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Packing for a Trip? Here are Some Packing Essentials


An assortment of packing cubes with Simple Jersey Dress folded inside

March is the time of spring break travels. Or maybe you are planning your summer trip. I’ve got some tips for you.

My favorite travel essential is packing cubes. Finding these, years ago, has been a game changer for me. Eagle Creek makes theirs using recycled materials. I found mine at REI. The garment folder style is fantastic. It has a template for folding your garments, which then packs into the cube for sturdiness. This is great for keeping your clothing neatly folded, reduces wrinkles and compacts it down, too.

I also use a few that are simply zippered pouches of various sizes. With these pouches you can not only easily find your own things, but helps to have pouches for each family member, so you can easily toss them their goods.

For toiletries, sometimes the air pressure in an airplane causes liquids to leak. So, I always package anything that would make a mess if it leaked into a sealed bag. I used to use zipper lock plastic gallon bags. But I have now made the transition to not buying plastic bags anymore. There are none in my kitchen. However, I do have one in my travel pouch from my plastic using days that I use repeatedly. Or snag and wash a used one from that friend or neighbor who just throws them away.

Even better, Patagonia makes water resistant pouches. I love anything from them, as they have been a long-standing leader in sustainability.

Ever since the airlines have changed to charging by the bag, I use luggage that is as large as possible, so compartmentalizing is handy. Which brings me to another point: suitcases. The AAA Travel Store now carries eco-friendly brands. Just ask for recycled materials or brands that value sustainability when shopping. You don’t have to be a member to shop there. The suitcase itself can be a simple two compartment clam shell style if you’ve got those packing cubes inside. The suitcase takes such a beating, and it is the zipper that usually goes first, so invest in the packing cubes which will last a lifetime and be frugal with the suitcase. Expensive vs cheap luggage usually last about the same amount of use– it's that darn zipper. If you’re going to buy fancy luggage, make sure the zipper can be replaced. That’s my two cents.

For dirty laundry, no need to buy a laundry bag. I use pillowcases. I’ll select different colors to code the dirty clothes. All darks in the darkest color. Lights in a white one, and delicates in something in between, or patterned. This way, if you do have a chance to wash a load or drop it off at a laundromat, you can easily grab a pre-sorted bag. If you know ahead of time that you will be able to wash a load, you can pack a little lighter. This is great when traveling with the family- those dirties pile up fast.

I also put a duffle bag inside of my suitcase. This comes in handy for transporting laundry to and from the hotel, for a day pack, or for bringing home presents for those trips you will return home with more than you left with. For my family, it sits in the hotel room with the laundry bags in it, which keeps the dirty clothes separate from the clean and allows the kids to participate in collecting up dirty laundry, even when they were very young. Christmas is always like that for us because I ship my gifts to my family ahead of time, but the gifts for my kids end up in the suitcase. But travel to a fun destination can be like that, too, between souvenirs and gifts to bring home.

My purse or handbag is as big as possible. Big enough for a book at the very least. Alternatively, I may use a backpack. This is great for day trips and for making it though the airport. Backpacks are great if you have little ones. I used to use one of smaller packing cubes for a change of clothing (not just for leaky diapers or newly potty-trained youngsters but for spills) for the airport and for day trips. I made sure to only pack it half-full so I could put in stuff the kids didn’t want to carry or a layer they wanted to take off or that sandwich I just don’t have a free hand to carry. For daily use, I place a small handbag in my suitcase or backpack.

Because I live in Minnesota, I’m always traveling someplace warmer. If you leave wearing a bulky jacket or coat, leave enough room for it in your suitcase. Then at the airport, open your bag (don’t worry, your underwear won’t spill out because it’s in one of those pouches, right?) and put everyone’s jackets in it. Then you won’t end up carrying around your kids’ coats– or trying to keep track that they don’t leave it behind if they are carrying it themselves. No need to lose your hat.

Happy travels, and I hope that you found at least one useful tip in this article!