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The Complete Travel Packing Checklist for 2023 & the Best Packing Tips [Printable]

Erin Miller's image
Erin Miller

Erin Miller

Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 26U.S. States Visited: 28

An experienced points hacker, Erin is Alex’s partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points with in-depth guides and relationship management. Erin’s work has been cited in multiple major publicat...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury

Keri Stooksbury


Countries Visited: 39U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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When it comes down to it, packing for a trip (domestic or international) can be stressful. Do you wait until the last minute? Put off researching what you’ll need for certain activities or weather at your destination? Get distracted easily, or have young kiddos that need attention? It happens to the best of us!

On one hand, if you under-pack you might not be prepared. But if you over-pack, you run the risk of incurring hefty baggage fees or missing out on space to bring home that lovely souvenir. If you forget an essential travel document, you could even miss your trip altogether! We get stressed just thinking about it!

That’s why Upgraded Points is bringing you a guide full of packing tips and tricks, a printable travel checklist, a list of apps to help you out, and reminders for to-do’s around the house before you leave.

We’re here to assuage your anxieties and make sure you’ve got what you need, you’ve cut what you don’t, and there’s no wallet/phone/swimsuit/teddy bear left behind!

Hot Tip: Don’t forget to also check out our “Carry-On Travel Essentials” guide where we’ve compiled a “His” and “Hers” list of some great products that we simply can’t do without when we travel!

📋 Click To View Our Printable Travel Packing List >> 📋

General Packing Tips & Tricks

Before you even take your suitcase out of the closet

Check the weather at your destination.

This seems intuitive, but you’d be surprised how many people are stuck traveling in rainy season without a raincoat.

Note how many days/nights you will be away.

This will help you decide the number of necessary outfits. Obviously, how often you prefer to wear the same clothes plays a part in this as well.

Note any special activities/events you may partake in.

Traveling for a birthday? You don’t want to forget that heartfelt gift you bought weeks in advance. Going to a wedding? It’d be a shame if you showed up without your suit. Hiking in Hawaii? Your water-shoes won’t get much use if you leave them behind.

Make a packing list early and check it twice! Image Credit: Vlada Karpovich via Pexels

Make a packing list early and review it at least twice. (Yes, twice.)

You can easily find printable vacation packing lists online (like ours above), or you can write out your own. There are also a number of apps you can utilize if you prefer something more tech-based. Read about several of these below!

Timing is key here. If you jot things down or review your printed list in advance, it gives you the opportunity to take a second look with a fresh mind. All too often you’ll remember something you didn’t yesterday when your brain was thinking about pizza instead of packing.

If you’re printing a list that’s not trip specific, review it first and immediately cross off items you won’t need. Why bring a winter coat to the beach?

Take items you can grab at your destination off the list.

If you’re planning to travel with only a carry-on, this tip is especially important as it will save space (at least for your outgoing journey!).

Most times when traveling, your hotel will provide shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, etc.; why waste space packing them? If you’re a little picky about your toiletries or you’re not staying at a hotel, you’ll probably still encounter a drugstore where you can buy anything you might need.

Purchase travel-sized containers or toiletries if you plan on bringing your own.

Remember regulations for the amount of liquids you can bring in a carry-on for a flight. You’ll want travel-sized containers if you plan on carrying liquids this way.

Even if you’re flying with a checked bag and are allowed more liquids, do you really need that 16oz bottle of shampoo for a weeklong trip? Cutting it will save you room for other essential items.

Choose the right luggage.

Choose a suitable suitcase for your trip. Image Credit: kindel media via Pexels

Yes, different airlines have different restrictions on sizes for carry-ons and checked bags but stick to some general guidelines and you should be safe.

For carry-ons, you’re generally accepted at/under max linear dimensions of 155cm/45in. For checked bags, you’re generally safe under 158cm/62in max linear dimensions. However, be sure to check the airline you’re flying with prior to packing, as some can be stingy!

You also want to seriously consider the type of bag you enjoy traveling with – shoulder bag, backpack, roller bag, hard shell, soft shell, etc. There are definitely loads of options so just remember, your bag shouldn’t stress you out, it should make traveling easier.

Hot Tip: We’ve done tons of research on this topic so don’t miss our articles on the best carry-on bags and the best checked luggage bags for any type of traveler. 

