Packing isn’t always easy - the temptation to take half your wardrobe and everything you might possibly need is something that many of us struggle with! But no one wants to be dragging a heavy suitcase around, or dealing with any of the other packing disasters that can be so common.
Learning how to pack not just light, but smart, is one of the best skills you can have for traveling; it means fitting everything into a tiny bag, knowing where everything is once you get to your destination, and not dealing with any of the mess, wrinkles, and smells that can stop you looking and feeling your best on holiday.
Planning ahead and being a little bit realistic about what you are actually going to need and use (and what you can buy on the go) is the core of every packing hack, and Pinterest is packed with tips, so we’ve got fifteen of the very best for you here… as well as a few things that you can definitely leave at home (even when it’s tempting to throw it in the suitcase last minute). Go forth, and learn how to pack like a total pro!
25 Hack: Contact Cases for Beauty Products
When you use lots of different beauty products on a regular basis, it’s important to keep that routine on holiday to make sure your skin is still looking great… but all those bottles of lotions and potions can take up a lot of space!
Instead of bringing full size bottles, decant a little of what you need into contact lens cases for short trips. They’ll fit liquid restrictions for carry on bags, too!
Just be sure to label them all so you don’t get confused and mix up your moisturizer with your conditioner...
24 Hack: Save Free Samples Of Oft-Used Products
Another way to take all your favorite products without the mess of putting them in smaller containers is to collect free samples to take with you on vacation. Most beauty counters will offer these, and if you pick a few up whenever you buy the full size, you can create an entire toiletry bag full of mini options of your favorite items.
This hack is especially useful for perfume, which is not only heavy but easily breakable in luggage (and no matter how much you love the scent, you’ll love it less when it’s all over your clothes and you smell like you bathed in it).
23 Don’t Pack: Full Size Toiletries
We’ve covered some great hacks on this list that will help you replace full size toiletries with mini ones - and taking the entire bottle is absolute madness! Big bottles are heavy and take up a lot of space (and definitely can’t be taken in carry on), so leave them at home.
It’s worth not even taking mini versions of common products like shower gel, shampoo, lotion and conditioner, too - most hotels will provide their own, so why bother taking any? You can always call and check exactly what is provided to be really sure.
22 Hack: Cling Film Under Caps To Prevent Spills
When bringing bottles of liquid products (including travel sizes of items like shampoos or moisturizer), take a few minutes when packing to unscrew the tops and cover the opening with cling film before screwing them (tightly) back on.
This will help prevent them spilling in the flight, especially with the pressure changes of flying, and means you won’t ever arrive with shampoo all over your little black dress.
To be extra careful, pop them in a Ziploc bag - which also keeps them all together, so you don’t have to dig through your bag to find them at the hotel.
21 Hack: Shoes In Shower Caps
When packing shoes, the last thing you want is to get the dirt from the soles onto your nice clean clothes. Obviously, it’s a good idea to make sure that shoes aren’t really dirty when you are packing them in the first place, but to prevent any mess, pack them in a shower cap as well.
It keeps the soles separate from the clean clothes - and you can pick up shower caps for free in most hotels, too. Even if your shoes seem clean, there’s plenty of hard-to-spot dust and dirt on the soles that could potentially cause a mess in your suitcase.
20 Don’t Pack: Huge High Heels
If you can, avoid bringing heels at all - they are heavy, and you aren’t likely to be wearing them a whole lot when you are spending all day walking through the streets of your destination. However, if you know that you absolutely cannot live without your heels, choose lighter sandals rather than heavy platforms.
They look just as good (and a little more holiday style, anyway!), but they won’t weigh down your suitcase as much, which can make a difference. And try to limit yourself - one or two pairs is plenty!
19 Hack: Packing Cubes
There’s a reason that packing cubes are one of the most popular items for travelers to buy right now; they are amazing when it comes to keeping things organized in your suitcase!
No matter how carefully you pack, your bag can turn into a big pile of clothes in no time… but packing cubes mean that you can keep everything separate, from undies or types of clothing to outfits for specific days or activities.
No more rummaging deep in a mess of a bag to find the thing you want - and especially helpful if you want to share bag space with a friend.
18 Hack: Pack Outfits By Day
It’s tempting to just toss all your favorite clothes in the suitcase, but a smarter way to plan which items to take is to organize them by day. Create an outfit for each day of your trip (don’t forget the flight home!), and then you’ll know exactly what to bring… and don’t have to create a new outfit each day. Then, bundle or roll outfits together (or use those handy packing cubes) to be able to just grab one in the morning and head out to enjoy your destination without wasting time getting ready.
17 Don’t Pack: Food/Drink
It’s a great idea to bring snacks for the flight, especially if you feel like something a little healthier than the usual airport junk food or salty pretzels in-flight… but there’s no need to bring all your favorite kitchen items from home.
No, your beach resort might not have your favorite brand of tea, but why are you traveling in the first place if you want everything to be just like home? Enjoy exploring the local cuisine while you are away, and then enjoy coming home to all your favorites at the end of the trip.
16 Hack: Keep Clothes Smelling Nice
When traveling, clothes can soon start to smell less than fresh - especially when you are mixing dirty laundry with clean clothes, or dealing with the smell of musty luggage. To keep yourself as fresh as possible while on vacation, pack dryer sheets in between your clothes so that they always smell freshly washed… and include an empty laundry bag or packing cube so that you can keep dirty clothes separate.
