50 Packing Tips to Memorize Before Your Next Trip

Travelling just got a little less stressful.

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Make a list

Writing up a list of what you plan to take might feel like a useless step, but you’ll be glad you did. Not only will it keep you organized when you’re figuring out which outfits go together and trying to remember if you packed all your toiletries, but the list could also come in handy later. “This list is also great if the airline loses your bag and asks you to list what was in it,” says travel writer Tim Davis of luxeadventuretraveler.com. These tips to avoid losing your luggage could come in handy on your next trip.

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“Pack” important documents virtually

Just in case your ID, passport, or kids’ travel consent forms are lost or stolen, keep a locked image of the files on your phone so you can access them without Internet, suggests Grainne Kelly, inventor of BubbleBum inflatable booster seats. “You can also place a copy in your cloud, as long as it is password protected, so that the information is still accessible in the event that your phone is stolen too,” she says. “Just be sure to call the file ‘Aunt Ida’s recipes’ and not ‘All my important document information.’” Speaking of passports, here’s what your passport colour really means.

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Bring a designated laundry bag

Not just any bag will do, though. “Do not use a plastic bag as a wash bag,” says travel blogger Nat Took of natpacker.com. “It will stink after just a few days.” Instead, bring a breathable laundry bag that won’t take up much space in your luggage. Don’t miss these 10 travel mistakes everyone should make at least once.

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Skimp on toiletries

Loading up travel bottles with shower products is a waste of space, says Peggy Goldman, president and founder of Friendly Planet Travel. “Hotels usually provide shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hairdryers,” she points out. “Anything else you need you can pick up at a local convenience store when you get there.” Learn what you should always have in your carry-on luggage so you’re ready for anything.

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Clear space as you go

If you’re already tight on space but plan to buy souvenirs during your trip, bring old clothes that you were planning to donate or throw away. Instead of re-packing them after every wear, you can just leave them in the trash. “Not only do you have less laundry to do when you get back home, you free up some space in your suitcase for souvenirs,” says travel writer Jennifer Dombrowski of Luxe Adventure Traveler. Learn how six common household items can totally transform the way you pack your suitcase.

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Packing cubes
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Invest in packing cubes

Packing cubes aren’t just an easy way to separate socks and undies from your T-shirts, but they’ll also compress your clothes to open up some space in your suitcase, says Took. “Seriously, these things are amazing,” he says. “It may take a few tries to get the bag/suitcase to marry up perfectly, but once you have figured it out, you save so much space.” Don’t miss these five ways to get through the airport faster.

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flat lay of men's casual fashion on white wooden floor
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Create a mini capsule wardrobe

Those outlandish heels you just bought might be fun to show off on a night out, but do they really match with much? “Choose versatile, multipurpose pieces that mix and match and can be dressed up or down,” suggests Kelly. Stick with one colour palette so you don’t need to bring a new pair of shoes for every outfit. For more fashion advice, check out Carson Kressly’s guide to dressing with confidence—at any age.

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Don’t put ice straight in the cooler

When you’re on a road trip, a cooler full of snacks and lunch fixings can be a lifesaver. To keep it clean, put the ice in baggies before putting it in the cooler, suggests family and parenting blogger Tangela Walker-Craft of Simply Necessary, Inc. “The bag could also be used as an ice pack in case of an injury,” she says. Here are five more fantastic hacks for sandwich bags.

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Ask for samples

“Toiletries will get you in trouble!” says Amanda Carnagie, travel blogger at theworldincorporated.com. “They’re small, sometimes bulky, and quickly take up a lot of space.” To save space with makeup, she recommends asking a makeup store like Sephora or Ulta for samples of your favourite products and snagging mini perfumes from department stores instead of dragging along the whole bottle. Be sure to avoid these seven mishaps when travelling abroad.

