Every vacation is a little different so I tweak what I need to pack based on destination, weather, purpose, etc. I also pack purposely to try and save myself a little money while traveling through airports so hopefully some of my tips can help you.
If I really need to, I can pack everything I need into a carry-on. But sometimes I just want to walk on to my flight with a small bag and not have to fight for overhead bin space, nor worry about having to retrieve my luggage when getting off my flight, especially if I had to place it in an overhead bin further down from where my seat is. Checking your luggage automatically puts it in the game of luggage roulette on the baggage carousel but so far I haven’t had terrible luck, and most flights I fly are direct. Depending on the airline too, sometimes you have to pay extra for checked bags but it’s worth it every once in a while for the convenience of traveling light and easy.
For Japan though, I was allowed 2 free checked bags. But I intended on coming back with a lot of gifts and goodies. This was a true test but I successfully packed all my clothes and makeup into a carry-on size luggage, and then Russian doll nested it into my other two bigger ones, and checked it all as one. I purposely did this for two purposes: so I didn’t have to roll so much luggage around when traveling to my airbnb when landing in Japan, and because I had a layover in Shanghai where I wanted to leave the airport and go straight to Disneyland. I didn’t want to figure out how to store my carry on luggage during my time in the parks and everything worked out perfectly.
My first advice for packing would be to invest in a nice luggage set for traveling. I bought my first set back in 2015, while on a budget but it’s still holding up today and I use it every time I travel. I got this cute pink 3 piece set from ebags.com for $155. The brand is Rockland, I believe. I bought my husband a green set from the same brand and his has held up pretty well over the years as well.
Like stated before, they fit perfectly inside each other so if you wanted to bring extra luggages with you on a trip to bring back gifts, they’re perfect to avoid luggage fees on the way there so you can save half your money at least and only have to pay extra luggage fees on the way home. They’re lightweight, despite being a hardshell case, which I prefer to the fabric/soft cases so my contents don’t get damaged by being pushed down on by other bags. They have pretty sturdy multidirectional wheels as well, which I definitely recommend, although most luggages nowadays have these standard features. The inside comes with a few compartments for you to separate everything nicely, like a mesh compartment to neatly pack underwear and pockets for socks and other essentials. It doesn’t come with a built-in TSA approved lock or a nifty cool portable charger like the cooler luggages nowadays have though so whenever I decide to let go of these and get a more adult set of luggage, that might be my next move. But these are still cute and functional so I’ll continue using them until I really need to replace them.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the exterior details of your luggage’s design when picking a luggage because honestly, through airport handling, they get scuffed up a lot. If you want to keep them pristine, I’d recommend wrapping your luggage in that industrial plastic wrap before checking them in to your flight. I used to see a lot of travelers at the airport do that and I never understood it til now. It also protects from dirt and other damage as sometimes it comes back pretty beat up on that baggage carousel.
Anyways, less digressing. Let’s get down to the goods. What do I regularly pack when I travel?
Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shower cap, makeup wipes, contacts, contact lens solution, shampoo and conditioner (I buy the small 3 ounce empty squeeze bottles from Walmart and pour my own in since I don’t ever use the hotel’s. This is important esp if you have color treated hair), hairbrush, travel hair dryer, curling iron, perfume rollerball
Skin: Toner, moisturizer, primer, foundation, concealer, powder, setting spray
Eyes: Brow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, curler, lash glue, 1-2 sets of lashes, and one palette. I try to stick to one palette so I’ll experiment the week before my vacation to narrow it down to the one palette that would universally work well for all my looks. I’ve also been challenging myself by forcing myself to use just one palette every vacation to not overpack. I’m big on palettes rather than singles since at least if you’re stuck with one palette, you still have a few options.
Face: Blush, highlighter palette, lipsticks, lip pencils, makeup brushes
Underwear - this should go without saying but the common sense nowadays is lacking. But you should bring a pair for each day and then some extra just in case. Bra-wise, I bring the colors that match my tops.
Shoes - I try to bring shoes that will universally pair with most of my outfits, if not all, as well as work for a variety of occasions. I also try to make sure they’re comfortable if I know there’s going to be a lot of walking on my trip. Oh yes, and don’t forget socks.
Clothes - I have OCD so I’ll lay out and try on multiple outfits and plan out what I want to wear. I usually have a specific itinerary so I’ll coordinate my outfits based on the activities of that day. I’ll pack easy dresses you can throw on, sets, or easy mix and match tops and bottoms. I’ll accessorize them to envision what else I need to pack. Then I throw each outfit into a ziplock bag so it’s easy to reach for and put together on my trip instead of rummaging through my bag trying to remember all the parts to one outfit I had put together. I’ll also take pics on my phone to help narrow down what makes the cut, as well as help visualize what I want to wear for each day when getting ready on the actual days on vacation. I also pack 1-2 pairs of pjs.
