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Make a list.  Write down specifics (i.e. "Blue dress with ruffles" instead of "dress").  Include EVERYTHING, even the obvious (like toothbrush or passport).  Sometimes packing is stressful and having a detailed, itemized list helps ensure that the essentials are not left behind. 


Work on gathering those items in the days or weeks leading up to your trip.  Put those items together in one place.  I like to have my bag open a few days before my trip and as I come across something I might want to take, I put it in the bag.  I also like to toss my clothes I want to take once laundered roughly a week before the trip so I don't accidentally wear them.  When I pack, I use my list and my gathered items to sort through what to take for sure, and what I don't actually need/want.


Take the type of bag that will suit your trip.  A suitcase with roller wheels is awesome, but if you're backpacking through Europe you're going to wish you had a Backpack.  Likewise, a 115L Backpack is going to be cumbersome on your Disney vacation.

Speaking of Backpacking packs, I highly recommend getting those packs professionally sized at a store like MEC.  Your weight, and more importantly your height, can make a significant impact on the size of pack you can comfortably handle.

Purchase a luggage scale.  More and more airlines are sticking to strict weight limits and knowing the weight of your luggage is worth bringing the scale along, especially if you plan on shopping.

Pack along wet naps in your carry on, especially if you're flying.  Tray tables on planes are seldom cleaned, nor are arm rests and touch screens.  If you're worried about getting sick, give surfaces around you a wipe with a nap.

Pack photocopies of your ID and Passport and keep them separate from your wallet and your physical copies.  That way if thieves get the upper hand, you still have copies of your identification for local police.

Know your destination's electrical outlets and make sure you pack the proper adapters and converters.  To date I personally have never needed to take along a converter, but if you plan on operating electronics with higher wattage, such as a hair dryer, you'll want to look into a converter.

Roll your clothes.  I've been doing this for years and it really does help maximize the space in your luggage.  And while it takes time, roll them again for the trip home.

Pack heaviest on the bottom (i.e. down by the wheels) and lightest on the top.  If you have a standard suitcase, it will keep your bag from falling over.  If you have a backpack, it will help keep the weight more around your hips than across your chest (which happens to be where your lungs are...and the less you make them work, the happier you'll be lugging the pack around).

Find a way to make your bag stand out.  There's nothing worse than thinking every other black bag is yours, only to find out it isn't.  Whether it's a unique case, wrapping ribbon around the handle or an outlandish luggage tag, find a way to make your bag the "belle of the ball" so that you can easily spot it in a crowd and so others are less likely to mistake your bag for theirs.

Pack bags.  Shopping bags, ziplock bags, etc.  A great way to keep your dirty shoes from messing up your bag, or for bringing home that wet bathing suit.  Ziplock bags are great too for snacks, food bought at grocery or convenience stores, and for putting toiletries in during travel so they don't leak all over your clothing.

Another option for toiletries is saran wrap.

Take a laundry bag.  It's a great place for dirty socks and underwear that keeps it separate from clean clothes.  It's also good for trips where you do laundry, so you can wash your delicates.

Know the weather.  It might be -30 here, but +20 in Florida.  Have a plan for how you're going to take care of your needs.  On a trip to Mexico, I wore jeans on the plane and as we waited in line for customs, my mom and I took turns using the bathroom to change into the shorts we had in our carry on.  LIFE SAVER!  Perhaps you have a ride to and from the airport with a friend you can leave your winter coat with so you don't have to haul it to Brazil with you.  Know the weather, and have a plan.

Pack smart by filling empty spaces.  Bra cups, inside shoes, hats: they all have untapped potential - use them to maximize your packing space.  My mom and I pack snacks when we travel - I'll open bags to let the air out and then roll the top in. 

Make sure medications are easily identifiable and prescription meds are in labeled bottles.

Know you and your habits.  Do you really need to pack that laptop?  Are you going to read 5 books?  Are you really going to play a game of Dutch Blitz (turns out no, we weren't).  Make smart choices.  Every item you packs adds weight and bulk (and in some cases liability) to your trip.


If you're taking a laptop on a back packing trip, make sure you buy sufficient locks.  I highly recommend a cable lock you can weave through zippers, bed posts and the like, especially if you're staying in hostels.  If you're staying in a hotel, lock your valuables in the hotel/room safe when you're out of the room. 

Pack your valuables in your carry on.  If you take jewellery, musical instruments (like drums or guitars), electronics, money, etc....keep it on your person.  I like to think people are good and honest, but sometimes things go missing between check in and the luggage carousel at the airport.  Sometimes your bag is lost.

I recommend you pack an outfit in your carry on.  If your luggage goes missing, at least you have an outfit to wear when you go shopping for new clothes.  I also recommend packing a bathing suit for All Inclusive trips.  Some flights arrive before you can check in to your room.  If you pack your bathing suit in your carry on you can hit the beach while you wait for your room.

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