Last March, we left New York to travel around the world for Business Insider, each carrying only a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. How could everything we needed possibly fit into a single bag? Well, after a year of travel, many mistakes, and a reassessment of our entire packing lists in September, we got it down to a science.
We’ve come up with a few packing principles that have guided us throughout our travels.
- Before packing an item, have a definite use case for when you’re going to need it.
Everyone has had this experience: You get really hyped about some new gadget or a swanky new piece of clothing, use it once, and then it sits in a dusty closet for all time.
When you do that on a trip, it eats up valuable space your suitcase. In our opinion, it breaks the cardinal rule of packing: Don’t pack things if you don’t know exactly what you are going to use them for.
- Pack clothes and shoes that serve multiple purposes.
Packing clothes that can pull double-duty might be the most important packing tip we can give. For me, that meant finding hiking boots that looked good on a dance floor, while for Annie, it was all about a short-sleeve turtleneck that looks as good in the board room as out on the town.
When you pack items that can serve multiple purposes, you free up space in your suitcase for more items, while also opening up the number of outfit combinations you can pull together.
Sometimes, that means buying a more expensive item for travel.
- Use packing cubes to organize your suitcase.
Packing a carry-on with everything you need and being able to find it all while traveling is a difficult task. Packing cubes make both tasks much easier.
Packing cubes are mesh bags that you can use to organize your clothes or other items in your suitcase. They are easy to find on Amazon for as little as $20 and they make travel infinitely easier. It’s kind of like having a dresser inside of your suitcase.
We’ve found that the best way to do it is to have all your shirts, tops, and button downs in one cube, pants and shorts in another, and then underwear, socks, and loungewear in another.
- Keep all your technology accessories in an electronics travel organizer, often known as a Dopp kit.
During our first six months on the road, we kept encountering the same problem when leaving a hotel room. Did we remember my extra-long USB-C cable? What about the headphones? It’s an anxiety-inducing feeling when you’ve forgotten something but just can’t remember what it is.
The solution, I found, came from the folks over at LifeHacker: a toiletry bag (or Dopp kit for the cool kids) for my technology. I bought the Bagsmart Double-Layer Travel Organizer for $25 and loaded it with all my tech gear.
- Have a folder or pocket exclusively for important documents.
Travel can be very stressful, doubly so if you can’t find that important document, itinerary, or ID card when you need it. The best way we’ve found to solve this recurring nightmare is to follow a simple nursery rhyme: A place for everything and everything in its place.
That means all of our print-outs, xeroxes of our passports, visas, and other important documents go in a folder that stays in my backpack at all times. Our passports always go in a dedicated pocket in the backpack — the same pocket every time.
As long as we follow that — with no exceptions — we know where our stuff is.