The 30 Best Packing Tips for the Novice Traveler

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Happy Monday!

Now that it's June and the kids are out of school, we are officially in travel season! Here at the Artful Ambler house, we're swiftly approaching our vacation to California, so I'm putting together my packing list this week, and revising it this weekend! So I thought it'd be a good idea to put together some tips for packing if you're a novice traveler.

I wouldn't call myself a seasoned flyer by any means, but we did live out of a suitcase for about a month and a half while moving from our military base in Japan back to Texas. This included about two weeks living in hotels in California, and a road trip to Texas. So I've had my fair share of trying to cram #allthethings into a suitcase.

Packing well starts with a good plan, so let's get to it!


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Having a solid plan ensures that you bring only what you need. Here are my tips for making sure that you get the most out of yours!

  • Make a packing list around two weeks in advance, then review it and add to it as you get closer to your travel date. That way you can double- and triple-check that you’re not missing anything. This also gives you plenty of time to buy any additional items you might need without having to rush.
     
  • Create an “outfit itinerary” so that you know how many outfits you have to wear. Try and re-purpose as many pieces as possible to maximize the amount of looks you can get on minimal packing space.
     
  • Launder all (or at least most) of your clothes before you pack, rather than just focusing on what you’re taking with you. This way, when you get back home, you have clean clothes waiting for you, instead of having to do laundry right away. If you're a mom, you know the struggle of laundry piling up without enough time to clean and pack at the same time. Trust me, you will be glad you took the time to do the extra laundry!
     
  • Research your airline’s carry-on policy. This might sound like a no-brainer, but some airlines allow 24-25” bags in carry-on, which might save you a baggage fee.
     
  • Avoid last-minute packing at all costs! This will help you avoid packing unneeded items or missing things that you need.
     
  • Download your airline’s mobile app. You can check in, load your boarding pass (yay for saving paper!), and get notifications if your flight has been delayed or your departure gate has been changed, etc.. Some also have airport maps, which can be super helpful.
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Having the right luggage and accessories can make or break your packing experience. Check out these tips to make sure you get the most out of your luggage.

  • Use packing cubes and/or compression bags (I love these from Eagle Creek) to take advantage of every bit of space, and keep your items neat and organized. If these aren't in your budget, you can also use Ziploc bags. They won’t be air-tight like compression bags will, but they can still help to shrink things down a bit if you use them well.
     
  • If you're in need of new luggage, check out Memorial Day sales or summer sales; they tend to have great deals!
     
  • Bring a laundry bag (non-mesh works best for helping to contain unwanted scents), or a bag for wet swimsuits, if you’re going to be in the water.
     
  • If you don’t have a luggage tag, use a ribbon tied around the handle of your bag to make it easier to distinguish in the baggage claim (especially if you have a black bag; holy crap SO many people have black luggage!).
     
  • Plan to wear your more bulky items in-flight to save room in your luggage, if you are really pressed for space.

Toiletries are a necessary item that can prove to be a pain to pack, especially if you are traveling for a special occasion where you need to have your hair and makeup done. Here are my tips for making these a little less painful to pack:

  • Cut a square piece of plastic wrap and cover the opening of bottles before screwing the caps back on. This will help prevent leakage.
     
  • Use multipurpose beauty products to save space. Products like lip/cheek tint, tinted moisturizers, and dual-ended eyeliners do a great job of maximizing  usage on minimal space. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be going over my favorite makeup palettes that feature not only eyeshadows, but bronzer, highlighter, and blush as well! Hint: my favorite right now is Karity’s Posh palette.
     
  • Invest in a good travel makeup brush set. This dual-ended set from Sonia Kashuk is great for versatility in limited space, and this mini set from Real Techniques is great if you are going on a quick trip and need something super-compact.
     
  • Invest in a good toiletry bag with plenty of compartments. I love this multi-compartment bag (which I own a similar version of) and this four-piece set, both from Sonia Kashuk (they make some great cosmetics accessories, I'm telling you!
     
  • Slip fragile items such as perfume inside of socks to help prevent breakage. I like to grab travel-sized versions of my favorite scents. I've been looking forward to trying ScentBird, which offers premium trial-sized bottles of designer fragrances. This is great for trying a scent (for 30 days!) before you buy the full-size version, and they happen to be perfect for traveling.
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Clothing and jewelry, the bane of our packing existence. These always take up the most room, and can get tangled (as necklaces do) or just plain messy. As I mentioned above, compression bags and packing cubes can help to organize everything in your suitcase, but here are some extra tips to keep your clothes and jewelry neat and clean.

  • Bring versatile clothing that will work with multiple outfits (this goes back to my earlier tip of creating a wardrobe itinerary).
     
  • Slip shoes inside shower caps to keep them from dirtying your clothes.
     
  • Arrange shoes with soles together, heel-to-toe, to save space. Also, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane, when possible. This helps a ton!
     
  • Use shoes to hold small items like socks if you are really pressed for space.
     
  • Roll clothes instead of folding. This helps you compress more into a smaller area, especially with pants. Bonus points if you then pack those rolled clothes into a compression bag!
     
  • If you're on a budget, press necklaces and bracelets in between sheets of plastic wrap, or thread necklaces through a straw to prevent tangling. If you can, invest in a good jewelry roll. I own this one, which I love for its compact size and organization; this one is great if you need something that holds a bit more.
     
  • Pack dryer sheets to keep clothes smelling fresh (especially after you start to accumulate dirty clothes).
     
  • Bring individual packets of laundry detergent, as well as a travel-size wrinkle release spray so you can either wash clothing or give it a quick refresh on the go.
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The personal bag is an essential part of travel, and when packed well, can mean an easier flight for you. Having a bag with plenty of compartments is key to keeping a personal bag organized. Here are my tips for everything inside your bag:

  • Pack lip balm, hand cream, and moisturizer or a facial mist to keep your skin hydrated during a long flight.
     
  • Use an eyeglass case to hold/organize chargers and other electronic cables.
     
  • If you wear glasses, pack extra lens wipes in your case.
     
  • Be sure to fully charge all devices before you leave. You can also invest in a portable power bank to charge devices on the go. This one from Amazon is super compact and affordable.
     
  • Bring a sweater, even if it is hot in your departure and/or arrival city. You never know when the airport or plane is going to be super cold. I had an overnight layover in LAX once and was freezing, even with my hoodie on.
     
  • Bring a small "first aid" kit, with things like Tylenol, allergy medicine, eye drops, tissues, Emergen-C, etc

That's it for my packing tips! What tips do you have for maximizing space in your suitcase? Let me know in the comments!

Much Love,

Michelle