How to Organize Packing for a Trip



how to organize packing for a trip

With the height of summer, it means summer vacations. Whether you’re heading out to the beach for a long weekend, going to the lake house, or catching a show in NYC – planning ahead is key to avoid the stress of packing at the last minute.


7 Days Ahead – Make your packing list and work on laundry

A packing list is critical to smooth travels! I have a generic checklist that I keep in the notes app on my phone and I update it depending on where we are going. When my daughter was younger, I would also create a printed list for her that she could cross off everything once she got things together. My list includes everything from prescriptions to chargers to how many pairs of underwear I’ll need (which is often determined by whether we’ll have laundry at our destination!). When creating yours – think about not just the apparel needs but also the other items essential for your trips.

Check the weather at your destination and complete your laundry as much as possible at least a week before departure. While you might have additional loads of laundry before your trip, if you need to pack any wardrobe staples this will ensure they are clean and set aside for your trip. And if things need to be dry cleaned – get those in asap so you can get them in time.

3 Days Ahead – Start packing!

Are you a chronic over-packer? Think through your itinerary and lay out what you think you need…then edit it down. If you have the space, we recommend using a guest bed/bedroom for this to plan ahead and gather everything together. To keep packing easy, consider packing with just your essentials and a summer capsule wardrobe that centers around one basic color with mix and match pieces. It’s always tempting to pack one more ball gown just in case but in reality, you’ll never see those people again and you know you’ll just keep wearing the same outfit because it’s comfy. And if you have laundry available, you can scale down even more. 

Once you’ve planned your outfits and items to pack, use packing cubes to organize items by category. To save on space, garments can be rolled as well. Pack any accessories you’ll need. For larger hats that will damage if packed, we recommend using a bag clip for your carry-on. If you are flying – be sure to weigh your bags before you leave – while you CAN pack a ton in a suitcase, it may bite you in the end if it’s too heavy to check! 

And confirm the kids are in progress and ideally done with packing. Nothing is worse than the day before realizing that someone can’t find their swimsuit.

Pro tip: if you are driving, having a travel bag like my favorite Scout tote stocked with snacks, extra toilet paper, chargers, travel steamer, etc. can be a life saver. We keep ours pre-stocked and infill as needed with fresh snacks and coffee pods for each trip.

2 Days Ahead – Toiletries and carry ons

Today, you will refill any travel size toiletries and, if flying, pack your carry-on. Getting this prepped now gives you the chance to see if there’s anything you need to purchase or find. I prefer to have my personal items like make-up, meds, and jewelry in my carry on just in case something happens to my suitcase if I need to check it. We love these clear zipper pouches that are perfect for housing toiletries. Pack supplements and medications for your trip in a pill organizer like this one and jewelry in a hard side case like this. If on a long flight, make sure to download any movies or books for your flight to your devices.

Pro tip: if you travel a lot, consider having a permanent toiletries bag that is already stocked with duplicates. Mine even has a pill organizer with meds & vitamins, toothbrush, etc. so I can just grab and go. I restock it after each trip and do a quick check before we leave again.

1 Day Ahead – Confirm travel itinerary and charge devices

Today, you’ll complete your travel check-ins and take care of last minute items for your trip. If you have an early flight, make sure to confirm your ride. Prior to going to bed, lay out your clothing for your travel day and charge all devices. Make sure you have all travel documents including flight and hotel confirmations, IDs and/or passports. Pack snacks and an empty water bottle (particularly if you have dietary restrictions or a long travel day ahead.). Zip up your suitcase and set out your toiletries bags for last minute additions in the morning. If you’ve got kids, make sure all of their things are packed and ready to go as well – you know they’ll procrastinate!

I like to queue up my luggage in the back hall and do one last check of everything before I go to sleep.

Safe and happy traveling this summer!

SHOP THE POST: Packing cubes | Bag Clip | Scout Tote | Pill Organizer | Jewelry Case