Travel Tips

All About Packing

One of my blog readers, Gina, asked:

What clothes and shoes do you travel with? Are there any particular brands or fabrics that you recommend? How do you organize your things in your luggage? Do you have any tips for maximizing space?. That was my issues during my travel vacation.

It was good timing since I am about to pack for our next trip in end of August to Portugal and Malta! I am not claiming that I am a packing expert but after various trips across the globe over the past years, I can share some experience of packing. Before you start packing, ask yourself the following five questions:

1. Where are you going and what is the season (spring, summer, autumn, winter, and dry or wet) over there?

Obviously, the season is the single factor that determines what types of clothing you need to bring; winter – jacket, warm layers while summer – light weighted, thin layers. I always bring a hoodie or cardigan even if it’s summer because at night it could get breezy and cold.

2. Are there any restrictions on checked bags and or carry-on luggage?

With more and more “low cost carriers” like WOW Airlines and Norwegian Airlines free checked bag for international travel is no longer by default, most often it incurs a charge to check a bag and with weight restriction. Like our trip to Iceland last year with WOW Airlines, both of us share one checked bag to save money. WOW also impose weight restriction on carry-on luggage as well and they really enforce it when we depart from Boston Logan Airport. While island hopping in French Polynesia, Air Tahiti also restrict on carry-on luggage weight but they did not enforce it when we were there.

3. How long are you going for?

Packing for 1 week, 2 weeks, versus 1 month could make a big difference. 1 or 2 weeks I can pack an outfit for each day but it becomes difficult for 3 weeks or 1 month trip. When my trip is more than 2 weeks, I will look for apartment holiday homes or villas that equip with washing machine so I do my laundry and only pack for 1 or 2 weeks worth of clothes.

4. Are there any special activities that you want to do that requires special equipment?

For my tropical island trips, we bring our own snorkeling set and beach shoes so those take up room. For an upcoming winter Iceland trip, we need to bring waterproof hiking shoes for our ice cave tour!

5. What are the modes of transportation that you are going to take?

How do you transport around the destination, rental car, public transportation – train, bus, metro? Self drive would be the easiest in terms of transporting your luggage. Long distance train travel shouldn’t be an issue as those trains usually equip with luggage compartment but make sure you watch your luggage especially during stops. However, regional train or short distance metro can be difficult as there are no assigned seat and place to store your luggage. For those situations, we always arrive early and plan plenty of time so we can wait for the next train if it’s too full. We usually have no issue holding on to our big luggage next to us in a metro. But my preferred mode of transportation for to/from airport trips is express airport bus since those have luggage storage space.



Rather it’s checked bag or carry-on, the luggage must have spinning wheels that you can spin 360 degrees, those are the most convenient. I like luggage that has some exterior pockets that I can place things I need to access fast. Here’s my Samsonite luggage that have been traveling with me over the 6 years and it’s still in good shape! If you live near a Mashall’s or TJ Maxx, you can find discounted brand name luggage!


The upper smaller exterior pocket, I put napkins, power adapters/converters, power cords, chargers if I can’t fit in my purse. The lower big exterior pocket, I put flip-flops/sandals, umbrella, and empty plastic bags. There were times that I wore sneakers on the flight and once we landed, the weather was much warmer and nicer than I expected so I can quickly change into my comfortable sandals! Empty plastic bags are important for separating out dirty clothes during the trip 🙂


Those are always my travel essentials:

  • Toothbrush (love my Philips Diamond Clean rechargeable toothbrush, the case it comes with it is convenient for traveling), toothpaste, and a small bag of flossers.
  • Cleansing cream or face wash
  • Shavers for my husband and I
  • Don’t throw those hotel amenity bottles away, save them so you can refill it with something else! Those cute little bottles are perfect for me to refill sunscreen lotion and moisturizing cream. Those doesn’t leak so it’s perfect for both checked bag and carry-ons.
  • Travel size deodorant
  • Sheet masks especially for hot summer travel
  • Refillable perfume spray travel size bottle
  • Not in picture: elastic bands and clip to put my hair up when showering, Q-tips, tweezers, comb, oil absorbing sheets, insect repellent if needed

For my upcoming Europe trip, here are more:

  • Hair straightener and curling iron
  • My personalized lady bag for lady stuff, you know what I mean 🙂
  • Summer hat
  • A zip-log bag of medicines just in case
  • Not in picture – a shawl or thin scarf that serve multiple purposes: to protect my arms and shoulders from the strong sun, to keep me warm inside strong AC train rides, and covering my shoulders to go in some churches

How to fit all in? Always roll your clothes tightly (except jacket, heavy sweater, or hoodie, those you can fold and put on the top layer) it saves a lot of spaces!

Bras and undies go in those two top pockets. Belts and other small loose items go in the netted pocket. My travel essentials go in that plastic zipper bag. I haven’t finish packing yet but you can get an idea; I can easily fit 2 weeks worth of clothes and still have rooms for my beloved souvenirs and German chocolates! In case I go overboard with souvenirs especially if I purchase something that is very fragile, I bring a fold-able Coach weekend tote as a carry-on:

My purse/camera bag – we used to travel with two sets of cameras and lens but they are too much to carry around (both physically and financially) so as of our last trip we tested and happily reported that we survived with one camera and two lens LOL! We decided from now on, we’ll only need to bring one camera and two lens and all go to my husband camera backpack 🙂 My purse will be just for the Surface tablet, my laptop if I need to work remotely, passports, wallet, my phone, itineraries and printed confirmations!

Please feel free to share any packing tips you have and if I missed anything, let me know 🙂


4 thoughts on “All About Packing

  1. I find a lightweight waterproof jacket invaluable … they pack away either into one of their own pockets or into a stuff sack, useful if it rains but also being windproof they can be quite warm on top of a jumper or fleece … and you can pop it into handbag or daysack

  2. Thanks for the tips!
    Bring a few gallon and sandwich size ziplock bags.Many uses for them, waterproofing, storage or fill with air and surround you delicate items to reduce the chance of damage.
    I have learned to bring a few paper plates, plastic fork etc. And also I am starting to bring an extension cord with multi plug ins on one end. That way I only need a couple of power adapters, for all of electronics. Just use the adapter to plug in the extension cord and then plug in your batter rechargers, computers, phones as usual.

    I wanted to ask about reserving hotels with points and regular reservations. Thanks to my stays in Bora Bora (IC ambassador, thanks for that tip!) last year, I have over 150,000 points to spend in China and Japan this year. I have enough to cover China, but not quite Japan. I would like to reserve a couple of nights with points then pay for the rest of it with my CC. Do I need 2 reservations?

    1. Hi Lisa, yes you’ll need 2 reservations. Two other options you can think about…..1) pay with points + cash, do the math to see if that’s cheaper. 2) I assume you are talking about you don’t have enough IHG points for Japan? Sometimes IHG has sale for buying points, once again do the math to see if it’s cheaper to buy points and pay with that or all cash. Don’t restrict yourself to hotel chains for Japan and China, there might be better or more unique place to stay. Check and (there’s usually a 18% off with cheaptickets for non-chain hotels)! Read my travel tips page to see how you can save when booking hotels:

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