12 Tips on How to Pack Smart

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Packing smart for a trip may mean re-mastering how to do something you’ve probably done several times before. Therefore, here are my essential tips on how to travel pack smart for any trip.

Man carrying many boxes on his head
Packing light, “no I swear, it’s not that bad!”

1. Pack light

No really, pack light and fit everything you want to take on your bed.

Now halve that. If you can get it into a carry on, excellent

Women usually tell me they have a harder time with this, i.e. some want a new outfit for every night or lots of shoes, but I’ve seen plenty of girls backpacking who travel better than guys and know how to cleverly fit a whole bunch of outfits into their small backpack. It takes some time planning ahead or you can buy new things once you get there. Think of it this way, you get to go shopping and look for new things. Those souvenirs can be a fun part of the adventure. The type of bag you travel and weight of it also play a big part. Whether you use a backpack or suitcase, make sure itself doesn’t weigh too much. The bag I travel with is the Osprey Atmos AG 50L. I’ll review all my travel gear in a future post real soon. But with their Anti-Gravity system, Osprey makes carrying a heavy weight a breeze.

How to pack the most efficiently

Take away points:

  1. Layers: Pack only versatile layers that mix and match. Bring clothing that provides insulation, ventilation and/or weather protection.
  2. Synthetic fibers: Synthetics wrinkle less, wick away moisture, and dry faster. Cotton is great when it’s warm but once wet it takes forever to dry and drains body heat.
  3. Laundry: for trips 1 week or longer plan on doing laundry rather than packing extra clothing
  4. Mix and Match: Stick to 1 or 2 colors that mix and match well
  5. Go Darker: As much as I love a crisp white shirt, dark colors look cleaner longer than light colors.
  6. Dress well: Just because you’re traveling light doesn’t mean you can’t look good. For men a polo shirt is dressier than a tee and is easily layered.

2. Know the size of the carry-on that your airline allows

I love travelling with only a carry-on. It means I don’t have to check a bag and when everyone is waiting for their bag on the carousel I can just breeze by and leave the airport.

Plus, it’s one less thing that the airline can lose. 

The problem today is most airlines are being stingy with what they consider a carry on. In the day and age where almost every airline is trying to charge for checked bags and even carry-ons it’s important to know what your ticket/fare class allows. Plus they haven’t accepted a global size. There have been moves for that but not many have adapted it.

That means what you probably already have might not be carry-on acceptable to the airline anymore and if they’re really strict (or a budget airline) they’ll make you check it in. Some airlines consider the wheels on a carry on which may stick out to be “oversized”. All of which may or may not incur a charge plus more headaches.

3. Packing Cubes

Packing cubes. All pros use them. They keep your suitcase organized and save you from having to shuffle through all your clothes. Organize them however you see fit. If you’re visiting multiple locations within a trip use one cube for one city and another cube for the second location. I’ve personally used a couple of companies but always return to Eagle Creek. Their products are a little more expensive but are the only ones whose seams have held up for over 40+ trips.

Eagle Creek Travel Pack Packing Cubes
Eagle Creek Starter Set

4. Bags

  1. Vacuum Bags: great space savers for bulky items such as sweatshirts. I usually use roll-up travel saver bags so you don’t have to worry about finding a vacuum. Even good for dirty laundry. Again, the best ones I’ve used are from Eagle Creek.
  2. Kitchen sandwich bags: are great for accessories, jewelry, cables or keeping other small items together in your travel pack.
  3. Grocery bags : reuse those plastic bags by putting your shoes in so they don’t dirty the rest of your bag. They also double so you can collect any dirty laundry. 

5. Maximize your space

You want to capitalize on all the empty space in a suitcase.  That space in your shoes? Stuff it with socks, accessories, underwear, or anything that fits. Space is limited, use all of it.

6. A must for every travel pack: Power Strip

This is the one accessory I always travel with now. I usually have a lot of electronics if I travel to a couple destinations and keeping them all charged can be a pain. Most hotel rooms have USB ports in them but they’re slow to charge. Having a small travel multi-socket extension cord is a great tool to keep your camera, computer, and everything else charged. Plus you’ll only need one travel adapter.

Belkin Power Strip
Belkin Power Strip

This Belkin power strip has surge protection for 3 outlets plus two USB ports.

If you only need to charge your USB stuff and want something that can charge everything quickly I also use the RavPower 6 Port USB charger that has 5 fast USB ports and 1 USB-C port that also charges my MacBook. It also has a long cable which helps when plugging in far away from your bed! Definitely a space saver and suitable for most (unfortunately I travel with a lot more tech that needs full outlets).

7. Traveling as a couple

If you do happen to be checking a bag in, split your clothes between suitcases. On the off-chance one of them gets lost by the airline, all is not lost.

8. Ear plugs and night mask

These are live savers. On the plane, in your hotel room, and especially in a hostel. Stick them in your travel pack! Don’t underestimate a good night’s sleep, especially if your travel time is limited.

9. Snacks

Skip airport snacks and bring your own. Everything in the airport and airplane is overpriced, we know that. Bring some along for the airport and the plane ride and put that extra money actually towards a real meal when you land. (also make sure if you’re traveling internationally that you don’t bring your food into the new country. Many won’t let you and you can get in trouble!).

10. Photocopy

Make photocopies of your travel documents
Things go wrong. If you anticipate them then your trip may not be ruined. Take two photocopies of your passport and keep them separate. Print out your flight itinerary and write your contact number or email on it, then stuff it into your bag. On the off-chance your bag gets lost at least there’s a way you can get contacted. Use your smart phone and take a photo of your luggage and contents. It’s so much easier to process a claim if it gets lost (speaking from past experience).

11. Protect your phone

  1. Passcode: In the day and age where our smart phone is everything, make sure you have a passcode on it, and not a simple one.
  2. Tracking: Make sure tracking is turned on your phone, i.e. ‘Find My iPhone’ or ‘Find my Device’ on the Google Playstore
  3. Backup: Create a backup on your computer or in the cloud.
  4. Sim Card: See if you can unlock your phone to use a local sim card or just use WiFi and if needed get a travel plan from your phone provider. For longer trips consider a cheap local phone and sim. (if not check out my post on T-Mobile which I still use to this day)

12. Extras

If you forget any amenities in your travel pack, the front desk of most hotels usually has small samples in case you forgot your toothbrush, toothpaste or deodorant.

Pack old clothes, especially shirts. Like that you can ditch them on the way back and your bag is lighter, which means more space for purchasing items to bring back!

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