Traveling Tips: How to pack your suitcase and go on vacation stress-free
Updated: Jul 6
I went on vacation in May, and whilst packing, I realized how easily I pack now.
It took me 1 hour tops to pack entirely because I have now found a “packing flow” where I neither feel overwhelmed nor stressed.
But believe me, when I tell you that it wasn’t always like that!
My past is full of packing-nervous-breakdowns and during-the-vacation-frustration-crisis because I took too many things/ not enough things/ not the right things.
So, this article is about how you can organize everything to be able to go on vacation without going crazy before, whilst and after your trip.
Practical tips for packing your suitcase and organizing whilst on vacation
This article is a mix of:
- my organizing superpower,
- my experience being an expat for 17 years (aka travelling constantly to visit people all around the world)
- and Marie Kondo (aka mixing some KonMari® magic into my packing and travelling routine).
When packing, first forget about the actual packing
The next time you're preparing for a vacation, I'm going to ask you to first forget about packing and travelling, just like Mr. Miyagi made Daniel clean a car before starting to teach him karate. Yes, that was indeed a reference to Karate Kid.
What I want you to do instead is to start by making yourself a nice cup of tee or coffee – or pour yourself a nice glass of wine – and sit down to think about that upcoming trip.
That’s right. You are not touching your clothes, or your suitcase. Right now, it’s all about visualizing.
What would your “ideal” vacation look like?
“What do I/we have planned?”
“What do I want to do?”
“What is important to me when I am on vacation? What is not?”
“What activities will I/we be doing on the trip? What items do I need for that?”
- Travelling with the kid(s) and your partner, with no sight of any kind of babysitter? Then you probably won’t need that sexy cocktail dress for a date night.
- When on vacation, you prefer a more natural look? Then you probably won’t need your whole collection of eye-shadows/ lipsticks/ blushes.
- Going on a hike? Don’t forget to bring comfy shoes. (OK, this one is a bit “duh!”)
Write everything down and be as detailed as possible. The more detailed you are, the easier the rest will be.
Visualizing the trip helps you know exactly what to pack, instead of going crazy and asking yourself all sorts of questions whilst packing, aka getting overwhelmed.
Pack your suitcase like a professional KonMari® organizer
Step 1: Collect and gather
The first thing you need to do is collect and gather everything you’d like to take with you.
Meaning, you lay them down on the floor or wherever you want, but do not put anything in the suitcase yet!
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, go by category. Use this checklist if you'd like. 🎁 (no opt-in required)
Bonus Tip: Think “outfits”! You don’t HAVE to stick to those outfits afterwords, but this way you know things match each other.
Step 2: Pare down
Pare down your selection based on your ideal vacation vision you worked on.
We tend to bring so much stuff on vacation, and most of the time, we don't use/wear half of it, exactly like in our closet.
Check everything and only choose the items you feel best about. Don’t start with all the improbable what-ifs, concentrate on your ideal vacation.
(Yes, there are some travelling-with-kids-related-what-ifs. Those you are allowed to start with...😅 )
When you’re done, you will be able to see everything that you are actually planning to take with you...It’s more than you thought, isn’t it?
If it really does seem too much, try to reduce a bit!
Now, let me add something here before we go on to the next point: I am talking about reducing, I am NOT saying you should bring as little as possible. You do you! So bring whatever YOU need, love and feel wonderful in/with.
Step 3: Actually pack
It’s finally time to put everything in your suitcase.
1. Fold everything using the KonMari® Folding method (aka file folding)
2. For thinner fabrics, typically what you hang at home, you can roll them to prevent wrinkles.
3. Store all items vertically in your suitcase. You will gain space and visibility.
4. Categorize the items by keeping similar items together.
5. Separate cosmetics, medicine, sportswear, charging cords in separate pouches.
6. Use shoe bags to separate your shoes from your clothes.
This is more or less the same storage principles I would recommend for your home, btw.
And if you do fold and store your clothes vertically, this makes the packing process way easier: No folding session required before packing.
One additional thought about this: Do not pack every single category of items in packing pouches, specially clothing. If everything is in pouches, you completely lose the possibility to see everything at a glance, which is super helpful, specially if you have to live out of your suitcase during the vacation.
☝️ Two exceptions to that: Socks and underwear should be stored in separate pouches.
There you go, you’re packed for your vacation. The more, you pack this way, the more “natural” it will feel.
I often get asked if there is any kind of suitcase that I would recommend, and the answer is no. That’s the beauty of file folding: It works with all types of suitcase/bags.
