How to pack for frequent travel

Whether it’s a geeky conference, a family reunion, or a business trip, I use the same strategy to pack for frequent travel. I hate to re-invent the wheel for every single trip. So in case it’s useful to anyone else, here’s my packing strategy which my good friend B. from Oregon taught me.

image adapted from baggage carousel #3 by Robert S. Donovan used here under a Creative Commons license

1. Get an extra or travel size of every necessary toiletry item. Soap, shampoo, lip balm, contact solution, tweezers, ponytail holders, even a razor. Everything you would use at home.

2. Get extras bottles or boxes of every over the counter medication you routinely use, or would be unhappy to go without on a trip.

If this is cost prohibitive for you, think about setting aside a small amount from your regular use items instead, or use an index card checklist that you keep with your suitcase for the items for which you can’t afford to buy extras.

3. Get an extra week’s worth of underwear and socks.

4. Get an extra set of pajamas.

Again, if cost is an issue, think about setting aside dedicated items from your regular clothes for this, just enough for your longest planned trip. You may do laundry a little more often during “travel season” but you’ll never get to Chicago with no underwear.

5. Get an extra set of chargers for every electronic device that travels with you.

6. Put all of these things in your suitcase.

7. Pull together every “consumable” you’d want with you on the plane: snacks, OTC meds, tissues.

8. Put all of these in a bag you’re going to use only as a carry-on during travel season.

9. Get a folder with two pockets, the kind you used in school. Put that in your carry-on bag too.

How this will improve your life:

1. Whenever you are going somewhere, all you have to pack is travel documents, clothing, devices, and in-flight entertainment of your choosing. No packing the toothbrush and then realizing you have to get it back out because you haven’t brushed your teeth yet. No forgetting something because you didn’t pack it thinking you were going to use it in the morning.

2. All your printed travel documents such as flight schedule, hotel info, and receipts along the trip go in the folder, so you can find everything easily.

3. When you reach your destination, you don’t realize you forgot deodorant and have to spend money buying a brand you don’t like because that’s all they sell.

4. When you get home, you don’t have to unpack just to take a shower. You DO have to replenish anything you’ve used up during the trip, but since you started with a full stock, that shouldn’t be too hard.


As this is being published, I’m on a plane for trip #2 of my 5 trips this year from April through July. Spread out from Miami and NYC to San Diego, I’m not going to have a clue what time zone I’m in for several months!

12 thoughts on “How to pack for frequent travel

  1. Pary Moppins

    Great tips! We keep three toiletry bags packed and at the ready – one for my husband’s business travel, one for our daughter’s travel, and one for the three of us when we travel together. I also keep a laundry bag and a trash bag in our big suitcase to keep dirty clothes separated.

  2. Skye

    Yes on the laundry and trash bags, good ideas! And yeah, if I take Boy Detective on too many more trips, I will be making up his own toiletry bag so I don’t forget his conditioner again!

  3. Kristen

    Awesome ideas! I already do most of them and they work like a charm! Monoprice is a great place to buy chargers that are not super expensive, I always get mine from there :)

  4. Skye

    Tiffany and Kristen, good tips, thanks for sharing!

    Ashley, being able to take out my contacts and shower without digging through my whole suitcase (which I never repack neatly) is such bliss.

  5. Shirley

    I loved your travel ideas. We like to just pick up and go spontaneously, so this would be VERY helpful not to have to rush around throwing things in the bag! We will have to do this. Thank you! If we are traveling on a cruise or flying, we definitely keep the documents in a folder so they are easily accessible, and it works like a charm! I do like separating the dirty clothes in a bag, too, so you don’t have to sort when you get home and guess which ones need washing. lol I do keep a copy of the content of my wallet in my safe where my parents or older children could access it if they needed to, just in case! Great ideas.

  6. Madaline

    These are great tips!! I do something similar because I’m continually between Italy and Virginia – however I like the idea of buying doubles!

  7. Skye

    Shirley, love your tip about the documents, adding that to my to-do list before my next trip. And yes, the laundry, very important!

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