Shopping·7 min read

What to Buy to Stay Organized if You’re an Overpacker

how to pack
Design: theSkimm | Photos: Calpak, Amazon, Baggu
February 8, 2024

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I’m about to give a pretty hot take: You can check an overpacked bag when flying and still be an efficient, organized traveler. I’m sure all the carry-on loyalists are scoffing as I speak, but hear me out. I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for two and a half years. Sometimes I’m away for up to a month at a time. And typically, I’m flying about every other month. I can’t help but to need 👏my 👏 stuff 👏— especially when it comes to sharing a space with a boy. So if you overpack, travel a ton, and despise packing like I do, keep reading for some handy tips and a list of my dependable must-haves. Stress-free organization for the win.

Some tips to start

  • Buy long-lasting products. While some of my travel gear has been investment pieces, everything has lasted for nearly 10 years.

  • Your suitcase choice matters. If you really want to maximize your space, go for one made of a flexible material so you can fit more.

  • Assess your beauty routines. While I’m traveling with some full-sized products since I’m away for longer, I still aim to keep my routine as streamlined as possible. I travel with medium-sized shampoo and conditioner, medium-sized cleanser, and mini versions of makeup and skincare. TLDR, assess the products you use the most. Those are the ones you might want to travel with full-sized. Anything with minimal usage can be kept at home or brought as travel sizes.

  • Travel with a backpack. You can store more and evenly distribute the weight on your shoulders for extra comfort.

  • How you overpack your clothes matters. My cousin is a master packer and she’s taught me that playing Tetris with packing cubes is a must. I also love the method of laying everything flat.

  • Wear your chunkiest shoes on the plane, if you can swing it. I’m mainly thinking about ankle boots, sneakers, Uggs, etc. If it feels unrealistic to wear the bulkiest shoes you chose on your flight, they probably aren’t worth packing.

  • Create a capsule wardrobe. Prioritize minimally designed items so you can easily mix and match your clothing.

  • Bring valuables in your personal bag. Like contacts, glasses, jewelry, and important medications and documents.

  • Invest in an Apple AirTag for easy tracking. More on this later.

The travel products that keep me sane


A suitcase with a flexible exterior…

I’ve had my Lipault suitcase for about eight years and it has been so worth the investment. It’s made of a flexible nylon shell, so it’s easy to fit a lot, while keeping things lightweight. It also has four double wheels with a 360-degree spin. Plus, the zipper is strong with all the packing I do. ($325, Lipault)

Buy it

Compression packing cubes…

For overpackers, packing cubes with compression zippers are a must. I bought this six-piece set for my trip to Iceland and they kept everything compact and organized. This set comes with two large cubes, two small ones, a tube cube (which I love for socks), and a laundry bag. ($49.95, Amazon)

Buy it

An Apple AirTag to track my suitcase…

If you haven’t purchased an AirTag yet, this is your sign to do so. It’ll connect to your phone so you can track any personal belongings via the Find My app, which operates on a precision-finding, ultra-wideband network. That way, you can track your bag as you’re boarding and deplaning – without having to rely on a spotty airline app. I keep mine inside a suitcase pocket, but you can also buy luggage tag holders for them. ($24, Amazon)

Buy it

An easy-to-clean toiletry bag…

This clear bag from Calpak is spacious, even in its small size, while still allowing me to fit everything I need. It has a secure carrying handle, two zippered compartments, and a water-resistant lining for any inevitable spillage. ($75, Calpak)

Buy it

A bestselling backpack that’s perfect for storing underneath a seat…

Another essential that’s lasted me for years: this Kanken backpack from Fjällräven. It has a laptop compartment and a just-right rectangular shape that fits seamlessly under most plane seats. If I’m bringing a little more, I’ve found that I can fit the backpack and a small tote (see below) underneath. It’s spacious, made of a canvas, and comes in countless colors. I bought the strap pads for added support and they’ve been well worth it. ($59.85+, Amazon)

Buy it

A reusable tote bag that folds up…

I keep one of these in my backpack at all times when I travel – just in case I need a little bit of extra room. This one from Baggu folds into a corresponding square pouch. It’s made of a thin, rip-resistant nylon. Because of that, it’s easy to squish underneath a seat without being bulky. ($14, Baggu)

Buy it

A collapsible water bottle…

I love to stay hydrated on the go without having to lug a heavy travel tumbler around (which I’ve done before and it’s the worst). This one is dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and also works with warm water. ($19.95, Amazon)

Buy it

The portable charger I won’t stop raving about…

It’s under $10, super sleek, and constantly gets the job done. Plus, it comes in bright shades so it’s always easy to spot. I keep one in a pouch along with other important cords and chargers. ($8.98, Walmart)

Buy it

A Kindle since I’m a binge-reader…

I’m constantly wanting to travel with my books and I like to have options, which means I don't want to add weight to my suitcase with hard copies. If you travel a lot, a Kindle is majorly worth the investment. You can predownload a few options before your trip to have for the flight – and if you get through those, as long as you have Wi-Fi at your destination, you can always add more. And the built-in reading light? A must. ($139.99+, Amazon)

Buy it

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