How I Avoid Stress While Traveling: Packing Edition

How To Plan For A Calming Travel Experience - The Calm Collective

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Hey guys! Happy Monday :)

We just got back from Virginia late last night and it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We stayed at this old resort called The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia and it was built in the 1700’s.  They even have a bar in the lobby called The President’s Bar which hosts portraits of all of the Presidents who had been there. George Washington was on that list.  How cool is that?!

So I wanted to share some traveling tips I’ve gathered since my travel game went THROUGH THE ROOF over the past two years. I’m slowing down on that front after this year to give my body a break. Since I now approach everything from a calming perspective (i.e. “what would make me the most calm?” or “what will help me avoid stress?”) my packing game has changed ten-fold. I no longer pack everything under the sun “just in case” – rather I bring the essentials that I know work for me, and if I do happen to need something while I’m out of town, worst case is that I have to buy it while I’m away.  (that hasn’t happened to me yet, if you’re wondering)

So here you go! Some travel tips to plan for a stress free, calm experience.  Next up I’ll be talking about what I keep in my airport tote to make security a breeze. So stay tuned! :)

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I know that some may feel like packing in a carry on just isn’t realistic, but I really do believe that you can pack for any trip (even a long one with a lot of weather changes!) in just one single carry on.  The trick is finding the right carry on, wearing your heavier/bulky items, and getting creative with how you pack.  I’ve had my luggage lost twice now, and it was absolutely awful. I was without my things for days at a time in a different state, my suitcase was destroyed, zipper broken, and I was beyond stressed out over this.  Now if something happens to my flight or I miss a connection, I feel so much more at ease knowing I have everything I need right by my side, and can be flexible with my plans.

So, the right carry on.

One of the first things I look for is 360* wheels for easy access around the airport. There are few things that stress me out more than navigating airports, especially when my bag is super heavy and I’m having to wheel it behind me (and having it ram into the back of my ankles time and time again!)  360* wheels allow you to simply steer your suitcase by holding on to the handle, essentially doing no work at all.  If it’s a well made suitcase, it will glide effortlessly.

This is is my favorite.

Wearing your heavier/bulkier items to the airport. 

The good news here is that airports are usually freezing, so you’ll never regret having a sweater with you or having your feet closed in. Yes, security can take an extra few seconds since you aren’t just flipping off your sandals, but I promise it’s well worth it.  If you know you have to pack for colder weather, I recommend that when you’re laying your clothes/shoes out to pack, pay attention to the weight of your items. If something is pretty bulky and takes up a lot of space, put it to the side. Same with your shoes – whichever pair takes up the most space, place those aside.

Create an outfit out of your bulkier items.  This could mean a wrap sweater and a pair of knee high boots paired with some black leggings. If you need a heavy jacket for your destination, carry on that on as an extra item. Airlines do not count jackets as an additional carry on – so you’re fine.  And the bonus? You can always use it as a pillow ;)

Now you’ve created SO much more space in your carry on for your other items.

Getting creative with how you pack is essential.

Both the rolling technique and the layflat technique work well for me, it just depends on what kinds of items I’m packing.  Generally I’ll use both techniques, but on opposite sides of my suitcase. On the right side I’ll have my shoes, bras/panties, socks, bathroom items, etc.  I generally shove about 3 pairs of socks inside each shoe to save space & same with my deodorant and things like that. If there is a hallow space in your shoes, fill it! Get creative. Keep rolling items or shoving socks and bras, what have you, in any little gap of space you see. You’ll be shocked by how much you can fit.

If you want to bring a hat like this one, flip it upside down and place it in the center. Then, fill it with anything you can (I’ll usually put my makeup bag inside here to keep it from caving in) socks and whatnot can go underneath the brim.


In relation to the above, packing simple is key. I always make a list for each day based on what I think we’ll be doing, and try to be realistic with how many times I’ll actually change in a day.  (usually the answer is 2, if that)  I also pay attention to color palettes.  I won’t pack the entire rainbow for one trip, since it makes it difficult to mix and match my outfits this way. Instead, I’ll focus on a few colors, and create outfits from this.

I’ll also depend a lot on jewelry for switching things up a bit. If I bring my favorite jersey black midi dress, one night I might wear it with a jean jacket and a dainty gold necklace – and a couple days later I can wear it during the day with a statement necklace and some comfy sandals.

It’s generally not wise to bring a “risk” outfit when you’e on a trip. If you haven’t worn it at home and have been a little hesitant to try it out – more than likely you aren’t going to while you’re traveling, either. So leave it at home and deal with the fact that you should probably donate it or sell it on Poshmark, anyway ;)  Free up your suitcase for things you know you love.


Be sure to check the weather! While where you are going could be chilly now, when you get there, a heat streak could roll through. You don’t want to be lugging around a heavy jacket if you aren’t even going to need it. (if you just can’t decide, I highly recommend getting a packable down. They roll up into a little bag and can fit into your purse and weigh next to nothing. Lifesaver.)

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned with traveling is to only bring what you could stand to loose.  I have a friend who even travels with a fake engagement ring because she’s so paranoid! You don’t have to go that extreme if you don’t want to, but thinking with that frame of mind could save you a major headache (and heartbreak) down the line. God forbid something happens, feeling at ease that you didn’t bring your prized possessions with you will leave you feeling grateful and relieved. I never bring my entire wallet with me – if it’s a business trip, I simply bring my company card, company debit card, and one other credit card just to be safe and my ID. I’ll only bring a little bit of cash (again, only having with me what I would be fine with losing).

So those are my Top 3 tips for keeping your travel calm & stress free! Sure, things can still happen even if you’ve kept your necessities to a minimum, but if they do – take note and think, “what would have made this easier?” Remember that for next time. Before you know it, you’ll feel like the most prepared traveler on the planet.  And that is a really awesome feeling. 

PS – my international carry on essentials and what’s in my everyday tote bag.