How To Pack For A Trip Without Taking The Kitchen Sink

I have a confession: I love to travel. If you know me you will find this as no surprise. Where some people get stressed about the planning, the packing and all of the details I thrive on. One part that is easy for me is the packing. I think I have the packing down to a science and I have written blog posts about packing with my family that you can find here. When I work in client’s bedrooms and master bedroom closets I usually find a suitcase that has not been unpacked from their most recent travels. It just paralyzes people to unpack everything from their travels. Upon further inspections of the suitcase I usually find a plethora of clothes. Wondering why they weren’t in the laundry the most common response is that they never wore the clothes on the trip. So I got to thinking about maybe the way I pack could help other people. I don’t know a lot about fashion, but I do try to use some common sense when I pack.

1. Pack versatile outfits. My girlfriend Susie calls these capsules. Make sure that each pair of pants, shirt, skirt or jacket can have multiple uses. Throw on a jacket and a pair of dress shoes and turn a shirt and jeans into an outfit that you can wear out for dinner. You want to think about outfits that can be either casual or dressy with just a few minor changes.

2. Use lightweight accessories. One scarf or a funky necklace can change an outfit into a totally different one. A simple pair of shoes can change an entire outfit as well.

3. Just keep it simple. Stick with a few basic colors. When I pack I stick with black, brown, pink, white and red. All of these colors mix and match with each other. Usually all of my tops go with all of my bottoms.

4. Make sure that you leave room in your suitcase for vacation purchases. When I help clients organize their travel items we usually find a large assortment of luggage and duffel bags. When I ask why so many their replies are the same, they bought stuff on vacation so they had to buy a piece of luggage to bring it home. Guess what, usually the luggage they buy while on vacation is not good quality and overpriced. It is a good idea to plan ahead and either leave room in your suitcase or carry a duffel bag that can double as a piece of luggage on the return trip home.

5. I use a product called Shelves on the Go when I am packing. This product allows me to lay out my outfits all in one place and not have them spread out all over my bed. I simply hang it in my closet and as I pack I fill the shelves up. It collapses right into my suitcase (carry on) and when I get to my destination I simply pull it out and hang it right in the closet. No need to use drawers. Because once I put something in a drawer at a hotel in inevitably forget it. Whenever I take this item on my travels, people are amazed at how cool and easy to use it is.

6. Pack travel size bottles. Because I usually travel with a carry on I have to abide by the TSA rules on liquids and gels. I have purchased tiny bottles that I put my various gels and liquids in and I make sure that they all fit in my 1 quart zip lock bag. Even if you check your luggage, there is no reason for you to pack your full size items.

7. Pack reading material that you can leave at your destination. When I travel I always pack my stack of magazines that I need to read. This way I can get something at my to-do list while leaving more room in my suitcase for on my way home.


8. Think about layering. I love to think about wearing my clothes in layers. If it is hot, I have on a t-shirt or a tank top. If it gets a little colder maybe I can throw on a light weight sweater or a jacket. Even colder I could put on a scarf or a heavier jacket. When I pack I think about how these items can all mix and match and go together.

The point is to go on vacation and not worry about what you may have forgotten. You are on vacation. The important things to pack are your medications and things that can not be replaced while away from home. Believe me, you don’t want to be driving around an island looking for a drugstore that carries your diabetes medication in the middle of the night. Forgetting to pack your yellow t-shirt is an OK thing.


To Joyful, Simplified Living,

MS. Simplicity

MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger  operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity.  She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at

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2 Responses

  1. 1 gallon zip lock bag?

    3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.

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