Let’s revisit the best packing tips and tricks to make sure we’re as smart as we should be about managing our stuff when we travel. Let’s not have the carry-on vs. checked debate, because that one is a matter of personal preference, and Team Fathom sits on opposite sides of the divide. What we do agree on are best practices for what’s inside the bags you’re carrying.
The easiest way to guarantee you won’t forget anything is to have a packing checklist. Start with a general list that you find online, then edit it to include your favorites and necessities.
Another packing trick is to imagine what you’ll need from head to toe – from hats to shoes — and organize accordingly.
Leave complicated clothing at home. The best travel gear folds easily and doesn’t need excessive ironing or dry cleaning. You want to look good when you travel, not fussy.
Grouping items like socks, underwear, and tees into their own pouches or packing cubes makes unpacking easier and keeps your bag organized.
Bring a swimsuit. You never know.
Compression bags are a clever way to maximize luggage space. Especially when packing cold-weather gear like puffy ski jackets.
Pack good walking shoes. Unless you think blisters are great souvenirs. And please, please put them in a shoe bag and not directly into the suitcase. Do you have any idea what's lingering on the bottom of those soles?
Bring slippers from home: Hotel slippers are wasteful single-use throwaways. Unless they’re extra nice: These are great souvenirs.
If you plan the clothes you want to bring and only pack half of the pile, you’ll still come home with things you never wore. Don't feel bad about it: That's just a travel rule.
A good suitcase with spinner wheels is a sound investment that will last for years.
Toss an extra compact tote into your bag in case you go crazy with souvenirs.
Don't ever put the suitcase or travel bag directly onto a bed. You do not want airplane and baggage carousel germs sleeping with you.
A lightweight scarf can multitask as a windbreaker, blanket, and sun shield. Bonus points to anything that does double duty.
If you stash an extra pair of underwear, socks, and a tee in your carry-on, lost luggage won’t be as big a disaster.
Always carry jewelry and medications with you, along with anything else that would be truly awful to lose.
Prepare a small bag of the little things that will make your trip more comfortable — like tissues, face mist, lip balm, hand sanitizer, ear plugs, a pen, and gum or mints — and place it in an easily accessible place in your carry-on so you don't have to rifle through your bag to find these these items.
Your first-aid kit should have bandages, first-aid ointment, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, cold meds, eye drops, and anything particular to anything you may suffer from (antacid, decongestant). If you take medications, pack extras in case it takes you longer to get home.
If you restock your flight-friendly bag of small toiletries at the end of a trip, it will be ready to go the next time.
Invest in a reusable water bottle — there’s enough plastic in the oceans — and refill it anytime you see a water fountain.
Papers, Docs, and Admin
Keep your passport, immunization info, and other important travel documents in the same safe place, so you never have to scramble to find them. (This goes for all only-when-you-travel items like electrical adapters, inflatable travel pillows, and foreign currency.)
Upload a password-protected digital copy of your passport, visas, drivers’ licenses, medical prescriptions to the cloud, and keep a hard copy at home. For added backup, send a copy to someone you trust.
Speaking of passports, is yours updated? As a general rule, Unites States passports need to show at least six months of validity for international travel. If yours is set to expire before six months, renew it before you leave the country.
Fun and Connectivity
Bring the entertainment — movies or shows for the journey, a deck of cards, a book set in the destination you’re visiting.
If you’re traveling abroad, check your phone’s data plan before you leave. Per-day rates are usually cheaper than roaming charges.
Don't even think of leaving home without an already charged battery pack. You'll have the last laugh when your phone's battery tries to die at the worst moment.
Shop for Travel Bags
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