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Packing 101: How to Create a Better Travel Experience

Sometimes a blog post just begs to be written. Like when multiple people ask you to write a post about packing in the span of a few weeks. I was just about to tackle it when I received a fabulous packing blog in my inbox. Fortunately, it was from my friend Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel Company, an oft-quoted professional organizer. And lucky for you, she agreed to let us share her packing wisdom on the RLS blog.

Bon Voyage!

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Packing is not a fun task, but–similar to organizing–when you create a system to help get the job done you are not only going to cut down on the time it takes to get ready for a trip, but you’ll also spare yourself the stress, second-guessing, and overstuffing that is commonly associated with it. In this post, I share my tips and tricks to create a better travel experience and how to (realistically) improve the functionality of your closet.

Create a packing list. I don’t know about you, but I rely on lists to reference in every aspect of my life and the same goes for when I’m packing. I have found it helpful to have a base packing list for every trip that you go on that includes your “must haves”, and then adapt as needed depending on the climate or activities that you will be doing on your trip. Here’s a packing list to help you get started, and a blank version if you want to start from scratch and customize based on your needs.

Plan your outfits in advance. Try on your full outfits (yes, even the shoes and accessories) so that you aren’t over-packing and to reduce the guesswork (or failed outfit attempts) during your travels. And remember: you don’t need nearly as many options as you may think! Pack exactly the amount of items that you need then throw in a versatile extra (like a top) in the off chance that something goes awry with your planned choices. Want to make the most out of your options? Choose one color family (black, brown, grey) and pack versatile pieces that you can mix and match.

Choose travel clothing wisely. Choose flexible, breathable clothing that can be layered to make yourself not only comfortable on the plane, but also prepare you for any temperature changes. This is a great opportunity to save space in your suitcase by wearing your heaviest articles of clothing and shoes. Since you can’t control the temperature on board make sure to bring a couple of essential layers for the inevitable chilly moments. Thick socks are great to slide on after you board (or opt for compression socks to help with circulation), and a thin blanket or oversized scarf that can be folded up and tucked in your bag will keep you toasty and cozy without adding bulk to your bag.


White + Warren Cashmere Travel Wrap Scarf, $298


Prepare your carry-on bag. If your carry on bag is the purse that you’ll be using on your trip, great. If not, pack a small bag or crossbody inside of your carry on to wear once you’ve reached your destination.

Keep items accessible. Keep your go-to items compartmentalized. Create a necessities pouch to hold the items that you reach for often, or if you are on a longer flight or are packing for more than just you (like your kids) a pouch for each category (i.e. beauty, tech, food) so that you just have to grab the desired pouch instead of pulling your entire bag up on your lap.


Rifle Paper Co x LeSportsac Rectangle Cosmetics Pouch, $40


Stay hydrated and nourished. The air is super dry during flights, so make sure to keep your body (including your lips and skin) hydrated. Bring an empty water bottle to fill up after you’ve made it through security and have the flight attendant refill when they make their routine beverage run. Include a couple of healthy snacks in your bag (fruit, protein bars) in case the airport options are less than appealing or don’t adhere to your diet.

Prepare for the just-in-case moments. Communal transportation is always going to be germy, so it’s smart to arm yourself with products just in case your experience needs some special attention to make yourself comfortable. Travel-sized disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are small enough to add in your bag, and you’ll thank yourself for having them after wiping away the questionable crumbs and smudges on your seat during boarding.

Set your luggage apart from the pack. if you’re in the market for a new bag, opt for a bag in a fun color or print. Or, choose a sturdy label or tag (that can’t easily be pulled off or removed) to clearly indicate which is yours.


Rimowa North America Salsa Air Cabin Multiwheel Spinner, $495


Before you start any journey, research the weather and conditions and requirements for your trip. Do your research, make a checklist of the things you absolutely need and start packing. If you travel frequently create a packing list on your computer that you can update to include “must-haves” and blank space for trip specific items.

Common mistakes when it comes to selecting what to pack:

  • Focusing too much on the “what if” situations
  • Choosing individual pieces vs. outfits
  • Bringing shoes that you’ve never worn before
  • Packing too many shoes: people usually pack too many shoes and they take up the most room because of their shapes. Follow the rules of three. Consider one casual sandal or loafer, sneakers, and an evening shoe.  Wear the heaviest pair on your flight and pack the other two.

How to make the most out of your packing:

  • Roll your clothing-it takes up so much less space and makes things less wrinkly
  • Use packing cubes to divide and conquer as they take up so much less space and you can fit a ton inside
  • Bring extra large ziploc bags because they will come in handy more often than you realized: corralling snacks, protecting your toiletries, or holding items that you purchased.
  • Add in a laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes separate and make unpacking easier. Just toss the contents of the bag in the wash and unpack the rest!
  • Opt for travel-size multi-taskers when it comes to your beauty products. Choose a tinted moisturizer that serves as foundation, a soap and shampoo in one, and wipes that clean hands and face.


Eagle Creek Black Pack-It Cubes, $8.95-$12.95



Rachel and Company is a full-service professional organizing firm specializing in home organization, closet design, and home moves in the Washington, DC area and beyond. Since 2007, founder Rachel Rosenthal and her team have worked with over 1,000+ busy families to make their homes organized and beautiful. Over the years, Rachel’s work and organizing tips have been featured in several publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Garden, Washingtonian, Teen Vogue, House Beautiful, the Washington Post, Women’s Health, and Reader’s Digest.

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