The Ultimate Packing List

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

If you are anything like me, then you have probably already read a ton of packing lists and put together lists of your own. Through my years of travel I have developed and revised my packing list, and favorite tips, that I have learned and implemented successfully. In this post I start with a few of my favorite tips, then break down my packing list by checked bag and carry-on bag.

When packing your suitcase for checking or carrying-on make sure to add a few of these touches: add a dryer sheet to keep your clothes fresh, put a business card/contact information both inside (in case the outside tag falls off) and outside, and add a ribbon on the handle of your bag to identify it from afar- many of those black bags look the same!

When packing my carry-on, I like to make sure to be prepared just in case I am required to check it at the gate. Be sure to include your valuables and anything that you will absolutely need such as prescription medications, eye wear etc. in your personal item to ensure you will have it upon your landing. I wish I would have listened to my own advice on a flight from Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale (with short layover in Newark)- this was literally the one time that I was not prepared with my essentials. Andrew and I both checked EVERYTHING. So when we arrived an hour and half late to our layover in Newark, our luggage flew home without us- resulting in a 24 hour surprise stay in N.Y.C. (blog post to come). Since then I have never not been prepared for an overnight stay.

Be sure to download a printable version of my packing list for your convenience:

Things to include in your Personal Item (Backpack / Purse):

For my personal item I use Vera Bradley’s Essential Backpack. I use the laptop compartment for my hanging toiletry kit and liquids, and the front pouch for my snacks. This bag has the padded laptop compartment, a water bottle holder on each side, and several pockets which helps keep everything orderly. I spent months looking and debating making this purchase, but I am very happy with this bag especially because of the soft straps and all of the pockets! So what goes in my personal item? See the list below:

Essentials:

  • ID, credit cards, cash, insurance cards, international documents (Passport / Global Entry)
  • Prescription Medications- in personal item in case you are required to check your carry-on (I learned this the hard way when our luggage made it home to Florida and we were stuck in NYC!)
  • Glasses and/or Contacts and Contact Solution
  • Phone Charger, Portable Charger, Car Charger
  • Camera and Charger
  • Underwater Camera and Charger
  • In a small toiletry bag: Visine, ChapStick, Lotion, Gum, Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes
  • Travel folder with itineraries (flight and excursions tickets, hotel info. etc.)
  • Empty water bottle to refill at the airport and hotels.
  • Snack in a plastic bag: Granola Bars, Trail Mix, Crackers, tea bags
  • Scarf and/or sweater for drafty planes

Toiletry Kit:

  • Shampoo / Conditioner 
  • Body and Face wash
  • Lotion (face, body) 
  • Body spray / Cologne
  • Makeup, Makeup wipes, q-tips
  • Deodorant 
  • Toothbrush/Paste/Floss/Mouthwash/Wisps for those long layover refreshment 
  • Hair ties/bobby pins/clips
  • Razor
  • Sunscreen, Bug spray, Aloe
  • Meds: Vitamins, Melatonin, Mylanta/Tums, Dramamine, Day and Nyquil, Benadryl, Lactose Pills, Tylenol/Excedrin
  • Band-aides (waterproof too) and Neosporin
  • Manicure set
  • Comb / Brush

Entertainment and Comfort:

  • iPad/Kindle (only one) and chargers 
  • International Adapter if needed
  • Word Puzzles, Deck of Cards, Paper/Pens
  • Headphones and a splitter if you want to watch a movie with someone
  • Scarf, Eye Mask, Head Pillow, and Earplugs

Be Prepared:

  • Extra set of clothes in case you are required to check your carry-on and it is lost: at least one outfit, pajamas, undies, socks, bathing suit, sandals (depending on your destination, this may need to be changed to a jacket, hat, gloves, etc.)
  • Compression socks if needed

This seems like a lot to go in a single bag, but it is totally doable!

Things to Pack in your Carry-on or Checked Bag

I have way too many bags, however I have drastically downsized thanks to Marie Kondo. When considering your luggage purchase it is important to think of the practicality of the bag. For me, I like bags that are lightweight, expandable, have a hard-shell and spinners, and pockets on the inside. Both my full size suitcase and my carry-on suitcase are divided into two sides, which I like for organizational purposes (clothes on one half, accessories and shoes on the other), the downside to this style is that these will not typically fit on a luggage stand, especially the big suitcase, so I am left with keeping the suitcase on the floor or spare table. Here is what I pack in my main suitcase:

Accessories:

  • Sunglasses 
  • Hat (sunhat, baseball hat, cloche)
  • Scarves (to keep warm or accessorize)
  • Bathing suits/beach cover-ups/dress (if needed)
  • Small beach/camera/hiking bag/drawstring backpack (if needed)
  • Cross body purse for everyday use 
  • Collapsible carry-on for souvenirs! You can always check one bag, and bring a collapsible carry-on for on your way home. 
  • Waterproof bag for ID/phone/cash etc. for water activities (if needed)

Clothes:

When planning your wardrobe be sure to start laying things out early. You can check the weather a few weeks in advance to get a general idea of the temperature, then as you approach the trip, you can make last minute substitutions as the weather permits. Pack the following as needed:

  • Socks
  • Undies 
  • Bras (plus exercise and bralettes)
  • Pajamas 
  • Tank Tops / Under Tees 
  • Gym Clothes / Hiking Outfits 
  • Long-Sleeved Shirts
  • Shirts / Blouses
  • Shorts 
  • Dressy Outfit (Dress/Skirt)
  • Jeans / Pants
  • Sweaters
  • Rain Jacket/Warm Jacket/Dress Jacket

Shoes:

Be sure to check the weather and terrain of your destination, depending on the destination you can skip and/or replace your footwear as needed. Stick to 2-3 pairs, wear your bulkiest pair on the plane to save space in your bag. Alternatively, if you have space in your bag, you can always pack your bulkiest pair of shoes, that way you can wear them on your way home and have even more room for souvenirs and trinkets.

  • Flip flops/sandals
  • Dressy Shoes (heels/wedges)
  • Flats
  • Walking shoes
  • Rain Boots
  • Snow Boots

Miscellaneous 

  • Grocery bags (recyclable one for market shopping and plastic for dirty clothes, rocks and shells, yucky shoes, etc.)
  • Gallon / Sandwich Ziploc Bags: I use these to collect my scraps (tickets, brochures, menus) for scrapbooking, souvenir organization, etc. These also come in handy when I have bought too many desserts and have to save them for later.

What did I miss? Is there anything that you cannot travel without?

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