Travel Packing Tips From The Pros

If you are anything like me, there is nothing you love doing more than traveling (well, almost nothing… wink wink). If you’re even more like me though, there’s nothing you hate more than packing (note the distinct absence of any sort of wink). It sucks, it’s boring, and I’m bad at it. The tri-fecta of ugh. So, I thought it best to consult some real experts to see what they do differently than I do. Yeah that’s right – I’m stealing their ideas and then will proceed to pass them off as my own, sort of.

First I went to Wandering Earl – who’s been traveling pretty much non-stop since 1999 (and writing / blogging since 2008) and is now a self-proclaimed “permanent nomad”. His blog has a lot of great inspiration and advice, and he’s really good at breaking down the pros and cons of travel gear, but he’s not got much about packing. He did have a good article though on choosing the right luggage that you may find helpful if you’re in the market for something new. 

Then I went to Canadian travel gurus Dave & Ayngelina at Bacon is Magic (total aside – this is definitely on my list of favorite blog names – right behind Paragliding Confessions Of A Lesbian Bomb Technician, but I digress…), where bacon-lover Ayngelina shares her long held strategy about the use of packing cubes (a tactic soundly endorsed by just about everyone!) saying:

“I use them in backpacks and luggage. I put shirts and shorts in one, undergarments and swim suits in another and dresses in a third. They are incredible, especially when you need to search through a bag to find something.”

She  suggests the $30 ones and while I completely agree with the advice in theory – I don’t buy the “official” ones – because you need several and as you may know by now, I’m a cheap-ass penny-pincher. I just grab a few different sized zippered mesh lingerie laundry bags for a buck each at the dollar store. You can see through them, they’re light and flexible, and you can also use them for doing your laundry. They are particularly awesome if you will be packing and unpacking your bag often as they let you organize your things in meaningful categories. Ayngelina imparts more packing advice and lists in the blog post “Pack This, Not That“.

Next up I went old school and looked for some advice from road-worn veteran Rick Steves – the man behind multiple guidebooks and public television travel shows … he’s the darling of the blue hair “bus tour around Europe” travel set but has racked up enough travel cred to be given due respect when it comes to packing advice. Besides running a production company that sounds like a porn studio (Back Door Productions? Really Rick?), he can be found doling out sage advice like:

Before flying to your destination, give yourself a test. Pack up completely, go out in your hometown, and practice being a tourist for an hour. Fully loaded, you should enjoy window-shopping. If you can’t, stagger home and thin things out.

You can see more about lightening your travel load from Rick in the blog post - Packing Smart and Traveling Light And if that is not enough for you, here is another great post on the subject by  Your RV Lifestlye.

And finally, some tips that just about every reputable source agreed on:

  • Use old contact lens cases for small amounts of lotions, gels or creams
  • Store cables, cords and assorted chargers in old eyeglass cases (who knew that being near-blind would be such a travel packing boon)
  • Roll baby roll, don’t fold
  • Plastic wrap placed between plastic bottles and their screw top lids will prevent leakage when the contents are under pressure
  • Zap straps, zip-lock bags, a large garbage bag, and a roll of duct tape can save your life (or your luggage) – MacGyver style
  • Hotel shower caps rock for covering shoes
  • Two pairs of shoes, max.  Show some restraint ladies!
  • Stuff things inside that 1 packed pair of shoes (yes, the ones you wear to travel count!)… think underwear, socks, camera – and consider packing these in a plastic bag before stuffing in your shoes, if the shoes in question are less than daisy-fresh
  • A paper towel or face cloth doused with several drops of your go-to fave essential oil can keep your packed clothes fragrant – so much better than chemical laden dryer sheets
  • Big scarves beat towels every time; masquerading as blankets, sweaters, sarongs (even for dudes) and pillows, they can be washed and dried within an hour
  • Put breakable items inside socks

And now my final advice friends – travel light, travel near and far, and travel often! Take 3 pairs of shoes if you’re gonna whine about it the whole time.

Help a fellow traveler out and share any great tips we missed. 

If you like this article, check out 10 Things You Should Never Pack in Your Luggage or 27 Essential Items for Backpackers.

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  • Eileen Terry

    Extremely interesting and helpful article! I am not a good packer and I never know what to take with me for traveling. I will try to improve my packing skills with those ideas! Best regards

    • Pamela Denis

      Thanks Eileen! I took many, many trips burdened by severe overpacking before I learned my lesson. You’ll do better next trip I’m sure!

  • Edie2010

    I fill every space…those awkward corners are great for tucking things into

    • Pamela Denis

      Agreed 100%

  • SMF

    Great space saving tips. Not sure I can follow the 2 pairs of shoes rule though : )

    • Pamela Denis

      That is the toughest one to adopt for sure.

  • TravelJunky

    Packing is a no-brainer for me: 1 pair of broken in jeans, a couple of t-shirts and most importantly a credit card with a decent limit and I’m done. Cheers!

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