8 Last-Minute Packing Tips We Swear By

Updated 06/29/18
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@kateogata

Have you ever arrived on the first day of your summer holiday only to realize you forgot to pack a phone charger, your trusty face serum, or a pair of heels to go with your date-night outfits? Me too. As a serial last-minute packer, I've been known to stuff my carry-on at 11:45 p.m. the night before a morning flight (and throw in a few extra things for good measure the morning of). In short, I've made many packing mistakes in my days, but I'm getting better with each trip.

Having boarded over 30 flights in the past year, I'd like to think I've nailed the art of packing down to a science (even if I end up packing in the middle of the night). Through many mistakes, I've picked up a routine that ensures I'll get to my destination without having forgotten anything or overpacked to the point of absurdity. Are you heading on a trip soon? Don't leave your house before reading these eight last-minute packing tips. They've saved me more times than one. 

Make a List

This may seem obvious, but make a list of everything you should pack on any given trip, and keep it to cross-check for any future trips. Items to include: phone chargers, laptop, Kindle, beauty products, and more. It's an easy way to ensure that you haven't forgotten anything if you're packing at the last minute. Next up, make a list of every activity you have planned for your trip, and pre-plan your outfits to know exactly what you'll need to bring wardrobe-wise.

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Trim Toiletries

On the subject of beauty products, you definitely don't need everything in your cosmetics case. Are you going to a decent hotel? Leave your body wash, shampoo, and conditioner at home. Choose your hair products carefully, and only bring things you absolutely must use daily: A good serum, a moisturizer, a toothbrush. You probably won't do a face mask while you're traveling and your hair can survive without 10 anti-humidity products for a few days (unless you're going to a tropical island, in which case, definitely bring all of them).

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Mix and Match

For your outfits, plan a mix of statement pieces with basic items that are easy to mix and match, like white T-shirts, jeans shorts, and more. That way, you can dress down a printed floral skirt with a white T-shirt during the day, and dress it up with a black cami at night. Similarly, you can wear your denim shorts day after day with various tops without looking like you're repeating outfits day after day.  

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Leave Heirlooms Behind

Here's another thing to leave behind: Expensive jewelry pieces and anything that holds sentimental value. Now is not the time to have your trip ruined because your airline lost your luggage forever, along with your grandma's diamond earrings. Instead, pack fun inexpensive costume jewelry pieces and sunglasses that you won't cry over if they break or get forgotten at a restaurant table somewhere.

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Roll Everything

When you have everything laid-out and planned, it's time to start packing. Roll every item into neat cylinders and stack them in your suitcase (or even better, in packing cubes). You'll save a ton of space with this method and, if you're careful when you roll, you'll get to your destination with minimal wrinkles in your clothing. Do this for all your clothes on one side of the suitcase, and leave the other for toiletries and shoes.

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Plan Out Your Carry On

If you're bringing a carry-on and a checked suitcase, carefully plan what you'll bring with you on board. Obviously, you'll want all your flight essentials: laptop, chargers, socks, a warm sweater, a lip balm, and hand cream. But also think of your destination. Are you landing in crushingly humid heat? Consider wearing light layers and packing an extra pair of sandals to switch into at the airport. Are you arriving in a blizzard? Keep a warm jacket handy.

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Remove Three Things

A friend of mine gave me this trick years ago, and I thought it was genius for an over-packer like me: Pack a week in advance, and each day, remove one item from your suitcase that you don't really think you'll wear on your trip. On departure day, you'll have removed all superfluous items from your suitcase. But for a last-minute packer, try the method on the day of. While packing, start with your most surefire items, and stack the ones you're unsure about at the top. Then, remove the top three items. Trust me, you won't miss them.

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Wear Your Heaviest Outfit

This goes without saying, but wear your bulkiest items on the flight: straw bags and hats that don't pack easily, heavy sweaters, jackets, and boots. You'll save precious space in your luggage if you're able to combine a few heavy pieces into a chic and practical airport outfit. Again, leave behind anything that isn't suitcase-friendly if you can't wear it on the plane because you'll just end up ruining it in transit.

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Next up: everything you need to pack the perfect carry-on.

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