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Packing Tips from Our Readers

Are you the type of traveler who can't leave home with fewer than four suitcases? Or the type who crams clothes willy-nilly into each bag and then doesn't understand why every shirt comes out riddled with wrinkles?

suitcase pack packing travel vacation

Whatever your packing problems, our readers can help. IndependentTraveler.com members have responded to our packing tips with their own travel-tested suggestions for saving space, reducing wrinkles and lightening your load.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

"I ask my older relatives to save for me the plastic bottles where their prescription pills come. These usually have childproof caps which means that you can put liquids in them and they won't spill. So I use them for all liquids I need to pack. The small ones are good for one-time use of shampoo, cough medicine, liquid laundry soap, etc. The medium and larger sizes I use for longer trips, because I can put enough liquid in them to last for a few uses. When they empty, I just throw them away. And when I return home my relatives have a few more bottles waiting." -- Conchy

Mix and Match

"After having checked luggage go missing on a trip, my partner and I always mix items in the bags. Day and evening wear, underclothes and footwear for each of us in both bags, that way we each have something to wear until the lost luggage turns up!" -- Vee

Make a List and Check It Twice

"My best packing tip is to tuck your packing list into your carry-on when you are done packing. If your suitcase gets lost, you have a list of everything that was in it. On a more positive note, I also carry a photo of our suitcases. That is invaluable when trying to answer the question, 'And what do your suitcases look like?'" -- BonnieC

If the Shoe Fits

"I always pack two different pairs of comfortable walking shoes, because no matter how comfortable the shoes are, after a full day of walking, your feet will hurt somewhere. By alternating the shoes, you nver get to the point where your feet are hurting so much you can't enjoy the trip." -- chrisnjeanne

What Not to Pack

It All Comes Out in the Wash

"I went to Japan last year, and took one of the extra huge zip-top bags with me and used it as a washing machine! I was able to get a LOT of clothes into it at once. I just put in the clothes, poured in the soap, filled it with water and then agitated it around in the tub until the clothes were all clean. It made the washing and rinsing a breeze, and my clothes got much cleaner than if I was just washing in the sink." -- USRoadTripper

A Gem(stone) of a Tip

"I have two absolute favorite jewelry tips. For necklaces and bracelets, INDEX CARDS! Tape the end to an index card and wrap it around the card, then secure with a hair tie. For earrings, safety pins, bobby pins and other random items, wash out an Altoids tin. They are metal, snap securely shut and pack just about anywhere in a suitcase. (Also worth doing: Make a sewing kit and pack it in an Altoids tin.) -- gotsparkly

Minimize Your Meds

"Being 'of a certain age,' I take quite a few daily medications. Rather than take bulky hard plastic containers, I pack all my pills in miniature zip-lock bags (available at craft stores). I label these with permanent marker and put them all in a sandwich bag. They take up no room at all!" -- hari

Medications for Travel

Pop to Relieve Stress, Pack to Protect Valuables

"I always bring a sheet of bubble wrap -- small bubbles -- for any breakable items I might buy along the way. I am sure it's saved more than one treasure I have gotten home safely and it takes up no space at all." --sunnyflies

Outsmart the Airlines

"With the airlines weighing bags to increase their fees, you can put many heavy items in your pockets. You could even sew extra large pockets inside of your jacket to carry more onto the plane and transfer them back into your carry-on later." -- hbuhr

Charitable Reduction

"Preparing for a three-week cruise, I decided to go to the back of my closet and pull out the clothes that I would not necessarily have chosen as 'the pick of the day.' They were all right, but not my favorites. I chose either to donate to charity along the way or to chuck the items. WAHOO! Loads and loads of weight reduction, not to speak of extra space for shopping and/or souvenirs." -- Joko

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

It's in the Bag

"I buy two-gallon zip-lock bags to use when packing. I pick out a complete outfit (shirt, pants or skirt, underwear and socks to match -- all wrinkle-free materials) and pack them in the large bag, removing as much air as possible. This prevents having to rummage through the clothes to find coordinating items and messing up the suitcase. I make sure that I have one bag per day or event, then just pull out a bag and get ready!" -- Debbi G.

