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I have a confession to make: I am an overpacker. Sadly, so is my husband. We both feel the need to pack things “just in case.” Unfortunately, this has cost us tons of money over the years in baggage fees and turned us into pack mules. Sound familiar? If so, here are 9 smart tips to avoid overpacking for vacation that I am using to become more of a minimalist. If they can help me, they can help you too!
#1. Ditch the medicine cabinet
Unless you are heading out into the desert or wilderness for vacation, it’s not necessary to pack your entire medicine cabinet or an extensive first aid kit.
All you really need to pack is a few bandages, your prescription medications, and a small bottle of pain reliever.
If something happens that requires more than this, you can swing by a pharmacy, convenience store, or grocery store and grab what you need.
#2. Take mix and match clothes
The next tip to avoid overpacking for vacation is to pack mix and match clothing that can be worn more than once. With items that are versatile, you can create different outfits with fewer pieces.
So, pack neutral and solid colored items. Take one good pair of jeans. Choose a dress that can easily go from day to night with a simple change of accessories.
And speaking of accessories, pack jewelry that can be worn with a variety of outfits. This goes for your shoes, hats, scarfs, and belts too. There is no reason to take 5 pairs of earrings if you can get away with one.
#3. Think through your activities
Another easy way to avoid overpacking for vacation is to think through what activities you will be doing on your trip. Then only pack what you will need for those things.
If you won’t be going to any formal events or fancy restaurants on your vacation, there is no need to take fancy clothes. Leave them at home and save yourself the trouble.
If you are packing for a beach trip and you know your kids will spend the entire week in flip flops, leave the socks and tennis shoes at home.
#4. Pack what you WILL need, not what you MIGHT need
A big lesson that my husband and I are trying to learn is to pack what you WILL need instead of what you MIGHT need. This alone can help you to avoid overpacking for vacation.
Because the reality is that unless there is a high probability that you will need something on your vacation, it’s not worth taking.
If you run into a situation where you unexpectedly need something you didn’t pack, you can almost always find a place to buy or rent it.
#5. Choose double duty items
In addition to mix and match clothing items, choose as many items as possible that can do double duty during your vacation. This can also minimize the number of things that you must pack in your suitcase.
For instance, instead of packing baby lotion for your child and body lotion for yourself, use the baby lotion for both of you while on your trip. Bath toys can do double duty as pool toys. Pack a soap/shampoo combo for your kids.
The more things that can be used for dual purposes, the more space you will save in your suitcase.
#6. Think travel size toiletries
Another way to pack less is to downsize your toiletries as much as possible. Instead of taking full size bottles, grab some travel size ones. They will take up much less space in your bags on the way to your destination, and if you use them all up, you can eliminate them all together on your way home.
If you can’t find smaller bottles of the products you use, pour a small amount into travel size containers for the trip. You can find great containers that are perfect for traveling at the Container Store.
The one exception I have for this tip is if you have long, thick hair like I do. Unfortunately, travel size bottles of shampoo and conditioner aren’t enough to wash my hair for more than a day or two. So, I do take full size bottles of these.
#7. See you later hairdryer
I used to pack my hairdryer every time we took a trip. Eventually, I realized what a waste of space this was. Every hotel these days is stocked with a hairdryer. There is no reason to bring your own.
So, take a big step towards packing less by leaving the hairdryer at home. While you’re at it, take a hard look at the other small appliances you travel with and see what else you can leave behind.
Do you really need a curling iron and a flat iron during your week at the beach? Can you trade the full-size fan you use for white noise at night for a small sound machine? Is it possible to warm your baby’s bottle at the hotel without taking your own bottle warmer?
#8. Do some laundry
If you will have access to a washing machine while on vacation, consider doing some laundry during your trip. This will allow you to pack fewer outfits for your family, which in turn, means you can take fewer suitcases.
I know that it’s not fun to do laundry while traveling, but sometimes, it can be cheaper than paying baggage fees. And it means less laundry to do when you arrive back home after your trip.
#9. Use efficient packing techniques
Lastly, avoid taking extra suitcases on your trip by using efficient packing techniques so you can fit more things into a smaller space.
Techniques you can use to pack more efficiently include using packing cubes, rolling your clothes, and storing smaller items inside your shoes. For more tips, see our posts on how to pack better for vacation and genius packing tips for kids.
Traveling as a family is fun, but it can quickly become a chore if we overpack. However, it is possible to travel without taking everything but the kitchen sink. These tips should help you avoid overpacking for vacation the next time you travel!
For more tips to make your next family vacation better, see our tips to improve your vacation, how to plan an epic family trip, how to take amazing vacations on any budget, how to pack for road trips like a pro, and the best airplane and road trip snacks for kids. Happy travels!
P.S. Need help finding the best places to go on your family vacations? My Ultimate USA Bucket List for Families will instantly give you 60 of the best vacation destinations for families in the United States! Get it for FREE in the box below and start planning your next trip today! Plus, as a bonus, you will receive my weekly email newsletter full of family trip tips and inspiration!