On my list of recurring nightmares: missing a flight, not having packed for a trip, forgetting something at home, my plane crashing.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that a lot of them are travel themed.
As romantic and idealistic a notion summer vacations are, it comes with its set of baggage, if you will. Whether traveling alone or with little ones, figuring out what to pack and how to pack and where to pack everything can feel... quite overwhelming. Fret not. I’m not a travel editor or a fashion guru, but I hate packing and am super lazy and love spreadsheets. This unique cocktail led me to create a packing list formula and Google Sheets template that will make packing for any trip pain-free and foolproof.
But first, let’s set the scene. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Don’t pack “just in case” stuff
Only pack what you need for sure. Honestly, if you end up needing something in an emergency, for the most part you can probably procure it on your trip.
2. Bring one compression bag
But don’t use it to pack. Slide it into the pocket or at the bottom of your case and use it as insurance for the way back when you've somehow ended up with more stuff to take home. This is the only “just in case” you should bring.
3. Roll AND fold for maximum space saving
I picked up this tip from my favorite travel bag’s company blog (more on the bag later).
The takeaway is, rolling creates more space for flattened items to “fold” on top, and folding clothes creates some space on the sides. Fold bulkier items first, then stick rolled up smaller and more delicate items in the little crevices.
4. Use your stuff as packing cubes
Packing cubes are all the rage, but you don’t necessarily have to buy them to get the same benefit. Use items you’re already packing and pack their “friend” inside. Socks inside shoes. Scarves inside hats. That kind of thing.
5. Bring a laundry bag
Any bag will do, but having some sort of hamper-type sack will keep your laundry separate from clothes that you don’t need to wash, and you can just dump the whole thing in the washing machine when you get home.
6. Minimize toiletries. And if you must bring them, pack it in a clear cosmetic pouch.
Look back at #1—yeah, you can buy any travel-size toiletry that you thought you didn’t need but you end up wanting once you get to your destination and use it up there. It never sees your luggage. Buying a smallish cosmetic case and committing to only bringing what fits inside is a good rule of thumb. I have this for my makeup and skincare, and this dopp kit for my whole family’s shower essentials.
7. Pack in one bag if you can
I got this travel backpack and I am hooked on packing my stuff in one bag. Even when we travel as a family, if we’re flying then I am going to make sure everything fits in two of these plus one personal item and this is why: even though every airline allows one carry-on and one personal item, sometimes when the flight is full or the plane is a teeny tiny one, they will resort to valeting anything with wheels. If you’ve waited in a valet line once, you’ll never want to do it again.
Bonus points for these backpacks, you can store them overhead no problem at any international or domestic flights, and you can even sometimes get away with putting it under the seat in front of you—for any shorties like me, instant footrest. I love my Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack 35L. It's an international carry on size, which means that it's DEFINITELY going to fit on Domestic flights. Adjustable to fit your size (psst, 4'10" here) so that it's super comfortable even when you're carrying your whole life. Between my husband and I each having this backpack, we can pack for our whole family for a long weekend, no problem.
Okay, now onto the summer packing list formula. For women, this list can get you through a long weekend or at 10-day trip to somewhere warm, just increase the combinations you make with each item. Oh and remember, one of the outfits you will wear on your travel day, so don’t pack that one.
(Days - 1) tops | max 4 I do a tank, a bodysuit, tee, and button up shirt
(Days - 2) pairs of pants | max 3 think leggings, jeans, shorts
(1) jacket or outer layer aka the 3rd item—it completes your outfit. If I do another T-shirt as a top instead of a button up, I do a chambray here
(1) dress or jumpsuit preferably one that you could wear as a bottom with the right top
(2) swimsuits even if you’re swimming daily, just use one and dry the other
(1) purse fanny packs are my go-to travel purse, and it can also be your personal item instead of packing it
(1) pair of sunglasses
(2) pairs of shoes in the summer it’s usually a sneaker and flip flops
(1) set of PJ/loungewear I do a tee and bike shorts (or joggers if it's still a bit cold), which you can wear out too
(Days + 1) underwear
(Days / 2) bras
You can find the handy dandy template here, with a little clothing combination generator. As you see in the example, it’ll sometimes spit out funky combinations (a bodysuit with leggings sound AWFUL for me) but it might spark new ideas for combining your clothes and making infinite outfits!
To tailor this list for men, easy peasy: get rid of the 1 dress or jumpsuit and instead add either an extra top or bottom, depending on your preference.
With kids it’s more or less the same too, but with +1 outfit set (i.e. a one-piece or a shirt + pant set) because they’re gross and you will likely want to go to your activities with a set of clean clothes just in case, as well as the EXACT number of diapers you think you’ll need. Don’t bring extra. If you need extra, you can buy them at your destination.
I take this and create one master list for myself and the kiddos, along with the toiletries list for the family. My husband packs his own shit. And I STILL forget stuff, so go figure. But I think this will make minimal packing so much easier for you!
Now, all you need is a place to go…