Pack smart for travel: 10 steps to list, assess, pack right!

by Apr 8, 2015Packing

If you don’t travel a lot, packing for an adventure – be it global or domestic – can be daunting. Instead of spending months or weeks panicking over what to take, start thinking about the process as soon as you book your tickets. Here are a few tips from HI Travel Tales to pack smart for travel:

  1. Choose your suitcase. Don’t select one too big (since we tend to fill the space we have). But expandable is always good since you can make room for stuff you may acquire while gone – or stashing that extra jacket at some point. You really should be able to pack smart for most trips in somewhat nicer weather with a 25-26-inch bag, such as the Eagle Creek Load Warrior wheeled duffel. If you need a little more stuff, i.e. for some dressier occasions while traveling or if it’s winter, you should be able to get away with 28-29 inches (such as the Eagle Creek Activate wheeled duffel) if you pack smart. Certainly no more than 30 inches. Also find a small packable lightweight shoulder bag or pack to “unfurl” once you arrive. It can also be used as a carry-on personal item on the way home if your airline allows that.

Pack smart for travel using lists, cubes, and smaller luggage

  1. Analyze normal weather for your destination/s on your favorite weather website during your trip’s schedule. Then, remember that unusual highs or lows can swing that outlook one way or the other by a few degrees, thus demanding that you pack smart with layering systems. At least you have a baseline.

Tips to pack smart for travel with clothes, shoes

  1. In planning for smart packing, think in layers, focus on multifunction, and insist on coordinating color schemes. Everything should mix and match. We do mean everything. You should choose pants or shirts that you can dress up or dress down using scarves, belts, jewelry or sweaters. Instead of huge jackets or bulky sweaters, in packing smart plan lighter jackets or shells (depending on the weather) you can layer with a sweater and perhaps a vest. You can wear one, two or all three together. If you also workout, as HI Travel Tales does, try to choose some workout gear that can also be casual street wear, and select workout shoes in muted colors that can also be slipped on for a walk around town or a quick coffee outing. Also, consider where you are headed and pick items that won’t insult locals; try to blend in, not stand out.
  1. Footwear for the road. Shoes deserve separate mention. They are space hogs, especially for men. Multifunction is a must. Lightweight is a must. Utmost comfort? Nothing else will do. We try to travel with one pair on our feet and one pair in the suitcase, plus either sandals, slip-ons or some other super lightweight, compact pair for heading down the street, to a gym, around the hotel or cabin, or perhaps that can double as something dressier in nice weather. Winter may mandate one extra pair of something warmer, however. In that case, you can consider wearing those during travel to keep them from claiming too much space in your checked bag.

Organization a must to pack smart for travel

  1. Make a list. Of everything. From shoes and socks to pants, dresses, toiletries and other personal items. Make a separate section on your packing-smart list for your carry-on items as well as the clothes you will wear while traveling.
  2. Demolish that list, round 1. Get seriously cruel and cross off a number of items. Do you really need that silky shirt you “might” wear to a party? We promise you WILL wear less than you think. Since you are traveling, nobody will be the wiser if you wear the same pair of pants for three days in a row but rotate shirts, for example.

Pack smart and traveling light demands elimination

  1. Stack pack. a.k.a. pre-pack. In the HI Travel Tales household we call it “stack packing” because we pull everything that is on our list, fold and roll or stack on the floor or bed, and then analyze all over again. Time to demolish those stacks, round 2! You can and should eliminate yet another item or two at this point (unless you have already been so minimal that there is nothing left!). Put items for your carry-on bag in a separate stack – all those electronics, cables, comfort items for underway, eyeglasses and any medications, snacks (she insists on a snack!), your camera, or other personal items.

Pack smart organization vest for carry on items

  1. Eyeball your stack and compare to your intended suitcase. Uh-oh, looks like too much to count as smart packing? Demolish, round 3. DING! Pull that second sweater you threw in as a just in case or the extra pants that only go with one shirt. Trade out that bulky sweater you just loooooove for a thinner one.
  1. Into the suitcase it all goes! Roll clothes; use packing cubes for organization; stuff small soft items in shoes; and stash any bottles of liquids or gels into zipper plastic bags as just-in-case protection. Review your list one more time to make sure you didn’t overlook an item.

Take a look at this list for a few essentials on HI Travel Tales packing smart list.
And, if you are techno-inclined, a few smart travel apps can be lifesavers.

Weight limits are usually about 50 pounds on major airlines, but HI Travel Tales can’t imagine carrying anywhere near that, even in the winter. You shouldn’t either.

HITT Tip: Don’t forget to quadruple check for these pack smart for travel must-haves:

  • Plug adapters for foreign travel
  • Passport and ID (Tip: Do not take your entire wallet, but only the cards and IDs you will absolutely need. Taking it all means a thief will get a major payday if it’s stolen. And be sure you have photocopied the front and back of anything you have with you and stored somewhere safe.)
  • RFID wallets or passport covers (keeps thieves from electronically lifting your ID without your knowledge)
  • Personal medications and/or prescriptions
  • Eyeglasses and either an extra prescription pair or your prescription (or extra emergency glasses)
  • Foreign currency for quick arrival expenditures, if available or needed.
  • Emergency lightweight umbrella. Don’t leave home without one.
  • Plastic zip ties. (Tip: These are for “locking” your checked bags. If they get cut, no loss. TSA actually doesn’t like those alleged approved locks so much and sometimes may just cut them off anyway.)


You might also be interested in reading:

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