Pack Like a Pro

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Through my travels, I have noticed that there are a lot of people who either don’t travel often or have never properly been taught how to pack for traveling. I say this because they carry way more than they need to, aren’t prepared to go through security, and often look overwhelmed and frustrated — this is not the way to travel.

Working and traveling around the world, I seem to be on a plane every week. So I know how to pack efficiently and get in and out of airports without any issues. Rather than sit back and watch the frustration of those less traveled around me, I thought I would put together a guide to help my readers pack for their next trip.

Pack Like a Pro – The Ultimate Guide to Packing

No matter where you are going, or whether this is your first vacation or one of many, it is helpful to know what and how to pack. You have to plan to avoid over-packing — you don’t want to end up having an oversized bag that you have to pay to check.

Using a step-by-step guide and travel checklist is an outstanding way to make sure you efficiently pack. To help simplify the process, I’d like to offer these following six packing tips.

Bookmark this page, and refer to it when it is time to pack — you will be grateful you did.

Tip #1 – Gather Important Travel Documents

As you make reservations and begin to prepare for your trip, start gathering all of your travel documents. Pick one place to put all of it. It is important to have everything in one place so that when it is time to leave you can just grab it and go.

Important travel documents to pack include:

  • Passport/visa(s)
  • Personal ID/driver’s license
  • Cash and credit/debit card(s)
  • Reservation and itinerary confirmation and contact numbers
  • Tickets (plane, train, bus, excursion, event, etc…)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Frequent flyer or other loyalty program ID numbers/cards
  • Health insurance cards
  • Emergency contacts

In addition to gathering all of your documents, it is wise to have a digital copy just in case you misplace or lose one or more items. A great app for storing all your travel documents is “Tripit: Trip Planner.” This app allows you to store all of your travel tickets, itineraries, and reservations. It tracks your flights and alerts you of delays or changes. You can also save copies of your passport and just about any travel document that you may need while traveling. Although I always bring the original documents with me, I use my electronic versions more frequently just due to the convenience factor.

Tip #2 – Prepare Your Personal Item and Carry-on Bag

Take time to carefully plan what item you want to carry-on as your personal item and what bag you want for a carry-on. I bring a large purse and small rolling suitcase, and sometimes Miss Vida :). Personally, I find the combination of these two bags perfect for carrying everything I want on the airplane with me, but you will have to discover the combination that works right for you.

When choosing bags, consider the items you will be bringing on the plane with you; you will likely want your travel documents, a few essential toiletries, technology, jewelry, and a few comfort items. Plus it is always a good idea to carry one outfit just in case your luggage is lost.

Once you know what items you plan on bringing onto the airplane with you, you can choose your perfect carry-on bag combination. Place the items you want to have easy access to in your personal item, and your other belongings in your carry-on. Make sure you measure your carry-on including the wheels and verify that it meets your airline’s carry-on baggage requirements.

Here are some ideas for things to include in your carry-ons:

Travel Documents

  • See tip # 1


  • Carry any valuable jewelry with you. Although airport personnel is generally trustworthy, you don’t want to have a special piece of jewelry disappear and then have to deal with reporting the theft or loss due to lost luggage.


  • Laptop computer and charger
  • Mobile device and charger
  • iPad, Kindle, Nook or other e-reader and charger
  • Headphones – Noise canceling headphones are perfect for long flights
  • Camera, memory card, and charger
  • Electrical adapters when traveling outside of your home country

Travel Comfort, Entertainment, and Information

  • ​​Travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs (or noise canceling headphones)
  • Blanket, or as I like to use an oversized scarf which doubles as a blanket
  • Travel journal, notebook, and pen
  • Books and magazines if they aren’t loaded on your e-reader
  • Games, again if they aren’t included on your technology devices
  • Guidebooks, travel guides, maps, language guides, etc. These are always good to review while in flight, plus they are helpful when you arrive at your destination.

Health and Personal Items

  • ​​Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes are useful for wiping down arm rests and tray tables.
  • Prescriptions in original packaging
  • Glasses and case
  • Contacts and contact cleaning solution


  • One outfit just in case your luggage is lost, and you have to wait a while before you get it back.
  • Sandals/Flip Flops – if traveling from somewhere cold to warm, I like to have a quick change of shoes so that I am comfortable upon my arrival to the warm destination.
  • Swimsuit – again if you are headed to a tropical resort, it may be a while before you can get to your room and change. A handy swimsuit allows you to change and enjoy some pool time before you are checked into your room.

Tip #3 – Picking the Right Main Bag

Most people have a favorite piece of luggage they like to use when they travel. I always travel with a big aluminum suitcase that I check. I love it because it is sturdy, has compartments, and holds a lot. Plus because it is not fabric, I enjoy decorating it with a new sticker from every city I visit.

