Save. Spend. Splurge.

Travel Series: Quick things to remember when packing a suitcase

If you remember NOTHING else about packing, these are my fast top things to do:


If you don’t know what the weather will be like, you will be screwed when you arrive.

If you have never been there before, check the averages.


Always. ALWAYS. bring a light umbrella.

There are plenty of $10, super light umbrellas that won’t stand the test during a true storm, but will at least keep you sheltered from light rain and the like.


I can tell you that if you forget your umbrella once, you are not likely to do it again (it sucks having to try and buy yet another umbrella you don’t need, or worse, not being able to find one and needing it desperately).

Unless you are staying in a fancy hotel, an umbrella is not likely to be loaned to you.


Even to hot countries in the summer. You’d be surprised how chilly it can get in some areas, even though it is blazing hot during the day.

At the very least, you can wear it on the plane when air conditioning seems to be at a max.


Enough said.



Here’s an example of my packing list for electronics when I went away for a few months:



I do this before I pack my carryon, and end up discarding at least 25% of the suitcase because I went off my Packing List or started to become overzealous about everything.


I like large Ziploc freezer bags for this. They’re big, and they really zip up tight.


Don’t wear your flip flops if you are also bringing shoes. Pack your lightest, smallest items away, and wear your heaviest things.

At the very least, you can take it off and put it on your lap during the flight, or leave it in your hotel room during the day.


I like putting toiletries in a Ziploc freezer bag (or an equally sturdy plastic bag), and putting it in the FRONT of my carryon so I can just pull it out during security liquid checks and not have to unzip and dig through my underwear in front of everyone to find it.

Even better is if you have your toiletries ready to go in your in-flight bag (like a Longchamp Pliage Tote), and you just pack it away in your suitcase after you go through security.

Either way, make your toiletries stand up when your suitcase is upright to minimize any leakage or damage.


Shoes have space inside, make use of it. You also don’t need to keep shoes together in a bag unless they’re caked on with mud and dirt and you really shouldn’t separate them out of the plastic bag you put them in.


Set out all your electronics, make sure it’s all been loaded with everything you need to read, listen or watch, charge it all to maximum (especially your cellphone), and pack the electronic AND its charger when you are ready to go, so you won’t forget one or the other.


  • Jessica

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit to how many umbrellas we buy at the last minute, thanks to unexpected rain showers and forgotten umbrellas at home! That and bottle openers.

  • Cilhouette

    Like Michelle, I love the gadget photo and details, thanks for sharing!!! The hardest part for me when packing is trying to decide how connected vs. unplugged I want to be and making sure I have the right tools for everything I *may* want to do.

    Random question: where is your Macbook Air 11″ case from? Any recommendations? I just purchased one 2 months ago and still trolling Amazon for options.

    Long time lover/follower of the blog here! Thanks for sharing!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      *nods* I can understand that.

      My Macbook case is from Etsy! Search for: German Wool Case or something similar, there are TONS of sellers who do handmade goods there. 🙂

      Thank you so much for being a follower and commenting!

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Yep, I have to make a list of things I can’t forget. Otherwise, I end up buying contact lens solution or a toothbrush or something else that I shouldn’t have forgotten.

    Even with a list, this past FinCon I forgot to bring the prepaid phone I’d bought specifically for FinCon. This year, I’ll probably put it on the list and then add a sticky note to the door. That way, I’ll have to check before I leave.

    And yeah, packing socks/underwear into shoes is a great strategy. Not only do you use otherwise wasted space, it keeps the shoes from getting smushed inward. (Smushed being the technical term, of course.)

  • suzi

    I am the “queen of packing small” and my friends are jealous. I save small sample size toiletry bottles and jars all year (I have a great stash!) and I use those. Then packed in a zip lock for TSA .

    I made it through NZ for 3 weeks with just my one quart sized bag full of teensy tiny bottles. Dr. Bronners liquid soaps are A-mazing for being concentrated and a LITTLE goes a long way for laundry in sinks, hand soap, body wash, stain remover, coffee cup washing liquid, etc.

    I roll all my clothing and pack them in packing cubes for organization, plus the little cubes act as compression sacks too. I stick with merino for tee shirts (no stink,thin and lightweight, temp regulating, dry in a few hours) and one pair of hiking style zip off trousers, so I have a pair of shorts if I need them.

    One skort works for both “dress” and for play (impromptu hike or bike ride), and one simple shift style dress you can layer with a sweater or jacket, or wear alone if hot.

    I usually bring one pair of lightweight, dark wash, skinny jeans rolled up and secured with a rubber band if I’m not wearing them on the plane.

    I tend to like to wear my casual (hiking type) cargo pants (the zip offs) on the plane as I can use the pockets to secure my wallet, iPod, ear buds, a snack bar, chap stick, glasses, etc. SO much better than hauling all that stuff in your bag every time you leave your seat.

    I do wear my heaviest shoes on the plane like you said, too – to save room and weight in my carry on.

    I like cargo style jackets (military looking anoraks) just because they are so functional, layer well, and can carry so much stuff on your person. I take that on the plane as well for a wrap. They aren’t the “cutest”, but usually I’m not looking to be cute when traveling – especially alone.

    Electronic cords and such go into their own stuff sack, or ditty bag, and I keep track of those for sure! And I do carry a hang up toiletry bag (LLBean) for places with nowhere to set your stuff when you are washing up! This comes in more handy than you know in underdeveloped countries! Mine squishes pretty flat when nearly empty to pack (as my liquids are in the zip lock for TSA) After arrival in country, and my first night, I transfer my zip lock contents to my hanging case.

    I also take a small pack type washcloth, and a bandana for washing up when needed. They dry quickly. Bandanas come in handy for many many things, not to mention quite fashionable again as a little neckerchief, or even a place mat, or napkin. Flip flops are a necessity for questionable showers, or for ease of tromping down the hall to the loo in the middle of the night (hostels).

    I use old shower caps to put on the soles of my shoes in my bag – “hee hee”, (stole that idea) so you can pack your shoes in all the nooks and crannies of your bag that beg to be filled with an odd item.

    I have scoured the web for ideas like these, and then practiced and experimented on shorter domestic trips so I learned what works and what doesn’t.

    I found Outdoor (REI type) outfitting stores to be a world of help when it comes to choosing packable, functional clothing. That’s where I discovered merino (Smartwool, and Icebreaker) tee shirts, or I never would have thought they’d be so awesome for traveling. Light and cool, or warm and snuggly, or sleep wear. And yes, true, NO stink even after many days of wear!

    As a tip, Sierra Trading Post has awesome deals on merino all the time.

    I must have 15 tanks and T’s and a couple camis from them, all at deep discounts. Happy travels!! 😉

  • Michelle

    I love that electronics photo! That’s a really good idea. And, so is the umbrella. Have forgotten before and it pisses me off to have to buy one when there is a perfectly good umbrella at my house.

  • SarahN

    Your photo of electronics is why I pack so minimally with electronics – and you last point. Charging is hard, esp with US voltage and pins being different. I like to travel with an iphone – it’s universal, so I can usually wangle a cable in any hotel/hostel if I forget. I can take photos and write emails. Since losing a camera years ago, I’ve not replaced it as I’m not realistically going to often want to ‘also’ carry it. And I hate to worry about the safety of stuff when travelling (remember, I was the weird one that was OK with if a cleaner went through my bags?). So yeah… Otherwise, I’m totally with you on the umbrella! I still have my 3 Euro brolly (aussie for umbrella) from 2010 and Greece!

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