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11 Suitcase Packing Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Vacation

A poor packing job (not enough undies, the wrong shoes) can mess up your getaway. Here, personal stylists and professional organizers share their tips for a smartly filled suitcase.


Mistake: You have a "when in doubt" mindset

“The biggest mistake is over-packing. People don’t know what they’re going to wear and are afraid to sacrifice stuff,” says Sarah Nelson, a professional organizer at Less is More in Miami, Florida. Lay clothes out on the bed and mix and match outfits to see what works. Choose a couple neutral colored bottoms to pair with different tops, or pick a color scheme such as “blue and white”—like the blogger behind did for her honeymoon. Coordinating your outfits around one or two shades ensures you always have something that matches. For extended trips, bring a few less outfits than the number of days you’ll be away. “Wear basics several times; no one will notice,” Business Insider suggests.


Mistake: You wait until the last minute

“Then you’re stressed and can’t think clearly, so you end up packing too many options and don’t have what you need,” says Dacy Gillespie, a St.Louis-based personal stylist, who runs Start packing a few days in advance. Make a list of the activities on your itinerary to determine what you need: comfy shoes vs. sandals, dressy clothes vs. casual, etc. Want to explore the beauty of the American West? Get more info about an amazing travel experience to America’s Cowboy Country here.

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Mistake: You forget to check your destination’s weather

Put your weather app to good use. “This way you won’t be stuck with all pants if it’s hot or no jacket if it’s cool,” says Nelson. But don’t take the forecast too literally—weather does change. Conde Nast Traveler suggests packing clothes you can layer, so you can throw on a cardigan or a lightweight jean jacket if, say, a cool rainstorm unexpectedly blows in.


Mistake: You fold instead of roll

“Rolling is a great way to maximize space in a suitcase,” says Gillespie. Follow these steps from First, fold the article of clothing lengthwise once. Then, roll tightly as you would a sleeping bag. Lay the piece of clothing in your bag with heavier items like jeans or sweaters along the bottom and near the wheels for balance. Light items, like pajamas or t-shirts, should be on top. For fancier items you don’t want to roll, place a piece of dry-cleaner plastic or tissue between each layer to prevent wrinkles.

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Mistake: You don't make the most of your shoes

“I love to stuff small items like jewelry, underwear, or socks in my shoes. This saves a lot of space,” says Gillespie. Slip each pair in a Ziploc or plastic grocery bag to avoid spreading dirt. Another smart move: Wear your heaviest pair of shoes to save space and cut down on weight, suggests

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You don't factor in souvenirs

Overdo it on shopping and your suitcase might not zip up on your way home. To be safe, “get a duffle bag that compresses into a very little pouch. You can easily throw it in the suitcase, and you’ll have another bag for extra purchases,” says Nelson. This foldable nylon bag on comes in two colors and three sizes.


Mistake: You buy a whole new wardrobe specifically for your trip

“Don’t try a new look on vacation!” says Gillespie. New clothes you’re not used to wearing may not fit as well or look as good as they did in the dressing room when you bought them. Instead, “stick with trusted outfits you know you look good in,” she says. Pay attention to fabrics—knits and denim travel well; silk and linen wrinkle easily.

Leonardo Patrizi/iStock

Mistake: You want one whole suitcase all to yourself

If you’re traveling with a partner, it seems logical to each pack your own suitcase. But if a piece of luggage gets lost, one of you is left with nothing. Go half-and-half; split your wardrobes between two bags, suggests Business Insider.

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Mistake: You don't keep your toiletries well contained

If it is capable of leaking, assume it will. Place all non-solids like hair gel, shampoo, or mouthwash in a zip-top bag to keep your stuff safe from any potential spillage.


Mistake: You throw out your packing list

A packing list can help make sure you don’t forget anything important, but don’t chuck it in the trash when you’re finished. Instead, slip it into a pocket of your suitcase and take it with you, says USA Today. Then when you leave your destination, you can review the list again to make sure you don’t leave anything behind.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest