail stores such as Target and even your local grocery store chain carry travel-size items in their cosmetic department. If you prefer your own brand of face wash, consider stocking up on reusable travel containers. These come in 3oz or smaller sizes. Simply pop them into your small cosmetic bag!

Better yet, capitalizing on hotel-provided amenities further reduces the need for bulky toiletries, allowing for more efficient use of luggage space.

If you’re traveling with a partner or companion, consider sharing some of the toiletries, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Decide who will pack what to avoid duplication. Be sure to keep at least a few days of medications in your shoulder bag or backpack. Larger bottles can be wrapped inside t-shirts or stockings to keep them from rolling around.

Leave Room for Souvenirs

Lastly, following all these tips and tricks, you most likely have a little room left over for souvenirs! Even with a streamlined packing approach, leaving space for souvenirs ensures you can commemorate your travels without exceeding luggage limitations. Opting for compact souvenirs like magnets and postcards preserves valuable luggage space while preserving cherished memories. Of course, your phone and camera will be loaded with great pictures and selfies too.

Shipping larger or fragile purchases home offers a practical solution for managing memorable acquisitions while minimizing travel bulk. Whether it’s indulging in local delicacies or purchasing artisanal crafts, planning ahead for souvenir storage enhances the overall travel experience.

Now You Are Ready For Take-Off

A streamlined and paired-down approach to traveling light might feel daunting, but it does get easier with each trip, whether that trip is on a plane, train, car, or even a sailboat!

Keep in mind those memories of lugging a heavy suitcase through long airport terminals (or, in my case, all over France). On your next trip, you will be glad you packed light.

Happy travels wherever the road takes you!