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Packing Tips For Your Next Vacation

March 14, 2018


Erin Schrader

I’m that girl when packing – the kind that waltzes her way into the bedroom and believes that it’s only going to take approximately 20 minutes to throw some things in a suitcase and then be on her merry way. Except then reality hits about 5 minutes in and I’m laying on the floor begging for a glass of wine with tears nearly streaming down my face because I JUST CAN’T DO IT. Let’s face it – packing can be overwhelming and quite frankly, intimidating. Mostly because of that stupid 50 lb rule – who invented that thing anyway? 100 pounds, I could handle but 50? That’s like asking to take a toddler with you and that’s it. Nobody wants to take ONLY a toddler on vacation. Yikes. The good news is that because I have become a frequent flier of the Hot Mess Express [it’s an up and coming millennial airline ;)], I’ve had to finally figure out a way to keep my calm, keep things organized and actually stay under that 50 lb limit when traveling. Miracles can happen, people, the inside of my suitcases are living proof.

Today, I thought it would be fun to share a few packing tips and tricks to ensure that the only thing you actually have to worry about for vacation is if you want salt or sugar on the rim of your margarita [salt if you’re asking]. Let’s jump in and start packing!

  1. First up – before I start the initial packing process, I make a list. I keep a standard spreadsheet saved on the computer of my essentials that go with me on every trip [every toiletry written out, drivers license, sunglasses, Advil, etc] that I reference every single time and check off as I go. Additionally, I will add every day of the trip to the list that we will be gone including travel days, write down that day’s activities [if known in advance] and write down an idea for an outfit that I could envision or want to wear for that day/time.
  2. To keep the initial overwhelm at bay, I always plan my travel day outfits first – both there and back. I always think it’s easiest to plan these outfits because I typically go with something easy + comfortable + layers [think leggings, tees, hoodies, cardigans, etc]. By focusing on these two outfits first, I feel like I accomplished something immediately and can dive into my other outfits.
  3. Once I have all days written out with the ideal outfits in mind, I start pulling things from my closet. I typically try every outfit on [with jewelry and undergarments] to make sure I feel good about my ensemble and then if approved, put it all in a “to pack” pile. This helps from overpacking and makes you feel more confident in what you’ll be wearing + cause fewer freakout sessions of “OMG. DID I REMEMBER TO PACK THE STRAPLESS BRA THAT I HAVE TO WEAR WITH THAT CUTE OFF THE SHOULDER DRESS?!” Having the outfits written down beforehand helps speed this process up.
  4. When writing your initial list of outfit ideas and things to bring, be mindful of using the same item more than once – shoes being a great example. If you put together an outfit that requires a pair of shoes that you won’t wear with anything else, maybe that means you should plan a different outfit. By packing items that you know you can wear a few different times, it will help with that dreaded 50 lb limit and make for less laundry when you return [double win!]
  5. Once you have your complete “to pack” pile, separate the items by category – pants/shorts, swimwear and lingerie, tops and so on. Here’s why — packing cubes. Also known as your new best friend.

I recently purchased this new luggage set because well, because the colors – and found these coordinating packing cubes and was intrigued. I had never used them before but now, I can’t imagine NOT using them again. Oh my amazing. Not only do they keep things super organized and tidy within your suitcase, they also allow you to pack MORE than ever before [or so I think].  To give you a little insight on how much these cubes can actually fit – let me break down what I was able to get into one half of my suitcase.

  • One packing cube for jackets and sweaters which consisted of 1 denim jacket, 5 sweaters/tops
  • One packing cube for swim + lingerie which consisted of 4 swimsuits, 3 bras, panties
  • One packing cube for tops which consisted of 6 tops
  • One packing cube for shorts and pants which consisted of 3 pairs of shorts, 4 pairs of pants

