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How to Pack Productively: The Key to Stress-Free Travel

Let’s do a quick visualization… you finally sit down to pack for your beach vacay after a brutal winter on the east coast. You can literally feel the saltwater hair and crisp tan from spending just a little bit too much time outdoors. (Tanning oil has SPF, right?) The excitement is building for what might be the best trip of your life!

Next to that first sip of espresso in the AM, packing for a trip you can’t wait to go on is one of the best feelings out there. Especially for all of our type-A readers. Now that travel is returning as a regular part of our lives, we thought what better time to share our highly requested blog post on how to successfully pack for your next trip?

Our founder Kira has her packing method down pat; just check out her reels. This didn’t just happen overnight, this came from years of strategically finding the perfect balance between under and overpacking, finding the perfect top 2 days too late (damn you shipping!), & being forced to wear a puffer in LAX because your bags are overweight for your ski trip. In other words, she made the packing mistakes (and found solutions) so that you don’t have to.

Why Do We Use The “Productive Packing Method”?

  • Limits Overpacking: There’s nothing that hurts the ego more than getting labeled as high maintenance while traveling. Do we need 46 pairs of underwear? Possibly. We’re not willing to find out the hard way. But using this method actually brings a sense of ease to what can be a typically stressful time. When you sit down and plan out outfits per day, you’re not packing based on “feeling” you’re packing based on “data” this limits any over (or under) packing that could occur. Also, you don’t end up bringing 4 hoodies that take up all of the room!

  • Create Ease on Travel Days/While Traveling: For our last-minute packers - prepare to have your life changed. The world of stress-free travel actually does exist! All it takes is a little preparation. Packing can even be, dare we say, fun? But not when you’re throwing random clothes into a backpack the night before your 3-week trip. Giving yourself enough time is the key to stress-free travel.

Let’s Get Into Our Method:

STEP 1 CREATE YOUR MOODBOARD: First things first, we need to figure out what the whole vibe is for this trip. This will vary depending on these 3 factors: Where you’re going, why, and for how long. A honeymoon trip to Turks & Caicos is going to look a lot different than a 4-month backpacking trip in Asia so this is where you use your own judgment. We suggest grabbing a notebook and writing down where you’re going, why, for how long, what you plan on doing there, and your overall budget for the trip. After you’ve done this, create a Pinterest board and begin searching for outfit inspiration. Have fun with it!

Try This: In the search bar, we suggest looking up “[Location] Outfit Aesthetic” and starting there. Here’s an example of Kira’s Turks & Caicos Moodboard.

STEP 2 MAKE AN EXTENSIVE LIST OF PLANS: Now that you’ve created your mood board it’s time to make an in-depth list of your plans. How many travel days? How many dinners? Are you hiking one day? Will you be attending any special events where you’ll be dressing up? Write down your plans with the date accordingly. If you’re waiting to book plans until you get there we suggest basing this on the climate you’re going to, do your best to guess what you may be doing there. Remember it’s better to be safe than sorry with packing! Especially if you’re going somewhere with no shops.

STEP 3 CHOOSE YOUR OUTFITS: Now things start to get fun. Time to choose your ‘fits! So far, we have a rough outline of what we’ll be doing each day. Based on this information and your Pinterest mood board, start coordinating your outfits! Keep in mind that you’re not going to have every single thing you pin (a girl can dream though) but you may have clothes that look similar, your friends may have something you can borrow, or you can also order some pieces that can be re-worn strategically (see Step 4). As you write the list, star the things you’ll need to pick up.

Looking to pack productively for your next trip? Here's our free downloadable packing template just for you.

Packing List Template
Download XLSX • 11KB

STEP 4: ORDERING LAST-MINUTE CLOTHES: If there are any pieces you need to purchase before you’re off on your next adventure we highly recommend ASOS and Revolve because they have quick shipping and a good return policy. If you live outside of North America it will be very important to check the shipping process and how long things will take. No worse feeling than ordering the perfect shoes that arrive after you’ve already left.

Here are all of the links to items in our lookbook in case you’re in the process of packing and want some inspo:

Italy Outfits (1)
Download PDF • 8.52MB

STEP 5: ORGANIZE: Last but most certainly not least, organize your clothes. We don’t want you sitting on your suitcase to close it and then paying for overweight baggage, that's why this step is so important. If you’ve ever had to unpack a suitcase at the airport and wear your winter clothes to a warm destination because there’s not enough space…well, let’s just say, the girls that get it, get it. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Vacuum Seal Bags: Vacuum seal any major winter clothes like jackets, puffers, ski pants, etc. This will leave tons of space for your other fits, the less baggage the better.

  • Packing cubes: The holy grail of travel. Using packing cubes and organizing them by type of clothing is *chefs kiss*. OR, if you have multiple stops on your trip, you can organize clothes into cubes by destination, that way you only have to unpack one or two cubes at each stop instead of your whole suitcase! Your future self will thank you.

  • Suitcases: Our favorite is the Away Set in Bigger Carry On, Medium, and Large. A good suitcase will last you a lifetime (really though, there’s a lifetime warranty). No affiliate link, just a really great bag.

  • Dustbags: We love putting our shoes and purses in dustbags to keep everything clean & scratch-free. If you don’t own dustbags any soft reusable shopping bag will work.

The moment you implement our “Productive Packing Method” there’s no going back to your old ways. Say goodbye to the night-before packing and mini heart attacks wondering if you forgot your fave SKIMS undies. At Cacti we’re very big believers that how you do anything is how you do everything. Meaning, that even how you pack your suitcase or fold your laundry is a reflection of who you are. How would the version of yourself that’s achieved your goals pack? We hope this gives you something to think about.

Where’s your next adventure? Join us over on @cactiapp Instagram and tag us on your mood board!

Safe travels everyone and happy pinning.

The Cacti Team

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