How To Pack Like A Pro

Take a peek inside the suitcase of a tour guide

Having traveled around the world alone for a year, I can report my scientific findings on the definitive way to pack for a trip.When you start laying out your stuff a few days ahead, packing your suitcase can feel like a pre- vacation event.

I get happy when it’s time to pack. Pour a glass of wine and play music from the region to set the mood. Here, I share with you my all-time favorite packing tricks and must haves for a trip.

Now I only travel with a carry on and a fabric tote bag.

It really started with a scarf, because, early on in my travels, I bought a scarf in each country. As I struggled with trying to close my suitcase, I ended up donating clothes and shoes. Realizing how a scarf transforms any outfit, and takes up little space, was the epiphany. You will learn from my mistakes (high heels) and, with a few key items, you can magically fill your carry-on with room to spare for souvenirs.


Overall Packing Tips:

  • Lay everything you think you need on the bed – cut this in half.
  • Forget the roll method. It’s a total waste of time.
    • You’ll fit so much more when you lay everything out flat, layer upon layer inside the suitcase. Once the mound is done, drape a sarong over the top, tuck in the edges like a cocoon and then strap it in the suitcase.
  • Wear running shoes on the plane.
  • Thread necklaces strands through a straw to stay tangle free.
  • Use a contact lens case for some liquids like foundation and moisturizer.
  • Leave high heels home unless a 1000% must have.
  • Bring an LBD – Little black dress, a key item.
  • Bring & buy scarfs. Beautiful souvenirs and memories to cherish.
  • Sarongs – So multi-purpose; skirts, dresses, beach towel, even a blanket on the plane.
  • Use clear plastic toiletry bags.


Never leave home without:

  • Rest: A cozy eye mask for sleep. I like Walgreens comfort sleep mask.
  • Beauty: Coconut oil for a cure all and Rohto eye drops. The drops are what professional photographers use on models to whiten and brighten.
  • Macgyver: Safety pins, tweezers, nail file, nail clipper, Ziploc bags, extra pens, notebook, baby wipes, Band-Aid’s, a small scissor, an umbrella and rubber bands.
  • No Bloat: Funny but true, I bring Ducolax stool softener geltabs (not the laxative) to make sure I don’t skip a beat.
  • Electronics Ear buds, external battery for cell phone, power strip and local adapters.


Other need to know stuff

Flight Best Prices: Did you know Travelocity, Expedia and the rest are all owned by the few same companies? Save time by checking flights at Googles secret website: Airfare Matrix.

Paper Free: Use the airline’s app for your boarding pass and flight updates. If the computers go down at the airport, you’re safe.

Peace of Mind: Buy the travel insurance. Really.

Chargers: If you forgot your charger, ask the hotel. They usually have a stash of forgotten chargers left behind by hotel guests that you can borrow.

Hotel Upgrades: Ask for a free upgrade at the hotel when you’re checking in, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and you may actually get a better room just for asking. Happens all the time, they want a great review.

Tried & True: It’s ALWAYS a good idea pack a fresh change of clothes and a sarong in your carry-on if you must check your bags.


International tips

Passport in the cloud: Take a pic of your passport with your phone and email yourself. Comes in handy when filling out immigration forms and you’ll thank yourself later if an emergency happens.

Stay Connected: When traveling out of the country; bring an inexpensive unlocked phone and sign up for a pay-as-you-go plan upon arrival. Look for cell phone kiosks at the airport and seek out the Wi-Fi spots.

Cash: Split your cash and credit card stash. Carry a small amount of cash and one credit card on you and keep the second credit card/cash in an inconspicuous place in your room. I use a pencil case I found at the dollar store.

Banking: Do let your bank and credit card company know where and when you are going.

Local Currency: Best practice is to pay for most things with your credit card. For small cash, use an ATM and choose the option to convert in ‘their’ currency, vs US dollars. Use No foreign transaction fee credit & debit cards, like Charles Schwab and Capital One.

Culture: Read about the local customs and etiquette for your destination. Learn how to say hello and thank you in their language.

Final Thoughts

It’s fun time. Don’t worry about what you pack. Remember, that in the end, what you pack won’t matter as much as the places you see and the wonderful people you’ll meet.

As I traveled, I ended up leaving clothes behind and giving them away to those who had far less. Give it a try and I guarantee you won’t miss the items as you pay it forward – one little bit.