Summer is here and that means vacation – yay! Whether you’re off for a long weekend, or the whole summer, you can’t go anywhere until you pack. I know it’s daunting – no one really wants to have to pack. But, you’ll enjoy your vacation more if you pack smart.

There’s a lot to consider when determining what to bring: the type and length of your trip, your itinerary, the weather, the size of your luggage and airline weight limits and baggage fees. With so many factors at play, it’s easy to overpack or underpack – it’s always one of the other, isn’t it? It’s almost impossible to pack perfectly. But, you can pack well if you follow these six smart packing tips.

  1. Do your homework
    Find out what will be available where you are staying – think hair dryer, beach towels, bath robes – bulky items that would be better to leave at home if you can. What amenities are available? Beach chairs, a washer/dryer, plastic wrap, etc? Some summer rental houses require you to bring your own sheets and towels. Every year I travel to Block Island, RI. I have to take a ferry and can’t bring my car – so everything I need for the week has to go in one rolling suitcase. This includes sheets, towels and beach gear! At least I know in advance and can plan. I always rent a house with a washer and dryer, so I don’t have to bring as much. Some places do offer linen rentals. So, make sure you know the details and what you need to bring.
  2. Check the weather
    Don’t assume you know what it will be like – check the actual forecast before you start packing. It may be summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to pour rain the whole time. If you’re going to the mountains, it could even snow! I once attended a 4th of July parade in Breckenridge, Colorado and it snowed during the parade. Check and double check and pack accordingly.
  3. Make a list
    Keep a running list and jot down everything you’ll need for your trip – from clothes, to camera, to cell phone charger, etc. Even if you’re not a list person, there are so many little details involved in packing that a list will save you from forgetting something important. Make sure you go through that list once you’ve packed to be certain you’ve got it all. If you have kids that are old enough to pack themselves, make them a list, too. No one wants to get to the beach to find that someone forgot their swim suit!
  4. Pack outside the bag
    Lay out your clothing on your bed so you can easily see if you have the right amount before you pack it. This will help avoid throwing in extra random items that may not even go with what you have. Plan an outfit for each day. You can change your mind about what you wear on any given day, but this is the best way to make sure you end up with everything you need to put actual outfits together. This way you won’t end up with tons of random pieces you didn’t need. I like to choose a neutral color scheme for the basics (this helps with choosing shoes!) and then add colors that go. Think about what you will be doing each day and whether you’ll need a wardrobe change – a day involving morning on the beach, bike ride, then dinner out requires three wardrobe changes. If you have room, add in a few extra options and layers. Always bring a sweater or light jacket. The hotter the climate, the more they crank the AC inside…it’s 95 degrees out, but 60 inside. Brrr!
  5. Slim down your toiletries
    Bring only what you will really use and make sure you have travel-sized containers. Most hotels provide soap and shampoo. You can also check and see if there is a supermarket or drug store near where you are staying. If you forget anything, it’s easy enough to pick up toiletries anywhere. Also, don’t forget sunblock and bug spray.
  6. Leave a little room to spare
    This is a tough one to accomplish but try not to be packed to the gills when you leave. For whatever reason, things just don’t seem to go back together quite as well when you are re-packing for your return trip. And of course, you might want to pick up a few souvenirs. I once carried a marble chess set back from Mexico on my lap due to lack of space in my luggage. It was not the most pleasant plane ride.


Follow these six smart packing tips and you’ll be on your way to summer fun in no time!