Accessories - hats, jewelry, belts, sunglasses that coordinate with my outfits.
Extra bags/backpacks if needed to match other outfits (because I’m extra)
Wallet - ID, petty cash, credit cards (international credit card if traveling overseas to avoid fees)
Portable charger - remember to fully charge this before your trip!
Phone charger (and international power adaptor if traveling overseas since outlets are different sometimes)
Headphones - I also try to download a decent amount of shows/movies from Netflix onto my phone in case there is no in-flight movies/entertainment.
Glasses - Whether I fly with my contacts in or not, I try to keep my glasses on my person in case my eyes need a break. If it’s an early morning or a long flight, I try to fly wearing my glasses.
Medication -Advil is always a good idea unless you want to pay $5 highway robbery for 2 pills at 2am because no choice. Anti-nausea if you get nauseous on flights. And if you’re on essential prescription meds, pack these too.
Small bag of makeup essentials for touch-ups (lipstick, eyeliner, highlighter compact with mirror)
Empty blender bottle - I use this as a water bottle because it’s sturdy and leakproof. You’re not allowed to bring liquids through TSA but once you’re past the gates, you CAN fill up this bottle. So save yourself another $4 highway robbery for a bottle of water.
My Carry-on Tote Bag
Snacks! - I always pack a small tote bag full of snacks because I never want to be desperate enough to pay $15 for a highway robbery sandwich at the airport because hangry pains, and sometimes the airline doesn’t always provide complimentary snacks or their snacks suck. Besides, snacks aren’t not allowed. Only water is prohibited so I always take advantage of food being allowed on the plane. I usually pack a few of my favorite movie theater box size candies like Sour Patch Strawberries, gummy bears, M&Ms, a bag of chips or popcorn. Depending on how long the flight is, sometimes I’ll pack a sandwich, a bagel or a small tupperware filled with wheat thins, cheese and deli meat. This sounds excessive but trust me when you get on that plane, this little bag full of treats will save you. I’ve never regretted this even if I overpacked and still had food left when I got off the plane. Besides, now you have something to snack on while you wait for your baggage or while you wait to get to your next destination.
An extra outfit that doesn’t take up a lot of space and is quick to change into in case your checked luggage runs into some mishaps. Depending on where I’m traveling to, I coordinate this outfit based on the weather arriving there. For example, next month I’ll be leaving NY in the middle of winter so I’ll be all bundled up most likely. But I’ll be landing in warm and sunny Florida, so I might overheat in my attire once I land. I’ll pack a pair of shorts or something to change into to adapt to the warm temps. And on the way back, same thing. I’ll leave Florida wearing summer appropriate clothing, but I’ll want to land wearing something warmer for the land North of the Wall.
This tote also helps to bring back gifts when returning home from my trip in case there’s no room left in my luggage or the items I want to bring back are a little fragile and require more direct handling to transport back home.
This next trip I’m taking though, I’m headed to Disney for both a half marathon and to spend some time in the parks. So on this trip, I’m also going to be packing:
Racing outfit and accessories
Sport gels, jelly beans, or other running pick-me-ups
Disneybound outfits for the parks - because I can never be just a regular civilian.
Matching ears and hair accessories
Fleur hat & Fleur-bound outfit (since I’ll be going to Universal for a day too)
My new camera! I’m excited to get some beautiful new shots and get some more practice in with my baby sister and best friend.
And yes, this can all fit into my carry-on. Well, I’m probably not bringing the Pooh bear and bag since I already used it on my last trip for a Disneybound. But everything else listed above will probably fit into my carry-on luggage size. I am able to check it though since it’s included in my Southwest flight. But my flight back home is Jetblue so I’m still going to go with the carry-on size to avoid fees when heading back home. I haven’t fully packed for Disney just yet, this was just a mock-up so far since I was working on coordinating outfits with my baby sister the other night. I’m actually only going to be there for a few days so it was pretty easy to come up with outfits. It was also difficult because there’s so many outfits I had planned in my head that I wanted to wear, but not enough days in the trip to wear them all, hahaha! I’m really excited to leave soon for this trip. I have so much anxiety because I’m nervous about it but I know once it’s here I’ll be upset and want it to slow down so I can enjoy every minute of it. It always goes too fast. Sad because I was just there too. Man, I can never get enough Disney. I wonder if there will come a day where I will tire of it.
Are there any essentials you guys pack that I didn’t list here? What can you not travel without? And when and where is your next adventure?!