Packing Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

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This post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on April 8, 2016 by TheHipmunk.

Gallivanting around Madrid or conducting business in San Francisco? Wherever you’re going—and whatever you’re planning to do there—you’ll need to pack a bag before you leave for the trip.

But even though packing is universal to travelers, packing well isn’t necessarily a skill that we all share. That’s where these packing hacks come in. Each of these smart tips comes recommended by master travelers and promises you an easier trip from start to finish.

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Pack bubble wrap.

It might seem counterintuitive to fill up space in your suitcase with something you don’t actually need, but hear us out: Packing a few sheets of bubble wrap on the way to your destination means you can remove it and have extra space for carrying souvenirs on the way home. And if those souvenirs are breakable, then even better: Simply keep the bubble wrap and use it as protection.

Hide valuables in old toiletry bottles.

What respectable thief would ever reach for an old tube of Chapstick or a bottle of sunscreen? Before leaving for a trip, empty out a few old toiletry bottles and use them as storage containers for valuables such as keys, cash, and credit cards.

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Prevent liquid spills.

Fly often enough, and eventually you’ll experience the misery that is a burst shampoo bottle in a suitcase full of clothes. Avoid the suffering by cutting out a square of plastic wrap and placing it underneath the lid on your liquid toiletry bottles. (Just screw the lids back on on top of the plastic wrap.) That way, even if the lid comes open, liquids won’t seep out. It’s also a good idea to further secure toiletries in a plastic bag.

Pack shoes wisely.

Shoes can be one of the most cumbersome items to pack, but a few hacks can make a big difference. Start by packing small items (think socks, underwear, bracelets, watches, etc.) into the shoes themselves in order to save valuable space and prevent these items from sliding around inside the suitcase. Then stick the soles into a shower cap so they don’t soil any of your clothes. Finally, be sure to pack shoes foot-to-toe at the bottom of your bag in order to save additional space and keep the suitcase balanced.

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Bring smaller bags.

Packing light is a valuable goal, but sometimes bringing along a few extra items is worth it for the convenience they’ll offer during your trip. Case in point: If you envision needing to carry around any large-ish items (e.g. a laptop) while you’re away, then remember to bring along a bag in which to carry them. That way you won’t be stuck lugging your suitcase around a foreign city when all you really need is a messenger bag.

Avoid tangled jewelry.

Save yourself a massive headache upon arriving at the hotel by packing jewelry so it doesn’t get tangled en route. Lay flat a piece of plastic cling wrap, carefully arrange your necklace(s) or earrings on top, and then cover it all up with another layer of cling wrap. Then slide the whole shebang in between clothes for extra protection.

Wrangle ear buds and power cords.

Anyone with a smartphone or an MP3 player knows what a hassle it can be to manage all the cords that keep our devices humming. Even more frustrating is having to tear through a bag searching for said cords (which inevitably seem to make their way to the bottom). Keep everything in one place—and tangle-free—by stashing small cords in a sunglass case. Wrap them up neatly, tuck them in the case, and assign the case to a spot near the top of your bag for maximum ease of use.

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Take pictures.

Once you’ve packed everything into your suitcase, take a picture of both the inside and the outside of your bag. If (heaven forbid) your bag gets lost or stolen, this way you’ll be able to easily describe it to the appropriate authorities.

Whether you’re still finding your packing stride or you travel often enough that you could pack a carry-on in your sleep, these tips will help you maximize space and eliminate stress wherever you find yourself traveling next.

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How To Pack Light For Any Trip, Anywhere

travel packing tips

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s  Tailwind blog on August 25th.

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No one would prefer lugging four suitcases through the airport over picking up a backpack and whistling past the baggage claim. But that doesn’t mean packing light is an easy feat. Develop a strategy for packing light, and you’re much more likely to actually do it in spite of anxieties.

Whether your goal is to pack for a multi-week vacation in a carry-on or you’re just looking to lighten the load and develop better packing habits, here’s how to pack light for any trip.

Embrace multi-functionalism

Why pack two (or more) items when it’s possible to pack one item that accomplishes everything the others would. Think two-in-one shampoo/conditioner, smartphones (they’re a camera, flashlight, GPS, and phone all in one), a small bundle of strong, flexible rope (use it to tie things to a pack, string it up as a clothesline, or tie the bag to the roof of a bus), or a tablet that can be converted into a laptop. While packing, consider all the ways (conventional or not) that each item could be used. Pack as many multi-functional items as possible, and don’t double up—if one item could serve a particular function in a pinch, that’ll do.

Follow the “rule of three”

When it comes to clothing, three pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, and three shirts should take care of the basics. That way you can wear one, wash one, and dry one all at the same time. Because pants and shorts get smelly less quickly, two pairs will probably do it. Choose clothing in neutral shades so that any of the items can be paired with the others, and opt for fabrics that aren’t prone to wrinkling.

Think light

Evaluate everything on a packing list to see if there are light-weight versions of any items. For example, consider packing a Camelbak bladder instead of a stainless steel water bottle. And instead of packing a heavy winter coat for a cold climate, pack light-weight thermals and thin sweaters (One exception: If you’restaying in an ice hotel, bring the heaviest coat you’ve got). You’ll stay warm either way but the latter will take up way less room in a suitcase. Opt for the lighter version whenever possible.

Be willing to wash

Committing to washing your clothes while traveling will save a ton of weight, because you won’t need to pack fresh outfits for every day of the trip. A sink plug and a little soap is generally all it takes to get clothes clean on the road.

Make a “don’t-pack” list

When it comes to packing light, what you don’t pack is just as important as what you do. Leave behind jewelry and other valuables, items that can be purchased at a destination, multiple guidebooks (or multiple books in general), unnecessary electronics, excess toiletries, and most of the items you feel inclined to stuff into the bag in a last-minute panic. Also be sure to adhere to any regulations for liquids, etc., in order to spend less time in airport security.

Pack several days in advance

This affords time to assess everything you’ve planned to pack. A day or two after laying out all your gear, re-evaluate whether each item is essential. If you’re justifying taking an item with the phrase “what if…” that may be a sign that it’s not actually necessary. Packing in advance will also leave time to pack in an organized way, with heavier items toward the bottom of the pack, clothing rolled instead of folded, and the gear you’ll need most often in accessible places.

Packing light is a skill made better with practice, and it gets easier every time it’s done (especially after a few trips prove that things don’t fall to pieces without all those “what if” items). Put these tactics into practice every time you pack for a trip, and pretty soon you’ll be a pro at packing light.