Stay relax DURING that vacation
Two things we need to talk about:
1- Should you be living out of your suitcase or unpack?
2- How can you prevent the chaos from taking over the space you are staying in?
For the first one, it’s pretty straightforward: If you can, unpack. Really!
Do it right away and be done with it.
Depending on where you are staying, you will have different set-ups: with drawers, no drawers, shelves, no shelves, etc.
And because you have folded your clothes vertically, this doesn’t really matter.
You can put them vertically in drawers or make them “stand” on shelves, and still be able to see everything at a glance, just like in your suitcase.
For the clothes that can’t hold vertically:
- If you can, hang them.
- If you can’t, fold them on top of each other: They should not be too many of them so that it stays clearly laid out.
Keep the categories.
What I also recommend doing when unpacking, is to keep the categories you built when packing. This helps you stay organized during your trip.
If you’re travelling with other humans, specially little humans, keep each one’s belongings separate, so that no one has to grab from the same place at the same time.
Now, if you can’t unpack and have to live out of your suitcase, which happens more often than not (to me every time I visit my parents in Paris), read the next part closely.
It IS possible to prevent chaos, even when you live out of your suitcase.
So, we are all unpacked (or not) and ready to enjoy this vacation, aren’t we?
The problem is, usually after a few days, your room starts looking like a Zara store on a Saturday evening after the first day of sale.
And that’s just annoying and might stress you out, specially when everyone starts asking you where x or y is because they can’t find it in the chaos.
How to prevent the chaos to breaking through?
Rule 1: Fold your clothes after you wore them.
Rule 2: Put everything back where they belong.
Rule 3: Bring one dirty laundry bag, for yourself and for each human travelling with you.
For 1) and 2), get everyone involved. We don’t want you to fold and tidy all day long for everyone (although you might have to take over for the tiny little humans).
Why bring dirty laundry bags? Because it’s a game changer!
Often, the chaos in vacation spaces (hotel room, Airbnb, etc.) comes from the dirty clothes. They either end up with the rest, but not folded because why bother folding dirty clothes.
Or, worst-case scenario, they end up on the floor, where a mountain of dirty clothes slowly starts to grow.
If they go in a separate bag, it helps to contain the chaos.
Three additional advantages to them:
- It makes it easier for you to see, if there will be a “shortage” soon, and react.
- Packing up at the end of the trip will be easier.
- When you’re back home, you know directly what needs to be washed and what not.
When it’s time to go home after a vacation
I don't know about you, but at the end of any vacation, I am equally happy and sad to go back home. Happy, because when on vacation, I almost always miss our bed and the water pressure in our shower. Sad, because, you know, the vacation has come to an end.
But you know what I am not? Stressed! And that, my friend, it's priceless. Because what is the point of going on vacation, if it only leads you to be stressed again?
The first reason why I am not stressed, is simply because my home is my happy place, and it rarely stresses me out.
The people living in it might, specially the little one 😜, but not the space. And that's because the KonMari® method sustainably changed my home and my life. (If you want to read more about my story, click here)
The second reason is everything what we talked about above!
Packing was easier. I have taken everything I need with me, so no frustration about having taken too little or too much. The space we lived in was not a total mess. And because of all of that, I was simply ABLE to relax and enjoy myself until the last day.
So, yes, when you go back home, you have to unpack. And I recommend unpacking right away, BUT if you want to unpack after a few days, that's YOUR choice.
Unpacking right away is really a nice to have, not a must-have.
So take your time, just get back on the horse at some point!
Just remember, if you put into practice the tips I have shared with you here, well, unpacking WILL feel way less like a chore.
Remember the grouping by category, the folding of everything and the maintaining of it all during your trip? Well, that's the magic right there: you just take each category and put it back where it belongs.
Add to that the trick with the dirty laundry bag(s), saving you all that excruciating sorting-the-dirty-laundry-time, and unpacking could almost be fun...(I said “almost”, I am not delusional!)
So, that's it! You have now everything you need to help you use your brain cells for the fun part of travelling instead of stressing about the logistics.
Now, I am not going to lie to you. This, everything we talked about, is a bit more “work”, than you might be used to, specially during vacation.
But it’s so worth it. I can guarantee you that.
Just imagine: You are in your hotel room, you’re not stressed, everyone knows where everything is, no chaos in sight. You feel calm. You can relax and enjoy whatever you enjoy doing when on vacation.
I truly hope you enjoyed this article, and I am here if you have any questions!
Until next time,
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