Ma’am, your suitcase is too heavy. You have to take out 4 pounds” And there I was, in line at the international check in with a long line of angry people behind me, waiting impatiently to check their own bags in. This was my travel nightmare, opening my suitcase in front of the world, trying to figure out what I could pull out and somehow fit into my bulging carry on bag. I could feel my face burning red, I wanted to cry and I was close to panicking.

This was ten years ago, and I have learned a lot about packing like a pro since that horrible day.

Whether you are traveling across the country for the holidays or across the world for a vacation you can make your trip much easier by packing like a pro.

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how to pack a suitcase like a pro. Best travel tips for planning and packing a suitcase

How To Pack A Suitcase Like A Pro

1. It Starts With The Right Suitcase.

You many need to replace your old, worn suitcase with a new, modern one. Modern suitcases are built light so you’re not wasting unnecessary weight on the suitcase itself. They tend to have compartments divided off, compression straps and 360 degree wheels. Look for one with 360 degree wheels that are slightly inline – if they stick out too far they are more likely to break off.

Size Matters

I used to travel with a 29 inch suitcase (why???) but now have the Away Medium which is approximately 25 inches, 26 if you include the wheels. The bigger the suitcase the more likely you are to overfill it. My travel rule is if it doesn’t fit in a 25 inch case it’s not coming. The End.

RELATED POST: 7 ESSENTIALS YOU CAN’T TRAVEL WITHOUT

2. Use Packing Cubes

These have proven to be a lifesaver for me! I have been using the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes for the past few years and like them better than any others. Their sizing is perfect, they are well constructed and their fabrics don’t hold and trap smells. You won’t want to pack clean clothes into packing cubes that hold the smell of well worn socks and dirty laundry!

I find them invaluable because I always know where everything is. I use one for sleepwear and undergarments, another for tops, another for bottoms etc. I even have a narrow one for all my electronic attachments – computer chargers, phone chargers, adaptors, spare cords. This means I never lose anything and never have to tear my suitcase apart looking for anything.

If I have a special event and have separate clothes for it, they stay in their own cube. If I have to pack for different climates I use separate cubes for each.

The great thing is they fit together seamlessly inside my suitcase. It is incredibly efficient.

On international trips I always pack clothes for 3 days into my carry on. Inside one packing cube I can roll everything I need and slip it into my bag, nice and easy!

I bought the blue Eagle Creek Packing Cubes at The Container Store. I started with the 3 piece set and have since added more pieces.  I also found the starter set on Amazon: Eagle Creek Pack It Cube Set at Amazon.com

3. Mix And Match

Planning your travel wardrobe is essential. Ideally pack 4 or 5 tops for each set of bottoms, and have them all (or almost all) mix and match. Sticking to a simple color palette with interchangeable pieces makes everything really easy. I like to plan my outfit for each day so that I’m not caught out with nothing to wear. I also find this helps eliminate excess items.

Keep heavy and bulky items to a minimum. Jeans, sweaters, coats take up lots of room and can weigh a lot. Good planning will cancel out “just in case” items. You don’t need them!

4. Two Pairs Of Shoes

It took me ages to get on board with this one, but once I started planning my outfit for each day away it became quite easy.

Of course you have to have the right shoes for specific events, such as hiking/beaching/going to a ball, but most of the time we only need two pairs.

I don’t count flip flops as one of my pairs, but I do plan on one pair of shoes that I can walk in all day and one pair of sandals in the summer or boots in the winter, and I make sure they work with everything I’m bringing. This folds in nicely with that streamlined color palette!

RELATED POST: THE BEST SHOES FOR EUROPE THIS WINTER

5. Choose Travel Friendly Fabrics

This is so important! You need to pack fabrics that breathe, don’t require dry-cleaning and aren’t high maintenance. Nothing that requires lots of ironing, nothing that makes you sweat, nothing that holds smells. In summer look for cottons and linens (although linen crushes quickly). Also look for modal, an “artificial silk” that breathes, is luxurious but hard wearing. You can wash modal over and over and it doesn’t pill up, fade or shrink. It is the perfect travel fabric.

Warmth Doesn’t Have To Mean Bulk

You don’t need bulky clothes to stay warm. You can find very fine merino wool pieces that keep you super warm but are still lightweight. Last winter I traveled in Europe with the Ibex Shae Dress in black. It is only slightly thicker than a t-shirt fabric, but was super warm.