If the dirty clothes are really dirty, make sure the bag is plastic, and throw in a free bar of hotel soap to combat the smell until you can get home to a washing machine.
15 Don’t Pack: Expensive Jewelry
You may want to accessorize while on vacation, but be realistic about how many different pieces you are likely to wear… and leave anything truly expensive or sentimental at home. Lost luggage can happen to even the most experienced and lucky travelers, so it’s not a smart move to bring anything that would be absolutely irreplaceable (or ridiculously expensive to replace).
Enjoy showing off some cheaper pieces, and save the really pricey things for wearing at home. This goes for other items too - do you really need that one-off vintage dress this time, or that five-hundred-dollar pair of shoes?
14 Hack: Jewelry Hacks
Jewelry is a great way to set off an outfit, but that only works if you actually wear it… and if you don’t arrive to find unmatched earrings and tangled necklaces in a heap at the bottom of your suitcase. There are loads of hacks to keep things organized, depending on what kind of accessories you want to bring.
Our favorites include using Press’N’Seal to keep larger pieces together and neat, as well as using pill boxes or empty mint containers for smaller items like stud earrings. Keep delicate necklaces from tangling by running one part of the chain through a straw, too.
13 Don’t Pack: Money Belt
These may have been an accessory that every traveler was told to have a few decades ago, but now there is absolutely no reason to carry one. Not only are they almost always unflattering (and will ruin your holiday outfit), but they actually make you more likely to get pickpocketed.
Moneybelts scream ‘tourist’ to any would-be thieves, and even if you keep them out of sight when walking around, the moment you need to buy something, you have to reveal that you are wearing one. Don’t even leave this one at home… leave it in the garbage can!
12 Hack: Cord/Charger Hacks
Tangled cords may not be as annoying as tangled jewelry (and a lot easier to untangle), but it’s still frustrating… and it’s definitely not good for the life of the cord to have to yank it out from a big mess. Instead, pack away your charger cables and earphones in a spare eyeglass case to keep them safe and organized - not to mention clean!
If you don’t have a glasses case, try using a bulldog clip to keep each cord together, and consider putting them in a separate bag in order to make sure you know exactly where they are when you need them.
11 Hack: Stuff Bras So They Keep Their Shape
Bras and undies are called delicates for a reason… and bras especially can lose their shape easily when squished into a suitcase. No one wants to deal with strange lumps and bumps under their shirt while on vacation, so make sure that your bras keep their shape by stuffing them with smaller items like socks and underwear in order to keep the cups rounded when traveling.
Pack them toward the top and middle of the case, too, so that they don’t have the weight of all of your stuff pressing on them when you are rolling your bag around.
10 Don’t Pack: Workout Gear
This may be a judgement call, and there are some fitness fanatics who probably do workout every day, even while on vacation… but are you honestly one of them? Good intentions are all very well, but rather than packing all your workout gear, why not plan to get your exercise in other ways - swimming at the beach, hiking or walking through the city, or even learning new skills like surfing or rock climbing while you are away.
It’s lighter, easier, and means spending all your time soaking up your destination, not pounding it out on the hotel treadmill.
9 Hack: Shoe Bags To Store Delicates
Another option for your delicates is to use the bags that high heels often come in to keep them separate. Lacy items can easily snag on other things (like zips and buttons) in a suitcase, leaving you with rips and tears. Keeping them in a shoe bag prevents this, as well as keeping it all in one place.
Combine this with the bra-cup stuffing hack to make sure that even your most delicate delicates arrive in one piece, and look and feel exactly the way that they should (not like they’ve been squished into a suitcase for eight hours).
8 Don’t Pack: Hair Styling Tools
Hair styling tools are almost always an unnecessary addition to a suitcase; they are heavy, they need to cool down completely before being re-packed, and often, they won’t even work without adapters for the plugs. Most hotels will have a hairdryer, at the very least, and many also offer other options if you ask in advance. Consider as well how likely it is that you will be carefully styling your hair while away… practise some heat-free styling hacks and rock a beachy look instead.
After all, you don’t want to waste time and energy in front of the mirror that could be spent exploring somewhere new.
7 Hack: Cotton Balls In Compacts To Stop Crumbling
Another item that often doesn’t travel well is a makeup compact - the pressed powders can shatter when tossed around in transit, leaving you with a mess all over your suitcase, and without the makeup that you were planning to wear.
Put cotton pads or cotton balls inside the compact (not too much, it still needs to stay securely closed) to stop them breaking. Like liquids, it’s also a good idea to make sure these stay in a separate makeup bag so that if the worst happens, you don’t get bronzer all over your white t-shirts.
6 Hack: Makeup Brushes In Eyeglass Cases
Another great use for glasses cases is to store makeup brushes while travelling. Brushes work best when they are clean and in the correct shape - but being stuffed into a bag often means bending the bristles or squishing the entire brush out of shape. Glasses cases are just the right size for most brushes, and will keep them together and in good condition… not to mention preventing any makeup left on the brushes from transferring to clean clothes.
This is especially useful for a return trip, when you might not have time to clean them properly before packing them.