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6 Common Packing Mistakes You Might Be Making

By Bennett Kleinman
Read time: 4 minutes

Packing for a vacation can be quite the headache. Often, we try to cram as many possessions as possible into a suitcase that’s far too small. We’d rather overpack rather than risk leaving something behind, which is especially true when visiting a location for the first time. But filling a suitcase doesn’t have to be like a game of Tetris. Packing can be stress-free if you learn how to pack like a pro and avoid these six common packing mistakes.

Folding Clothes Instead of Rolling Them

Close-up shot of traveler rolling clothes and placing them in suitcase
Photo credit: Boyloso/ iStock

While you may be used to neatly folding clothes at home, when it comes to packing, you should actually be rolling up your clothing before placing it in your suitcase. Rolling your shirts and pants into tight cylinders maximizes the available space in your luggage. As an added bonus, the rolling method also leads to fewer wrinkles than folding. You can also buy a pack of rubber bands and secure each item to prevent it from unfurling before you’re ready to wear it. Many travelers also swear by packing cubes to maximize space within your luggage. 

Packing Clothing You Never Wear — or Won’t Have Time For

Couple on patio overlooking forest, seen from behind
Photo credit: AJ_Watt/ iStock

Of course, some outfits are reserved for special occasions — like a tropical vacation at an upscale resort. But most of the time, if you don’t wear an outfit back home, then odds are you won’t all of the sudden be wearing it on vacation. It’s important to be realistic about what you bring abroad, rather than fantasizing about all the clothing you could potentially wear. Prioritize the comfortable shirts you wear on a daily basis and leave those ill-fitting pants in the back of your closet at home.

When packing, be realistic: How many days are you traveling for? Whatever the answer may be, a good rule of thumb is to pack just one outfit per day. Forget about all the costume changes you could theoretically make and limit yourself to just the essentials. If your accommodations have a washer and dryer, bring even less clothing and send it out or do a load of laundry during your free time.

Bringing Backups “Just in Case”

Overhead view of packed suitcase on floor
Photo credit: mladenbalinovac/ iStock

You don’t want to be caught abroad without a phone charger or your favorite toothpaste. That’s why so many people pack backups just in case they lose something. But packing multiple chargers and tubes of toothpaste only eats up valuable luggage space, and you’re likely never going to need those extra items. So, stop overstuffing your luggage with emergency supplies and travel light — you can always make a purchase at a local store if you lose something.

Traveling With Too Many Shoes

Close-up image of traveler's legs and shoes as they sit on car overlooking ocean
Photo credit: gradyreese/ iStock

Different outfits require different footwear, but the more shoes you bring, the heavier your luggage will be. Try and keep your shoes to a minimum when traveling. Consider packing no more than a comfortable, lightweight pair of shoes for walking around and a nicer pair for fancy dinners. Also, try to wear your bulkiest shoes on the flight, as doing so frees up valuable suitcase real estate. Lastly, stuff items like socks and underwear into your shoes to maximize your available packing space.

Not Leaving Room for Souvenirs

Woman at street market stall holding ornamental fan
Photo credit: Imgorthand/ iStock

While traveling, you’re bound to pick up a souvenir or two to bring home. But if you’ve packed your suitcase to the gills, then where are you going to stash those keepsakes? Rather than panic at the last minute, arrive prepared by leaving extra room in your luggage before setting out on the trip. That way, you’ll have plenty of room for all of the additional items you purchase during your travels.

Forgetting to Check the Weather

Man on street holding upturned clear on umbrella on rainy day, seen from behind
Photo credit: luza studios/ iStock

Don’t just assume that your beach destination will be warm and sunny every day. Instead, be sure to check the weather several times before leaving, as there’s always a chance of rainfall or other unexpected weather. Look at the forecast a week before departure to see if you’ll need a rain jacket or anything similar, allowing you plenty of time to prepare and set things aside. On the day of your departure, check the forecast one final time to see if anything has changed and adjust your luggage accordingly.

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