I discovered Ibex dresses via Travel Fashion Girl. They make dresses for all seasons, and they even have merino dresses for summer!

Ridge Merino makes really fine merino base layers that keep you warm without adding bulk.

Merino is fantastic for travel. It is antimicrobial, odor resistant, quick drying and temperature regulating. It is also soft, doesn’t itch and rolls down beautifully so it needs very little space.

6. Roll It!

The very best way to pack your clothes is to roll them. It gives you much more space and for the most part stops wrinkling. My mom who has been an avid traveler her whole life taught me how to roll clothes when packing. I always marveled at how she had so many outfits in one medium sized suitcase, and nothing came out wrinkled! Endlessly chic, she is also incredibly glamorous and has never sacrificed her sense of style or panache when traveling.

My rolling skills are pretty basic but still really efficient. I don’t do the little tuck over they do at the end of this video, but it will give you an idea of how to roll your clothes when you’re packing.

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7. Go Digital

I never travel with hard copy books or magazines anymore. Everything is digital.

I have found that one travel guide is never enough – no two have identical information, so I would normally take 2 or 3 with me. I love to read, especially on planes, so any trip needed a handful of novels too.

Years ago I got the Kindle App (I don’t own a kindle) and now read everything on my iPad. The app syncs with my phone, so my travel guides are at my finger tips when I’m out exploring. If I stop for a coffee I can pick up where I left off on any book I’m reading, although I’m not much for reading novels on my phone.

When I wrote my book, Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget)  I planned for it to only be available on the Kindle App so that travelers had me there to help them, right on their phone. (It is actually available as a paperback too)

A bonus to anyone reading their books on the Kindle App is that Kindle eBooks cost much less than their paperback counterparts, and there is no waiting for a book to arrive, it is instantly there in your Kindle App. If you read a lot you can get a subscription service called Kindle Unlimited that lets you download as many books as you want for (I think) $9.95 per month. They have some different plans available:  Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans

I don’t have Kindle Unlimited because right now I only order a couple of books per month, and with Kindle books being so inexpensive I seldom spend more than $10 in a month anyway.

I have a couple of other Amazon links that are great for travelers. The first is for the Amazon Unlimited Music free trial : Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial

The second is for Audible. This is a subscription for monthly downloads of audio books. You can get 2 free books with a thirty day trial. They also have a variety of plans available depending on how many books you like to listen to each month. Here’s the link:  Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

So how did that airport scene with the open suitcase end up? I took out my travel books, a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes. The airline attendant working the check in let me get away with a couple of pounds overweight, and I vowed this would never, ever happen to me again.


Are you traveling to another country anytime soon? Are you familiar with working with foreign exchange? I probably get asked about this more than any other travel related subject. This week someone posted a terrible money exchange story on a Facebook travel group that I belong to. When they arrived in Rome the airport money exchange place told them they only had a €500 note. Take it or leave it. Unfortunately she took it. This comes with a world of trouble, so I am writing this post in the hope that I can prevent something like this happening to you.

How to manage your money while traveling overseas. Tips on working with foreign currencies, how to manage cash, debit cards and credit cards when traveling internationally. How to avoid pickpockets

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Travel With Currency

I will come back to that story in a minute, but first I want to emphatically stress that you must always travel with some of the local currency. You cannot rely on the exchange place at the airport being open/having cash/or even that there is one at the terminal you are arriving in.

How to manage your money while traveling overseas. Tips on workign with foreign currencies, how to manage cash, debit cards and credit cards. How to avoid pickpockets

Euros in small denominations

The same goes with relying on an airport ATM machine. They might be out of cash. Chances are they are not part of a bank but instead are part of Travelex, a business that makes money on exchange rates and fees.

It can be incredibly annoying if the person you are traveling with doesn’t bring cash with them and is mooching off you until they get some – don’t be that person. Bring around $100 worth of the local currency with you at a minimum, and get your currency in small denominations, not large bills.

RELATED POST: HOW TO PREVENT BED BUGS WHEN YOU TRAVEL

Use Your Coins

Outside of America most currencies use coins for low denominations. You won’t find the equivalent to $1 bills in most places, some don’t even have $5 paper money.

Use up these larger coins prior to leaving as you normally can’t exchange them back to your own currency. You don’t want to arrive home with lots of €1 and €2 coins that you can’t exchange.

