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12 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.

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Portrait Of Woman Trying To Close Full Holiday Suitcasemonkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

There is a lot to consider when packing for the perfect vacation such as the weather and daily activities, but things will look a little different now with the added burden of coronavirus. Knowing that, it’s important to reach out to places at your destination for any coronavirus-related information. We spoke to travel experts who offered some tips on eliminating common mistakes when traveling, even in a post-pandemic world.

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Girl packing overflowing suitcase for travelSasha_Suzi/Getty Images

Mistake: You have a “when in doubt” mindset

“We don’t need to take our entire wardrobe with us nor do we need to take our entire shoe collection,” says Suzanne of “The key is to pack around a color scheme and pack layers for day and night. As hard as it is, three pair of shoes is generally good—everyday, sandals, and dress shoes.” It’s also likely you will be able to wear your bottoms more than once, so pack more tops that you can match with the same pair of jeans.

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Cute African American Girl Packing Bag For Holiday And Traveldiego_cervo/Getty Images

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.

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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,” explains Yasir Shamim, executive at Purevpn.

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Mistake: You fold instead of roll

“The biggest suitcase mistake I was guilty of before my husband finally (lovingly) harassed me out of it was folding instead of rolling,” says Jennifer Walden, director of operations at WikiLawn. “Folding just made more sense to me, and I assumed it wouldn’t make that big of a difference. But I actually had more problems with wrinkles when folding, and certainly less space overall. ” Tightly rolling your clothes will actually allow you to fit a lot more in your suitcase than if you were to fold.

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Travel suitcase with clothes on blue backgroundkobeza/Getty Images

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.

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Black woman looking and choosing crafts at Olinda fairMesquitaFMS/Getty Images

Mistake: You don’t factor in souvenirs

Overdo it on shopping and your suitcase might not zip up on your way home, possibly adding an extra bag on the way home. “If people tend to buy many souvenirs, the best practice is to carry a separate bag,” claims Jeremy Owens, CMO of Seriously Smoked. “However, you need to make sure that you can handle your possessions after buying the souvenirs. Before going on the trip, fill the souvenir bag with mock items, and carry it with other belongings. You need to let go of some items if the total weight is more than you can handle.”

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Happy girl at clothing storeRidofranz/Getty Images

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.

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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. “If you are traveling with your partner, it would be best to put half of your things in their suitcase and vice versa,” explains Jeremy Harrison, founder of Hustle Life. “In case you lose your luggage, you still have half of your stuff to use!” Check out these things you won’t be able to do on airplanes anymore.

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Mistake: You don’t keep your toiletries well contained

If it is capable of leaking, assume it will. The last thing you would want on a trip is your favorite luggage set being ruined by your toiletries. Place all non-solids like hair gel, shampoo, or mouthwash in a zip-top bag to keep your stuff safe from any potential spillage.”Don’t just put your shampoo into your suitcase and expect things to turn out fine,” explains Walden. “Even if you’ve never opened it. Put toiletries in a zip-top bag! If you don’t want certain products mixing, use several different bags. Press the air out of them before sealing. Sometimes I’ll even put them inside a plastic grocery bag, too, just to be extra safe.”

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Handwritten reminder list on lined paper for holiday packinggvictoria/Getty Images

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. “Make a list a week in advance,” says author and etiquette expert, April Masini. “Go over it several times throughout the week. Put your packable items out the night before. Go through them the next day. And then, when you’re sure you have everything you need, pack your suitcase.”

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Travel bag and virus protection mask on wooden backgroundunclepodger/Getty Images

Mistake: You don’t bring enough masks

Even if masks aren’t required in your hometown, they may be required elsewhere, especially if you are traveling by plane or taking public transportation. “Even if you’re using cloth masks, you should pack several,” explains Walden. “You can’t rely on being able to wash them where you’re staying, and no one really wants to do laundry on a vacation anyway.

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Close up of young woman packing her backpack with hand sanitizer in protective gloveslithiumcloud/Getty Images

Mistake: You don’t bring your own cleaning products

You may not want to rely on others to keep spaces clean for you so it’s best to pack extra hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to ensure clean surfaces, especially in a hotel room. “Post-coronavirus I am including a pillowcase as well as a fabric sanitizer for bedding,” says Amra Beganovich, CEO of A&E. “Even though many places have imposed a stricter cleaning regiment during the pandemic, taking additional safety measures can help you feel at ease.” Make sure you aren’t making these mistakes when disinfecting.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who focuses on digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pick-up lines, and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists, and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.