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A black luggage tag on a handle on a bag
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Personalize your luggage

“When travelling with black luggage—along with 90 per cent of all the other travellers in the world—the last thing you want to do is pull a dozen pieces of luggage off a baggage carousel to check which one is yours,” says Kelly. She recommends making your suitcase stand out by tying on a brightly coloured ribbon, attaching an eye-grabbing luggage tag, or taping your initials on in bright duct tape. Here are 10 more airport tips for seniors you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Cabernet Wine Box: A single bottle of red wine in a wood box partially covered by its lid.
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BYO everything on cruise ships

Toiletries and OTC medications tend to be overpriced on cruise ships, so be prepared and bring your own, suggests Lori Sheller, vice president of cruise development for Tourico Holidays. Plus, you can usually bring a certain amount of soda, bottled water, and wine on the boat. “These wines are subject to a corkage fee if you would like to bring the bottles to the dining room, but not applied if you consume them in your cabin,” says Sheller. Here are 13 more cruise ship tips you’ll wish you’d known sooner.

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Open suitcase with casual female winter clothes on wooden table. Top view
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Organize by weight

Keep your heaviest items, like shoes and thick sweaters, at the bottom of a duffel or by the wheels on a rolling suitcase to keep them from crushing your more delicate items when you’re transporting your luggage, suggest AAA travel experts.

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Trekking in a forest
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Swap a suitcase for a backpack

A suitcase might be easier on your back, but if you’ll be city- or hotel-hopping, you might be better off with a backpack, says travel blogger Grant Sinclair of wanderfilledlife.com. Not only will you have both hands free, but you’ll also have an easier time navigating. “I always feel bad when I see folks dragging a suitcase across a cobblestone street or up stairs,” says Sinclair. Check out these must-have travel accessories for the frequent flyer.

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Don’t stress about your charger plug

If you forgot your phone charger in your rush out the door, you’ll still be able to charge your phone as long as you have the cord, says Kelly. “You can use the USB port on your hotel room television (most flat screens will have one) to charge your phone,” she says. Here are 13 more secrets you should know about staying in hotels.

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Travel and tourism background with souvenirs from around the world. View from above. Flat lay
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Keep fragile items safe

If you bought fragile souvenirs that aren’t protected with bubble wrap, tuck them in the middle of the suitcase, surrounded by layers of clothing to keep it from breaking, suggests McKinzie Pack, budget travel blogger at mackpacking.com. “Avoid the corners of the suitcase and the outer perimeter where it is more likely to get bumped or collide with other baggage,” she says.

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A woman washes clothes by hand in soapy water.
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Pack detergent

You’ve probably read tips about doing laundry so you can reuse outfits, but are you really likely to waste hours of sightseeing time at the laundromat? Maybe not, but you should still pack a travel-sized tube of detergent, especially if you plan on getting sweaty, says Seb Atkinson, travel blogger for thetraveloid.com. “You may not pass a laundry on your travels, but unless you’re going far off the beaten path, you won’t be away from a sink for long,” he says. “Travel detergent is compact and means you can wear your favourite garments several times during a trip, instead of having to put them away once they get a bit messy.” Think running out of clothes is bad? Here are 10 real life travel disasters that could happen to you.

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A person packing for a trip
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Leave no space unfilled

Make the most of those tiny luggage requirements by finding new places to tuck smaller items. “Put things in empty space—socks inside shoes, for example—so that every possible space is maximized,” says Kelly.

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pack the luggage bag for Save Space
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Avoid packing bulky items

Save space in your bag by wearing your bulkiest items during travel, suggests Dave Simmons, CEO of peer-to-peer RV rentals platform Mighway. But if you’re leaving for a ski trip in the middle of summer, no need to sweat in your puffy coat at the airport. “If you want to pack, for example, a thick jacket that takes up a lot of space, consider packing it into a space-saver bag where you can suck out the air,” says Simmons. Here’s what you should know in order to plan the ultimate Colorado ski adventure.

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Plug in not fully into bar electrical outlet
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Pack a power strip

If you have the space, a power strip is surprisingly handy during a hotel stay, especially if you’re travelling abroad. “You simply use that one adaptor to plug in your power strip, and then everything else plugs into the power strip using their conventional, two-prong, North American-style plugs. No additional adapters needed,” says Brian Stacey of guided tour and cruise company Tauck. Even when you’re travelling domestically, having one go-to spot for all your chargers means you don’t need to hunt all over for an open outlet, and you’ll be less likely to forget a cord in a hidden corner of the room, he says. If you do forget something while travelling abroad, these foreign phrases could come in handy.

