Packing The Perfect Bag

Whether you’re packing for a two week trip or a long weekend, deciding what to take can be stressful.

In my opinion there are two extremes, those who pack ultra light and take only the bare minimum in a back pack; and the over packer.

I strive to land somewhere in the middle, but honestly some trips are more difficult to pack for than others.

Packing for Ecuador was one of these times, but I approached it the same way I do for all my trips.

The strategy …

Don’t procrastinate – Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. At least 10 days prior to departure I lay out anything and everything I may need. I start by putting it all in a pile. Each “pile” serves a potential purpose or activity. When visiting Ecuador, for example, clothing and such for several different climates would be required; this can make for some tricky packing!

My guest room bed, aka the staging area, is now covered with piles of clothes, toiletries, bags and shoes.

No need to panic – Although it may look like a hot mess to the untrained eye, it is actually a very organized space. Over the next several days the piles on the bed may grow, but eventually will dwindle down by a process I fondly refer to as ‘weeding out’.

Stay focused – By reviewing all possible scenarios and making any necessary adjustments I carefully consider the fate of everything I have laid out. I decide what has the most value, and put the other things away.

Be aware:

  • Check the weather forecast before you go
  • Pack clothes that have a dual purpose
  • Keep it simple by packing neutral colors like navy and grey
  • Wear layers
  • Roll, don’t fold
  • Use packing cubes and compression bags
  • Know your airlines luggage guidelines


Have a plan – For Ecuador my goal was one checked bag with spare room for souvenirs, and my personal carry on item, which would be a small backpack that I could also use on hikes or for shopping.

Keep control – For me this system works and also serves dual purposes. First, it allows me the control to bring what I want.  No one wants to be told what they can or cannot pack. In the end I have the final say. No pressure.

Remain confident – Second, is having the confidence that I’m not forgetting anything. There’s nothing worse than worrying about what you might forget before you have even left. So, if I think I may need it I lay it out keeping in mind that not everything that makes it to the bed will end up in the suitcase; I actually put back quite a few things.

Be prepared – The following is my “to do” list which I use for international travel and is in no particular order:

  • Copy of passport, front and back of credit/debit cards (keep separate from originals)
  • Inform creditors of potential spending outside of normal spending area
  • Call cell provider (if traveling abroad I get a plan that’s $10 for a 24 hour period and is only activated IF needed)
  • Download shows onto ipad
  • Weigh checked baggage
  • Email emergency contact travel itinerary
  • Figure out airport transportation (how I will get there, what time I need to leave)
  • Get cash
  • Check out airport maps to get an idea of where I’m going, and  to find out where airport lounges are
  • Update Smart Travel Enrollment Program
  • Put together some travel snacks. I make dried fruit and trail mix, protein bars and nips 😉
  • Consolidate all travel documents and anything I’ll need access to or may need extra security (can’t go in overhead or in checked luggage – passport, medications and wallet, for example) This bag, usually a small backpack acts as my ‘personal item’ and stays with me at all time

Remain practical – If you’re looking for a way to take the pain out of packing keep your thoughts and things organized (I love lists), and don’t wait until the last minute because that’s when you are most likely to forget something, or over pack by taking the stuff it in and see approach.


If you have a special packing strategy I would love to hear about it!

Happy planning!

About Crafty Traveler

Kristen lives in a charming town in New Hampshire's Seacoast region.


  1. Janay

    I never thought of using vacuum bags, great idea, but how do you compress it for the trip home? Also, giving your creditors a call before is a great idea that I never thought of. Thanks!!
    What do you use the lemon essential oil for? Poopouri? 😉

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