We Asked 6 Travel Writers for Their Best Packing Hacks, and Their Tips Are Ingenious

published Jun 17, 2024
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Frequent travelers hate to check a bag when flying. It means having to wait for that bag at the end of your journey, often adding more terminal walking and a longer trip home. And there’s always the possibility of bags getting lost or delayed, and not having your belongings with you when you arrive at your destination. 

The key is to have a quality carry-on bag that you can take in-flight — but that means being a smart traveler and packing items thoughtfully. No one knows this better than those who travel for a living. Travel writers are constantly packing bags for busy trips and they’ve come across some pretty ingenious hacks along the way. 

So we asked six travel writers for their best packing hacks, and here’s what they recommended.

Credit: Dima Sidelnikov/Shutterstock

Create a capsule wardrobe.

Jill Schildhouse, a travel and lifestyle journalist, often goes on trips that involve frequent outfit changes in various climates and social settings. Schildhouse has learned to “pack more in outfits [and] make sure that each outfit that I bring has three tops that can go with it.” She also makes sure to pack layering options, too.

It’s all about choosing key pieces that can do various jobs. For instance, on a recent trip, Schildhouse packed a denim jacket that could be dressed up or down and paired with different bottoms. For her, the goal is that everything she packs is versatile enough that it has multiple ways that it can be worn.

You can even try the “333 method” for packing a capsule wardrobe, which is super popular on TikTok. “It’s a 333 capsule wardrobe — three tops, three bottoms, three accessories,” says Schildhouse. “I don’t go anywhere near that extreme, but I do think more in terms of the pieces that I’m choosing and how many ways it can be worn so that I’m not repeating outfits.”

This is a method shared by spirits, food, and travel journalist Emily Cappiello. “My major packing tip — especially for longer trips — is to create outfits from just a handful of clothing options,” says Cappiello. “As someone who only likes to travel with a carry-on, no matter how long the trip, I found that creating outfits allows me to have a different look every day while saving space in my bag.” Cappiello goes through the process of laying each piece out before packing and then mixing-and-matching.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Keep essentials stocked and ready.

While many people start each trip with an empty suitcase that they then fill with their things, some seasoned travelers prefer keeping certain items that they use every time stocked and ready. For Alesandra Dubin, a luxury family travel writer, this includes keeping a dedicated set of toiletries stored in her luggage. 

“My top packing hack is a strategy that has truly transformed my efficiency: I keep a second set of all of my essentials with my travel bag. That means my toiletry case stays fully stocked at all times with a dedicated set of products redundant from the ones I use in my everyday life at home,” says Dubin, who does the same with another essential, her tech case, which stays packed with various gadget cables. “This all lives right in my carry-on bag so I always know where to find it, and I can grab it and go when I’m ready to get on the road again.”

This is a method that lifestyles journalist Terri Peters swears by as well. “I used to dread packing things like toiletries and phone chargers every time I went on a trip. Now, I keep all of these things packed at all times and stored in my carry-on bag so they’re ready when I need to travel,” says Peters. She also keeps a dedicated makeup bag filled with all of her go-to products and a zip-up bag packed with chargers.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Save space and stay organized with packing cubes.

Travel and food journalist Amber Love Bond is a diehard carry-on traveler. “No matter where I’m going or for how long, I will make everything fit and I’m not one to re-wear much when traveling either,” she says.  

Bond employs a mix of using compression cubes and rolling and folding her clothes. She then organizes within those cubes by placing outfits in the order she hopes to wear them. It’s essentially a packing spin on menu planning. “For the ultimate organization, I try to pack my outfits in the order that I’m going to wear them — so if I’m going to a few different cities on one trip, each packing cube will be dedicated to the location by outfit versus type of clothing,” says Bond.

Tim Wenger, senior editor at Matador Network, is on the road often and is all about avoiding those bag check lines. “This requires effective packing,” he says. “Packing cubes specifically designed for your setup is the best way to do this.” 

He also incorporates organization into the luggage he chooses as well. “This year I’ve become a fan of the Royce & Rocket Castle Carry-On because it comes with cubes that fit its built-in shelves, and the hardshell case opens clamshell-style to display my stuff for easy choosing. I’m staying organized both during the actual journey and while in the destination,” he says.