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15 Simple Packing Tips, Tools, Hacks

simple packing tips
Posted by on June 7, 2016

Simple Packing Tips

I’ve been on over 130 flights with my kid/s plus a handful of road trips, so I’ve learned lots of packing tips, tools, and hacks.  For me, packing wisely is one of the keys to enjoying your family travel. But it can be overwhelming! Here are some simple packing tips I use when I travel with my family:

5 Simple Packing Tips

1. Use a Reasonable Suitcase
simple packing tips

When I travel as a flight attendant, I use a rolling suitcase. When I travel with my kids, I switch to a rolling duffel bag. I use a 26” rolling duffel bag. Anything bigger makes it difficult to remain within airlines’ weight restrictions. Paying for overweight luggage usually costs more than checking an additional bag, so it’s not worth going over on weight. Right now I’m using a 26″ Olympia Rolling Duffel Bag, which I like for it’s roomy interior and the 8 pockets. I pack all of my things plus both of the kids’ things in this bag. (My husband packs and brings his own bag when he travels with us.)

*BONUS TIP: When buying luggage, consider getting the ugliest or most unusual color so your bag is easily identifies and not confused with other passenger’s luggage. We are currently using a bright pink and a rust orange bag. My favorite was bright yellow. 

2. Create a List

As much as I’ve packed for my family, you would think I could remember everything I need without checking a list. Much of the time I do pack without a list, but I inevitably leave something out. By writing down what I need to pack, especially the items I will be adding last minute, I am sure to pack the most important things.

3. Create a Travel Emergency Kit

I like to keep standard first aid and medicines in a travel kit that always stays in my travel bag. I’ve also started packing an emergency bag, containing at minimum a headlamp flashlight, air filtration masks, and a smoke hood. You can take a look at everything I pack in my own travel emergency bag here: What to Pack in a Travel Emergency Kit

4. Set All Clothes Out to Review

I always set all of my clothes and the kids clothes out on the bed before putting them in the suitcase. Then I reduce what I have set out. Seeing all the clothes at one glance makes it easier to determine what we will really need.

5. Use Amazon Prime

If you are visiting an area in the US for at least one week, it may be much easier to order some things and have them shipped. If you are an Amazon Prime member, most items have free 2-day shipping. Diapers, formula, sunscreen, and snack foods are just a few of the items that might be better to have shipped than to pack.

5 Simple Packing Tools

(This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. When you use these links I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This goes toward the cost of operating this website. I appreciate your support!)

1. Carabiner

simple packing tips
I like to have one carabiner clipped to my backpack strap. I use it to hook on my preschooler’s C.A.R.E.S. Harness and Backpack Harness when we are not using them.

2. Chums Stowaway Equipment Strap

simple packing tips
I just bought these great straps but haven’t had the opportunity to use them yet. My kids like to travel with their own plush blanket, so I’m planning to use this equipment strap to tie up the blankets. I can then attach them to my backpack when getting on and off of the plane. I can imagine many ways these straps could come in handy. You could use one to hook a bag to your larger checked bag to make it easier to get to and from the car. What other ways would you use this?

3. Refillable Containers

simple packing tips
I very rarely pack full size toiletries, but I hate spending the money for prepackaged travel-sized items! I love this set of refillable containers. The small tubs are perfect for facial cleanser and lotion. The larger bottles hold up to 2 weeks worth of shampoo and conditioner. I love how the set also comes with a spray bottle. I use this for my face toner. These lids have never leaked on me. I have bought many, many travel containers over the past 16+ years of flying, and these are the only ones I use now.

4. Travel Size Woolite

simple packing tips
Even if you’re staying somewhere that has laundry facilities, it is often useful to be able to wash a few things in the sink. Here is a post on why I recommend you always pack travel size Woolite if you are visiting a Disney Park. While there are other detergents you could use, I have found that Woolite works best for sink washing because it doesn’t suds up too much and it easily rinses clean.

5. Packing Cubes
simple packing tips

I go back and forth on my use of packing cubes. If you have a child ages newborn-3 years old, the cubes are really great. I use one large cube for all of my baby’s outfits. As the child gets bigger, the clothes get bigger, and you have to use several cubes for each child. Cube packing can really help keep things organized, though. Right now I use a small cube for each person’s socks and underwear, and large cubes for swimwear (all family members together). Then I pack our other clothes outside of the cubes. Experiment with this, but I think you will really enjoy the organization that cube packing can give. I do think that packing cubes work better when you are using a rolling duffle bag vs. a standard rolling suitcase.

5 Simple Packing Hacks

1. DIY Luggage Tag

One of the easiest ways to make a durable luggage tag uses just two things: clear packing tape and one of your business cards. Cut a long piece of packing tape and run it through the large strap on your bag. Double the tape over, stopping near the end to add your business card. Laminate the card using the packing tape and then cut off the excess tape. I’ll try to make a video soon to show how to do this.

