Packing Tips

Truth be told, I’m a terrible packer. It significantly attributes to my stress leading up to trips. Anyone else like this??? I either way underpack or way overpack. One time in high school, my chorus class went on a trip to San Antonio and I thought I had packed really well. I got there sans makeup, hairbrush, toothpaste, and while my friends changed outfits every night… I hadn’t thought of that; only brought one outfit/day. Ever since then, I think I’ve been paranoid about packing ever since.
When going on trips, I tend to start planning super early. My mom on the other hand, throws things into her bag the morning of. How does she do that? I wish I had inherited that skill. With a major trip (hello Dominican Republic) on the horizon, I’ve been a little bit extra stressed about packing. It’s hard to get in the beach mindset when there’s ice/snow on the ground.
As a paranoid packer, here are some of the tips/strategies I implement while traveling. Or at least what I do before I travel.
#1 // Remember That It’s Okay If You Forget Something

I have to remind myself this over and over and over again. Why stress when you can buy/borrow/go without? I never remember hairbrushes (like, ever) and I always remember that I forgot when it’s too late. And it totally doesn’t matter. I’ve forgotten pajamas. I’ve forgotten sandals for the beach. But it’s okay. It’s always okay. Stressing about forgetting something is such a waste of energy.
#2 // Write a Running List
I tend to do a little bit of shopping before trips. And the worst is, you know, storing it and then totally forgetting about it when you actually pack. (Just me?) I like legal pads because I can be as messy as I want when jotting down things to bring. After a week or so, the list is pretty long of things to pack. (I also keep a page of things to do before– like doing specific laundry, picking up things from the drugstore, appointments to make, etc.) As I put things into the suitcase or my carry-on bag, I check them off. This really helps cut down on forgetting things.
#3 // Keep a Notebook By Your Bed

I remember the weird things I need to pack… right as I’m falling asleep. If I don’t write it down right then, I’ll definitely forget. It’s a curse/jinx, I tell you. I always keep a notebook by my bed in general, but with a trip coming up, I tend to use a LOT more. (Side note: this is definitely the best way to reduce nighttime anxiety… writing down those “bad tapes” and getting them out of your head!) In the morning, I sort through my midnight notes to see if I actually do need to pack something and add it to the master running list.
#3 // Create an “Every Trip” List

There are always the things you’ll need for a trip. It’s kind of like a fixed cost list. Whether you’re gone for one day or one week, you’ll need pajamas and toiletries. I keep the same list saved in a document and refer to it as I pack. Makeup, iPhone chargers, toothbrush/paste, razor, shampoo, pajamas, etc. It takes a little bit of time to sit down and create, but then you’ll always have it!
#4 // Check the Weather 

Kind of obvious, but I check the weather obsessively leading up to any trip. For example, my family went to Mexico one March and it was actually kind of chilly. I ended up packing more jeans and long sleeved tees and it made my trip more enjoyable. Rain, freak cold fronts, or extreme temperatures. You never know!

#5 // Fewer Shoes, More Underwear
I may regret not packing another dress for an unexpected dinner out, but I have yet to regret bringing too few shoes. More shoes = more stress in my opinion. I actually plan my outfits so that I only have to bring one or two shoes. Like, all navy outfits so I can bring navy flats. I also way overpack underwear. I don’t know why. But I do. Especially when going to the beach when you’re in and out of bathing suits all day. Weird, but true.
#6 // Pack Outfits by Day
Laying out my outfits as I pack helps me see if I’m under or overpacking. I fold everything up and stack the pieces of the outfits by the day of the week. An example might be, jeans/shirt/sweater for Monday Day and dress/tights/sweater for Monday Night. I try my best to re-wear the pieces in different outfits and get the most out of my clothes without bringing too much. 
#7 // Travel in the Heaviest
And when in doubt, pack without taking up any space in your suitcase: Wear it. The biggest shoes, the bulkiest sweater, beach hats, jeans… whatever it takes to keep that bag under the fifty pound limit 😉
What are your best packing tips?

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I travel for my job almost every week – sometimes a few nights and other times for over a week! What I have found is that past two nights, you will pack the same amount of clothes no matter how long the trip (maybe with a little more underwear and a few more shirt options). My best tip is to pack to your lifestyle. I bring nice outfits for the day but always overpack loungewear because the minute I'm in my hotel the heels come off and the leggings come on. Be comfortable and be yourself! It's not worth the anxiety to feel uncomfortable on a trip. My other piece of advice? If you travel frequently, create a solid kit of travel-sized toiletries. I have a bag of just 3oz bottles I keep in my suitcase – I just add my glasses, razor and toothbrush and I'm ready to go! My last piece of advice is to bring something you might be nervous about wearing or haven't had the opportunity to try out yet. You never know what type of situation you will find yourself in and if you're feeling confident, wear something new! As important as it is to feel comfy and confident, it feels so great to debut your new dress or necklace at a dinner or meeting. I always do a run-up of my body – I start with my feet and go through every part until I reach my head to make sure I packed what I need for each thing – shoes, socks, pants, shorts, underwear, pjs, tops, dresses, cardigans, jackets, jewelry, makeup, hair products, etc! Have fun traveling Carly, you're right – anything you forget you can always find there!


As I type this, I'm in Hawaii for 8 days and I used a carry on! Big tip: if you're packing sundresses, use the previous day's "evening" dress as a cover-up. You won't need sweatshirts or long pants, trust me. And rolling helps a ton!

Marlene Pose

I lived in Dominican Republic, and I think you are going to love it. If you are in Santo Domingo or Casa de Campo, I will suggest you to visit Jenny Polanco's store. She is a Dominican designer and I think you would love it.


