I’ll admit it: I’m a chronic overpacker. Even if I’m heading out on a quick weekend getaway, I feel the need to bring not only the essentials, but also rain boots, a heavy jacket and a swimsuit…just in case. With Memorial Day this weekend, whether you’re traveling to some far-off destination (lucky!) or just heading to a locale closer to home, you’ll need a smart packing strategy. To prevent overpacking, follow these 21 suitcase-building hacks to start packing like a pro!
1. The first rule of packing is to always make a list. It sounds obvious, but a lot of people forget this step and it can save you from serious overpacking—and from forgetting necessities.
2. We all take #selfies, so take pictures of your outfits beforehand for easy dressing. Then, think about the number of outfits you need and subtract one. You’ll thank me later.
3. Pack shoes in your carry-on. Shoes tend to be the heaviest items you bring—especially when it comes to chunky wedges and thick heels!—and you can fit about three pairs into a tote. Packing them in a carry-on saves you room for more clothes and makes your checked bag less heavy.
4. Same with jeans! They tend to be really heavy, so pack them in your carry-on as well.
5. When I flew to Paris, my bags didn’t arrive until 24 hours after I did. Talk about a bummer. Luckily, I had packed a full outfit (shoes, my jeans, a comfortable top and underthings) in my carry-on, along with travel-sized makeup and toiletries. I didn’t let my missing bag put a damper on my first full day in France!
6. Pack outfits that can be mixed and matched instead of completely separate ensembles. Think one pair of skinny jeans, neutral flats and tops that go with everything.
7. Check the weather and be realistic in terms of what you’re going to wear. If the weather says 80 degrees and sunny, you won’t need those booties. Promise!
8. Stuff your socks and undies in your bra cups and shoes!
9. Don’t pack a lot of shoes—try to coordinate multiple outfits that match the same shoes so you only have to pack one or two pairs.
10. Going to a new city means new places to shop! Bring an empty carry-on-sized bag in your checked luggage to transport back all your purchases.
11. Save those beauty samples you get from department stores to bring on trips. Who needs a full-sized bottle of Chanel No. 5 anyway? Plus, imagine the heartbreak if that broke in your bag. Save tester perfumes, foundations, eye creams, everything!
12. Speaking of leaks, prevent them by removing the cap on your liquid toiletries, puting plastic wrap over the opening and then replacing the cap.
13. If you travel a lot, invest in a travel dopp kit with a second set of all your toiletries. It makes packing and unpacking so much easier, and also ensures that won’t leave anything important behind. And if you do, you have a second set of everything!
14. Use old contact cases to store liquid makeup. The caps prevent any spillage and on any weekend-to-weeklong trip, you will only need about an ounce of foundation anyway.
15. Save garment and dust bags! You can pack complete outfits or specific categories of items (pants, tops, etc.) into garment bags for storage. Use dust bags for your shoes or purses to protect them—and to prevent those sneakers from getting your clothes dirty.
16. No dust bags? Use an old shower cap to wrap up your shoes.
17. Prep a little pouch inside your purse that contains all the travel essentials—ID, boarding pass, gum, lotion, hand sanitizer, keys (for easy access when you get home), etc.
18. Used dryer sheets in your suitcase make clothes stay fresh, but don’t leave residue!
19. Don’t bring a laptop unless you absolutely have to. Most of us have smartphones or tablets, which take up less space and are way less heavy.
20. Use a vitamin or medicine holder to store jewelry and prevent necklaces from tangling.
21. An empty quart-size Ziploc bag is perfect for dirty laundry—it’ll keep worn clothes separate from your clean outfits.