Summer break is here, and we are gearing up for an exciting getaway to Nashville, TN. We will be away for an entire week, which is a long time away from home and my essentials if you ask me! I designed a compact but comprehensive printable packing list so I do not forget anything. I am also sharing my travel essential gear for packing which along with the printable list make the perfect aid for all your packing needs.
If you suffer from analysis paralysis and do not know what to pack for travel, this checklist gives you a good idea and makes the process easier for you.
We often travel by car, so I tend to pack without restrictions on weight or space. Since this time we are flying, I worry about packing too much or too little. The elusive balance that seems to exist in every area of our lives.
The printable checklist I designed is a generic guide that will help you decide what to pack for travel, regardless of your destination.
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My Favorite Travel Essentials for Packing
As I mentioned before, that balanced packing (not too much, not so little) seems to be so difficult to achieve. And I suppose you know I fall in the category of those girls who pack way too much!
But, just as in organizing my home -in time- I have learned what to pack for travel (even before making a checklist) in a tidy form, using the right systems. I like containing things to set limits. And it truly works!
Here’s my personal approach to organized and on-point travel packing every time. This list of my favorite gear and essentials for packing, along with the printable packing list, will help you ease the analysis-paralysis that comes with getting ready for vacation.
Small / Medium Sturdy Suitcase
Unless you’re traveling overseas (think a 9-hour flight, changing planes, long layovers) and staying away from home for over a week, I believe that a small carry-on or a medium-size suitcase (to send on cargo) is more than enough, as long as you know what to pack, and how to pack it.
I have had both, a softshell classic suitcase, and a hard-shell like my current Calpak suitcase (click for similar), and the hardshell offers a much better experience. Not only offers better security than a cloth suitcase that can be torn but because it can’t be squeezed into tight spaces in the airplane, everything inside keeps its shape.
I also love (and I mean L-O-V-E) the fact that I can thoroughly clean the suitcase. Every time we come back from vacation, I wipe the entire suitcase down with disinfecting wipes before putting it away. While my hard-shell suitcase has been dragged and scratched (think black grease from cargo and dirt from the airport’s conveyor belt) it always comes out as good as new with ‘magic eraser’ and wipes.
Look for 360-degree rotation wheels, a collapsible handle, and at least a couple of inside pockets. The magic of packing well does not lie in the suitcase itself but in the packing cubes (explained below!).
Packing Cubes to Organize and Set Limits
I am sure you have heard of -or seen- packing cubes before. But maybe you’re hesitant about getting them, because why would you need to put a bag inside a bag, right? Well, you do!
Packing cubes help you create zones and limits, two organization pillars I live by. The zones are within your suitcase, and the size of each cube creates the limits of what to bring.
I have a set of 3 packing cubes (large, medium, and small) and although I use them interchangeably (not for the same things all the time), they help me stay organized within my suitcase.
Depending on the length of the trip or the destination, I use them for different items but always within the same category.
- Swimsuits, and cover-ups.
- Tank tops, leggings, blouses. These -particularly- I roll and they fit snug, keep their shape, and do not wrinkle.
- Underwear and socks.
- Sometimes, I will use the smallest cube to hold cables, chargers, jewelry, etc. Any small item that needs containing.
Another advantage of using packing cubes is that precisely because it allows you to create zones and categories, you can check things off the printable packing list quickly. Since the stuff you pack is all in one place, there’s no need to undo or scramble your suitcase to double-check if you already packed something or not.
It might be the neat freak in me, but I think that toiletries deserve their very own bag. And I mean an actual bag. Big enough to carry entire bottles of shampoo and conditioner if you wanted to.
And the main reason why I think the toiletries bag should be more than a zippered pouch is this: your toiletries go in the hotel / Airbnb / guest’s bathroom and they do not stay in your suitcase for the entire length of your trip.
So you need something big, sturdy, and with a handle. Something that you can hang on a hook in the bathroom. If there’s no hook, use a hanger and hang the bag on the shower curtain or towel rod. If it has a flat base, you can rest it on the bathroom counter or over the toilet tank if there’s not enough counter space.
The best advantage of a big, zippered, and pretty toiletries bag, is that you can carry it on its own. Many times – when we travel by car- I transport it as is, and it’s easy to access as soon as we get settled in the hotel room.
Zipper Bags For Smaller Items
Sometimes you just need a small zipper pouch to contain little things. These mesh travel bags are a life-saver and essential for packing and storing anything that needs categorizing.
Not only do I use them for travel but I also keep a couple inside my daily handbag. They were especially useful during the pandemic to carry masks, sanitizing wipes, and a separate one for dirty masks.
Today, I still use these zipper pouches in my everyday handbag. I carry masks (now a necessity since there are still places that might require them), snacks, and makeup.
I like these pouches to pack my essentials because they’re slim and light. Clear, but not see-through, and color-coded, which allows me to recognize the categories at a glance.
Medium Size Travel Tote or Handbag
I am a tote junkie. If I can open my handbag and -at a glance- see everything that’s inside, I am a happy girl. I have all types of totes, from fancy Michael Kors to Luke Bryan’s merch.
One of my favorite totes is the Scout bag, especially when we travel by car and go to the beach or explore casual places. It’s sturdy; the flat base is great when you’re out and about, keeps its shape, and is weatherproof. This, too, I can wipe with disinfecting wipes!
When I travel by plane, I prefer totes with lots of compartments and zippers like this Michael Kors Voyager, which also makes an exceptional everyday handbag.
Whatever your choice of brand, or material, a travel tote should be big enough to carry:
- snacks, and at least a water bottle
- phone, keys, a tablet (for you or kids)
- important travel documents (passport holder, visas, birth certificates, vaccine certificates, etc.)
- earbuds or headphones
- a book or a magazine
- maybe even a slim laptop
Beach / Pool Bag or Similar
Whenever we travel for a beach vacation, I bring with me a dedicated pre-packed beach/pool bag. If we travel by car (no weight or baggage pieces limit) I make sure I pack all our pool and beach essentials in one place.
This bag is always beach ready and stocked with the following essentials:
- Hats / Caps
- Baby wipes
- Disinfecting wipes
- Towel clips
- Change of clothes
- Magazine or book
- A smaller tote (I will explain this in a separate post)
- Plastic pouch for wet clothes
The size of the beach/pool bag you choose will depend on the size of your family. Whatever you decide, make sure to use up the space wisely by packing by categories.
List of Travel and Packing Essentials Resources
For your convenience, below is a list of the products (or similar products) mentioned in this post.
- Calpak Carry-On Suitcase
- MIAMICA Packing Cubes
- Toiletry bag
- Mesh zipper pouches
- SCOUT Uptown Girl Tote
- Beach / Pool tote
I hope my travel essentials list and ideas help you get organized when you pack for your next travel adventure. Below is the printable packing list. Enjoy!
Download Your Printable Packing List
Whether you’re going away for a weekend or an extended stay, this printable packing list will help you make sure you have everything you need before you leave home.
The printable is a letter-size PDF file, but the packing list is 4.5-inch wide by 10-inch tall. I purposely wanted something compact and easy to carry around while you’re packing your travel essentials.