7 Tips: How to Pack for a Long Vacation

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I call anything over 7 days a long vacation. And while I love long vacations, packing for them can be a struggle at times, especially when you’ve got an international flight with baggage restrictions to worry about. That means you can’t take 5 handbags but you might need to stick to 2 or 3. Anything with weight will weigh you down and you might end up with no space for souvenirs, a hard lesson I learned during this last trip to Greece. So without further ado, here are my tips on how to pack for a long vacation.

How to Pack for a Long Vacation

1. Check Your Airlines Baggage Restrictions Carefully

….weigh and reweigh…measure and re-measure. I can’t emphasize this enough – during long haul flights, this isn’t as important since weight and size restrictions are pretty generous. However, if you’re taking a short flight within the country (i.e. one Greek island to another), the restrictions are tightened and you cannot pack nearly as much as might think. Unfortunately, we watched a French lady in front of us for the flight from Milos to Athens struggle to understand (she didn’t speak English) what would happen to her oversized luggage. In order to avoid any such confusions, be sure to check all airline regulations of all your upcoming flights. We only packed one bag apiece on our flight to Greece, even though we knew we were allowed two because we didn’t want to pay extra on the small flights.

2. Pack Efficiently

Packing efficiently has always been a struggle for me, especially when it comes to beach vacations that require snorkel gear, sneakers and a million other random things. I’ve recently started packing all of our shoes into several protective bags (made for handbags). I have so many of these laying around unused. Previously, I would pack all of our shoes into one but that made packing super inefficient since the shoes couldn’t spread out and would instead take up a chunk of space. Since I have plenty of cloth bags to go around, I now pack 2-3 pairs in each one. Each bag can then fill up small empty spaces in your baggage.

If you’re packing jewelry, I’ve found that cardboard jewelry boxes are best. They help everything stay together and they double as a holder when you reach your destination. No one wants to lose their favorite necklace.

3. Pack Tightly

There are several ways to increase efficiency in your suitcase. My favorite (and most recent) discovery is packing cubes. Packing cubes not only increase your suitcase capacity (since they condense everything down) but they also help you stay organized. An OCD individual’s dream come true, packing cubes are perfect for long vacations with several stops. Obviously, if you are staying in the same hotel or residence for the entire duration of your trip, you may not need these since you’ll most likely be hanging everything up. But if you’re packing up your suitcase at least once during the middle of your vacation, these come in handy. After about day 4, my suitcase always manages to look like a tornado blew through it and usually I have to go through and reorganize everything. Packing cubes do the job for you. I used one for undergarments, another for shorts, one for dresses, another for sleepwear, and so on and I made sure to return each clothing item to their specific cube. For Greece, I worked with 9 cubes between Andrew and I and I thought that was the perfect amount for the 2 of us. Be sure to roll your clothes to minimize wrinkles.

4. Do Laundry

It’s easy to avoid doing laundry on a 7 day vacation. Fitting 7 days worth of clothes and underwear isn’t hard but when the number of days starts increasing, packing becomes a nightmare. I purposely under-packed on a few things this vacation and instead, I brought along a travel size version of Tide. It was a pain but I washed a few things by hand and the scorching sun dried them in no time. The beautiful thing about the travel size Tide is that you can keep it and refill it for other vacations. If you are laundry-averse, you can always seek out a laundry service that will do it for you. Even on Santorini, we were given the option of putting all of our laundry in a large bag (15 euros per bag) for full laundry care service.

5. Limit Bags and Shoes

Bags and shoes are the biggest culprits of excess weight (tied with lotions and hair products). I would recommend sitting down and planning each outfit to see which bag and shoe you could potentially leave at home. I mentioned yesterday that I only brought two crossbody bags with me to Greece and while I was nervous I was being careless, it worked out in the long run. I would highly suggest at least one crossbody – they are so much lighter and easier to pack than totes and they’re great for hands -free touring. Shoes are the hardest to pack. I tend to always overpack on shoes but I practically  approached my packing for once. I knew that a beach vacation, especially one in Greece would not be conducive to wearing high heels. And so with a heavy heart, I returned all my skinny heels and stilettos, ignoring the “what if” scenarios playing in my mind. I packed two heeled sandals, both block heels and I didn’t regret it for a second. In the past, I’ve packed heels for vacations that have never warranted them and it always irritated me to bring them home unworn. Save your stilettos for a city that requires them.

6. Think Small

If you’re spending your long vacation stateside, then you can skip this part. Things we use on a daily basis can be found anywhere within the USA since we have Walmarts and Targets pretty much everywhere but for those traveling abroad, you may run into a scenario where you cannot find whatever it is you take for granted in your home. There are a few random items I always pack in case I would ever need them (and that would terribly annoy me if I couldn’t find).

  • nail polish remover – I used to pack actual remover which always made me nervous. First of all, it’s a fire hazard and you really shouldn’t be packing that stuff into your luggage. Second of all, it could leak all over your clothes and possibly ruin them. I recently happened upon the amazing discovery of nail polish remover pads. These are seriously amazing – each wipe comes in an individually wrapped envelope which should be enough for your one application of your fingernails. No leaks and less weight.
  • lint rollers – If you’re really tight on space, these come in mini travel versions that are great for a quick swipe across a dress that may need some fuzz removed. I hate when I look down and I see lint all over my clothes so this is more of a solution to a minor annoyance than anything else.
  • chlorox wipes – I always try to pack one packet of these. You never know when you’ll need them and they take up nearly zero space and weight.
  • electronics – It’s easy to forget extra SD cards for cameras, batteries, phone chords and most importantly for international flights, electrical adapters. Even though you can find these abroad, they may be hard to come by or will be overpriced.

7. Paperwork

Perhaps the most important part of the trip is the paperwork. If you forget to apply for that necessary visa or your passport will be expiring soon, you won’t be able to fly no matter what excuse you come up with. If you don’t have the necessary paperwork, all my tips above are moot so make sure you do your research and pack all your paperwork. This is what we typically pack: International Drivers Permits (you will need these for driving overseas – not a necessity when renting a vehicle but a necessity if you happen to get into an accident), visas if necessary (remember these take a few months to get), passports, drivers licenses (we used ours to rent a quad bike), cash, credit cards, itineraries, necessary phone numbers. Remember that wifi can be spotty at times so make sure you have all the necessary information before you leave.

My advice for keeping it all together? A manila folder. This is the first time we travelled with a folder and I cannot tell you how much easier it made things. Instead of the typical “oh dang, where did we put that xxx,” we always went to the folder first. 9/10 it was in that folder. We used it for all our paperwork, any receipts we got and all of our maps. It was a lifesaver. I should note that we kept our passports in a more secure location.

Grace

A travel photographer and writer with an insatiable desire to explore the world and inspire others to see it for themselves.

1 Comment

  1. Ellen Hughes
    August 17, 2018 / 8:46 pm

    I like that you suggested bringing extra SD cards for your cameras, batteries, and phone when you’re packing things for a long vacation. Actually, my husband and I are planning to rent a beach house rental where we can spend the month-long celebration of our wedding anniversary. We want to make sure that we’ll be able to have enough space on our gadgets to document our special vacation, so I’ll consider all your tips.