When you’ve done your prep and you’re almost ready to pack

Essentials first.

Gather your most important items first. This includes all travel documents such as your passport, ID/driver’s license, boarding passes, hotel reservations, etc. This also includes anything you’ll seriously regret forgetting and can’t purchase while traveling: wallet, credit cards, camera, cell phone, etc.

This being said, there are a number of apps that can assist with itinerary management and decrease the number of printed documents you’ll need to carry. See our list of helpful packing apps at the end of this post.

Choose an appropriately sized suitcase.

If you only have 1 suitcase, then you’re set. If you’ve got more options, attempt to use the smaller one – most people tend to overpack when their suitcase is too large for their trip. You don’t really need an extra sweater, 2 more t-shirts, and another pair of boots just because they fit! Plus, your baggage will be a lot easier to handle if it’s smaller and lighter, which will cut your stress level significantly.

Lay everything out.

Lay out your items before packing. Image Credit: Marcus Aurelius via Pexels

Laying all of your items out allows you to plan outfits and account for your days/nights away. When everything’s laid out, you can clearly see how much you’re bringing and spot missing items easier. This also includes shoes, accessories, toiletries, etc.

Dividing items into sections based on where they’ll be packed is also helpful.

Lastly, don’t forget to lay out your plane/travel day outfit and consider it with your other pieces.

Pick simple mix-and-match pieces to prevent overpacking.

In general, choose simple tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched to make multiple outfits. Did you know that just 3 bottoms (pants, shorts, skirt, etc.), 4 tops (tee, tank, etc.), and 2 outer layers (sweater, coat, or cardigan) can make up to 24 different outfits??

Depending on the reason for your trip, you might need to pack a special item that can only be worn once (suit, bridesmaid dress, etc.), but try to keep these to a minimum! This step is key if you’re pressed for space.


Once you’ve laid out all your items, really consider the number of days you’ll be on your trip. Chances are you could stand to put a few things back in the closet in order to pack more efficiently. Remember, no one wants to pay a fee for overweight baggage or lug around extra clothes for no reason!

Pack it up.

You never thought we’d actually get to this step, did you? There are a number of recommended packing tips when it comes to getting everything neatly in the suitcase. This can be overwhelming, but if you pick up the right habits packing will seem much less stressful.

Check, double-check, and triple-check your essentials.

Put a checkmark next to each item you’ve packed and DON’T TAKE IT OUT OF YOUR BAG. If you’re not ready to pack an item, do NOT check the box! That’s exactly how you leave your phone at home on the charger next to your bed. “But the box was checked!!!” you’ll say…

(Note: this rule actually goes for everything, not just essentials.)

If you’re notorious for leaving essentials at home, print an extra travel checklist just for those items and tape it to your front door the night before you leave. Make a promise that you can’t walk out without reviewing the list one final time.

Fold, Interfold, Bundle, or Roll?

Many people recommend rolling when packing your clothes. Image Credit: timur weber via Pexels

By now you’ve probably heard that old-fashioned folding isn’t the best method to use when it comes to packing, especially in tight cases. If you have the room to spare, virtually any of these methods will do.

Interfolding involves layering clothes on top of each other in a top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top format, then interweaving them as you fold them together. If you fold the items in accordance with the size of your suitcase, you’re left with a neat little bundle that will fit right in. Additionally, this style of folding will leave your clothing virtually wrinkle-free.

Bundle packing is very similar to interfolding, but you are tightly folding or wrapping your clothing items around a soft core (like a dopp kit, stack of underwear, cloth zippered jewelry bag, etc.). Bundle packing is also said to reduce wrinkles and save space.

Many people also recommend rolling when packing your clothes – at least for softer items and jeans. Again, this method tends to save room and reduce creasing in the process.

If none of the above methods are doing the trick and you don’t have the option of a hanging garment bag, it may be beneficial to learn the proper way to fold nicer items (like a dress shirt or suit coat) for the best results.

Pack liquids in secure bags.

Toiletries that can leak will leak. These should be placed in a plastic zippered bag or another secure bag of your choosing. Some travelers even encourage cutting small squares of plastic wrap to cover the opening between bottles and their lids in attempts to prevent further seepage.

