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Unpacking After a Trip in 5 Easy Steps

Not too long ago I asked our community what their least favorite part of travel is, and in return I got a number of different and understandable responses. Flying in cramped economy class, jetlag and packing are all common gripes when it comes to taking adventures, but I was definitely surprised when several mentioned that the act of unpacking after a trip is their top pick.

Unpacking doesn’t have to be a big drama. These five steps can help you clear out your luggage quickly after a trip.

1. Place Luggage in External Location

Before you go hauling that luggage into the middle of your living room or bedroom, drop it off in a more “quarantined” area such as a balcony, garage or foyer. It might seem a bit OTT, but the last thing you want to be bringing back from a holiday are bed bugs. After having come across bed bugs on previous travels, I just don’t mess around these days.

2. Take ALL Clothes Directly to Laundry

I know most people will want to put any unworn clothes back in their closet, but I beg to differ. First off, if the clothes have been cooped up in your luggage for days, especially with the occasional dirty item, they probably need freshening. Secondly, if you pack a proper basic wardrobe, you will most likely end up wearing everything you brought!

Oh, and let’s not forget about the idea of bringing back bed bugs. Ew.

The best course of action is to just put all your clothes into a plastic bag and drop it in the laundry room or laundry basket immediately. You can wash them later, but at least for now they are unpacked.

3. Drop Toiletries Bag in Bathroom

Again, you don’t have to completely unpack the bag itself, just put it near where the items inside will be used next so you can unpack as you go. I usually just place the toiletries bag on the side of the sink, and then when I take my next shower, I place my shampoo and conditioner bottles in there in order to use up the extra travel supply. Once they are finally emptied, I store my travel bottles with my travel gear.

The same goes for my medical kit and electronics bag. When I first arrive home, I simply place the entire compartmentalized bag in their respective areas of the house so I can get my luggage unpacked sooner.

4. Place Loose Items in Public Place

I’m referring to all the random items that have accumulated in your luggage, such as pamphlets, souvenirs and knick knacks. I like to place them on one side of my dining table so they are technically unpacked but in a location where I will eventually have to put them away properly later. If I place these items in a bag of their own then chances are they will stay there hiding for a very long time in a random corner of the room.

5. Investigate, Clean and Store Luggage

Now that you’ve emptied your luggage, you can start to investigate the seams and crevices for any signs of the dreaded bed bugs, or just some good old dirt and sand. Clean the luggage according to the manufacturer’s instructions if necessary before storing away.

There you have it. A simple way to unpack after a trip so you don’t have that suitcase or backpack sitting in the corner of your living room for 2 months post-travel!

unpacking after a trip

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Vladyta says

    Girl you are speaking my language, especially the point about bed bugs. They are a real problem around the world which is why I check beds and mattresses at every place we stay at. However, not everyone understands my fear of them. Most of the time when I voice out my bed bug concerns/give advice to my friends and family they look at me as if I just told them I am scared of ghosts. Bed bugs are a nasty problem, expensive to get rid of and a nerve wracking experience to live through. Yuck.

  2. GlamourousTraveller says

    Good tips! I’ve never even thought about bad bugs coming into the house.

    I tend to unpack as soon as I come home, even if it means just moving group of items into their designated locations (no need to actually put everything away just yet).

    I find it much easier to deal with (and more like home) if you don’t have a suitcase left outside nagging you to be unpacked

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