10 Essential Packing Tips for Smooth Travel

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Blog Post cover image 10 Essential Tips for Packing

One key to successful travel is how you pack! Having the right things but... not too much stuff is the key! We've had our share of heavy bags, bag fees, delayed luggage, and missing flights because we had to check what we thought we could carry on.  We've also packed one bag each for 6 weeks in Europe and over time have developed a system that works for us.  These tips will help streamline your packing process and ensure a smoother and more efficient travel experience. 

On our Summer Europe Trip with One Back Pack Each

We keep all our favorite packing and travel essentials updated here! 

Here's Our 10 Essential Packing Tips for Smooth Travel:

  1. Limit the number and size of bags you carry while traveling. We limit ourselves to 2 each regardless of checking bags or not.  This allows for easier mobility, especially when transferring between different modes of transportation like trains, subways, and ferries. It also helps avoid baggage fees on flights. We recently learned that the carry-on size restrictions vary between the US and different areas across the world, so be mindful of the specific requirements of each airline. We would recommend that your two bags be: one international approved carry on suitcase and one backpack that has a strap on the back that will also slide over your rolling bag. If it doesn't have a strap, I use this Cincha travel strap Scott got me for Christmas last year. When we went to Europe for our 6 week trip, this is the E-bags backpack we used. 
  2. Comfortable shoes are essential for travel and we recommend that you choose ones that can serve dual purposes. Wearing your heaviest shoes while traveling helps save space and weight in your bags. For beach destinations, choose sandals that can be worn both to the beach and for casual outings. I personally like my thong Birkenstocks for that because they are comfortable for walking, can go to the beach or pool but can be dressed up for dinner.  Additionally, pack a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes that are suitable for working out, walking, and hiking. Don’t travel with new shoes. 
  3. When packing your carry-on bag, prioritize items you use daily or would need in case your checked bag gets lost. I’ve just recently learned that a backpack is the most practical choice as it allows you to be hands-free and provides convenient access to your essentials. Keep items like chargers, headphones, a Kindle or other e-reader, pens, and chapstick all together in a pouch for easy organization (I use the one that comes with this packing cube set) and I like to keep this right with me on a flight so I’m not having to get things out of the luggage compartment.  Also, pack essential toiletries, non-replaceable items, a change of clothes, and a bathing suit if you're headed to a beach or pool destination. If you're bringing a laptop, choose a backpack with a laptop sleeve.
  4. Even if you're planning to check your bag, pack toiletries as if they will be in your carry-on. Follow the 3.4 oz (100mL) limit for liquids, which applies to both carry-ons  Packing smaller containers or purchasing travel-sized products saves weight and space. Keep all your toiletries together and organized in a zip-up toiletry kit with separate compartments or bags. Group items like makeup, face products, and toothbrushes in different pouches within the kit and put all your liquids in a quart sized ziplock bag or clear pouch for airport security as some airports are super strict. Here’s mine from L.L. Bean.  I’ve had this for 20 years and it is still going strong.
  5. For women, consider using a small purse or crossbody for personal items while keeping in mind that it should fit within your main carry on bag.  This makes it convenient for easy access to essentials like your phone, credit cards, and passport when going through the airport. Just that the bag fits inside your backpack or carry-on if you're planning to carry everything on board which is required but the airline to meet the 2 bag limit.  If you require a larger purse or bag at your destination, pack it in your checked luggage. Here’s my favorites: foldable and packable Longchamp and this crossbody.
  6. Planning your travel wardrobe is crucial for efficient packing. Opt for a mix-and-match wardrobe of dark, comfortable clothing that doesn't show stains or dirt easily. Adding a jacket or scarf can help you switch up your outfits while minimizing the number of clothing items you need to bring along. Be sure to consider the activities you'll be doing and choose pieces that can work for multiple days or be paired with different items. Creating a travel capsule wardrobe with your favorite well-fitting and clothes you feel comfortable is.  If you buy new items, try wearing them at least once before your trip to ensure comfort and determine any additional requirements like specific bras or undergarments you will need.
  7. Packing cubes will be your best friend.  They are incredibly useful for optimizing space and keeping your clothes organized especially if you are moving from place to place . Use a small cube for items like socks, underwear, and bras. Depending on your needs, you can use one or two additional cubes for separating pants from shirts or organizing complete outfits together and on the way back you can separate clean from dirty.
  8. Avoid overpacking jeans due to their weight, susceptibility to showing dirt, and slow drying time if they get wet.
  9.  Always pack a bathing suit, a packable rain jacket (mens and womens), and small packable umbrella to be prepared for various weather conditions.
  10. Carry ziplock bags of various sizes, a reusable shopper bag, a collapsible duffle bag (here’s one very similar to mine - I got mine at the Columbia outlet years ago) just in case for souvenirs or anything you picked up along the way.  You don’t mind bringing more home you just don’t want extra  stuff the whole trip. and a small amount of laundry detergent or pods or stain-removing pads in case during your trip.

To listen to our Packing Tips and some of our stories, Tune into the Podcast Episode here!

Get our Europe Packing list here and our St John Packing list here!

Happy Packing!


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About Us...


Hi! We're Scott and Melissa

The Sunshine Travelers


We are a couple of travel obsessed explorers sharing our travel experiences and stories to inspire you to travel more and better. We are so happy to have you here.

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