I love to travel. Fortunately, I do so pretty often. Over the years I have developed systems that I use to ensure organized travel days for myself and my family. These routines take a lot of the stress out of the packing process for me so that I can focus on the excitement for my upcoming adventures.
Today I’m sharing the top 5 things I do EVERY time I travel to simplify the process (and reduce stress on the big day).
1.| Create a Capsule Travel Wardrobe
Getting dressed for a day of airport travel is a bit like Groundhog’s Day for me. In the best possible way.
I have adopted a travel uniform that completely eliminates the guesswork about what to wear on the bookend days of every trip I take.
Here is the key: these carefully chosen pieces work in ANY season and for ANY destination. I wear the same thing on a trip to Hawaii in April as I do to New York in December.
Airports and planes are notoriously poor at temperature regulation, so dressing in layers is the way to approach every season and every climate.
Here are the key pieces I love:
- Comfy jeans– I am currently loving a loose, feminine boyfriend cut for travel. They keep their shape, don’t cut off circulation, and look pulled together.
- City Pants from Athleta– They have so many styles, there is a pair for every shape and taste. These are the most comfortable, lightweight pants you will ever own. They look polished enough for business travel but feel as comfortable as PJs. As if that wasn’t enough… you’ll also be glad to know that they don’t wrinkle and they dry quickly in the event of spills.
- Long, loose tank tops– Again, I’m partial to Athleta. Their Essence Vital Tanks are super soft, wear well, and cover your butt.
- Something on top– This is where I mix it up slightly depending on my destination and the season.
- Rothy’s– I usually wear their sneakers since I rarely travel for business. But if you DO need to look a little more polished for business travel, they also offer gorgeous pointed toe and loafer versions. They are comfortable, breathable, and machine washable. Plus they are all easy to slip on and off at security checkpoints.
2. | Choose A Hairstyle That Will Last
Let’s be honest. Sometimes travel isn’t pretty. I used to put effort into curling my hair before heading to the airport only to arrive at my destination with flat, limp strands. If I had to head straight to an event… I wasn’t looking my best.
You may not think of a hairstyle as something that helps create organized travel… but doing your hair only once is an intentional system that helps you maximize vacation time once you reach your destination.
A couple of years back, I started using a triple barrel curling iron to put waves in my hair on travel days.
It’s like a crimper, in case you’re unfamiliar!
I have found this hairstyle to be the only one that will last with my hair type. I now wake up early on travel days and make the extra effort. My hair stays in place, and I don’t have to worry about doing it again when we arrive.
This is what being organized is all about: being intentional with our choices to make MORE TIME for the things we really want to do. And if I’m on vacation, I do not want to be cooped up in the hotel bathroom. I want to drink margaritas by the pool. Stat!
French braids and topknots are other great solutions because they create waves and volume when you take them out. Pick a travel style that works for you and don’t overthink it!
3.| Be Thoughtful About Your Carryon Bag
It’s still one of my go to choices, but this spring it’s taken a backseat to my new obsession: the LuluLemon On My Level Bag.
It pains me to admit this. But here’s the truth: I have struggled with purse disorganization in the past (have I mentioned I have kids?).
Luckily, it’s almost impossible to lose your keys or glasses in this thing.
It has a clip for your keys, many dedicated pockets for your water bottle, phone, etc., and a cool d-ring that I’ve been using to store my sunglasses.
The padded crossbody strap is comfortable (even when I’ve loaded a questionable amount of items into it). Additionally, the material wipes clean easily and has worn very well.
What to look for in a carryon bag:
- Pockets for the things you carry: take an inventory of your staple carry on items and make sure there is a place for everything. If you need to take your laptop and it’s bulging out of the top… you picked the wrong bag.
- A comfortable crossbody strap: I have carried a LOT of different bags, and all of my favorite carryon bags have this in common. It makes me feel extra secure in travel situations, gives me options for how to wear it, and is the easiest to use. If you’re not a crossbody kinda gal, backpacks are a good alternative. I would avoid a shoulder bag; they can dig into your shoulder when they are heavy.
- Water bottle holder: It’s really nice to have a dedicated spot to put your water bottle. It reduces the likelihood of a spill on the plane.
- An easily accessible spot for your cell phone: Avoid that “where’s my phone panic?’ Find a dedicated phone pocket and use it.
- Durable fabric: Think wipeable. Think dark. Travel is hard on baggage.
4.| Embrace the Pouch
There are a lot of ways to go with the pouch approach. Reusable, waterproof pouches are an amazing choice, but a good old Ziplock Baggie will do in a pinch. Pouches are a huge help in more organized travel.
This is a variation of the “container within a container” organization strategy that helps keeps items separated in drawers. And it works just as well in your suitcase and carryon bag.
I typically travel with pouches in my carryon for:
- Headphones, Charger Cords, and other Electronic Accessories
In my checked bag, I use pouches for:
- shorts + workout pants
- socks and underwear
Having pouches for each item ensures you know exactly which bag to pull out to find what you need. It helps keep clothes wrinkle free, and makes unpacking a breeze.
Aloha Collection makes my favorite pouches… they are heavy duty, waterproof, and can moonlight as a clutch at the beach.
I also use Eagle Creek packing cubes in my suitcase. I’ve had them for 15+ years and still use them regularly… a good investment if you travel often.
TIP: If you put snacks in a Ziplock freezer bag, you can use it to collect all the trash you accumulate during a flight. It helps eliminate that nasty moment when you’re forced to dig in the seatback pocket ten minutes before landing. Hand the bag to the flight attendant, and. you’re done. Ta-da!
TIP: If you unload your packing cube into the hotel drawer upon arrival, you can start refilling it with your dirty clothes as you wear them. Your cleans and dirties will stay separate, and you have much less to pack on departure day.
5.|Keep A Spare
If you travel even a few times a year, it pays to have a separate toiletry bag that you can keep locked, loaded and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
When not in use, stash it under the sink or in a linen closet. The night before a trip, you can pull it out and quickly review the contents. You may have to add in a few things, but it will be easy because most items should be ready to go.
Things to include:
- Travel size shampoo/conditioner
- His/Hers Deodorant
- Travel Lotion
- Face Lotion
- Fresh Razors
- Hair Ties and Bobby Pins
- Travel Hairspray
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste for every family member
- Travel Size Advil
- Travel Sunscreen
On the morning of the trip you can throw in last minute daily use items without scrambling.
TIP: Upon your return, take note of any items that need to be replaced and refill the bag immediately before storing so that it’s ready to go for your next adventure.
These 5 tips for organized travel days are just a few of the travel hacks I have included in my personal travel routines. The great thing is that the more you repeat them, the more they become automatic.
Less to think about = less stress!
These strategies may not work for you exactly like the do for me, however I hope this list will encourage you to reflect on your own system. It is truly amazing how some small, intentional tweaks can simplify travel for you in a big way.
If you have any other travel suggestions you love, leave them in the comments. I am always looking for new ideas to try as well.
Thanks for reading. Happy travels!
About the author: Suzette is a Northern Colorado professional organizer providing organizing services to Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley, Windsor, Timnath and surrounding areas. She subscribes wholeheartedly to the idea that smart systems and some up front organizing work make more time for busy women to enjoy doing what they love. She has been married for over 10 years and is a mother of 2 school age children.