In all my 26 years of life, I think I’ve spent the holidays at home one time. So, I’m well versed in the struggle that occurs every year whilst trying to make sure you have room to pack all the presents you’re bound to haul back with you as you go to visit your family. It may seem impossible, but utilize a few of these holiday packing tips, and I can all but guarantee you will be able to fit everything — without anything hanging out of your suitcases at the airport.
I’m lucky enough that my family is only a few hours drive from my house, so getting there for the holidays is as easy as loading everything up in the car (and dealing with the typical Los Angeles traffic). But even though I don’t have to adhere to TSA guidelines, deal with baggage fees, or get seated next to a crying baby or someone who snores, I still have to be mindful of what I pack.
The holidays mean you will be carting your cute outfits and cold weather gear, as well as the slew of presents and other things you’ll need over the course of the next few days. All of that combined can make it more than a little complicated to pack — both going there, and coming back — but these tips should help to ease some of your packing dilemmas.
1. Roll your clothes
This is a good hack for over-packers like myself, because it forces you to plan your outfits ahead of time. Lay out the clothes you want to bring — tops, bottoms, even undergarments — and then roll them up together. You’ll save room in your suitcase, and you don’t have to worry about what you want to wear during your holiday festivities.
2. Use suitcase packing cubes to avoid overpacking
For those of you who need a little extra help keeping all your things organized inside your suitcase, invest in a set of packing cubes. They’ll make sure you don’t overpack and keep everything in its place.
3. Use straws to carry toiletries
If you’re flying to your holiday destination with only a carry-on, make sure your toothpaste, lotion, skin care products, and more adhere to the TSA’s liquids rule beforehand. But even if you can take your full-size toiletries with you, why do you need that much if you’re only staying a few days? If you don’t have a good set of travel containers, you can use regular drinking straws to hold enough product to hold you over. Seal and label with tape before popping them in your bag.
4. Put products in old contacts cases
I wear both glasses and contacts, so I have a few old contacts cases hanging around gathering dust. If you don’t want to use straws, you could put a few squirts of lotion, liquid foundation, or other similar products into your old cases. You’ll have enough to carry you through the holiday weekend, and you don’t have to worry about packing your full-size items.
5. Bring a large carry-on — even if you’re checking a bag
It might seem like overkill to bring a big, checked bag and a decent sized carry-on if you’re only staying a few days, but you’ll probably need it. You have to remember that you’ll most likely be bringing back gifts with you, so if you can split your stuff between two bags, you’ll have less trouble getting everything home.
6. Wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes while traveling
Whether you’re going by plane, train, or car, you can save some space in your bag by wearing your bulkiest clothes and shoes en route. Usually I suggest wearing comfy slip-ons to the airport because you’ll get through security easier, but we all know that boots take up more room than slippers in your suitcase. Just put your big coat in the overhead bin, or bring a small pair of flats to slip on during your flight.
7. Utilize your shoes
Speaking of shoes, you can use them as space savers as well. Stuff socks, underwear, hair and makeup products, and other small things inside. Your shoes will still take up the same amount of space, but you also won’t have to worry about losing some smaller items.
8. Don’t wad up undergarments
I know most of us usually just throw our panties and bras into our suitcases willy-nilly, but that actually takes up a lot of unnecessary space. Instead, fold up your underwear as best you can, place them on the inside of your bra cups, and then fold the bra over. This will free up some suitcase space, as well as protect your bra cups from getting squished.
9. Bring a box for presents
If you’re able to drive to your holiday celebrations, put all your gifts into an empty box. You won’t have to worry about anything getting jostled during your drive, and it’ll be easy to bring everything inside once you get there. Plus, then you’ll also have the box to bring all the presents you receive back safe with you.
10. Leave your presents unwrapped
If you’re flying, haul your presents in a carry-on or checked bag — but make sure to leave them unwrapped. The TSA will give you more of a hard time for wrapped gifts they have to inspect, so just leave them bare until you arrive. You can borrow some wrapping paper from your hosts, or order your own and have it sent there ahead of time.
11. Pack shoes and other weirdly shaped items first
I almost always pack my shoes first so they're at the bottom of my bag — then I can put all my other stuff on top of them and the soles won't dirty anything — but also be mindful of other oddly shaped items. Stuff like blow dryers, an extra purse, and other things like that should go on the bottom too. Then you can pack around them, and not worry about trying to stuff them in at the end.
12. Treat your carry-on like an emergency kit
Nothing sucks more than arriving to your holiday destination, and learning that your checked bag has been lost. That's why you should alway treat your carry-on like your backup plan. Pack a day or two's worth of clothing, a bit of makeup, any necessary medications, and all your chargers and electronics in your carry-on so you're guaranteed to have them when you arrive. This will always free up some space in your checked bag for all the lovely gifts you're bound to receive.
13. Basics are your friends
If you're strapped for suitcase space, remember — basics are your friend. Plan your outfits around your favorite pair of jeans, some simple tank tops or long sleeve tops, and other clothing items you can wear more than once. Pair with jewelry, scarves, and shoes to complete the outfits and save space in your bag.
Looking for more holiday cheer? Check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Giphy (13)