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What to pack for a vacation


Unique Packing Tips from Advanced Travelers

August 2, 2017

Travel Packing Tips

We started traveling internationally as a family once our youngest could pack and drag her own rolling bag – that was when she turned five. Without a doubt, packing can add stress to an upcoming trip. So I’ve teamed up with well-traveled friends to pluck unique packing tips they use for traveling.

Check out these clever ideas for staying organized and downsizing.

General Strategies

Shannon: I have a packing list on my phone.  I used to use an app, but I found it tedious and the apps never seemed to include items that were relevant to me.  So I made my own very primitive list in my “Notes” on my phone.  I always keep it there.

Me: I pack two hours before departing for the airport. If I allow myself all day, it takes all day.

Guide to packing for travel


Shannon: I pack my handbag before my suitcase. I start with smaller items I’m more likely to forget like passports, reservation printouts/tickets, chapstick, headphones, wallet, book, camera, batteries and then I work down my list to articles of clothing and all the bigger things.

Shunney: We check just one bag for our entire group. Everyone puts in their liquids of any size and heavy items they don’t want to carry in hand luggage. It also provides extra room for any purchases we might make on our trip. 
Stress free packing for vacation

Extra Set of Travel Items

Shannon: I have a ‘house set’ and a ‘travel set’ for many items.  These duplicates typically are not expensive but easy to forget to pack and often annoying to transfer from home to my bag.  This is especially true for that all-important toiletry bag with many small but critical items.

I also have duplicates of my phone charger and camera battery charger. It saves so much time to always have these items packed, and more importantly, it saves mental anguish over wondering if I have forgotten something. 

Packing Tips for Global Travel

Packing Cubes

Maureen: What I learned while backpacking for months is that space is precious. Even if you go for a weekend away, space in your suitcase will be limited. That is why I love packing cubes. They are the best items to use when traveling – I wish I knew they existed sooner.

A great space-saving tip: roll all your clothes. Then pack everything in your packing cubes and off you go. No more searching for things and you will be done packing in a flash.

Shannon: I finally got smart and put everything in packing cubes.  Socks and underwear in one, tops in another, bottoms in another, and even cubes for dresses and beachwear depending on the trip. I even put my electrical items all in one tidy cube!

Each family member has a set of packing cubes in a particular colour.  So if there’s a green cube on the hotel floor, I know it belongs to my youngest son. 

Tips for packing for vacation


Maureen: No matter if it’s for a short trip or months of global traveling, I always pack basic clothes that combine well with each other. I wear layers instead of one bulky sweater, that way I can adjust to the weather condition I’m in. My favourite clothes are black (doesn’t stain quickly) or a simple white shirt and jeans.

Me: Moisture wicking clothing is a base for my travel wardrobe. Regardless of travel duration, we only travel with carry-ons since we can’t risk losing our luggage. On long trips, we wash clothes with hotel shampoo and hang to dry in the bathroom. 

Ultimate guide to packing for holiday

Important Extras

Maureen: I will never leave without a big cotton scarf. It’s great for keeping me warm while in the airplane and air conditioned buildings. I also use my scarf to wrap as a skirt over my bikini on the beach or when I have to cover my bare shoulders or knees (especially in Muslim countries or while visiting temples in Asia).

Lisa: To keep my necklaces untangled, I thread one end of a necklace through a drinking straw and clasp to close.

Shannon: I’m a pretty chill traveler, but we’ve been in enough situations in foreign countries that I never travel without a medical first aid kit (it’s in a packing cube!). I bring basic supplies such as bandages, antibacterial ointment, pain killers/fever reducers, wipes and antibacterial gel.

And I also pack prescription antibiotics for digestive illnesses and broad range infections. I include allergy pills and even an EpiPen. We don’t have allergies but I’d hate to have a severe allergy to a food we’ve never eaten before on a remote island somewhere. This happened to someone I know and a random EpiPen saved a life.

I worry less knowing I’m covered for so many things when I’m traveling, especially to places where English isn’t widely spoken or where medical care is either subpar or distant. I alter it for more adventurous trips but whether it’s Italy or India, the medical kit comes along. 

Travel Packing Tips

Final Advice

I love these parting words from Maureen:  “The most important thing is not a thing, it’s your attitudeRemember, no matter how prepared you are or how great you packed your bags, while you are traveling, anything can happen. Good and not so good. So prepare as best as you can and pack a mental note in the back of your mind to ENJOY the journey. Because that’s what it’s all about…”

Thank you Shannon, Maureen, Shunney, and Lisa for sharing your insider knowledge as a globe-trotting traveler!

About the contributors

Shannon Ashton has traveled to 59 countries and is a professional photographer in England (Shannon Ashton Photography). Additionally, she is a volunteer for refugee aid organization, Lifting Hands International.

Maureen Bleeker Paal and her family of 4 lived out of packing cubes and backpacks while traveling the world for 8 months. She is a nomadic Dutch woman who has resided in 5 countries over 15 years. Her lifestyle blog is Moksi Collective.

Shunney Nair shares her local discoveries on blog and app London via Surrey – an insider’s guide on what to do, where to eat, and tips on living in the area. 

Lisa Medeiros is a freelance writer and Huffington Post Blogger. Read her published work about travel, expat living, and family at

Related: The Best Apps For Travel


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