Have you ever wondered about the secret travel tips of frequent flyers who know how to pack a suitcase like a pro? Once you learn a few tips and tricks, you too can pack in a ton of clothing and other items while still giving off the semblance of traveling light.
My husband Jorge and I live in California, but we’re travel bloggers promoting tourism for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. To keep our destination website visit-vallarta.com up to date with fresh new travel information, we fly to our beachfront condo in Nuevo Vallarta several times a year. Over time we’ve learned some awesome little travel tips that we’d like to share: how to pack a suitcase like a pro!
With many airlines charging big bucks for check-in luggage, the first of many travel tips on how to pack like a pro begins with this money-saving suggestion: leave the big suitcase at home and go with a carry-on instead.
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As airlines allow one carry-on bag plus one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag, backpack or tote), to maximize the total amount of space we have to work with – and here’s the second big travel tip on how to pack like a pro: take a backpack as your one personal item.
Select a backpack that is lightweight, sturdy, and has a lot of room inside. This makes a big difference because you can carry much, much more inside a backpack. Pack all electronics (laptop, iPad, tablet, camera, Mp3, cell phone) as well as reading and/or sunglasses, cosmetic bag, jewelry bag, wallet and passport inside the backpack. Don’t put any valuables in your carry-on. When boarding small planes the airline may ask passengers to check-in carry-ons. So be prepared, and keep your valuables close.
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For women, choosing a backpack as your one personal item means traveling without a big, heavy purse. I pack a cute Coach wristlet and wear an ultra-thin Baggallini to the airport for easy access to my credit cards and passport. Before boarding the plane, I tuck my Baggallini inside the backpack. When traveling it’s a feeling of great freedom not to be burdened down by a heavier purse. And as the Baggallini can be worn across the body, it provides greater security from pick-pockets, and allows your hands to be free to use your camera and take awesome photos.
- Select a carry-on with four dual caster wheels for effortless, 360-degree mobility.
- Rather than putting stacks of clothing into your suitcase, roll each item tightly. You can squeeze in a lot more essentials with this method. If you have organizational packing cubes, these can help you pack your clothes more compactly so you can fit in the maximum amount of items possible.
- For shorter trips when you’re not taking much clothing, pack all of your outfits in bundles. You’ll enjoy having everything ready to go right out of your suitcase. Bundling also helps prevent deep creases from forming on clothes.
- Pack the heaviest clothing at the bottom of the suitcase with lighter items on top.
- Fully utilize the four corners of your suitcase. After you think you’ve finished packing, you can often find “extra” space in the corners where you can fit in extra items.
- Wear your heaviest clothes and shoes on the plane. If you’re bringing a sweater, jacket, or hat, don’t put these in your carry-on, wear them.
- Find out ahead of time if your hotel room has a hair dryer. If this bulky appliance can be left at home, that’s awesome! More room for clothes.
- Here are more travel tips and secrets for how to pack a suitcase like a pro:
- Pack more tops than bottoms. Select items that are very versatile. Choose items that you can mix and match. Bring at least two outfits that can be dressed up or down.
- Leave expensive jewelry at home. Take only items you won’t be completely heartbroken about losing. Accessories are very light weight, so you can bring plenty of them. Pack everything in a small zippered cosmetic bag or ziplock.
- For perfume pack a travel-size, roller-ball roll on.
- Leave big bottles of shampoo and conditioner at home. Most hotels provide the basics. Consider purchasing toiletry items at a store once you arrive at your destination. When flying in the U.S. and taking liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes on board in a carry-on, these items must be 3.4 ounces or less per container. Pack the items together in a clear, quart-size ziplock bag.
- Roll up cords and chargers tightly. Store these items together inside a zippered pouch. Make sure you bring a 10-foot cord to charge your cell phone at the airport. For a complete list of essential travel accessories and tech gadgets, refer to this post: Best Travel Accessories
- Always pack a few gallon-size and quart-size ziplocks in your carry-on. They’ll come in handy during your travels and when packing to come back home.
- Select shoes carefully. When traveling to cold destinations, take three pairs of shoes, including the ones you’ll be wearing to the airport. Put shoes into plastic grocery bags before packing them in the suitcase. This will keep your clothes clean. To save space, tuck pairs of socks, rolled up belts, etc. inside the shoes. When traveling to a tropical destination, pack two pairs of sandals, one pair of light-weight heels, and two pairs of Havaianas flip flops. Wear a good pair of walking shoes to the airport.
- If there isn’t laundry service at your hotel or a nearby laundromat, plan on washing a few lighter-weight tops and undies in the bathroom sink and hanging them to dry.
- While these travel tips may not work for everyone, here’s something I’ve done when traveling to Europe: purchase inexpensive undies (or take older ones) that can be disposed of after wearing. When packing to return home, leave behind an item or two that you aren’t particularly attached to, as well as all toiletry bottles, books and travel guides. This leaves room in your carry-on for several small souvenirs.
- Always pack two ink pens and a small notebook. Have the pens readily available inside your backpack to fill out travel documents.
- If traveling to a foreign country you may need an adapter. In many tropical locations where there are thunder storms and lightning, be sure to pack a travel-size surge protector for your electronics.
- Wrap breakable items in soft clothing or bubble wrap. Pack these fragile items in the center of the suitcase surrounded by soft items on all sides.
- When taking a check-in suitcase, pack an extension cord. This will be very helpful if the outlets in your hotel room are not in convenient locations, or if there are not enough outlets to charge all of your electronics.
- For all check-in luggage, tie a thick colorful ribbon around the handle of each suitcase. This will help you immediately spot your pieces of luggage among the sea of look-alikes on the baggage claim carousel.
- Want more travel tips on how to pack a suitcase like a pro? Then read on…
Many frequent travelers will say one of the most important travel tips for how to pack like a pro is less is more. My advice? Just make it look that way. When it comes to preparing for travel, I find inspiration from a very special lady who really knew how to pack a suitcase well: Mary Poppins!
For more awesome travel tips, here’s a fantastic travel checklist for your upcoming vacation.
What were your favorite travel tips from the list above? Do you have some fabulous travel tips of your own to share? Tell us how you pack a suitcase like pro in the comments below.