Packing Tips to Maximize Your Travel Fun

You have to pack light to fit everything in these bags!
by Katherine // 4 Comments

While packing for 4 days in San Francisco, I encountered a dilemma.  I needed to be able to pack very lightly in order for me to be able to do everything I wanted to do.  I was staying with a friend in Mountainview (about an hour from the city), but we were going to the Giants game my first night in town.

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I was going to need to fit everything in a very small carryon bag (The Le Pliage nylon small tote bag by Longchamp) so that we didn’t have to waste time dropping off my stuff before the game.  It took a little bit of planning and effort, but I was able to make carry on only travel work.  Let me share my top packing tips to help make your travel easier.

You have to pack light to fit everything in these bags! - "Packing Tips to Maximize Your Travel Fun" - Two Traveling Texans
You have to pack light to fit everything in these bags!

Reasons to Pack Light

In my case, I needed to pack light because I didn’t have time to store my luggage, but there are many other reasons to consider traveling carryon only:

  • With the rise of budget airlines (i.e. Ryanair) and basic economy flights in the US, there could be significant fees if you want to check a bag.
  • I always get impatient waiting for checked bags after my flight when I just want to start my vacation.   If you have taken a red eye flight, the last thing you want to do is hang around the airport to wait for your luggage.
  • If you carry on all your luggage you also don’t have to worry about your suitcase getting lost.  While lost luggage is rare, it can be devastating especially if it is lost on the way to your vacation.
  • If you want to travel to or from the airport on public transportation, it will be much easier without a big bag!

I find that it is much more enjoyable to have a reasonable amount of luggage, plus you can save on bag fees.

My Best Minimalist Packing Advice

Good packing requires planning, so you will need to do a little thinking before you start.  A packing list can be really helpful, but you will still need to make adjustments each trip.   You need to take into consideration where you are going and what you are planning on doing.  Also, please make sure to take any airline luggage rules into consideration.

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Limit the Number of Shoes

Shoes can take up a lot of space in your luggage, so try to minimize how you take with you!  I only had two pairs of shoes – the shoes I wore on the plane and flip-flops. This was a big deal for me. Often, I walk long distances on vacations, so I need comfortable shoes, and I generally do not like wearing the same shoes two days in a row.

You should wear your most bulky shoes on the plane (i.e. boots) to save room in your bag.  When you are packing shoes in luggage, you might want to place in a shoe bag like this one so that the rest of your clothes don’t get dirty. (I always bring extra bags because they also come in handy to keep dirty clothes and wet swimsuits away from the rest of your items).

I wore a pair of Sperrys and they worked well as my main walking shoes.  They are comfortable and versatile at the same time.    I think that a key thing here is to start with the shoes and then plan outfits based on the shoes that you can take.  Click here to check price and availability for Sperrys on Amazon.

Chose a color scheme

I stuck with a green and pink color scheme. I knew I was going to have to wear some of the items more than once, so I packed versatile items. That way, I would have options depending on the weather.  Alternatively, it can be easy to pack all black items – this way everything can be mixed and matched.  Here are some more ideas for travel clothes for women.

A few pieces, worn 4 different ways - "Packing Tips to Maximize Your Travel Fun" - Two Traveling Texans
A few pieces, worn 4 different ways

Be Smart with Accessories

I packed a scarf that complimented my outfit on multiple days, but that I also used to wrap up in when I was cold.  Accessories can often take up more room than basic clothes when packing.  When trying to pack efficiently, it is important to pack versatile items – ones that can either be worn multiple ways or with multiple outfits.

Roll Your Clothes to Fit More in Your Bag

Even when I don’t have these extreme size constraints, I try to pack efficiently.  I like to keep the hotel room tidy, so it is easier when I pack fewer items.  You can also save on space if you roll your clothes instead of folding.  Clothes that are rolled will also get less wrinkled.

Choose Your Luggage Wisely

If I am packing for more than a few days and not checking a bag, I have a Delsey roller carry-on bag that works well for me.  It works nicely because it also can expand.  On my most recent trip to California, I didn’t check it until my return flight once I had put four bottles of wine (from my excursion to Schramsburg) in it.  Click here to check the price and availability of the Delsey Roller Carry-on Bag on Amazon.

I have a beach bag that I often carry as a carryon or my personal item.  I also take a small purse which can fit inside the beach bag.  Once I get to my destination, I convert my carryon into a beach bag by taking out my magazines, cosmetics bag, travel documents, and swimsuit.  My mother taught me a valuable lesson when I was little to always travel with a swimsuit in your carryon.  That way even if your luggage is lost, you will still be able to enjoy the beach.  Click here to check the price and availability for the beach bag on Amazon.

When picking out a beach bag, it was important for me to find one that zipped up.  I also needed it to be in a color that would match not only with swimsuits but also my travel outfits.  I try not to pack too much in this bag though; it doesn’t make for the greatest travel experience when I have to lug a heavy bag through an airport.

Anisa prefers to use a carry on backpack because it is easier to carry when it is heavy.  Click here to check the price and availability for the backpack on Amazon.  She also has a wheeled backpack so that the weight doesn’t always have to be on her shoulders.

Make a Packing List!

Lastly, when I am packing, I generally write out my packing list and then check items off as I pack them.  I usually have two or three items that I have to add right before I leave (toothbrush, hairbrush, phone charger), and having this list helps me to remember everything I need.

Be sure to check out our beach packing list, winter packing list, or road trip packing list for some more inspiration.

What strategies do you use to make your packing efficient?


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Expert Tips for Packing Efficiently

  • When packing, pick your color scheme and a few key pieces, then add neutrals to complete your outfits.
  • Plastic grocery bags are great for keeping items like shoes, dirty clothes, or wet swimsuits separate from the rest of your stuff.
  • Keep a swimsuit in your carry on so that you can enjoy the beach even if your checked luggage gets lost.
  • Use a packing list to make sure you have everything you need.

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Last Updated on August 17, 2020

About the Author

Katherine co-founded Two Traveling Texans. She is an experienced traveler and loyal sports fan. When she is not traveling Katherine works as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) specializing in tax compliance and consulting. She volunteers with both the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Junior League of Houston.