When you start packing your suitcase, you know a trip is real! But how do make sure you have everything you need without also packing the kitchen sink?
Here are some tips to help you get to where you're going with what you need and stay organized while you’re there.
- Take as little as possible. Overpacking is the single biggest packing mistake people make. See our video on packing light.
- Unless you're going to one place and staying there, you will have to repack multiple times during your trip. The more stuff you have, the longer it takes. Do you really want to be in your hotel room packing when you could be wandering the town square or going outside to look at the stars?
- Pack early. Get a good start on packing at least one week in advance. There are two reasons for planning ahead:
- 1) you are more likely to pack carefully if you have plenty of time to think about it and you’re not throwing everything in as fast as you can
- 2) you’ll have time to go out and buy anything you realize you need before the morning you depart, which is already hectic!
- Follow a packing list. There are lots of packing lists out there on the web. We're pretty proud of our packing lists- they are customized for each of our trips trip and we invite you to use them for any trip you're planning to a similar destination, climate, or activity. Just download them from our trip pages along with a trip summary!
- However you get a packing list, check each item off as you put it in your suitcase. Make sure to circle items or keep notes of the things that you can't pack yet because you'll need them before you leave, like toiletries. There are a couple of reasons to follow a packing list.
1) The most obvious is that you are less likely to bring what you don’t need and to forget the things you really do
2) Another advantage stems from the difficulty in packing for a climate different than where you are. If it’s really hot where you are, you might be convinced that you will enjoy being cold. But your packing list will remind you to be prepared with cold-weather clothes.
- Put everything out on the table before you pack anything. This helps to assure that you don’t double pack or miss anything. Plus it gives you the opportunity to reconsider once more whether you need something.
- Think carefully about what you'll pack in your daypack or carry on. For ease of walking through the airport you don't want it to be too heavy. But for a hiking trip you should always carry or wear your hiking boots because they are the most essential and irreplaceable piece of gear you have. Also remember to bring clothing appropriate to where you land so that you don't have to go into your suitcase in the airport.
- Apply the principles of lightweight backpacking to suitcase packing
- Divide everything into 3 piles (must-haves, wants, and would be fun) and take only the first pile!
- Once you have decided what you need, ask yourself if there is a lighter version you could take? That can mean repackaging your toiletries into smaller containers or it can mean bringing a lightweight fleece in place of a wool sweater.
- Can you choose items that have multiple functions? A lightweight rain jacket also serves well as a windbreaker. A pair of wool socks serve as a backup pair of gloves.
- Use packing cubes to keep everything organized. Separate dirty clothes from clean, outer layers from base layers, and make sure you know what clothes go in which compartment.
- Learn from your experience!! Keep lists of anything you really missed having, and everything you brought you didn't really need. Just don't make the mistake of deciding you don't need rain gear because you didn't use it on the last trip!