On that same half of the suitcase, I had my toiletry bag which came in the packing cube set which housed all of my makeup, skin and hair care products.  Whenever traveling, I like to take more than one bag [we are women, we need options] so to do this I always pack one larger bag that can be used as a pool/beach bag and pack inside of that a crossbody purse and a couple of clutches. It’s a great use of space and shoot, we know I need all of the space I can get my hands on. Now, for the other half of the suitcase – I simply threw in my shoes [5 pairs to be exact], 2 pairs of pajamas, slippers [I never leave home without my slippers] and 6 dresses/jumpsuits on hangers. I love leaving items on hangers when possible because when you arrive, you can simply take them straight from your suitcase to the closet without any hassle. Because it’s nice to have a spot to put your dirty clothes when traveling, I packed a drawstring bag that I can easily throw things into as the trip continues. Last but certainly not least, jewelry. I’ve been using this Stella & Dot Jewelry Travel case for years and it has been a lifesaver. Gone are the days of tangled necklaces and lost earrings. I love that this has a spot for each type of jewelry and gets it all to my final destination in an organized fashion. Vacation, I’m officially ready for you. One last thing before takeoff – to ensure you aren’t over limit before getting to the airport [that is the WORST] I would use this handheld luggage scale [for less than $20 it is totally worth it in my book] to weigh your bag at home so you can have peace of mind about travel day! NOW, it’s time go! Sunshine destination comin’ atcha in 3..2…1.Shop today’s post easily below — 

photos by tina herschberger photography

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  1. Colleen says:

    Packing has always been my nemesis, too. You make it look so easy!! Two questions — a) is all of that REALLY under 50 lbs.? 5 pairs of shoes – what?? And b) what’s in the smaller suitcase? 🙂

  2. Meg says:

    1 suitcase right? What size?

  3. Beth says:

    Love all these. The Charles Henry Off the shoulder dress. Is it dressy enough for a Summer wedding? Love the Coral but its not available in xs. Not sure what other color to do

    • erin says:

      I personally love all of the colors, I don’t think you could go wrong on any for a summer wedding!

  4. Trisha says:

    Can you share a sample spreadsheet list that you use?

  5. Melissa says:

    Great read!! Tell me about your hatcase. I have been looking the one you have pictured but I am not sure on size. I would pack large brimmed sun hats, and some smaller ones, I just don’t know if I want sm, med, lrgsized case.
    Does it fit in the overhead compartment? I’m sure it’s too big for under the seat but it also looks too large for the overhead bin. Not sure if it can be packed on plane or has to be checked.
    I would love your information and pictures it packed.
    Thank you!

    • erin says:

      I haven’t traveled yet with the hat case so I am not 100% sure but I do believe it would fit in the overhead bin! I wouldn’t imagine it needs to be checked!

  6. Michelle Sorensen says:

    I read what you wrote about packing cubes some time back, so I thought I’d try them out on my 16 year old daughter traveling to Italy and Greece on a school trip. I am SOLD! At first I thought, do I really want to spend the extra money. But now, I am going to buy a couple more sets, because our entire family will be traveling to Europe for two weeks this summer. I couldn’t believe all that I could pack in them. I rolled everything which kept everything from wrinkling she said. I was happy to hear that. Everything fit on one side of her suitcase (FYI, I hate that 50 lb. rule), which left the other side of her suitcase empty for, you got it, souvenirs and FOOD from all the yummy places she’ll be traveling to. Thanks for showing off yours, and inspiring the rest of us!

  7. Tracy L says:

    Great Tips! You should really get the “Packing” app though… you create your lists right in the app on your phone and can create different ones for each season or place of travel. You can check off items as you pack, or check the items you still need to pack. It’s AMAZYING and always available!

    • erin says:

      Ooooh I need to try this, thank you!!!

    • Tiffany says:

      I’ve been keeping my various packing/to-do lists in a Word doc. Just downloaded the Packing app to try it out. Thank you for posting about that.

  8. Mireille says:

    Traveling with 4 kids in a couple months, think I am going to invest in packing cubes!

  9. Michele says:

    I was on the fence about the CALPAK packing cubes. Your post convinced me! I just ordered them!

  10. Gentry Adams says:

    Obsessed with this luggage set & packing cubes!

  11. Debbie says:

    Also, interested to know what you pack in the smaller suitcase….
    In regards to the cubes, which size cubes did you use? Were they all the large size or 2 large, 2 medium? What’s your combination?

  12. Lisa Girouard says:

    Where is the Wanted Cabana Boy bag from? Love it. Great post. I may give the cubes a try!

  13. Barb Walker says:

    Get the packing cubes. I put them directly into the hotel drawers. Who knows what was in there before your things. Then I put all my dirty items in the large one at the end of trip. Toss it into laundry room.

  14. Jena says:

    Another useful tip since I never remember to bring an extra bag…is to use the hotel plastic laundry bag for dirty clothes. I don’t feel guilty about using it since I never use the toiletries ????

  15. Kristie says:

    I would love to see you packing list (excel file) I’m always struggling to remember it all.

  16. Jennifer Curtis-Jones says:

    How many weeks in advance do you start?I love how organized this all looks! I am such a hot mess????

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