2. Duct Tape

This tip comes from retired Flight Attendant and Author, Dixie Howell. She puts a few strips of Duct Tape on her suitcase. The ways duct tape can come in handy are endless! It can really save the day if your luggage tears, a zipper breaks, or a shoe falls apart. Bringing an entire roll of duct tape would add too much weight to your bag, but a few strips can be used when needed and don’t add much weight.

3. Multi-Purpose Items

Pack items that have more than one use in order to save space. Here are a few things that we use in multiple ways:

  • Aquaphor: Use for diaper rash, dry hands, to avoid blisters.
  • 2-in-1 Body Wash, Shampoo: Aquaphor is my favorite for kids.  *Use the travel-sized refillable containers listed above in this post.
  • African Black Soap: Shampoo and Face Wash — I have just recently tried Savvy Boheme’s African Black Soap and it is really great! I can use it for shampoo even with my thick hair (it’s so thick it’s twice the thickness of an “average” head of hair). I’ll be posting a full review soon, but this soap would be great for travel for multiple purposes.
  • Gallon Size Ziploc Bags: Use to pack outfits, keep clothes dry, contain soiled clothes, and for your child’s busy bag items.

4. Pack Sunglasses/Swim Goggles in Shoes

A great way to protect your sunglasses and swim goggles is to pack them inside a sock then inside your shoes.

5. Seat Pocket Trash Liner

simple packing tips

I like to reuse plastic shopping bags as trash bags on the plane. I always pack several in my backpack carry on. On many planes, the seat pocket can stretch out a bit, and these plastic shopping bags fit nicely to create a trash liner. fold the side of the bag over the magazines and the front of the seat pocket and you then have a place to stash trash as you collect it throughout the flight.

*Flight Attendant Tip: Please do not use seat pockets for trash without a bag liner. First, it’s a good way to spread germs. Second, cabin cleaners are usually rushing through the plane, with only a few minutes to clean the entire cabin. They are not often able to look into each seat pocket and often trash gets left behind. I’m sure it’s gross to you when you discover trash in your seat pocket. So try to not be the one who leaves trash there. And definitely never put a used diaper in the seat pockets. Diapers need to go in a bag (you can use an airsickness bag if you didn’t bring anything, I use pre-cut Diaper Genie bags myself) and then in the lavatory trash can. Don’t hand diapers to the flight attendants. The galley is no place for a soiled diaper!

What do you think of these simple packing tips, tools, and hacks? Is there one of these ideas that you want to try? I’d love to hear what works for you when you pack for your next trip. Share in the comments below or send us pictures on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

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13 Responses to 15 Simple Packing Tips, Tools, Hacks

  1. Marta - Learningescapes

    These are really useful tips! I am a light packer and follow most of this tricks already but I hadn’t thought of the duct tape and I can see that could really come in handy, especially with kids – things do tend to break around them….

  2. The Family Explorer (@thefamexplorer)

    These are such great tips! I’ve never made an emergency travel kit, so will definitely need to do that. The travel hacks are really creative too. I’ll be trying a few of those out on our next trip in a few weeks!

  3. Lillie Marshall (@WorldLillie)

    I’m now a mother of two but I didn’t even THINK of packing half of these items! Fabulous list.

    • Beth Henry

      As a mother of two (who travels a lot), I know you’ve thought of a lot! I’m glad I had something new to offer. Would love to hear of anything clever that you pack that I might be missing.

  4. Kevin Wagar

    Great tips. I love packing cubes, they make life so much easier on the road. I’ve had issues with re-fillable containers though. I’d love to love them, but I usually find they’re more of a pain than I want them to be.

    • Beth Henry

      The ONLY refillable containers that have worked for me for multiple flights are these ones that I list in the post. I cannot tell you how many I’ve had leak after a few flights. Either that or you can’t get the product out once it’s half empty! This particular set is great, though.

  5. Claudia Laroye

    Great tips. Duct tape is the best save all of all time! I’m a recent convert to packing cubes, though still getting used to them a bit. It’s hard to change my packing game after 40+ years!

    • Beth Henry

      I know what you mean! I am not able to use packing cubes when I use a standard roller board suitcase. But I love them when I’m using a rolling duffel suitcase. The space just works better.

  6. Stephanie Claire Stasik

    I wasn’t familiar with packing cubes until I read this. I will have to find some. Although we don’t typically fly, we drive from Long Island to visit our families in Virginia and North Carolina and packing four kids can be challenging! Do you recommend any particular packing cubes that are inexpensive but good quality? Thanks for all of these great ideas.

    • Beth Henry

      I have used several brands and all hold up well. Ross or Marshall’s often have good deals on packing cubes and luggage.

  7. Dan

    I love your tips!
    I’m a light packer, so I usually collect information that will help me. I didn’t know some of your tips until I read them. The packing cubes was a first for me and love it.

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