Learn how to pack for a couple’s vacation like a professional organizer and keep all your clothes in one suitcase.
You and your spouse, at long last, are looking forward to strutting out of work on a Friday. The only task to do now is to come home and pack for that dream trip two years in the making. To make sure that both of you are comfortable and ready for anything, you fill two suitcases, one for you and one for your spouse.
Stop right there.
Since the point of such a relaxing vacation is to get away from a hectic life for longer than your five-year-old’s attention span, why bring a whole wardrobe with you? Save time, space, and baggage fees with these 5 step-by-step tips.
Start With A Big Suitcase
One big suitcase works so much better than two smaller ones when you’re traveling as a couple. It takes up less space in the car, saves an extra baggage fee on planes, and needs less storage space in a hotel room. My husband and I prefer a solid hard-shell suitcase like this super affordable one from Target’s Made By Design collection when we travel because they’re durable and can handle being flung around a little. Bonus points if it’s divided into two equal sides.
Pack By Outfit, Not Clothing Type
This is my oldest trick in my non-existent packing book. But if I did have a packing book, this would be on page one. The easiest way to pack clothes for a trip is to put them in the suitcase by outfit. The way I like to do this is stack each outfit on my bed and I even go as far as including socks and underwear that are needed for that outfit. Sometimes I even lay the jewelry I plan to wear with it on top of the stack, just so I don’t forget anything.
You probably know your trip itinerary already, so you probably know which outfits you plan on wearing on each day of your trip, plus a few extras. If you have this already planned out, you can stack the outfits in order. So if you’re going to the art museum on Monday and a fancy dinner Monday night, followed by a full day at the beach on Tuesday, you’d pack Tuesday’s outfit first, then Monday night’s dressy outfit on top of it, and Monday’s art museum comfy clothes on the top of the stack.
I like to put my pajamas on the very top of the stack, because that’s usually the first change of clothes of the trip.
By planning these outfits first and packing them together, it saves you from getting to your hotel room and struggling to find things to wear together. Just throwing 5 pairs of shorts and 5 shirts in a bag without an outfit plan is more than likely going to end in you wearing things you aren’t really comfortable or confident in.
Use Bags In Your Bags
When you’re packing for two, it really helps to organize all your smaller pieces in separate storage bags. I love this five piece set from Target, because they’re made with breathable mesh and come with the perfect sizes for storing smaller categories of clothing.
When I’m packing, I personally use the smallest bag for socks, the next size up for underwear, bras, and bathing suits, and the largest one for shoes. Its so great to have a separate storage bag for shoes because it keeps the dirty soles of the shoes from touching my clean clothes.
Pack Neutral Accessories
When you’re sharing packing space with another person, you aren’t really given all kinds of extra space to bring your entire accessory collection. You really need to be intentional with your accessories, and that means packing neutrals. For shoes, jewelry, hats, belts, neckties, and other accessories, save the bold choices for local dates in your hometown and only bring neutrals that will go with all the outfits you’re bringing.
You can save so much space by bringing just two pairs of shoes in black and brown that go with everything, or one solid navy tie that he can wear with any shirt. By keeping all your accessories basic, you can mix and match them with every outfit you packed, and you’ll be able to get ready in the mornings even faster so you can get out the door and onto your next adventure.
Condense Your Toiletries
Here’s another biggie that works well for my husband and me. When we’re at home, we have different shampoos and body washes, but when we travel, we take a universal brand in a trial sized container that we both share. Instead of me packing shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, deodorant, toothpaste, and lotions that I use, and him packing the ones he uses, too, we just pack one small bottle of each of them and we both use it.
You can find universal brands of toiletries that don’t smell too girly or too manly, and a lot of them are unscented altogether. Trial sized bottles are usually just a dollar or two, so if you haven’t tried a universal brand yet, pick up a few different ones a few weeks before your trip and test them out until you both agree on one you can use during your trip. The only thing we don’t share is deodorant, but we pack the small trial sized bottles of the brands we use at home.
Also, when it comes to your makeup, only pack the bare minimum. You don’t need four shades of lipstick and your entire arsenal of eyeshadows. Just pick one neutral and leave the rest at home. You’ll save space and time when you’re getting yourself ready. You can also skip the hairdryer, because almost all hotels and rental homes already have them supplied.
I pack all of our toiletries inside this super-organized makeup bag from Target. It’s got tons of little divided areas for makeup, toiletries, medicines, and jewelry, and it even has extra bags inside for even more sorted organization.
Bonus Tip: Leave Some Extra Wiggle Room
We all know packing a suitcase for a trip is way easier than packing to leave the trip. From dirty clothes to things you bought from local shops, you always come home with more than you left with. When you’re packing your suitcase, make sure there’s enough wiggle room inside to account for the extra room you’ll need on the way back home.
I definitely suggest stashing a mesh laundry bag inside so you can put your dirty clothes in it, and since wadded up clothing takes up more room than folded ones, I also suggest rolling your dirty clothes into tight logs. I know it sounds silly to take time to roll up your dirty clothes, but you’ll save a lot of space by doing this and avoid the obligatory departure fight that ruins the whole trip because the suitcase won’t zip up.
Ready To Plan Your Ultimate Vacation?
Grab my printable Vacation Planner in the official Organized-ish shop. It’s loaded with pages to cover everything from pack lists to accommodation info to attraction plans, and even where to eat while you’re there. I use this exact planner every time I take a trip and I feel more organized and less stressed, even when I’m traveling with a pre-teen and a 70 pound dog. You can get my Vacation Planner here!