As we head into the busy holiday season, many people may be preparing to travel for the first time in a while and may be feeling a little rusty.
We want to help make your winter travels feel as stress-free as possible, so USA TODAY has put together some top tips for how to pack for professional travelers. There’s advice on everything from the best ways to organize to planning a trip with young children.
Here’s a roundup of tips from influencers and journalists who travel for a day’s work, so you can pack like a pro.
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Even figuring out what to pack can be difficult, especially if you don’t travel often.
“Passport, medicines, prescription glasses, camera – make a short list of things that can’t be replaced easily, and double-check these items,” suggests Alex Outwhite, a TV travel host. “It helps me de-stress before I leave because I know I can easily buy anything other than those items while I’m out if I need to.”
Once you know what you need, you can further organize things like in your luggage.
“The classic army roll technique is perfect for keeping clothing as small and compact as possible. Simply roll your underwear and socks into your bottoms for the day,” said Annette Richmond, founder of the Fat Girls Traveling Facebook group. “To save even more space, I recommend putting things in packing cubes. I bring at least two packing cubes, so when you’re piling up dirty clothes, one of the packing cubes is blocking your laundry.”
USA TODAY travel reporter Kathleen Wong uses a reusable shopping bag to separate dirty laundry while on the road, and our colleague Nathan Tiller says he likes to put his toilet liquid in plastic bags to avoid spills along the way.
“It’s a lot easier to travel when you carry less,” said Jae’lynn Chaney, CEO of Jay Bay Productions. Both he and Richmond added that a carry-on luggage scale can help keep you honest and avoid overweight bag fees. Experts recently told USA Today that it’s best to stick to carry-on luggage as much as possible when you fly.
Carolyn Hershey, who runs the Jet With Set blog, says families with young children can follow the same advice, even if it seems more daunting.
“Back light. You can usually find a place to do laundry,” he said.
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Leave some space
You don’t want your suitcase to be completely packed on departure, because you may need more space on your return, whether it’s souvenirs or less neatly folded dirty laundry.
“Don’t pack at the hotel. Leave room for the new things you buy there,” USA TODAY travel editor Josh Rivera said.
Sani agreed. “Leave some room in your luggage for things you might buy during your trip; this way, you can avoid paying extra luggage fees on the trip home,” he said.
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Keep important things with you
From medicine and documents to underwear and chargers, you don’t want to lose something you need.
“Pack anything you think you might need in an emergency in your carry-on,” says USA Today travel reporter Eve Chen. “Pack some basic first aid supplies like Band-Aids, ibuprofen and Pepto Bismol.”
Chani added that even if you check a bag, it’s a good idea to bring some clothes in your carry-on.
“Always pack at least one full outfit and an extra pair of shoes in your carry-on bag when flying,” she said. “This way, you have clothes to change into if your luggage gets lost.”
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Track your luggage
As problems related to lost luggage increased during the summer, luggage tracking gained popularity.
“Air taxes or luggage tracker apps can give you peace of mind if your luggage is lost or delayed,” Richmond said.
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Don’t be afraid to shop while you’re at it
Whether you’re visiting family or going on vacation, chances are you’ll find souvenirs wherever you go.
“Every place you go, they have babies there, and you can buy anything on the floor in terms of food or diapers,” Hershey said. “Avoid packing items that you may receive at your destination.”
However, that advice applies to adults as well.
“Buy what you need there,” instructed my boss, Rivera.
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Know your rights
Another way to reduce stress is to be a well-informed traveler. Knowing how much your airline will allow you to carry on or knowing where the gas stations are on your drive will help you know how much you’re prepared for.
Chani said the advisory would be particularly important for disabled passengers.
“As a plus-size woman who lives with a disability and uses both a wheelchair and a portable oxygen concentrator, I always recommend that passengers traveling with medical equipment know the policies for their specific device,” she said. “For example, my wheelchair can be checked in for free, and it doesn’t count as checked baggage when flying because it’s a medical device. Know that any type of medical device or equipment you’re traveling with can usually be checked in. The airline you’re flying on for free.”
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