How To Pack For An International Trip

I always read about people who pack an entire month’s worth of travel into a carry-on bag, and although part of me is impressed with how clever that is the rest of me is horrified at the thought of wearing the same thing over and over!
When people tell me they pack one black dress and the next day wear it with a blue scarf and hey presto! a whole new outfit! I always just think “no, you are wearing the same now dirty black dress with a blue scarf. No difference.”

I actually do work relatively hard to have items that mix and match and create lots of different outfits, based on a neutral palette, but that also bores me silly. There is this part of me that thinks a trip overseas is a major deal, and therefore I want to wear clothes that I love and feel happy in. And for me that tends to be bright colors that don’t necessarily mix and match. So how I pack everything becomes a little more important because even though I wear everything I take with me,  by most people’s standards it’s too much.

Buy a really good suitcase. 

I am clearly not a backpack or duffle girl, although when I first started traveling I would happily have been.
A couple of years ago I changed suitcases and bought a 25 inch Samsonite suitcase.
When you are shopping for suitcases look at the construction over all else. The shops are full of super lightweight cases, but most will crush if a heavy bag lands on them, which means anything breakable you have inside, will break. My Samsonite is relatively lightweight, but super sturdy. Find a Samsonite like mine on sale  here and similar suitcases on sale at The Container Store here.

Don’t buy black.

When you are standing at the baggage carousel after 10 hours flying and you are exhausted, watch how many black suitcases go swirling by you. They all look the same, which makes it easy for another weary traveler to pick up yours and head out into the world with it.
I bought a red suitcase, last year one of my travelers brought an orange one. They were easy to spot, and there were very few circling by us in the same colors.

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Get 360 degree wheels.

Sooooo crucial! The difference in maneuverability is incredible, and the decrease in stress on your back is worth its weight in gold!
This is another reason to buy a quality case though, because you want wheels that stay on and don’t break when your suitcase is being thown around by baggage handlers.
I found plenty of cool looking, chic cases that had flimsy looking wheels or cheap plastic wheels. Samsonite stands by their product and repairs any breakages, so should I have one at least they will fix it. My red suitcase has done multiple trans-world trips and so far nothing has broken.

Size matters.

I really can’t do anything smaller than a 25 inch case, but I definitely won’t go any bigger. I have friends that travel with a 23 inch, but that is too small for me. Always keep in mind how you are going to get your bag on and off the baggage carousel, and how you are getting it to and from where you are going. The bigger the bag, the more you will fill it.

Don’t use a hard case carry on bag.

This may sound odd. For years I used a hard-sided rolling carry-on bag. It was genius in the airport, right up until I got my suitcase off the carousel, at which point it was hell. Especially traveling in Europe where you are getting on and off trains, maneuvering along cobble stoned streets, and climbing stairs to get to your apartment.
I now use a soft carry-on, and as soon as I have my suitcase at baggage claim I put the carry-on inside it, leaving me with just one suitcase and my handbag. Frankly it is one of my best travel hacks ever!

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Roll your clothing.

My mother is a world traveler, and is super chic. She told me years ago to roll my clothes when I pack them to stop creasing and to maximize space. It took me a while to get on board with it, but now I roll all my clothes.

Use packing cubes.

This is the best thing ever, especially if you need clothes for different occasions and climates. I use the Eagle Creek packing cubes, and I have them in a variety of sizes. I compartmentalize clothes for different parts of each trip, or breakdown clothes into categories and have one cube for lingerie and swimwear, another for T-shirts and tanks, another for skirts and sundresses – you get the picture. It makes travel so much easier. 
I also have a small cube that I use for all my chargers and electronic gadgetry. I always know where everything is, and I never have to rifle through a suitcase to find anything.
I always pack a cube with three days worth of outfits and necessities in case my suitcase doesn’t arrive with me. Again it keeps everything super organized.

I bought my Eagle Creek packing cubes at The Container Store.

FYI The Container Store has a travel sale on right now, which would have been perfect timing for me, except that I already have everything. Except for maybe one of these Tab Messenger Seat Back Organizers. They look pretty cool.

The Container Store

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  1. Margina Myers
    June 26, 2023 / 2:42 pm

    I’m not clear on your luggage suggestion. You say you take a 25″ hardside which one has to check but you also take a soft carry-on and if I understand, you put it INSIDE your hard suitcase upon landing which equals 1 bag to maneuver. Am i right? I think then you have an empty suitcase to pack for trip home. You are initially only packing the carry-on, right?

    • Corinna B
      July 2, 2023 / 9:35 am

      I updated my luggage since this post. I now travel with the Away Luggage medium suitcase. I either use their Everywhere bag as a carry-on, or more recently have been using a small wheeled carryon. Most of the airports I use have very long walks to the gate (LAX, Dallas, Newark, Rome) and I started finding I needed a wheeled carry-on as the other one became too heavy to carry for so far. I don’t like wheeling 2 bags so I got one that can sit on top of the suitcase with a strap across the back that slides over the suitcase handle. This way I am only wheeling one bag.
      Also, the Away suitcase has been amazing. I’ve had it for about 6 years now and because I travel all the time it is in constant use. It is holding up really well!

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