1) Make list of necessities
Start by answering the following 3 questions about your trip:
- How long is the trip?
- What is the weather going to be like? (if you don't know, look it up)
- What types of activities will you be doing?
With a clear understanding of the answer to these questions, you can map out your list of essentials. Start with clothing and footwear, working your way down to smaller items like toiletries. Here's a master packing list I made as an example (see right).
2) Pack outfits
From accessories to footwear, think in terms of an an entire outfit. Start by considering the answers to 3 questions in step 1 to figure out how many necessary outfits you'll need. Next, go through your closet and lay out completed looks that you want to bring, keeping in mind the specific activities that you'll be doing on the trip. Don't just throw some tops and bottoms in your luggage as "options". Finally, to avoid over packing, try on each outfit you've picked out to confirm that it will be right for the occasion. To take this outfit concept a step further, I even pack the outfits together by rolling the top and bottom into one and then put the rolled up outfits in my suitcase.
3) Roll your clothes
This is not a new secret but it's often overlooked. Rolling your clothes is a great hack for creating more space in your luggage. To take this a step further, I use rubber bands to secure each item to prevent them from unrolling and expanding.
Don't put anything directly into your luggage! Arrange like-items together such as outfits, shoes, small toiletries, accessories, etc. on a flat surface like a bed or table (see photo below master list). This will allow you to physically see what you're choosing to bring and allow you to better asses the importance of each item. This is also a good opportunity to look for ways to "slim down" your belongings. For example, instead of bringing a large bottle of your favorite hair product, find a smaller travel size container or sample size to bring instead. Be strict and remove duplicates such as too many shoe or accessory "options". However, it can sometimes but a good to pack alternative options. For example, you're going to a place where the weather can be unpredictable everyday.
5) Use bags within bags
This might seem silly, to have bags within bags, but I'm a big fan of keeping my things clean and organized. TSA loves to shake, rattle and roll luggage but when I pack my belongings in these square mesh travel bags, my things aren't in jumbled mess when I arrive at my destination. Even if I'm not going on a plane, I use smaller bags within bags to prevent things get lost or worn from being tossed around in a bigger bag.