15 Most Common Packing Mistakes – What To Do Instead

Having traveled to 19 countries, I know that some packing mistakes could potentially make your travel experience harder. I also know how much more enjoyable traveling or flying is when everything, including packing, goes smoothly. Here’s a list of the 15 most common packing mistakes (in my opinion) and what to do instead. This is not based off of facts but my own experience and thoughts.

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1. Packing white clothes and patterns

Vacation often means no washer, or maybe just holding off until you’re back home. However, if your suitcase is filled with mostly white and bright clothes, the chance of staining them grows significantly. I’m not suggesting you leave behind all your colorful clothes; just be smart and pack a mix of dark and bright ones to play it safe.

It’s also better to not bring clothes with patterns. Stick to basics and versatile clothing and you will find yourself with way more different outfit options!

2. Packing last minute

No rocket science here – packing last minute often leads to overpacking. The anxiety kicks in, and suddenly, everything “just in case” makes its way into your bag. Skip the last-minute rush! You’re aiming for a chill and exciting departure, not a stressful one. It’s an unnecessary stress booster, and you definitely don’t need that. Keep that bag spacious for the things you’ll actually use.

3. Overpacking

Overpacking, especially with clothes you normallyd don’t use at home, creates a mess both in your luggage and your travel experience. That extra pair of jeans or those three additional shirts might seem like a good idea, but chances are you’ll stick to your favorites. Not only does this make finding things a daily scavenger hunt, but it also adds unnecessary weight to your bag.

Think about it: do you really need five different outfits for a two-day trip? Bringing clothes you won’t wear not only clutters your suitcase but also makes it harder to stay organized. Simplify your choices, stick to versatile pieces, and you’ll find that packing light not only lightens your load but also makes dressing up during your trip a breeze. If you by any chance don’t have enough altermativs, it’s always possible to buy things at your destination.

4. Packing without packing cubes

If you don’t use packing cubes, I can guarantuee you won’t have as much space in your luggage as when you do. You will also not be able to stay as organized.

Packing cubes are a game-changer for anyone who wants to travel smart and stay organized. First off, they act like your suitcase’s personal assistants, creating designated spaces for different types of items. Your clothes, toiletries, and accessories each get their own little territory, so you’re not left with a mess when you unzip your bag.

Which ones to choose? I recommend these ones, I have used them on all of my trips the last couple of years and they still feel just like new! Here’s an example of what it looked like on my last trip.

5. Failing to roll clothes

I never travel without rolling my clothes, and if I do, my bag always gets messy, fast. You should roll your clothes since it maximizes the space in your bag and also help minimize wrinkles! Besides, I think it makes it so much easier to see and access your items without making a big mess. Perfect for vacation when you don’t want to spend too much time looking for specific things!

6. Not taking a copy of your passport

I recommend keeping a copy of your passport at all times. In case you lose it, it’s crucial for obtaining a new one. It’s also handy for activities like car rentals, where you can leave the copy, keeping your physical passport secure. Additionally, some tourist attractions may require your passport, so having a copy is without a doubt beneficial.

7. Packing bulky items

Avoid packing bulky items in your bag—wear them on the flight instead! This not only saves space but also keeps you warm, especially considering the sometimes cold temperatures in airports and during flights.

8. Not bringing a pen

I recommend carrying a pen in your bag while traveling. Keep it easily accessible, since you may need it on the plane. Some countries require forms to be filled out before entry, and having it done before landing can make the process a lot smoother.

9. Putting the heavy things up top

If you put the heavy things up top, it’s going to push everything else down and make it unorganized, less balanced and might damage your more fragile things. Always try to pack the heavy items at the bottom of your bag or suitcase.

9. Bringing heavy liquids and not securing them

This is a big no-no. Whether you’re traveling with checked luggage or opting for a carry-on only, it’s best to avoid bringing heavy liquids. If you check in a bag, these liquids take up space that you might later need for shopping or souvenirs when returning home. Additionally, they pose the risk of leaking or breaking. Is the convenience of your go-to toiletries worth the potential mess?

When traveling carry-on only, heavy liquids are a definite no-go due to airport security size restrictions. Plus, they’ll significantly weigh down your bag. You might also want to consider getting refillable travel sized perfume bottles like these ones.

That’s why I recommend using these leakproof travel bottles. They offer the flexibility to bring your favorite toiletries without the worry of spills or breakage! Personally, I often buy items like shampoo and conditioner at my destination, unless I bring a shampoo bar. It takes some time to get used to, but it’s definitely worth the effort!

Another great advice if you want to pack light: use these makeup eraser towels instead of normal makeup remover. I’ve used them for years since the only thing you need to remove your makeup is this towel and water! A game-changer when traveling!

10. Not checking weather forecast

Forgetting to check the weather before packing for your trip is a recipe for problems. You might end up with the wrong clothes, either sweating in the heat or freezing in the cold. Not knowing what to expect can lead to overpacking or, on the flip side, forgetting important stuff.

So, do yourself a favor: check the weather, pack smart, and make your trip a breeze!

11. Not labeling luggage

One time I ended up losing my luggage when flying back home to Europe from the U.S. My flight was delayed for 8 hours which, long story short, made me miss my connection and as a result, my bag got lost somewhere in between. However, I acutally got it back! Two weeks later it was delivered to my home, all thanks to me labeling the bag. If I wouldn’t have done that, I doubt I would have gotten it back.

While no one wants to plan for losing their luggage, choosing or forgetting to put a luggage tag on is risky. Labeling your luggage is crucial for easy identification in case it goes missing.

If you want to spend less money, I would recommend luggage tags like these ones. Always put one on the outside of your luggage and one on the inside. If you want to stay 100% sure of where your luggage is, an Airtag might be the better option. You can get one here.

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12. Leaving valuables in checked luggage 

The number one biggest mistake I did when losing my luggage was putting all my valuables in it, including all my summer clothing and makeup. Even worse was that I was leaving for vacation to Greece two days later with no bikini and barely any summer clothing… I had to buy most stuff when arriving, so I ended up fine, but it’s still something I’d rather avoid.

Always pack the things you don’t want to lose in your carry-on, just to be sure.

13. Packing a normal towel

If you haven’t already started using a microfiber towel when traveling, this is your call to do so. Once again, wanna save space? Get a microfiber towel and you will end up with a lot more space than when you bring a normal towel! You can also use it as a blanket on flights or at airports. This one is a great option.

14. Choosing a normal water bottle

Normal water bottles are often hard to pack and take up a lot of precious space. The solution? A foldable one! I think it is such a cool and smart invention to be able to fold your water bottle when empty, not only for traveling but also everyday life. Here’s a link of one I think is a good choice.

15. Forgetting to double check essentials

Believe me or not, but it’s easy to think you packed everything including the most essential items, like passport, headphones and wallet, and then forgetting to double check.

Hopefully you will feel more ready after reading this! I’m sure you‘ll do great.

Lastly, if you want a recommendation for a carry-on bag that also works as a personal item, THIS bag is the absolute best. I used it on my 8 day trip to Spain last year and I fit way more than you can imagine, and it still fit under the seat in front of me. If you want to read more about it, you can read this blog post How To Pack For 8 days in ONE Personal Item.