Top Ten Packing Tips
If you missed it, I did a blog post all about our epic trip to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu here. Now, I want to tackle packing tips.
Few things annoy me more than packing. It is the WORST. Am I right? It causes so much anxiety and stress before a trip, even robbing you of some of the excitement. My goal is to stop that joy-sucking anxiety in its tracks with these ten key tips below.
Perhaps more important than what you actually bring… your packing materials!
I know what you are thinking, no freakin way can I pack myself and my kids all in carry-on bags. CAN’T BE DONE. Well, I’m going to show you how it CAN be done.
First, let’s talk about the advantages of only bringing a carry on suitcase. For this trip, we took many flights, trains, boats, etc. While checking bags is always an option, we felt there were too many moving parts to risk losing luggage. We also were able to swiftly move from one flight to the next, without waiting or worrying. I brought my Calpak black marble carry on. It also comes in white. You can look at more color options here. These are sturdy suitcases! Please be sure to check the sizes carefully before ordering. You need the 22-inch option. The 23-incher has to be checked.
My second bag (the tote pictured above) was just as important as my suitcase. It held all my toiletries, laptop, and other tech accessories. I talk more about that bag below. I put my toiletries including liquids in this tote. I also put my laptop in this sleeve inside the tote. Additionally, I had my tech bag in here. My ID and money were in my Prada belt bag secured around my waist, but not through the loops of my jeans. That way I didn’t have to unfasten it every time I had to use the bathroom. The great thing about this belt bag is… it’s a 2-in-1. There is a gold chain on the inside so I can easily convert it to a more sophisticated evening bag. I loved touring cities and sites with this bag, hands-free!
Behold the power of the cube! You can fit a lot of stuff in a small suitcase thanks in LARGE part to the power of the packing cube. I have some cubes by Amazon Basics and some from eBags, both are great! I recommend buying a few different sizes. Per suitcase, I usually use 3 large and 2 medium-sized cubes. I bought different colors for everyone in the family, which is another way to make your travel life simpler.
I also put my toiletries into a separate bag and liquids into a clear, zip-top bag. I put both bags into my larger tote bag, which I also brought on this trip called the Wingman Bag. It’s pretty large and I took full advantage, packing as much as I could! I normally take a backpack as my second bag if I’m checking a suitcase, but on this trip, I needed more room. I simply stacked the large tote on top of my suitcase to make it much easier to carry through the airports. Because the bag is so squishy, I didn’t have an issue fitting it under the seat in front of me. The zip top is a must so nothing spills out.
I also separated by jewelry into a small, flat rectangular bag again making it easy to access and keeping everything organized. I only brought a couple of sturdy gold necklaces and a few pairs of earrings. I never travel with my wedding rings especially when I’m traveling internationally. If you want to travel with more delicate jewelry, you can grab a hard case to protect it like this one.
Giant tortoise in the Galapagos. Wearing my super soft cargo pants and white tee
In yet another bag in my tote, I kept all of my technology which included a compact back-up iPhone charger, noise-canceling headphones, and cables. I also kept an eye mask and earplugs in this bag which was easily accessible in my tote. By the way, I used these Bose Sleepbuds every night… set on “warm static,” and I slept like a baby!
For my next trip, I’m going to invest in some noise-canceling headphones that are Bluetooth-enabled. I kept needing to charge my phone on the plane and wanting to watch a movie at the same time with Bluetooth headphones I can charge and watch at the same time.
First day at Machu Picchu, went straight from the train to touring…jeans & tee were fine!
#7 | Separate Pieces by Type
I separate the pieces in my suitcase by cube, and by type. In other words, I put tops in one cube and pants in another. This helps when you are packing and unpacking a LOT during your trip and need easy and quick access to things. While packing inside the cube, I usually alternate top to bottom. With pants, for example, I pack each pair in opposite directions so it’s almost even.
#8 | Pick a Color Story
The biggest secret to packing light and traveling with just a carry-on?? Pick a color story and do not deviate. For this trip, I brought black basics like a black jersey dress, black joggers, a black long-sleeve tee, black sneakers, a black rain jacket, black lightweight jacket, black aviator sunglasses, you get the picture. By bringing black basics, everything mixes and matches seamlessly together almost like a mini capsule wardrobe. If you are interested in shopping my black basics, they are linked below.
#9 | Bring Minimal Shoes
The thing that takes the biggest hit in your carry on…? Shoes. You really can ONLY bring 3 pairs of shoes. I squeaked 4 pairs into my carry on, but that’s because one pair were flat sandals (like flip-flops). My main shoes were my black sneakers pictured above, my brown wedge sandals (also above), which I brought to go with the dresses and my white perforated sneakers, which also doubled as water shoes. You have to be REALLY strategic with shoe choices. One dressier, but wearable and comfortable option that will go with everything (tans and skin colors work best). One casual sneaker for exercise, hiking, walking, touring, etc. And, in my case, we were spending 4 days on a boat shuttling to and from snorkeling sites so I wanted a water shoe/sneaker. You can obviously substitute your 3rd pair of shoes so it meets the need of your trip. My flat sandals ended up being unnecessary.
#10 | Travel in Layers
You should wear a lot of layers on travel days. It serves double duty: 1) keeping you warm on the ALWAYS cold airplane and 2) it gives you more pieces to work with without having to pack them. I basically wore the same outfit on travel days. It was comfortable, high rise skinny jeans (I prefer ankle length so they don’t bunch. I’m petite), black bralet (no wire, more comfortable for travel), long-sleeve, lightweight black tee (this one doesn’t wrinkle), zip-up black jacket (doesn’t wrinkle and lightweight) and a really elegant wool/cashmere scarf. The scarf makes your outfit look more polished and definitely keeps you warmer! You can see the outfit above. It looks chic, but it’s also VERY functional.
As the temperature warmed up, I could lose layers.
You may also want to bring a packable duffel bag if you plan to do some shopping. I might consider a spare bag for laundry and bags for your shoes. I put all of my shoes into one cube, but if you would prefer to separate them, you can try shoe bags.
If you are feeling panicked…thinking do I have enough??? Try to remember that anywhere you go, you can buy clothes. Literally anywhere. P.S. don’t forget to bring one swimsuit!
What is your favorite packing tip?? Please share in the comments below.
The belt bag was my heavy hitter on this trip! It has a chain link strap inside so you can also carry it as a chic evening bag
Print My Packing List!
I also created a packing list that you can download and print HERE!
You can check out more travel posts here. You might like to read about our trip to Iceland here. Or perhaps what we did in Japan here. I’ll cover packing and what I wore in another post. I linked some of the heavy hitters from my suitcase below.