After a long break from the Travel Series, we are back with the next part: packing. Once your trip is all booked, it’s time to pack…well hopefully not immediately! I wanted to share some of the top packing tips that we’ve learned from all of our travels, specifically covering some of the harder situations to deal with. When I originally started putting this post together, the plan was to cram everything into one post, but I quickly realized that all this content actually needs two posts, How to Pack for a Trip and What to Pack for a Trip. Packing isn’t my strong suit, as my instinct is to try and bring as much as I can (aka everything) with me. I get packing anxiety (slight joke, but not really), and end up packing waaay more than I need. After years of trying to get better (and Thomas getting annoyed with me), I’ve finally got my system down…sort of. You might be wondering why I’m covering how to pack before what to pack? Often times how I pack for my trip will most likely dictate what I can bring.
Common Packing Problem #1: You have delicate handbags, shoes and hats that you want to pack.
Solution: We’ve received many questions about how to pack hats and other delicate items. While you could wear 3 hats on your head while walking through the airport, we’ve found a few simpler ways to pack these accessories without ruining them.
Hats – If I’m packing 1 or 2 hats, I’ll try and pack them in a big tote that is my preferred personal item (the other bag you can bring with you along with your carry-on). On our trip to Tulum I packed 5 hats. In order to do this, I packed the hats inside each other, according to size. In the bottom hat I added some scarves, a shirt or two, or a few pairs of socks to prevent the hat from caving in. I then laid the hats on the flat side of the bag and packed clothes around the crowns. As simple as that.
Handbags – I always try to pack my handbags inside their dust bags. I’ll place small bags inside larger bags to protect them. This way I also don’t have to worry about big bags losing their shape.
Shoes – For the most part, shoes are pretty durable, but for delicate shoes like my flats, I like to pack them in their shoe bags. Rainboots get filled with socks or other shoes inside their shoe bags.
Electronics – Never check your valuable electronics. That means things like cameras, computers and hard drives should be in your carry on. If you constantly travel with cameras, we recommend ONA bags, as they protect cameras and electronics and look great. Also, Thomas tries to pack as much as possible into his personal item (ONA backpack for long trips), that way he never has an issue if overhead space is small or gets too full.
Jewelry & Sunglasses – I have a handful of Cuyana and Truffle pouches in various sizes that are great for small, delicate items like these. It also keeps them organized. These almost always fit inside my carry on and I always carry any fine jewelry with me.
Common Packing Problem #2: You constantly pack your bags too heavy, costing you a fortune in luggage fees.
Solution: I have to admit, packing under the 50lb limit is not exactly my strongest suit but after years of Thomas weighing my suitcases after I’ve thought I was done packing, I’ve learned a few tricks that keeps me on target almost every time.
Tip #1– Balance item volume vs. weight. When we pack, we often just fill the volume of the bag without taking too much consideration of the weight of the items we are adding. With each item, consider how much space it’s going to take up vs. its weight. Things like heels or jewelry might not take up a lot of space, but they are heavy for their size. Items that are small and heavy might be best packed in your carry on. (Note: Most US airlines won’t weigh carry on luggage, but it’s a pretty common practice amongst international airlines that they actually enforce).
Tip #2 – Weigh your bag empty. It’s a simple equation: Amount you can pack = 50 lb – weight of your bag empty. Yet you see the people at the airport every time, off to the side, bag wide open, frantically re-packing things to reduce weight. Most of the time their bags are massive and outdated. Luckily, nowadays you can get a large hard sided suitcase that’s durable and lightweight. But even our largest bag is still 10lbs empty.
Tip #3 – Always carry an extra duffel for the trip home, especially if you plan on shopping on your trip. The biggest mistake you can make is to pack an overweight bag instead of separating into two bags. On Delta, your second checked bag on domestic flights is $35 compared to $100 for a bag weighing between 51-70 pounds. The simple, money saving solution is to buy this amazing Tote Bag. It’s durable, lightweight and only 1 lb empty. We pack an empty one on nearly every single trip we go on.
Tip #4 – During winter, carry your largest coat, even if you don’t plan on wearing it. Winter is one of the hardest times to pack since everything simply takes up more space. You’d be surprised by how much space you can save in your bag by just wearing your largest jacket to the airport.
Common Packing Problem #3: You are in need of a luggage upgrade but don’t know where to start.
Solution: Chances are you have a hodgepodge of suitcases sitting in your closet at home but every time you go to pack it never seems like you have the right bag. If I were buying one or two new pieces of luggage, I’d start with a large rolling suitcase and a trusty carry on. But if you already have these or are are looking to replace everything, these are my favorite categories:
Large Roller Suitcase
We’ve been super happy with our Hartmann Innovaire luggage. We have both the Extended Journey size and the Long Journey. The top features we look for in a large suitcase are durability, lightweight and a 4 wheel upright roll. We prefer to have hardsided luggage and the Innovaire’s are the only ones that have lasted years without damage. We’ve gone through our fair share of luggage that’s fallen apart, so we have some experience in this department. Before buying luggage, check the empty weight of the bag. I’d try and stay away from any bag that’s over 10 lbs empty.
A great carry on will easily be one of your most used pieces of luggage. You’ve probably noticed that I love my Steamline carry-on. Not only are they great looking (I get asked almost every single flight what brand makes them), but I’ve found that it fits all my needs and keeps everything protected. Thomas prefers his 4 wheeled Hartmann Innovaire, as he can wheel both his carry on and checked back with one arm.
If you are trying to maximize your packing space, the right personal item can make a huge difference. I love to use one of my large totes, like my Goyard tote or a big beach bag for summer travels. If you are a photographer, Thomas carries his ONA Backpack for long trips and his ONA Messenger bag for shorter trips. If you want to squeeze even more space out of your personal item, Thomas adds a carabiner to a loop on his bag and attaches his headphones or water bottle to it.
Weekenders are such a great size for a variety of tasks. Compared to a tote, weekenders zip up for extra security and privacy. You can’t go wrong with a classic leather weekender, a striped canvas one or my new favorite Neely & Chloe weekender bag. Even when we aren’t using them for shorter trips, we load up our extra weekender bags when hauling things back and forth between the office, or you can use them for groceries.
Packable Extra Duffel
An extra super lightweight duffel bag has come in handy countless times on our travels. We have nothing but great things to say about the Samsonite Tote-a-ton, which can fit 50 pounds of extra clothing and items, yet roll up into a small square for packing. We also love them for long road trips because their soft construction helps them fit into more crevices.