Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Whether your summer travel plans include driving to the lake or flying to Europe, the key to stress-free travel is light, efficient packing. A little organizing in advance will go a long way toward de-cluttering your suitcase, so you can travel with a clear mind.
I’ve traveled for work and with my family often— and years of experience have taught me to create routines to minimize stress before, during and after any trip. Here are some neat little tips for better planning and smarter packing — which will mean easier traveling from departure to your return home:
Designate a place for travel items.
A smooth and organized trip starts at home. And it can start long before you even make specific travel plans. Create a space where your travel items live — from suitcases and packing cubes to travel-sized toiletries, special travel-only items like a neck pillow — and keep everything together in one, tidy place. Don’t have time before this trip? When you unpack it will be the perfect time to start organizing for your next adventure. Here are some of my favorites.
For frequent or novice travelers, a travel checklist can really help. Especially for those who take to the road less often, a digital or physical checklist might lead to more success. If you travel frequently, the checklist might live in your head — but even the best of us can overlook something critical. Do one anyway, just to spare yourself a possible headache later. And you won’t forget something crucial.
I've created a packing checklist that includes an outfit planner! You can download it here.
Choose luggage that’s right-sized and works.
Giant suitcases have gone the way of the steamer trunk. Now that many airlines charge to check luggage, more people are opting for carry-on sized rolling bags or backpacks. The upside of this policy? Packing light becomes a necessity — which makes the rest of your trip easier.
So which piece of luggage is right for you? Young people and European train travelers might tend toward the backpack. People who travel for business might need something a bit more professional – but no matter what you pick, check the dimensions against your favorite carrier’s overhead bin size before you buy.
This also holds true if you’re driving—the less crowded your car is, the more you can enjoy the people in it. Don’t just throw everything in the car and go.
Be intentional with your packing — go capsule.
One of my packing goals is to coordinate— how can I pull off the most outfits with the fewest pairs of shoes, and dress appropriately on the whole trip —from pool, to hike, to a nice dinner out. Here’s where I really preach capsule wardrobes. Before you pick your theme color, sketch out days and nights based on your itinerary. Once you have a clear picture of your experiences to come, lay out potential outfits— on the floor of your closet or on the bed, then mix and match to minimize the number of items you are bringing.
File fold those clothes.
File folding your clothes helps you get more into the suitcase and also helps your clothes travel better. If you haven’t gotten on the KonMari file-folding bandwagon yet, your next trip would be the perfect time to start. If you'd like to watch videos on how to fold KonMari style, visit my IGTV here.
Choose reusable travel cubes to keep it all together.
Travel cubes keep your clothes compressed and allow everything to fit neatly into your suitcase. They help you stay organized throughout the trip — you won’t forget what you packed where when it’s all laid out in a grid with cubes. I've curated some of my favorite travel cubes here. They can be used for a variety of purposes, to keep dirty shoes off other items, for wet swimsuits and towels, and for laundry.
Have your kids help get ready, set and go.
Yes, kids can help pack their own stuff – and the earlier you teach them how to, the easier traveling with them is going to be in the future. Kids who are more involved with planning and packing tend to be more invested in the trip itself. And that’s good for everyone. Cubes are also ideal for kids—choose different colors for different articles of clothing. Let them do their share all along the way, from pre-pack organizing to assembling post-trip memory books.
Organize + clean before you go.
If you’ve finished your tidying marathon and everything in your home has a place, put everything in its place and clean your home before you go. It’s always pleasant to walk into a clean, fresh home after traveling. And if you really want to be a super organizer, order groceries for delivery on your return.
Unpack immediately when you return.
Even if you’re tired, take time to unpack your bags when you return from a trip. Because you have made a clean/dirty packing system (or even just dedicated one family suitcase to dirty laundry) you’ll be able to bring those right to the washing machine and start a load. Put your toiletries away. Empty your purse. Throw away garbage. Put away the luggage. Getting into this habit, and teaching it to your children, is excellent and allows you to get back into your regular routine more quickly.