Utilize shoe space when you can.

Rolled-up socks, belts, gloves, stocking caps, and other small items can easily fit into shoes (as long as they’re relatively clean and not smelly!). This also helps the shoe hold its shape throughout your travels. Rolled-up belts can also be used to keep a shirt collar stiff if needed.

Prevent dirty shoes from soiling clothes.

Pack them in a separate space or utilize plastic bags/shower caps to cover the bottoms and prevent dirtying the rest of your clothing. Have a delicate pair of dress shoes or heels? Pack them in their own bags if possible, or clean the bottoms and wrap with a durable garment.

Toss a dryer sheet into your suitcase to keep things smelling fresh.

While you’re at it, grab a stain pen or stain wipes for your carry-on. If you happen to spill on one of the only tops you’ve brought and don’t have laundry facilities, you’re cutting your number of outfits drastically. If you know you’ll have laundry facilities or need to wash your clothes by hand, you can purchase individual detergent packets.

Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on.

It’s wise to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. Image Credit: Anete Lūsiņa via Unsplash

By packing a change of clothes and undergarments in your carry-on, you’re covered for at least a day if your baggage gets delayed or lost. Some travelers may want to pack an extra pair of shoes just in case.

Similarly, if you’re heading to a beach locale, pack a swimsuit and sandals. If you have to wait to check into your hotel, you can head to the pool while the concierge keeps your luggage.

Keep expensive/irreplaceable items on your person.

As a general rule of thumb, you should leave irreplaceable items at home. This includes objects such as expensive jewelry and heirlooms. If you must travel with them, these items should be kept with you at all times. Do not trust them to be safe when placed in checked baggage; if your suitcase is lost, delayed, or stolen, you’re out of luck.

Similarly, if you must travel with official documents such as birth certificates or social security cards, check to see if a certified copy will suffice. Or maybe take a photo on your phone for less hassle. Otherwise, the same rule applies to these irreplaceable documents.

Follow the TSA 3-1-1 rule for liquids in carry-on baggage.

3 – Travelers may carry liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in containers of 3.4oz (100ml) or smaller.

1 – These items must fit into 1 clear plastic quart-sized bag.

1 – Only 1 bag per passenger is allowed.

Remove this bag from your carry-on and place it separately in the screening bin. This is meant to slightly expedite passing through security.

Apps for Packing Assistance

Apps can be useful for making packing lists. Image Credit: Packpoint

The following apps can be ultra helpful for those who prefer a mobile device to the standard pen and paper methods.

Evernote: While Evernote isn’t technically travel-oriented, it’s all about lists and can be a big help for packing. With Evernote, you can sync your packing list across all your devices, making it easy to keep track of things no matter where you are…even out at the store buying items from your list!

Evernote also enables sharing notes with others, which is especially helpful for group trips. Need reminders? No problem, you can set alerts in Evernote to keep you on top of your game.

This app is everything you ever wanted if you’re a list maker, and everything you didn’t know you needed if you’re a forgetful person. Packing Pro helps travelers get organized via packing lists. From templates and suggestions to customizable designs, Packing Pro has options for every type of traveler. Users are allowed an unlimited number of packing lists of an unlimited length, and you can even add images, alerts, and mark “need to buy” items.

It also has iCloud support and the ability to share your lists via email, AirDrop, Dropbox, etc. You can also export and edit your lists with Excel, Numbers, or Google Docs. If you’re the type that physically needs to cross things off, you can send directly to a printer too.

The Expert List-Making Assistant is a cool feature if you’re low-maintenance: it will take your parameters (number of people, destination, weather, etc.) and automatically create lists for you.

PackPoint’s purpose is to take the guesswork out of packing. The app pretty much tells you what to pack based on how long you’re traveling, where you’re going, the weather when you get there, and any activities you have planned (chosen from a pre-defined list in the app). With PackPoint Premium, users can connect to TripIt, share their lists across devices, and add customizable packing items/activities.

Travel List seems to have fewer bells and whistles. You can do many of the same things as with Packing Pro and PackPoint: create customizable packing lists, sync across your devices, share with other people, and create alerts/reminders. One nice component is their calendar view, which gives a different type of visualization that some people really prefer. And this one is compatible with Apple Watch, which can be a huge organizational perk.