Have A Conversion App On Your Phone

Download a conversion app before leaving home, and make sure you are aware of where the exchange rate is trending. Nowhere will give you the official exchange rate, but at least you will know if you are close to it or if you are about to get ripped off.

How to manage your money while traveling overseas. Tips on working with foreign currencies, how to manage cash, debit cards and credit cards when traveling internationally. How to avoid pickpockets

Pounds Sterling, British currency.

Use Your Debit Card – Wisely

On my Glam Italia Tours I advise everyone to use their debit cards in Italy to get cash. I use my debit card all over the world and have found it to be the most cost efficient and overall efficient way to get money.

Check with your bank to find out what fees they attach to each transaction. Some don’t charge any, (I have been told Schwab doesn’t, but haven’t verified it personally), some charge $3 per transaction, others charge a transaction fee of $3 to $5 and then charge a percentage of the total transaction on top of that. My Credit Union has a $3 fee but my Chase debit card has the $3 plus 2% of the total withdrawn. These fees add up fast, so do your research ahead of time, and if necessary open an account just for traveling with a new financial institution.

RELATED POST: CREDIT CARD TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

More Debit Card Tips

  • Only use your debit card to withdraw cash. Don’t use it to purchase items, as those fees add up fast.
  • Withdraw the maximum. Rather than withdrawing $100 per day with a $3 fee per transaction pull $300 and only pay the transaction fee once.
  • Call the number on the back of your cards and register them for going overseas. The bank will ask for the dates you will be gone and which countries you will be in. Failing to register them for international travel can result in your card being shut down the first time you use it.
  • Only ever withdraw cash from a bank ATM. Ideally only when the bank is open, and an ATM machine inside the bank. You are more vulnerable to thieves and cloning devices when you use the ATM outside the bank. Also, should the ATM machine eat your card the bank can open it and retrieve it for you if it is during bank hours.
  • Non bank ATM’s are not secure and can pretty much be guaranteed to have the worst exchange rates and additional fees.
  • Ideally use a debit card that is not attached to a bank account that your bills pull out of. Should your card get hacked or cloned while you are traveling you don’t want to have them drain out your mortgage/rent payment and all your ACH’s. This can be a costly headache if your payees attach fees to missed payments.

RELATED POST: 10 FANTASTIC AIRPORT HACKS

What To Know About Credit Cards When You Travel

Your best bet is to travel with Visa or Mastercard. Although there are places that will take American Express and Discover Card they are fewer and further between.

Sign up for a travel-friendly card. Capital One Venture Card, Chase Sapphire, and many of the Barclay Group cards all have zero transaction fees for international travel. Do your research on the best credit cards for international travel and sign up for a new card that is designed for international travel. Not only will you not have transaction fees but you will also get better exchange rates.

Only ever complete transactions in the local currency. Many places with a high tourist footprint will offer you to make the charge in their currency or your home currency. You will always get a bad exchange rate if you opt for your own currency.

Money Belts

Depending on where you are traveling a money belt can be a really good idea. These are flat pouches that hold passport, credit cards and cash and are worn underneath your clothes.

Eagle Creek money belt sits under your waistband and holds passport, cash and credit cards

Eagle Creek money belts are available at The Container Store

  • Think of your money belt as a safe, not a wallet.
  • Take out what you need for the day and keep everything else inside your money belt. The idea is that no one knows you have one on, so don’t get it out during the day to get more cash or cards.
  • Think about what you are wearing – if you have a money belt with a tight T-shirt over top then everyone can see you are wearing a money belt, so you have just alerted the thieves exactly where your valuables are.
  • Think you can stop them getting your money belt if they can see it? Think again. They are pros at separating tourists from their valuables and will be off with your passport, cash and cards before you know it.
  • Separate your cash and cards. Never have everything all in one place. A small stash of cash and a card hidden in a separate place can be your saving grace if a pickpocket gets the better of you.

RELATED POST: HAVE YOU READ MY BOOK YET?? 

Travel Insurance

You should buy a travel insurance policy for every overseas trip. Get coverage for lost or missed flight connections, lost luggage, failure to make or complete the trip due to medical issues, and super, super important get coverage for a major medical incident. We don’t plan on anything major going wrong when we travel, but we need to be prepared in case heaven forbid we wind up in a car accident, have a heart attack, get appendicitis etc.