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Flat lay of winter cloth and accessory on wooden table with copy space
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Think in layers

Especially if you’ll be hitting a couple different weather conditions, planning outfits around layering makes it easy to peel off or add items without stuffing your suitcase with bulky sweaters, says frequent traveller Alex Haslam, media relations specialist with howtowatch.com. “With scarves, cardigans, and other basics, you can create many different outfits without needing a ton of pieces,” she says. She stands by her “seven-layer” setup: a pair of jeans, a versatile black dress, two T-shirts, a cardigan, a weatherproof jacket, and a scarf. Bring some jewelry to mix up your look, she recommends.

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Travel plan background. Ready for the trip. Map, blank notebook, magnifier, compass, glasses and pencil. Flat lay
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Take a backup map

Don’t rely on a GPS app to get you to your destination (although these five travel apps are pretty brilliant). “Print out a map and the text directions to have in the car,” says Walker-Craft. “GPS devices fail sometimes during extreme weather.” The map is also a good spot to write contact information for the hotel and emergency contacts in case of an accident, she says.

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Wheeled suitcase on a luggage belt at the airport terminal.
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Keep your checked bag light

Any heavy items that might put your bag over the weight limit should go in your carry-on bag, says travel blogger Lissie Wild of 2britsandabucketlist.com. “I travel 20-plus times a year via plane, and I have never had my hand luggage weighed,” she says. Try to avoid these other travel mistakes before boarding your next flight.

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Roll your clothes

Instead of folding your clothes like usual, roll shirts and pants into tight cylinders. “Rolling your clothes before packing them saves far more space and the compression can actually help minimize wrinkles,” says Kelly. Packing for Delhi, Mumbai or Goa, by chance? Here are 19 helpful hints for Canadians travelling to India for the first time.

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Orange Travel Toiletry Bag with Travel Toiletries
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Be prepared all year

If you travel often throughout the year, frequent traveller John Doherty, founder of getcredo.com, recommends never unpacking your toiletries bag, and keeping travel-specific versions of your go-to items in it. “Have travel-size deodorant, toothpaste, contact solution, and a dedicated toothbrush that you never remove from there,” he says. “This way you don’t forget important toiletries when packing quickly.” Here are more helpful hints for last-minute travellers.

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Rack of clean clothes hanging on hangers at dry-cleaning
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Bag it up

Save space and stay organized by tucking rolled-up clothes into bags before you plop them in your luggage. “The plastic from your dry cleaning is perfect—like cling wrap for clothes—and can minimize wrinkles even further,” says Kelly. Check out the 11 things highly organized people do on their smartphone.

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Save space with stacks

If you’d rather not roll pieces like collared shirts, you can still save space, says Meg Roberts, president of Molly Maid. “Try and pack your folded clothes in an alternating direction to equalize the amount of space they take up on each side,” she says. Your stacks will stay flatter, making it easier to fit everything you need.

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brown leather duffle bag on the floor
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Pick soft-sided luggage

There are pros and cons for picking hard luggage vs. a soft-sided suitcase, but Kelly recommends sticking with soft. “It’s much easier to squeeze it into the overhead bin on an airplane, bus or train,” she says. Speaking of flying, here are seven hidden features on airplanes you had no idea existed.

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Traveling suitcase with checkin label (manual focus)
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Think inside the suitcase

If the luggage tag on the outside of your suitcase falls off, you’ll still want proof that it’s yours, so attach a second tag with your name on the inside of your case, recommend AAA travel experts.

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Opened door of hotel room with key in the lock
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Bring a door wedge

A door wedge won’t take up much space in your bag, but it could save you a massive headache, says travel blogger Carlita of carlita.me. “It always comes in handy when I am hauling my heavy luggage in and out of hotels for a safe entry and exit,” she says. You can save yourself an even bigger headache by learning the sneaky way thieves can break into hotel safes.