This app keeps things simple for general to-do lists and is super easy to use. See your list’s percentage progress for a clear visual on how much you have left to do/pack before jetting off and set yourself reminders and share lists with your travel companions.

Apps for Itinerary Management

Travel itinerary apps are useful for keeping your information in one place. Image Credit: TripIt

The following apps are helpful for keeping all your travel information in one place. From flight itineraries to hotel confirmation, event tickets to dinner reservations, they’ve got you covered. Plus, this means fewer printed travel documents you need to worry about carrying with you.

In a nutshell, Google Trips seamlessly integrates reservations (flights, hotels, rental cars, etc.) from your Gmail and creates a specific “trip” in the app. These trips are like folders of information including some basic categories like Reservations, Things to Do, Saved Places, Day Plans, Food & Drink, Getting Around, and Need to Know.

It also provides opportunities for travel inspiration, traveler reviews, dining/drink options, and encyclopedic information on several hundred top cities and attractions around the globe.

Also good to note: when you download your trip, everything is available offline in case you’re stuck without WiFi or data.

Part of Kayak’s main app includes a platform called Trips, which acts as an itinerary management app to keep all your pertinent travel information together. With Trips, you can forward your booking confirmations to, where your itinerary is managed for you in a nice timeline format with maps and important info all on one screen.

Kayak Trips gives you the ability to send other people access to your travel plans through sharing options, link to your calendar app for planning consistency, and receive SMS and email flight alerts.

TripIt is one of the most popular travel organization apps on the market. The app automatically imports flight, hotel, rental car, and other booking confirmations (concert tickets from StubHub, dinner reservations from OpenTable, etc.) from your e-mail. If you don’t appreciate the e-mail scan, you can always forward your emails to or manually input all the information into the system.

TripIt then creates an itinerary in an easy-to-read format, including space for directions between airports, rental car pickup, and hotel details. TripIt also allows for calendar syncing and makes it easy to send your travel info to family/friends by sharing via text, Evernote, LinkedIn, Slack, or WhatsApp.

With TripIt Pro, users get real-time flight alerts, help to find alternative flights, an airline seat tracker for better seats, reward program points tracking, and interactive airport maps.

Before Leaving the House

In this section, we list some steps you might forget to take when you’re in a hurry to leave for vacation.

Remember to:

  • Download your travel resources (guidebooks, language apps, etc.)
  • Notify credit card companies of upcoming travel if required (international trips)
  • Set an email auto-responder if necessary
  • Take out the garbage
  • Check the washing machine for wet clothes
  • Check the dishwasher for dirty dishes
  • Turn off all lights and electronics
  • Set lighting timers
  • Water the plants
  • Drip taps (in cold climates where pipes could freeze)
  • Close/lock all doors and windows; pull all curtains
  • Set alarm system

For longer trips, don’t forget to:

  • Empty the refrigerator/pantry of perishable food
  • Unplug electronics
  • Put a hold on your mail
  • Consider having a friend check on your house from time to time

The Upgraded Points team is always jetting off somewhere and even we still have trouble packing sometimes!

However, if there’s one thing we’ve got down, it’s the Carry-On. Want to see what’s in our bags? Dig into our post that covers carry-on travel products we just can’t do without.

Additionally, if you’re interested in “the best of the best” travel products to up your packing game, check out these posts:

Lastly, if you’re looking for the top travel-related gifts, we’ve got you covered with our Best Gifts for Travelers.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Erin Miller

An experienced points hacker, Erin is Alex’s partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points with in-depth guides and relationship management. Erin’s work has been cited in multiple major publications.


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April 24, 2018

This is great! Just made a print out of this list. Thanks for all the suggestions!

Erin Miller

November 01, 2018

Glad you like it, James! 🙂


October 05, 2018

What is the best security device to travel with internationally if you only have carry-on luggage?

Stephen Au

October 08, 2018

Hey Jenny,

What do you mean by “security device”?

Lewis Johnson

October 29, 2018

Great! I’ll save this checklist for my next trip, make sure I don’t forget anything essential.

Stephen Au

October 29, 2018

Thanks for reading, Lewis! Be sure to follow us for more awesome content!


November 01, 2018

Great post, and very nice list to print out!