Find the best choice for the travel insurance benefits you need with Allianz Travel’s OneTrip Suite of plans. Get Your Free Quote Today!
Look for a policy that covers a flight home for you with a nurse should it be necessary.

I have used Allianz Travel for all my travel insurance for years. Should you get sick while away you can call Allianz and they will find you an English speaking doctor nearby.


AllianzTravelInsurance.com

So the lady who got conned into taking a €500 note at the airport in Rome? She got very stuck. No one will cash a €500 bill. Apart from the fact that it could be counterfeit, most places don’t carry that kind of surplus cash. Even banks may not want to help you out.

Bonus Content

The lead up to an international trip can be really stressful – there are so many things to remember and to take care of before you go! I have a pre-travel checklist that I use myself and also give to all my Glam Italia Tour travelers. It is in PDF form so you can download it and print it as often as you want.

If you would like this stress-busting checklist just CLICK HERE

Do you read books digitally yet? Do you have a smartphone or a tablet? If so then you need to know about the Kindle Countdown!

Digital books on the Kindle App

Before you say “but I don’t have a Kindle!” don’t worry, neither do I.  I download books from Amazon.com to the Kindle App, which is free. It means I can read my books on any of my devices, from my Smartphone to my tablet (I use an iPad but it works on any tablet) to my laptop.

Initially I wasn’t into it, preferring to have the tangible experience of holding a physical book. But I also used to like playing music on C.Ds. Now all my music is digital, either coming to me via iTunes or Pandora.

I didn’t get on board with reading digital books until I started getting frustrated by having to waste space and weight on physical books while traveling. No one travel guide has everything you want, so I would end up with 2 or 3 travel books as well as however many novels I wanted to read while I was away. It was ridiculous.

So that’s how I got my first digital books. I got the Kindle App on my iPad (which automatically went to all of my devices) and started reading them there while traveling. After a while it just became the easiest way to read books.

My library connected with a service called Overdrive who then delivered library books to the Kindle App for me to read – it was (and is) fantastic!

kindle app logo

The Kindle App logo

When I wrote my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy my initial plan was for it to only be available as a digital book because I wanted everyone to have help at their fingertips while traveling in Italy. But Amazon has print-on-demand, so it made sense to offer it as a paperback as well.

Kindle Countdown Deals

As I started reading books on the Kindle App Amazon started sending me emails with other books I might like, at a discount.

The Amazon algorithm looks at the books you have liked and give 5 stars to and then finds books that other people have also bought when buying the books you enjoy. All good so far – but it gets better! Authors can’t really discount their hardcopy books too much because of the costs involved in manufacturing them. Digital books have no manufacturing costs, only a small downloading fee for the author, and as such can be discounted.

Amazon allows authors who meet certain criteria to do a Kindle Countdown every so often. This happens over the course of 5 days. The book will start as low as 99 cents or $1.99 and then go up in price by $1 each day of the countdown, before going back to the regular sales price.

When you buy books through Amazon on the Kindle App the algorithm will email you each week with Kindle Countdown book deals for books you would like. It’s fantastic! They know my favorite authors, so when there is a book at 99 cents or $3.99 or wherever it is in the sequence, I get an email and can download it with one click. It means that I can read a book for $1.99 or whatever the price is that day instead of paying $19.95 for the paperback.

This week my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is on the Kindle Countdown.

Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is available this week on the Kindle Countdown. Starting at $1.99 it will go up in price by $1 per day until Friday. On Saturday it will be back at its normal price of $9.95. All you need to do is download the Kindle App to your smartphone or tablet and the book will automatically be stored there. You won't lose space or data on your device. Happy reading!

Starting today, Monday October 22nd, the digital edition of my book is only $1.99. Tomorrow it will be $2.99. Each day this week it goes up in price by $1 and then on Saturday goes back to its normal price of $9.95.

This is the perfect time to download the book! If you have friends or family members interested in doing a trip to Italy at some point, you can even gift them a copy. All they have to do is download the Kindle App and the book will appear there under the All Books tab. It’s so easy!

Take advantage of the Kindle Countdown Pricing HERE

Amazon also offers a subscription plan for a service called Kindle Unlimited. With Unlimited you pay a monthly fee of (I think!) $9.95 and then can download as many books as you want each month for free. You can see details on it here:Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans

Happy reading!

xo