Planning a Trip? Try Out These Clever Packing Tips

by Carol Schmidt

Many of us enjoy traveling to distant places throughout the year. Before we can hit the road, we must do that dreaded task of packing. But with a little organization, that task can be just a little easier. Here are some great packing tips I’ve learned along the way.

The Comprehensive Travel To-Do and Packing List

I am one who seems to accomplish much more through the use of lists. And when it comes to travel, there is no way I’m going to start packing without my trusty ‘Packing List.’ This is the only way I know of to make sure I have everything…and in turn, it is a great stress reliever.

With each trip I take, I am constantly tweaking my list — adding things I never thought about, but would be helpful to have. Read through these tips and then download the ‘Comprehensive To-Do and Packing List’ . This particular list is one I used for a recent cruise, but can easily be changed to cover a ski trip, etc., by changing some of the verbiage. And you’ll notice some empty spaces — this is for the inevitable ‘write-ins’!

The list starts off with my To-Dos and when each item should be completed (i.e. immediately, two months out, one month out, two weeks before, and the day before…). This ensures I stay on track during the lead-up to my trip.

Obviously, not every trip will need everything on the list. For those things not needed, you can simply “X” them out. However, there are some things on the list that may need a bit of explanation as to why it’s included. Honestly, there really is a reason behind each item. Let me explain a few that may seem questionable.

Things to Do Before You Leave for a Trip and Why

Make a copy of your passport, everything in your wallet, and other important documents
If your wallet becomes lost or stolen, you will need to know exactly what was in there. When you make your copies, be sure to copy both sides of your credit cards so you’ll have the phone number to call should it become necessary. Make two copies: give one to a trusted neighbor and put one in the safe of your cabin/hotel room. It’s also a good idea to email yourself a copy. By having the copies in three different places, you know you can get your hands on the info as quickly as possible.

Put a copy of your itinerary in each piece of luggage

If your luggage gets lost, if there is an itinerary is in it when it’s finally located you have a better chance of your luggage finding its way back to you while you’re on the trip (because the airline will know where you are), instead of the luggage being shipped to your home (and you won’t have it while on your trip).

Clever Things to Pack for Vacation and Why

Two credit cards

If you are traveling with your spouse, it’s always good for you to carry one credit card (i.e., Visa), and have your spouse carry a different one (i.e., American Express). This way, if your purse is lost or stolen, or your spouse gets pick-pocketed, you can cancel the lost credit card and still have one to use for the remainder of your trip.

Extension cord

You should pack an extension cord for three very good reasons: (1) outlets aren’t always where you need, or want, them to be; (2) this gives you the opportunity to use your electronics in different parts of the room, not just where the outlets are; and (3) because we live in the ‘age of electronics’ and have more gadgets than we care to count, you can charge three different items at the same time — your iPad, cell phone, tablet, etc. using just one socket!

Over the door hooks

These come in handy for hanging the next day’s clothes, that extra towel, or anything else that needs a place to hang.

Duct tape

You bet. Duct tape can be used for several things: (1) should your suitcase’s zipper decide to pop at an inopportune time, you can always duct tape your suitcase shut and not lose anything; (2) it can be used as an emergency ‘hem tape;’ (3) it can remove lint from clothing; and (4) you can use a piece to seal curtains that won’t stay closed!


If you bring a few, you’ll be surprised how many times you’ll use them. You can pin a beach towel to the beach chair to keep from blowing around or hang your clothes on the clothesline that is usually in the bathroom.

Powdered drink packets

Crystal Light packets or something similar are a great way to add flavor to a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.


Magnets are great for posting notes if magnetic surfaces are available. You can leave notes to your family or housekeeping, or even for yourself!

Suction hooks

Suction hooks can be placed just about anywhere in the room for hanging things. It’s a great way to keep scarves, purses, or souvenir bags off the floor.


Why should you pack hangers when hotels and cruise ships usually have them? Well, it’s usually because the hangers that are furnished are the non-theft type, and to make matters worse, there aren’t even enough of them! I’m not insulted because I can’t ‘steal’ the hangers — I don’t intend to steal them anyway. It’s just that that kind of hanger is a pain to use — you can’t move your clothes around very easily or even hang them in the bathroom or elsewhere in the room. They just aren’t user-friendly in general. Instead, I bring my own hangers. I bought a pack of the cheap white, thin wire ones and also bought some of those non-slip foam hanger covers. Neither the hangers nor the hanger covers take up much room in my suitcase, and I know I’ve got exactly what I need.

Shoe rack

This is the kind that hangs and has about 16 pockets. You can either hang it in the closet or on a hook for easy access. It’s an invaluable item to have to store your camera, pens/pencils, little notebook, MP3 players, cell phone charging cords, sunscreen, etc. No more digging through suitcases – keep those items corralled and easy to get to!


Having a backpack with you on a trip is handy for several things! First of all, you can use it as your carry-on bag. Then you’d have it to use as a tote bag for going to the pool. And if you’re getting off the ship in a port or sightseeing around town, use it to carry stuff like cameras, books, sunscreen, water bottles, etc. It’s also handy having it to put souvenirs in as you shop. And if you’re traveling to a cold weather destination, you can stuff your sweater in there should it warm up during the day.

Inflatable toys

First of all, it’s cheaper to buy them at home than while on your trip! And second, why waste valuable time shopping when you can instead use the time enjoying them? An added bonus – inflatable toys usually don’t take up much room.

I believe the rest of the items on the packing list are self-explanatory. However, if you are unsure of one, please email me or leave a comment below — I’d be glad to explain. Also, if you have some ideas you’d like to share, we are always interested in hearing what you have to say!

Ready to get packing? Read about the clever packing hacks I’ve learned throughout the years.


Image via Flickr by Christian Eager


Carol Schmidt

Carol Schmidt

Carol Schmidt is the mother of three grown daughters and has always said the most important job in the world is that of a parent. For years she has asked a very important question: "If you knew then what you know now..." She is excited to share with others the insight she has gleaned through the years.
Carol Schmidt

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Carol Schmidt

Carol Schmidt is the mother of three grown daughters and has always said the most important job in the world is that of a parent. For years she has asked a very important question: "If you knew then what you know now..." She is excited to share with others the insight she has gleaned through the years.

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