Packing Tips & Tricks

Updated July 2019

I believe that your bag can make or break your travel experience. On one hand, you want to look cute but you don’t want to sacrifice valuable space in your suitcase. As a budding travel photographer & writer, I’ve learned that strategic packing is an important part of prepping for a trip. Today, I’m going to be sharing my top tips for packing light and hope you find it beneficial!


Pick your luggage: There are both pros and cons to traveling with either a backpack or a suitcase, and to be honest? I use both. Depending on my location, the duration of my stay and how active I’m going to be, I have 3 bags that are my go to. Find what fits best for your personality and lifestyle!

[R]: It’s no secret that I LOVE my Cusco 26L Backpack by Cotopaxi. This little guy has been around the world with me and never let me down. While I don’t recommend it for long term backpacking, it’s a great carry-on and if you’re strategic in your planning you can fit 2-weeks worth of clothing, your laptop and even some souvenirs!

[M]: I typically prefer hardshell suitcases over softshell, because if I’m asked to gate check my suitcase, it’s a little more durable. I also love this unique design which makes it easy to pick out amongst a sea of black suitcases on the carousel. 

Extra tip: Remember to take a picture of your suitcase prior to leaving home. In case your suitcase gets lost in transit or is damaged, you can bring it to the desk show them the picture and they will reimburse your for any damages. But you HAVE to report it prior to leaving the airport.

[L]: For long term solo travel, I would invest in a travel backpack. I like my Osprey 40L backpack, but I’m honestly thinking of selling it for something a little different in the future. 

Use a toiletry bag: I used to have a large hanging toiletry bag from Baggallini, but have since downgraded. Most airports ask you to keep your liquid products in a clear bag. I purchased this travel kit for $5 from Walmart, and once I used up the products provided I purchased these reusable containers from Target. It fits easily in a carry on and doesn’t take up much space.

Make a list: I love making lists. I realize this is typical “Type-A” mentality, but I promise it truly helps! Having something visual to go off ensures I cut down on any extras that always seem to find its way into my suitcase. 

Lay out your clothes: As you can probably guess, I’m a very visual person. But I promise it all makes sense! Laying out your clothes helps you figure out how to mix and match in order to maximize your wear. As a rule of thumb, the goal is to wear EVERY item you pack. (Exception: I always pack one more set of undergarments that I need and keep them in a separate location. For example, if you have to gate check your suitcase and it gets left behind. You have a spare set of undergarments.)

Pack Ahead: I almost always pack 1 week prior to my trip. I pack everything I think I need, leave it alone for a few days and then go back to my suitcase. Oftentimes, you’ll find you probably don’t need half of what you initially packed!

Roll Your Clothes: Or do the Marie Kondo Method. Find the best way to fold that maximizes space in your suitcase and packs as flat as possible. 

Story time: When I was 6, I went with my aunt, uncle and cousins to Disneyland for the first time. My dad had given my aunt $300 to hold for me as spending money. Obviously as a 6 year old, I went CRAZY buying souvenirs. With an overabundance to pack, my aunt taught me to roll my clothes and in the end? Everything fit and I even had space left over!


Wear your bulkiest items: While it seems like a no brainer, if you’re traveling toward colder climates where your bulkiest items while in transit. It can keep you warm on planes or you can roll it and use it as a pillow. You might look a little dorky, but chances are you won’t see these people again.


Reusable Tote Bag: Slipping a reusable tote bag into the bottom of your suitcase can be a lifesaver! You can use it as a grocery bag, a beach bag, or if you are traveling with family and go overboard with your souvenir purchases like I do sometimes - hand your husband/partner your backpack and call it your carry on!


Be a “Bag” person. After joining the hiking club in high school, I quickly learned to keep 2-3 plastic bags in my backpack. I simply triangle fold them and they are so handy! Slip your extra shoes in a bag to keep them separate from your clean clothes, drop your wet swimsuit after a day at the beach/lake. 


Accessorize: I don’t like to bring jewelry with me, just in case. But if I know, I’m going to be doing something that requires me to dress up, I’ll pack a neutral piece that I guarantee I purchased at Claires… Don’t judge me. Oftentimes, however, I’ll typically bring a neutral scarf. They are lightweight, stylish and dress up an outfit in a pinch!

A snack & collapsible water bottle. We can all agree that unless you have lounge access, airport food and drinks are expensive. It’s extremely important to stay hydrated and if you’re prone to becoming “hangry” like me a granola bar can go a long way on stressful travel days. Collapsible water bottles can be a little pricey, but well worth the investment! They are travel friendly and you can fill them up wherever you go!


Pack a sarong. A sarong is a large cloth garment that is lightweight, packs well and is very versatile. It's something that is fairly commonplace in HI, and areas like Southeast Asia. It can be used as a fashionable swimsuit cover, both a plane blanket or beach blanket, a beach towel, and if your in the wilderness: you can hang it up on a tree to give you some privacy to use the bathroom. (Again, sorry with the TMI) I've even once turned it into a large bag when I've been at the farmers market.

What are YOUR packing tips?

Let me know in the comments below!