Whether you’re hitting the road for the holidays, traveling for work or simply planning your dream post-vaccination vacation, properly packing a suitcase is of the utmost importance.
Overpacking, toiletry spills and a lack of organization can add undue stress and annoyance to travel, but finding the right packing items and accessories ahead of time can feel like an unnecessary hassle. We decided to help you out by asking two people who make their living on the road for their top tips and tricks.
Both travel pros we spoke to emphasized one thing: Organization is key to a successful packing experience. And if that means investing in accessories like packing cubes, it’s well worth it. Traveling is chaotic enough, so why add to it with an unnecessary mess?
Nicole Kleist is a freelance travel writer who often has to hit the road at a moment’s notice to follow a story. “I lean heavily on packing cubes because they keep my suitcase from looking like a tornado swept through,” she said. “I especially like using them for my shoes and dirty underwear.”
In an effort to keep things simple, she tries to plan her outfits for each day in advance. “It keeps me from overpacking and also makes getting dressed throughout the trip less of a hassle,” she explained. If that seems like too much work, she suggests “packing neutral colors so you can mix and match everything you bring along.”
Kleist’s biggest tip? “Don’t overpack shoes! It’s the easiest way to lighten your load and you won’t end up wearing all of them.”
As a professional touring musician, Drew Citron echoed Kleist’s advice on organization. “I keep my show looks in a completely separate garment bag than my hotel and travel clothes,” she said. “It’s all about compartmentalizing what I need when I need it, so I use separate bags for separate things.”
Citron’s top tip: Pack more underwear than you think you’ll need. “I pack every piece of underwear that I own — that way I know that if we don’t have a chance to do laundry, I’ll be good on that front,” she said. You never know what challenges the road will bring, and running out of underwear is never good.
Keep reading for some of the best packing cube options, garment bags, tech travel solutions, accessories and more. If you approach packing like it’s a game of Tetris, and you might actually even enjoy it.
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A set of compression cubes
Double your space with BeeNesting's waterproof compression packing cubes. This set of four uses double zippers to smoosh your clothes so you can maximize suitcase space. They're perfect for when you want to use a carry-on bag for a long-ish trip.Get it from Amazon starting at $42.
A travel undies organizer
How brilliant is this? This travel underwear organizer from JJ Power, which comes in a variety of colors, is the perfect addition to your packing cube collection.Get it from Amazon for $14.99.
A universal international adaptor
Keep this Saunorch outlet adaptor handy anytime you find yourself hitting the road. You don't want to be caught without one and have to pay exorbitant prices in the airport. Get it from Amazon for $18.99.
A set of refillable toiletries containers
Spare yourself the agony of losing an entire bottle of expensive moisturizer during a travel disaster and decant your liquid cosmetics and skin care items into refillable containers. This set from Meacolia includes a pump bottle, two squeezable tubes, a spray bottle, a pump bottle with a valve, three cream jars, a spatula and funnel, along with a travel bag. That's a whole lot for a pretty low price point.Get it from Amazon for $7.49.
A set of five packing cubes
Calpak's five-piece packing cube set comes in a wide variety of fun colors and kicky patterns and includes a water-resistant envelope pouch. Get it from Calpack for $65.
A handy tech case
Traveling with laptops and other tech items is pretty much inevitable these days, and Away's tech case makes it much easier to keep everything neatly tucked away. Laptop chargers and larger accessories fit in the bottom mesh zip compartment, while top elastic loops organize earbuds, phone charger blocks and additional cords.Get it from Away for $45.
A beauty bag
Glossier's toiletry kit is tall enough for bottles to stand upright, has a removable interior red pouch and four small pockets on the side so you don't have to dig around for your goodies. Best of all, it's as cute as it is functional. Get it from Glossier for $28.
A shoe packing bag
Calpak's Compakt shoe bag comes in a set of two, is made of water-resistant ripstop nylon that is easy to wipe clean and has a carrying handle. Pick from three lovely colors to match your personal aesthetic.Get it from Calpak for $28.
A chic set of packing cubes
Few do travel better than Away, and their packing cubes compress and organize everything inside a suitcase — even the bulkiest items. They are made from water-resistant nylon with a mesh panel that makes everything easy to find. Get it from Away for $65.
A portable phone and computer charger
Don't get lost in a tangle of wires. This portable external phone charger from brand Q is compatible with multiple smartphones and can be plugged directly into the wall. Get it from Amazon for $39.99.
A travel-friendly garment bag
Simple Houseware's garment bag is perfect for suits, dresses and winter coats, and it even has a pocket for shoes. It has two handles and an eyelet, making it easy to transport and fold into a suitcase.Get it on Amazon for $14.87.
A rugged, weather-proof packing cube
Going on a camping trip? You're going to need this Eagle Creak packing cube. It's wildly durable and water-repellent, making it perfect for protecting clothing, tech or outdoor equipment.Get it from Eagle Creak starting at $37.46.
A packable travel laundry bag
Stash your dirty laundry in a nylon bag so it doesn't get mixed up with your clean clothing. EzPacking's option is lightweight, fits in your suitcase and folds up to save space when not in use.Get it from Amazon for $12.99.
A stylish dopp kit
Pack your toiletries in this stylish, simple and compact dopp toiletry kit from West Elm. The handle adds another level of function, along with an interior mesh pocket.Get it from West Elm for $28.
A super-comfy travel neck pillow
We'd be remiss not to include Citron's beloved travel neck pillow. Cabeau Evolution's memory foam neck pillow is perfect for airplanes and long car rides and can be easily clipped onto your luggage for easy transport. Get it from Amazon for $29.99.
A reusable water bottle
Investing in a high-quality reusable water bottle is key to making travel more pleasant. An insulated, slim water bottle like these from S'well not only keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for longer, but it can easily be tucked into your carry-on bag. Get it from Amazon starting at $26.
A pack of antibacterial wipes