Travel | How to Pack for that Upcoming Trip

| November 14, 2014


Wendy Perrin, Trip Advisor Travel Expert:

The type of trip you’re taking dictates how you pack, of course. The clothing and gear we need differs depending on whether we’re off to an island resort, to grandma’s house, to a developing nation, or on a business trip. But there are certain items I pack every time—especially when an overnight flight is required. And I manage to fit them all into one carry-on wheelie, plus one laptop-holding handbag. Here’s what I find most useful. How about you?

For the flight:

  • Inflatable airline neck pillow. The Cocoon Ultra-Light Air-Core Neck Pillow, for instance, weighs practically nothing and takes up no space.
  • Eyedrops, eyemask, earplugs, sleeping pills, Vitamin C, hand cream. Place them in a sandwich-size zip-top bag, and you’ve created your own business-class amenity kit.
  • Headphone Y splitter. It connects two headphones to one jack, enabling two of you to use the same device (e.g., two kids can watch the same movie on one iPad).
  • Pashmina shawl—for an extra layer of warmth on the plane and at your destination. If you’re male, think Cocoon Coolmax Travel Blanket.
  • Self-inflating seat cushion. On really long flights, a cushion like this one can save your tailbone and back.

At the destination:

  • Sturdy, comfy walking shoes. Make sure they’re broken in. Favor black or brown. No white sneakers because those are a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist.
  • Ultra-light, compact jacket. For warm-weather destinations, consider a rain jacket, with a hood, that folds into its own pocket. For colder destinations, consider a windproof, water-resistant Patagonia Nano Puff or Uniqlo Ultra Light Down jacket.
  • Ultra-light day pack. Pack it in your carry-on wheelie and use it when sightseeing and shopping. If all your souvenirs won’t fit in your wheelie for the flight home, check the wheelie with the airline and use the day pack as your carry-on.
  • Crushable, non-wrinkle hat. I like Wallaroo hats because they’re UPF 50+.
  • iPhone that’s an all-in-one alarm clock, flashlight, map, and magnifying glass (use the camera zoom).
  • Small binoculars or opera glasses (for when your iPhone won’t cut it).
  • Mini-flashlight for finding your way in the dark. Or get the flashlight app for your smartphone!

Packing light:

  • 3 or 4 clear zip-top bags of varying sizes—for holding liquid toiletries; wet bathing suits; or any other small items you want to organize and find easily. I place my liquid toiletries in one (for easy removal at airport security), my dry toiletries in another, my electronic cords and chargers in another. I even bring a two-gallon-size one for compressing clothing (a wool sweater will compress to half its size).
  • 3 or 4 plastic grocery bags. Like the zip-top bags, they weigh nothing and take up no space. I use these as shoe bags, and they can also hold laundry, protect a camera from rain, etc.
  • Plastic drycleaner bags. I hang each item of wrinkle-able clothing on a separate disposable wire hanger, encased in a separate drycleaner bag. Nothing ever wrinkles this way.
  • Multi-purpose toiletries (e.g., facial moisturizer with SPF; shampoo-plus-conditioner that you can use as shaving cream) and liquid toiletries in disposable packets rather than bottles (e.g., makeup remover). Look here for possibilities.
  • Travel-size detergent—e.g., Woolite packets or Tide singles for washing items in your hotel-room sink.
  • Your oldest socks and underwear. Discard them as your trip nears its end, making room for souvenirs you pick up.


  • Extra camera battery and memory card. Don’t waste hours of precious vacation time searching for a store that carries these.
  • Gaffer’s tape for on-the-fly, temporary repairs of shoes, bags, hems, and the like. (Alternatively, use a portion of the adhesive-paper bag tag that the airline affixed to your checked luggage.)
  • Short 3-outlet extension cord that turns one electrical outlet into three, so you can easily charge all your devices in one spot at one time.
  • Glasses you can’t lose. Clic readers mean you never have to fumble through bags for your reading glasses.


  • Adapter plug—for use in foreign electrical outlets.
  • Photocopy of your passport (to keep in your hotel safe). Or just snap a photo of the passport page with your smartphone (and email it to yourself in case the smartphone gets lost).
  • Copy of your travel-insurance or emergency medical insurance policy.
  • Medical kit—including an antibiotic for respiratory ailments, an antibiotic for digestive ailments, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antihistamine, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, multi-vitamins. Just remember that medications need to meet TSA regulations and liquid ones must be 3.4 oz or less per container if they’re in your carry-on luggage.
  • Hand sanitizer—for when water and soap aren’t handy.
  • Money belt or neck pouch. This pouch hides beneath your clothing. Don’t use a fanny pack; they attract pickpockets.
  • Energy bars—for snacks when you’re not sure you can trust the food.
  • A few photos or postcards from home—plus a few stickers to give children. They’re great conversation starters.

Wendy Perrin is an award-winning travel journalist who has served as a beacon of truth in travel for the past 25 years. She wrote Condé Nast Traveler’s column The Perrin Report and blog The Perrin Post, and is the author of the book Wendy Perrin’s Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know. Now, at, she is on a mission to save the world from mediocre trips.

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