Alex Miller

November 01, 2018

Thank you! Glad you found it useful!

Veron Smith

November 11, 2018

Absolutely wonderful. I’ll save this checklist for my next trip.

Christine Krzyszton

November 12, 2018

Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words, Veron. Glad you found the information useful.

Dipak jadhav

November 16, 2018

Very, very helpful and impressive information shared by the author. As a traveller, I really loved it – absolutely. It’s one of the best articles for a traveling journey!

Kate Foster

February 20, 2019

I love this post – so useful and detailed! Rolling the clothes works best for me, but those printables look fantastic.


March 13, 2019

To me, checklists are essential when packing.

Brit on the Move

March 15, 2019

Wow, you learn something new every day! I never knew there was such a thing as a packing app. Now you’ve given me something else to dive in and research and test out. I’m curious if you have any insight into what’s more popular the printables or the apps or is it audience specific aka demographics? Thanks, Nikki

Erin Miller

March 17, 2019

Hey Nikki, glad you found this article helpful! There are definitely some helpful apps out there but in terms of what’s more popular, it just depends on the individual!

Some people love to have a piece of paper in-hand that they can physically check off, and some prefer a more techy approach, keeping everything on one small mobile device. It’ similar to some people preferring a true planner, address book or calendar, vs those that enjoy everything online! 🙂


May 19, 2019

Thank You.. just remembered my eye glasses and jacket at the last minute thanks to this site 😀

Erin Miller

May 21, 2019

You’re so very welcome Kirsten! We’re happy to have helped and hope you’ll share our packing list/tips with your friends & family! 🙂


May 20, 2019

Putting shoes in the shower cap is the ultimate tip.

Erin Miller

May 21, 2019

We love this one too – such a lifesaver in so many situations! 🙂 Thanks for reading John!


August 14, 2019

I can’t believe I read all the way through this to get your recommendation for prescription medicines, but the word “medicine” never appears in the article. Really?

Erin Miller

August 15, 2019

Hi GDF, we don’t propose to have prescription recommendations anywhere in this article so we’re a bit confused as to how you came to look for those recommendations here?

We are not affiliated with any medical organization, nor are any of the authors physicians… this is simply an article (related to travel) on the best ways to pack and a checklist so you don’t forget items when packing…


August 17, 2019

Possibly that person is inquiring about how to pack them? I’ve always heard “original containers” but that’s a bother when you are used to a daily-dose container.


September 26, 2019

I am only carrying a personal item on the plane (basic economy ticket) and was wondering if I would be charged a fee if I took a bag of snacks (fruit, bag of cracker jacks, pretzels, etc.).

Katie Seemann

September 26, 2019

Hi Norma,
If your bag of snacks is over your carry-on limit, you may be asked to put that bag in your other bag before you get on the plane. If you can’t do that, the airline could charge you. However, this will be up to the discretion of the gate agents so you may have no trouble at all.


November 16, 2019

Your check list is awesome – thanks for sharing!

Bobby B

June 12, 2021

Can I carry tripod on camera bag?

Jarrod West

June 14, 2021

Hi Bobby,

Yes, you should be permitted to carry that.

Frazier Conley

July 16, 2021

Good list. Make sure the refrigerator door is closed.

Sally Jenkins

October 08, 2021

I think the list is great. I would add binoculars. Also, I personally like to make currency conversion cheat sheets. I make a small card with US to local currency on one side and local to US on the reverse side. Easy to pull out of your pocket without having to find the app on a phone. Makes it a snap to see what your souvenir really costs!

Sally Jenkins

October 08, 2021

I guess we should add an extra face mask or 2, sanitizer wipes, small pack of tissues for carry on.


February 19, 2023

One way to relax and have fun is to travel. Traveling is usually expensive due to the cost of the ticket, but I enjoyed the business class flights to Bali and saved money that I used to pay for additional excursions and gifts for friends. Now I can travel more and expand my horizons because I always know where to look for cheap and convenient flights when I pack my luggage.


May 13, 2023

Thank u for a wonderful article.
I was reminded of Band-Aids & my hair-scunchies.

Nathaniel Ejeta

July 10, 2023

Thanks for the information you shared. I appreciate your efforts and taking the time and sharing this content.

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