I love the idea of having an "every trip list" that's a really great tip!! I'm a huge list maker and always plan out every day and what i'll wear…unless it's a longer vacation in which case I just pack everything I can cram into my suitcase…usually a carry on so i don't waste my time at baggage claim!


I keep a bag of all my toiletries pre-packed, and just refill as necessary when I get home. After forgetting my make-up a couple of times, I also bought a spare set of make-up and brushes, and I keep those in my bag too. (And spare chargers for all my electronics). It's really easy to forget the small things, especially if you use them the day that you're leaving, and I love knowing I just have to throw my clothes in a bag!


PS – my husband and I managed two weeks in Europe with just carry-ons (and a small laundry break in the middle). Little bottles of shampoo/etc is the way to go!


I have a pre-packed bag of toiletries I always bring with me. It's all extra stuff so I leave it in my toiletry bag all of the time, and just add the few things like glasses and my favorite comb. That way I never forget anything and my bag is always ready to go. I have forgotten pajamas, all of my makeup, toiletries, etc before too so I try to make it as easy on myself as possible now.

Kristina does the Internets

Kim Topolewski

I'm going to California for the first time in June and I'm so excited! I'm anxious about packing because I'm only bringing the two carry-ons, not checking anything. I'll be going from city to city so only two bags is key for me. I'm going to invest in packing cubes for my clothes, but it'll still be tricky because for the bulk of my trip I'll be at a sorority convention, so business casual clothes. But the other half of the trip is relaxed and casual.

I have to keep reminding myself that I don't need to pack any toiletries besides my toothbrush and makeup with me, since I'm not going to the middle of nowhere. That'll lighten my load lots. Plus I'm going to shoot for not bringing any books, just ONE of my tablets. 🙂

carelessly graceful

Ali Spencer

I always have two sets of my toiletries. I always keep one set packed in a travel case so I don't have to worry about packing and forgetting the essentials since it is always packed and ready to go.

Jennifer S.

One thing that I do is strategically overpack. I let myself bring extra jewelry and other things like that that are small and light, and then less shoes and clothes. That way if I have to wear the same outfit twice, I can accessorize it differently. Also, get mini versions of your products or travel size bottles, and keep them for your next trip! That saves you so much money.



I didn't read all the comments so I might be repeating. One of the best little investments I ever did was creating/collecting a stock of travel necessities, and keeping them in a ready-to-go separate bag. I keep a little basket under my sink of travel sized stuff I've collected or purchased (thanks to CVS/Target travel areas, and Birchbox) to grab from as well. I keep a simple black Conair comb (I only REALLY stress about brushing my hair after a shower) in the bag, with a toothbrush, travel sized toothpaste, deodorant, moisturizer, collection of q-tips and Almay eyemakeup wipes. I've also been known to keep a simple pair of CZ style studs in there. Because yes, you can always find makeup where you're at, or if you're like me, probably have some in your purse anyway. That bag can get tossed aside when I come home without me waking up the next day wondering where my deodorant is… — good luck packing, and heck yes for vacay! Have fun!

amy h @ leopardspot

As far as travel goes for me, I do a few things. First, I keep all of my travel friendly items together and stored in my large Lands' End tote (which is also carry-on sized! I just wish it had a crossbody strap…). I have a special pouch I always use for tech items (iPhone charger, backup batter + charger, earbuds) so I always remember to put those in there and then throw it in my carry-on. I also keep a toiletry bag ready to go with mini's of my toiletries – that way I never really have to unpack it and it just lives in my tote, ready to go when I am! Second, less is ALWAYS more. For my last trip I tried to create 4 mix-n-match outfits in a green/blue/gray color palette so I would always match. I wore literally everything in my suitcase and I completely amazed my companions with how little I had! Plus it was super easy just to throw everything in the wash when I got back home. Third, roll as much as you can – it really does save space! And pack heavy items, like shoes or jeans, at the bottom of your suitcase by the wheels so your light items don't get crushed. Finally, I reccommend buying the nicest carry-on suitcase you can afford as soon as you can. I borrowed my dad's Hartmann carryon and it was amazing! When I am living on my own you can bet I will be asking for one as a Christmas/birthday present.


I always pack like double the amount of underwear I need too! Glad I'm not the only one. If I'm limited on space I pack a few versatile bottoms and a ton of tops. And dresses never take much room, but they're easy to throw on and look put together with out having to plan too much more of an outfit.

Briana Luca

I overpack wherever I go! I could be going to my grandmother's for an overnight trip and I'll have four bags with me, it's terrible! This post came at such a great time because I'm going to Punta Cana on spring break in two weeks so I'll definitely be referencing this post. Thanks Carly!


Mackenzie Mitchell

Oh my goodness, I am horrible at packing! This summer, when my family went to London, I remember my suitcase being heavier than the one my parents shared! It has to be all those darn shoes! This is so so helpful, especially with spring break just around the corner! Thanks!


My packing style is more like your mom's, but probably less successful. I always find that I forget to pack important things AND pack too many useless things. Thank you so much for these tips! They will be put into good use 😉

Emily Rizer

Ahh! Packing is something that I am absolutely terrible at. I either always overpack or always underpack. These tips were great! Thanks so much Carly!


Mrs. Dork

My favorite packing tip is to keep a toiletry bag packed at all times. It has ALL of my necessities, and when I get home, I refill anything that needs it (listerine, contact solution, etc.). It's always ready to go and I don't have to worry about forgetting a toothbrush or bobby pins or a contact case!

I can also relate to the overpacking of underwear. My besties and I went on a weekend trip and I had 6 pairs of socks and 10 pairs of underwear. Yeah, it's ridiculous.