The Clean Rises to the Top

"I like to pack a foldable suitcase inside my regular suitcase. My husband and I can't stand having our dirty clothes mixed in with our clean clothes. The second suitcase works great; we just dump our dirty clothes into the second bag and don't have to worry about odor or remembering which layer is the dirty layer. It also gives you more room for souvenirs." -- traveljunkie6987

Keep It Under Wraps

"My tried and true trick for keeping special fabrics and/or items of clothing wrinkle-free is to use the plastic from your dry cleaning (save those plastic wraps). Lay it out flat on the bed, place your item of clothing on top of the plastic (use two pieces if you must, but the longer pieces of dry cleaning plastic, like the kind for coats and dresses, always work) and begin to carefully fold your clothing so that each fold is wrapped, i.e. every bend has a piece of plastic in it. Once done, carefully place the clothes in the part of your suitcase that has those 'X' straps on one side -- OR, if you don't have that, put the wrapped pieces on the bottom of your suitcase. THIS WORKS!" -- Host Bonjour

Fashion Forward

"I make sure all my tops go with all my bottoms, so I can mix and match them. I also avoid prints and try to stick with solid colors ... if I want to add some color, I add a scarf or some inexpensive local jewelry. I also try to bring lightweight layers, so I can add or subtract them depending on the weather." -- gypsychick

Cube It and Forget It

"I use mesh packing cubes and packing envelopes (folders)! I try to take mostly travel knits, which are rolled up and secured in the mesh packing cube(s). Any item that could wrinkle (hubby's shirts and trousers) is folded and packed in a packing envelope. I love this system because everything (underwear and socks included) is either in a cube or envelope, so there are no loose things in the luggage. We usually just leave the cube items in our bags when we arrive at our destination -- they're already organized and easy to find. We've never had wrinkle problems since using the envelopes." -- desdemona01

4 Packing Mistakes You're Probably Making

The Bottle Is Half Full

"I always work out how many days it takes to go through my favorite shampoo, conditioner and deodorant and then take half-filled bottles because I know that I will run out on the last day of my trip. I can always use the hotel-provided ones for one or two days if required." --pookyandjo

toiletry bag toothbrush bathroom travel

Primed and Ready

"Have a 'travel' bag filled with duplicate lotions, shampoo/conditioner, slippers, etc. put away for trips. I keep mine in a small shopping bag so when my next trip comes up, all I have to do is reach in, pack what I need (seasonal items like suntan lotion don't always go) and I'm ready! When you return from each trip, refill or purchase what has been used. It saves so much time." -- Sallie J.

You Mean You Don't Trust the Airlines?

"I always pack my carry-on as if it's the only bag I'm taking. I know all my essentials are there, including a change of clothes. Then I pack my checked bag. It's a bonus when it arrives with me." -- Wendy

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Walk Through Your Week

"For an extended trip (more than a week), try packing a week before. Then mentally walk through how you will wear each change of clothing and other accessories you think you'll use. That way, you can reduce the amount of clothing packed and be able to make a list of all those last-minute items you need to buy -- batteries, electrical converter, rain poncho, toiletries, etc." -- Jonathan B.

Master Your Packing List

"Create a master packing list that includes everything you might need for any trip, and then highlight the items you will need for a particular trip. My list has been invaluable and helps me to remember things that don't readily come to mind." -- Tim H.

Bag the Bottles

"Instead of packing toner or astringent for the face, I put cotton balls in a heavy zip-lock bag and pour toner or astringent on it -- one ball or two per day. That is one less plastic bottle to pack. Same format for moisturizing lotion: Buy a cheaper quality lotion just for the trip. Put it in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag and use it from this bag morning or night while on the trip -- one less container." -- Carolyn S.

What's your top packing tip? Share it in the comments below.

You May Also Like
How to Solve 5 Common Packing Problems
The Ultimate Guide to Travel Packing
10 Things Not to Do When Checking a Bag
Share Advice from Your Latest Trip
Choosing the Right Travel Luggage

--compiled by Sarah Schlichter

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