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Bring a bottle of rubbing alcohol

If you have room in your toiletry bag, pour rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle so you can disinfect on the go, suggests Walker-Craft. “Alcohol can be used for sanitizing hands, spraying and wiping down surfaces before eating, and even for cleaning public toilets before using them,” she says. Here are more clever ways to put rubbing alcohol to work.

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Jacket, tie and shirt hanging
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Avoid a wrinkled suit

If you’re checking a bag and need to keep certain items wrinkle-free, bring a garment bag as your carry-on, suggests Tiffany Mast, travel expert for TravelBank. “A flight attendant will usually happily accommodate your bag by hanging it in a closet at the front or back of the plane,” she says. Find out the one word you need to say to get your flight attendant to like you.

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Beautiful high heeled shoes on furry rug
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Don’t pack your whole shoe collection

Shoes are likely one of the bulkiest items in your suitcase, so don’t go overboard when picking which to bring. Goldman recommends bringing just two pairs: one casual and one that’s a bit dressier. “Pack your shoes on the bottom of the bag, and stuff them with socks, belts, and other small items to save space,” she says.

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wardrobe drawer organizer
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Divide it up

If you don’t want to tuck everything into travel cubes, try using drawer dividers in your suitcase, suggests Wild. “It’s a really easy way to keep things organized and separated in your case,” she says. Check out these other travel hacks using common household items.

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Classic pajama for young boy. Navy shirt and pants decorated with white edging. Simple and elegant.
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Order strategically

To avoid tossing everything out of your bag in search of the shirt you wanted, Pack suggests keeping your pajamas and your Day One outfit at the top of your luggage. “If you’re only staying in a hotel for an evening (like on a road trip), it doesn’t necessarily make sense to fully unpack until you are staying in one place for consecutive days,” she says.

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Red suitcases on brick wall background
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Swap suitcases for some items

If you’re travelling with someone else, put some of your clothes in your companion’s luggage and vice versa, suggests travel blogger Laura Longwell of traveladdicts.net. “If one of your bags gets lost or delayed by the airline, you’ll still have something,” she says. “We thought of this after my husband’s bag was delayed and it has saved us on more than one trip since.” These are 11 things you should always keep in a carry-on in case of emergency.

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Multicolored striped scarf, wooden background. Colorful knitted scarf for women.
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Bring a scarf

Scarves take up barely any room in your luggage, but they’ll serve tons of purposes on your trip. Use it as a fashion accessory, shawl, or hair protection in the wind, suggest AAA travel experts.

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Think ahead

Procrastinating packing doesn’t give you much time to remember your often-forgotten items, says Jeanette Zinno, host of Jeanette on the Road With Schwinn. “I try not to leave packing until the last second, so a week before I’ll open my suitcase and throw things in it when I remember them or see them,” she says.

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Child Hygiene.Little girl cleaning her hands with a wet baby wipe isolated on a white background.
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Nix the makeup remover bottle

Makeup remover wipes won’t spill like their liquid counterparts, and you can throw them out as you use them. “Take only the number you need of facial wipes and put them in a small sandwich bag,” says Carnagie. Here are more genius uses for baby wipes you never thought to try.

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empty red baby Stroller
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Make use of infant baggage

Most airlines let parents with kids younger than age two check bags like strollers and car seats for free, points out travel blogger Joss Hooren of littlegreenglobetrotter.com. “I recommend buying padded bags to protect these items in transit, and then stuffing them with anything you can’t fit in your suitcase,” she says. “We’ve squeezed in towels, cloth diapers, clothing, and on the way home, dirty laundry.” Make sure you know these other strategies to make flying with kids easier.

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Keep jewelry from tangling

Throwing your jewelry in a baggie practically guarantees you’ll arrive with a tangle of chains to unravel when you arrive. Travel and food blogger Helene D’Souza of masalaherb.com has a trick for keeping necklace chains separated. “Roll into a cloth or cling wrap lengthwise,” she suggests. You can also watch this clip from CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show to see how RD.ca‘s web editor, Brett Walther, uses plastic wrap to keep jewelry tangle-free when travelling.

