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Pack Like a Pro

You’ve been planning your magnificent adventure for forever and the only obstacle that stands between you and your exciting locale is a tiny little bag…that you must fit everything into. Trust me, I’ve been there. For when it was time to fit my life and extravagant travel plans for over four months abroad into two small bags, broken zippers, sitting (re: jumping) on my bags, and essentially sheer chaos ensued. When the fateful weigh in came, I held my breath as the scale went up and up. As it rose slightly over the 50 pound cut off, I quickly pulled a couple inches off the scale when a rogue toddler distracted the woman checking me in. 49.2 pounds. This Collegiette was, in a word, desperate. But, not anymore! With so many weekend trips abroad, strict airline regulations, metros, buses, and miles of walking are part of the status quo. Having a bag that weighs you down simply is not an option so knowing how to pack is an integral part of being able to breeze through security and efficiently travel. With these packing tips you’re sure to pack like a pro and start your adventure out right.
Before: If you’ve been planning your getaway for a while, I am sure you have the most elaborate plans of everything that “could” happen; which means your wardrobe must be equally elaborate. That perfect sparkly blue dress that you’ll wear when a gorgeous Italian man whisks you off to a ball, that straw fedora you’ll wear on your boat trip in Turkey, those sky high neon heels you are sure will be essential on your night out in Panama. Abroad is full of surprises, but these non-essential items should be the first to go as you can always buy items once there!

  • Make a List: I have long tried to make lists of everything I am putting in my bag so I get a general idea of how much I am bringing, but somewhere around “four pairs of shorts” and “three bikinis” I just start throwing in extras. If this works for you, by all means make your color-coded, intricate list. I prefer to make a list of the outfits I will need each day…that way I know exactly what I’m wearing so I don’t pack anything additional.
  • Be Prepared: Make sure that you have everything you need to make traveling easier. Put all of your 3 oz. or less liquids in a quart Ziploc bag at the top of your carry-on so you can have easy access to it going through security. Buy small bottles for your toiletries, like this travel set from Sephora. Finally, the infomercial famous Space bags will give you 25% more space, are reusable, and really work!  
  • Think Ahead: Check out the weather before you leave. If it predicts rain, pack a small umbrella…not your Hunter rain boots. Leave room in your bags for clothes, souvenirs, and delicacies bought on vacation. Also check the TSA and specific airline regulations for baggage well in advance, as they change constantly.

During: This is the part where clothes start flying, your heart starts beating faster, and you’re using just about anything to close that bag. It’s going to be okay. Just put the hammer down and step away from the suitcase.

  • Stop: Stop trying to fit the world in your bag. I’ve tried to give my best Mary Poppins rendition but the fact is that my Longchamp does not hold the same magic as the Mary Poppins purse and the world is just slightly too big for a carry-on.
  • Drop: All the extras. Be practical. Those stilettos may look great with that dress, but if your not being picked up by a limo and need to walk 15 minutes to get to the club they simply aren’t worth it.  Pack sensibly. Packing clothes that you can wear again and that go with multiple outfits is smart and space saving. Big scarves can triple as a beach wrap and a shawl for if it gets cold at night. A pair of leggings is great travel wear and will come in handy for an impromptu hike or run.
  • Roll: If space, not weight is your issue, “rolling” is a great option. This is a technique I learned from my mother. If your not using space-saver bags take clothes like tees and pjs and fold then roll them in order to leave more space for all those non-essentials. This will also ensure that your clothes are less wrinkly …but don’t roll pants or jackets as that will leave less room; lay them flat on the bottom of the bag.


  • Repeat: Do the exact same routine when packing to go home. If you’re feeling utterly depressed about leaving, here’s a tip. Take a small something home with you. I like to pack an empty spray bottle when I go on a beach vacation and fill it with ocean water before departing. You’ll have a little piece of the beach when you head back home and gorgeous beach waves as well!
  • The Souvenir Trick: If your suitcase is weighed down with items bought while away (that “fill in the blank” you just had to have) then try this. Bring your souvenirs in a plastic bag as a carry-on through security, then buy something small in the airport and ask for a bag from the shop. Though most budget airlines won’t allow more than one carry-on, they will allow anything purchased in the airport through the gates. Happy souvenir shopping!

When you really feel like you can’t sacrifice anything else and have reached the point of desperation, just pile on all your heaviest clothes. You might be sweating like a monkey through security but when you step off that plane, shedding those layers will feel amazing and you’ll be excited you brought those items you couldn’t sacrifice. Yes, even with these rules you will pack too much. Remember that your confidence is what makes the clothes amazing so whatever you pack you will look fabulous. One of my favorite travel quotes is, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”—Lao Tzu. So, get ready to tackle that suitcase in front of you because Collegiettes, that is your first step. 

Sarah Dubow graduated from school in 2013 and is a Digital Strategist at Marina Maher Communications in New York City. After serving as Campus Correspondent at Bucknell University, she is so excited to continue being a part of the Her Campus team! Besides traversing the city and trying to figure out what being a "real person" really means, Sarah loves long walks on the beach, sipping pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain (kidding!). Real favorites include traveling, writing, kickboxing, and making up ridiculous lyrics to the latest songs. She absolutely loves anything that involves cupcakes, butterflies, glitter, and anything Parisian and specializes in baking with far too much chocolate and obsessively watching shows bound to be cancelled after the first season. Though the long term path for this post-grad collegiette remains unclear, she's looking forward to all the new 20-something adventures that await her!   
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