Insiders Guide to Packing Like a Pro

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One more week and I’m off to London to start my 24-day trip. And here I am again wondering what I’m going to pack. I’ll be heading to London for the Olympic Games, Amsterdam, Nice, and Brussels. As excited as I am, I’m not so thrilled about packing. I’m thinking of all of the things that I need to pack — clothes, shoes, swimwear, sweaters, contacts and contact solution, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, gluten-free food (yes! This is essential…a necessity! I’ve stocked up on Larabars, and That’s It! bars). Hmmm…

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After 16 flights in one summer in 2010, I can honestly say that I have mastered the art of packing. Not to mention the challenge of packing one small suitcase that would trot around Europe with me, filled with both warm weather and cold weather clothing, flip-flops and flats, make-up and flat irons. I think back and am still in awe of how I a managed to pack light.

Here are 11 essential packing tips to avoid the extra baggage:

  1. Start with a packing checklist. For sample lists by destination or type of trip, go to lists. Keep this list with you. It will help speed packing for your return and act as a reminder of what you’ve packed in case anything is missing.
  2. Neutral Base Colors. Build your wardrobe in two neutral colors – lighter tones for hot climates, darker for cool ones. Look for clothes that can be dressed up or down with a change of accessories.
  3. Cool Coverage. Pack a lightweight scarf or blouse in your handbag or daypack to guard against evening chills, the cool interiors of museums, and cathedrals or religious buildings that may require covered shoulders.
  4. Carry-On Size. Most Airlines require carry-on bags to be no more than 45” total (L+W+H). If you are checking luggage, pack an extra change of clothes in your carry-on and keep valuables close to your person just in case the carry-on has to be checked.
  5. Use Packing Aids. These handy tools—from packing cubes to compression bags to shirt folders—help organize and keep contents secure. I typically use ziplock bags to store and organize bathing suits, undergarments, and socks.
  6. Pack your shoes or heavy items first. Put them in the bottom of the bag and use the space inside shoes for rolled up socks, belts, or toiletries (safely packed in a zip-lock bag!).
  7. Layered Packing. Layer when you pack to avoid hard creases and wrinkles. Drape pants or dresses across the bag (hems or legs will drape over the sides). Alternate as you pack, hems on one side, then reverse with the next pair.
  8. Pack your blazer last. Lay it button side down on the bag, the collar at the top, hem extending over the bag’s edge. Fold sleeves in. Roll knit items (Tees, sweaters), lay them on top of the blazer and fold blazer hem over the rolled knits. This eliminates crease lines, so your blazer arrives wrinkle-free.
  9. Be Prepared. Statistics show that airlines lose luggage for one out of ten passengers. Be prepared; Bring along a change of undergarments and change of clothes in your carry-on tote.
  10. Bring Your Own Bag. Stowaway shopping bags and backpacks make it easier –, and more stylish – to carry away treasures found at the market or a picnic lunch for your day trip. Not to mention that they can stand in as a carry-on bag in a pinch.
  11. Safe & Secure. Travel safe and rest easy. Theft-proof bags and compact door alarms are smart travel choices.


Also… “Roll-n-Pack” clothing that will not wrinkle fast. This saves a lot of room! When you do this, you can pack your shoes on the side of your luggage.

Never bring fancy luggage – amateur mistake! Do not bother with flashy luggage. There is a good chance it could get stolen as it attracts attention. Instead, get a plain black case with wheels. I personally like Samsonite and TUMI. A bit on the pricier side but it is extremely low key and high quality. It will last a while, even after it being tossed around from land to the airplane and back to land.

When all is said and done, I’ve learned that it comes down to packing smart. Selecting versatile items that are practical.

Happy Travels!

Hi, I’m Valerie!

I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.