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Sealing plastic bag and paperboard.
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Rely on zip-top bags

Sandwich baggies are a handy place to stow chargers, while gallon-sized bags can keep underwear separated from the rest of your clothes. “Have a few extras for shoes or wet things from that last-minute swim,” Kelly suggests.

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Pocket on blue handbag - fashion background
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Make use of pockets

Professional organizer Felice Cohen suggests tucking the things you’ll want on the plane—like a book, snacks, and painkillers—in the front pouch of your bag if it has one. “This avoids having to open your entire suitcase,” she says. Here are more strategies worth stealing from professional organizers.

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Travel Toiletries in Clear Plastic Bag
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Contain spills

Having liquids break in your carry-on and spill all over your clothes is enough to ruin any trip. “It’s also a good idea to seal toiletries in a bag, and then reseal within a second bag, so you don’t have a mess,” says Mast.

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US passport and a boarding pass on a suitcase
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Stick important items in your personal bag

Even if you’re planning to bring a carry-on on the plane, keep key items in your purse or personal bag, recommends Liana Corwin, consumer travel expert for Hopper. “With more travellers opting to exclusively bring carry-on bags, the more likely it is that you may have to gate check them through to your final destination,” she says. “Make sure key items like travel documents, contacts, etc. aren’t going to wind up out of your sight, just in case your bag gets lost or delayed.”

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Arrive to fresh clothes

You’ll want to feel (and smell) your best on vacation, so use Simmons’ simple hack for keeping clothes fresh: slip a dryer sheet in with your clothes to leave a fresh scent. Here are five more brilliant ways to put fabric softener sheets to work.

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Light blue leather waist bag
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Go hands-free with your bag

A fanny pack might make you scream “tourist,” but replacing your usual purse with a no-hands bag is totally worth it, says Haslam. “I find a well-styled fanny pack (yes, that exists) to be more secure than a normal purse or bag, and many come with zippered pockets to keep organized,” she says. “As an added bonus, you can avoid the shoulder strain that comes with carrying a traditional bag for long hours.”

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White and black leather belts hanging on old wooden background
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Lay belts flat

A rolled-up belt takes up a good deal of valuable real estate in your luggage, so keep them flat instead, suggests Roberts. “Run your belts around the perimeter of your suitcase to prevent creases and folds in the leather,” she says. RD.ca’s Brett Walther recommends popping the rolled-up belt inside the neck opening of a folded shirt to help the collar maintain its shape in transit.

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Switch from liquid to solid

Airlines limit how many liquids you can take, so switch to solid products when you can, suggests Zinno. She recommends Milk Makeup’s Boss Skincare Set for cleanser, toner, and more, or Raw Elements sunscreens, which come in sticks or metal tins. Best of all, beauty bars won’t leak all over your bag like a bottle might. To save even more space, break off just a small piece of a beauty bar, suggests Carnagie. Don’t miss the top 20 worst mistakes to make in an airport.

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Hand holding disposable transparent plastic shower cap on white background
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Protect your clothes from dirty shoes

Stick your walking shoes in with your clothes, and you might as well trample your clean outfits before heading on vacation. “Put shoes into shower caps to stop them from getting the rest of your clothes dirty,” suggests Simmons. Find out how a reusable shopping bag can also come in handy next time you’re packing for a trip.

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Packing tips for your next trip
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Avoid over-packing

Sure, you know you don’t want to lug an extra-heavy suitcase everywhere, but there’s another reason to pack light: You might be able to shimmy the zipper shut on a jam-packed suitcase, but not everyone knows the Tetris-like magic you pulled to get it to close, so make sure it has a little breathing room. “Do not over pack your bag,” says Kelly. “Screeners will have a difficult time closing your luggage if selected for inspection, which will only lead to wrinkles and the potential for lost articles.” Don’t miss these secrets flight attendants wish you knew.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest