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10 Habits of Lightning Fast Packers

lightning fast packing habits

The following guest post has been submitted by Allison Parker.

Maybe you wait until the night before to pack for a big trip, or end up running too many last-minute errands on the way to the airport. 

Over the past few months, after almost missing flights and trains over packing snafus, I’ve honed in on ways to improve the packing process

Now, I can proudly say I can pack for a week’s vacation in a matter of minutes, simply by adopting the following habits.And, by adopting some (or all) of the following habits, you can also become a lightning fast packer.

1. Become a planner.

plan your trip and your packing in advance
Plan your trip and your packing list well in advance.

The more detailed your travel itinerary in advance of your trip, the better. A week before your trip, make a list of each piece of clothing that will correspond with each day’s activity.

In the event that you realize you aren’t prepared, you have enough time to shop for those hiking boots or fleece leggings you forgot you needed.

Create a Master Packing List

Use a packing checklist to make packing a breeze.
Use a packing checklist to make packing a breeze.

There are so many packing lists available online, but we find having our own personal packing list is always the best!

We have a huge database of packing lists for every kind of travel and destination that you can look into to get you started.

Of course, every person is still different, so it’s still advisable that you create your packing list with the items that are important for your own needs and comfort.

You can download our packing checklist template that you can easily customize for any kind of trip that you are going on.

Start with a base packing list: the most essential items you must-have for a particular trip and build around it. Put these items on the top of your list so you are sure to pack them all for every trip.

After every trip, evaluate your list and take out the items that you didn’t need or use and list down the items that you found yourself missing while you were away.

2. Think in color palettes.

choose your travel wardrobe color palette
Choose your travel wardrobe color palette for easy packing.

Choosing a color palette ahead of time prevents you from packing clothes you won’t end up wearing. 

If you are going on a fun tropical getaway, you may want to pack clothes with warm colors (reds, yellows, and purples) such as colorful sundresses and fun wedges. 

For business travel, neutrals (beige, black, white) are key. When attempting to pack in record speed, choosing a color palette helps you focus on only those pieces in your wardrobe, cutting the options significantly before even starting.

3. Regularly investigate clothing for rips, tears, and stains.

mending clothes before a trip
Mending a favorite shirt just before a trip is not going to help you pack quickly.

Examining each piece of clothing on your packing list ahead of time is crucial. Going through clothes that are torn or stained at the last minute can dramatically slow down the packing process.

4. Focus on necessary items first.

pack the essentials for your vacation first
Pack the essentials for your vacation first.

Ensure “can’t live without” items are at the top of the packing list so they are the first to be checked off.

For example, contacts and prescriptions are often items that cannot be purchased at the last minute.

5. Keep up with your laundry.

do you laundry in advance for easier packing
Do your laundry in advance.

In order to avoid spending the night searching for that coveted blouse crumpled up at the bottom of your laundry basket, stay organized by keeping up with your laundry on a regular basis. 

The last thing you want to do the night before a big trip is spend hours pushing quarters into a washing machine. 

A few days before your trip, set aside the clothes you plan to bring so you won’t be tempted to wear them.

6. Survey your toiletries basket.

restock your toiletries after your last trip
Restock your toiletries immediately after your last trip.

Don’t waste time running around the house trying to find that small bottle of shampoo you swear you saw just last week. 

Designate an area for your travel toiletries. This can be a basket in a bathroom cabinet or simply a small drawer. 

Making note of the toiletries you already have can prevent that last minute Target run the night before your trip.

Better yet, replace travel toiletries after a trip so you are always fully stocked and ready to go!

7. Pack in increments.

pack for your vacation
Pack ahead of time in sections.

Instead of gazing into an empty suitcase a mere few hours before you head to the airport, try to set aside just fifteen minutes a night to pack a week leading up to your trip.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly everything comes together.

8. Charge electronics the night before travel.

charge your electronics the night before travel
Make sure your electronics are fully charged.

How many times have you walked out the door only to find your phone was on low battery? Waiting for your smartphone or iPad to charge can drastically add to your packing time.

Charge essential items the night before your trip, and if you can, shut them off while sleeping so the battery is fully charged when you wake up.

9. Avoid traveling with a duffel bag.

avoid packing a duffel bag
Avoid packing a duffel bag.

It’s second nature to double-check your bag for your favorite pair of boots or swimsuit before leaving. 

Duffel bags are a headache when trying to find something quickly and are a pain to lug around on your shoulder.

Or, compartmentalize your belongings into packing cubes or compressions sacks so you know exactly where certain items can be found.

10. Designate a space in your luggage for your most important items.

designate space in your luggage for necessary items

Being super organized during the packing process means having a special place for your most precious cargo, such as a passport, keys, wallet, or that special family heirloom. 

The worst thing you could possibly do is toss all of these items haphazardly in the bottom of your suitcase or backpack. Put these items in a small, zipped compartment so they are accessible yet don’t move around very easily. 

The last thing you want is to be frantically fishing through your entire packing list worth of gear thinking you’ve lost your passport when you should be on your way to the airport!

It’s tempting to wait until the night before to pack and get everything organized, but that doesn’t usually allow for a quick and easy task.

Before your next trip, implementing at least one of these points into habit will save you time, and perhaps even have you packing lightning fast.

The Real Secret of Lightning Fast Packers

Aside from the tips here the best way to be a lightning fast packer is to pack less

It makes perfect sense: the less things you need to bring, the faster you can get done with your packing.

Here are some nifty articles you can read up on to be a lightning fast packer:

What are some of your habits that help you pack in record time?

About the author: A southern girl at heart, Allison Parker is a 20-something writer embarking on a new life in Chicago. A travel fanatic, tech nerd, and celebrity junkie, she is the editor of her blog, alli in the city, narrating her travels across the globe. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Travel Resources

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Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Kendra says

    Great tips! But I don’t understand people who wait until the last minute to pack. I’m usually so excited to go that I’m packed way before I need to be.

  2. Dianne says

    More tips:

    )) Keep toiletries refilled and packed at all times, including your 3-1-1 ziplock

    )) Keep pajamas, robe, underwear, bras, and socks packed in packing cubes

    You already mentioned another really good rule: pack ahead of time

    • Allison says

      Thanks for the additional tips Dianne! That is smart…keeping your pajamas, bras, etc. organized ahead of time keeps you from having to rummage around in your drawer at the last minute!

    • PirateFoxy says

      I do as Dianne does, after too many frequent last minute trips into the hospital with my mom or similar. I just keep two toiletries bags packed – one of larger size items for car and other trips without size restrictions (not normal sized bottles, but not within the airline limits either) and the other of airline safe sizes. Depending on how I’m traveling and how long I’ll be gone, I just throw one or the other into my bag and done. I even keep a spare toothbrush in each one in case I forget or don’t want to take the time to properly pack my Sonicare brush.

      I do the same thing with common electronics items that aren’t too expensive to have duplicates of – like there’s a phone charger that just lives in one pocket of my most used bag, I only use it when away from home. My camera bag doesn’t have duplicate batteries (too expensive) but it does have an extra transfer cable for connecting my camera to my laptop if I need to, and a spare memory card with nothing on it. (If you’re really into photography, I do recommend getting something like a small portable hard drive or large flash drive to take with you also – that way even if you don’t have internet access you can still back up your photos and be less likely to lose one of a kind photos. Even with internet access, I back up twice – to my drive and to the ‘cloud’.)

  3. Clariza says

    Check your bags and luggage ahead of time too. On one trip, I learned at the airport that my beloved Pacsafe travel bag had a broken zipper. I not only had to throw it away (too heavy to carry throughout France), I had to spend a lot of money buying a replacement that did not have near the security features my Pacsafe had. If I had checked the bag ahead of time I could have checked on getting it repaired or replaced and/or bought a new one. Instead, I had the stress of a less than secure feeling with the travel bag I bought and spent quit a bit more than what a new Pacsafe bag would have cost.

  4. k lipton says

    My husband and I travel outside to the US frequently. I usually know about upcoming trips several months in advance. About one month in advance I start picking out things I want to take and laying them across or in my suitcase. One week before I will go threw it all and pick out what I want to bring. Has worked out well for last ten years.
    If we go to an underprivileged country I will often bring clothes that I no longer want, wear them one last time on the trip and donate them when I leave.

  5. Amber says

    My husband and I are planning a late September trip to Ireland and since I already knew that was in the works back in early Spring, I planned ahead: Instead of putting ALL our winter clothes and cold weather gear into storage, I packed a suitcase 5 months early! I’m sure we won’t take everything I packed, but now I don’t have to go rooting through our storage to find sweaters and long underwear!

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