Now if you don’t already have a favorite suitcase you enjoy traveling with I suggest you find a bag that is large enough to hold the essentials. Choose luggage with wheels so that you can easily maneuver through airports and hotels. I recommend that you find a bag that has a hard exterior as they tend to keep moisture out and protect your items inside from being damaged. Compartments are handy for organizing your belongings. But really, this is a personal decision, so you have to find a bag that you like and that fits your needs.

Tips #4 – Organize and Pack Your Bag

Packing for a lengthy trip or a vacation where you have a lot of different activities, and keeping everything organized is difficult. But there are some tips and tricks to organizing and packing that will make this chore less of a challenge.

One of the best things you can do when packing it to mix and match clothes including layers. Choose tops and bottoms that are interchangeable so that you can rewear things without appearing like you are in the same outfit.

Once you have chosen which clothes you would like to bring, take advantage of the pockets and built in organizers inside of your suitcase. Or if you don’t have any built-in pockets, you can purchase bags to organize. Then arrange outfits based on location or activity type, and place them in order of need. I suggest rolling your clothes to keep them from creasing and also to free up space within your suitcase.

Shoes should be kept in a bag so that you don’t get dirt on your clothes. Place shoes and any other heavy items closest to the wheels; by placing them here, you prevent anything heavy sitting towards the top of your suitcase and thus wrinkling your clothes.

Bring along extra bags to place dirty clothes in and also just in case you need more storage for items you purchase while on vacation.

Here are things you don’t want to forget:

The Basics

  • Lightweight clothing that can be layered
  • Shirts
  • Pants and shorts
  • Socks
  • Sweaters
  • Jacket
  • T-shirts
  • Belt
  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sandals, boots, or other shoes you may want for specific activities
  • Dress(es)
  • Jewelry
  • swimwear

Traveling for an extended time or having several activities planned will create a desire in you to pack a lot of clothes so that you have a lot of options. However, having options doesn’t mean you have to over-pack. Again consider your needs, mix and match your clothes, and plan for layers. Include clothing that you can wear while out doing your activities but then easily dress up later with a change of shoes or an added jacket.

Tip #5 – Pack Toiletries Bag

It is best to pack your toiletries in your checked baggage, but if you are bringing them in your carry-on make sure they are TSA-compliant. TSA requires that all liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes be less than 3.4 ounces per container. Also, all of these items must be in one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. You will have to remove this bag from your baggage and run it through screening separately, so have it easily accessible. Check out the TSA website for more information on the TSA rules regarding items you can and cannot pack.

Here is a list of toiletries to consider when packing your toiletry bag:

Toiletry Bag Basics

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash
  • Hair brush or comb, hair ties, bobby pins
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products
  • Sunscreen
  • Makeup
  • Face wash and moisturizer
  • Lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • Contacts, solution, and case
  • Feminine hygiene products

Toiletry Bag Extras

  • ​​Mirror
  • Cologne/perfume
  • Shaving kit and extra razors
  • Sewing kit
  • Tissues
  • Scissors, nail clippers, and tweezers (scissors are only allowed in checked luggage)

Health Items

  • Bandages or a first aid kit
  • Prescriptions including copies of scripts
  • Pain relievers
  • Cold medicines and throat lozenges
  • Allergy medications
  • Vitamins
  • Diarrhea/laxative medicines
  • Sunburn relief
  • Insect repellent
  • Motion sickness pills or bands
  • Eye drops                     

Tip #6 – Dress for Traveling

Like I said, I travel regularly, and because of that, I’ve come up with the perfect travel outfit; it’s an outfit that allows me to fly comfortable yet look stylish upon my arrival. It is a combination that never fails, and I use it every time I travel.

 My in-flight uniform involves the following: a hat because they’re impossible to pack. I like oversized sunglasses since pore-clogging makeup is verboten on planes. A large scarf does double-duty as a blanket once I’m on board. Then I wear a leather jacket, a silk button-down, and drapey harem pants so that I look nice but feel like I am wearing pajamas. Slip-on shoes are a must because they make going through security super easy.

 Everyone has their own style so find works for you. I would simply suggest that you wear layers so that you can add or subtract clothing if you are too warm or too cold. Comfortable shoes that are easy to get on and off are a must. And, consider security when adding things like belts, necklaces, and other items that will set off the metal detectors.

 With any luck, this guide will help you pack in a way that you don’t carry too much, you get through security easily, and you aren’t overwhelmed or frustrated. However, if you have any questions, please feel to contact me.


Pack well and Safe Travels!!

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