Never Forget Anything Again: Packing Tips From a Travel Pro

I travel…a lot. Key to any successful vacation is making sure you have everything you need to make the most of it. You don’t want to miss out on something fun because you forgot to pack your sneakers.

As we prepared for our #TakeADay road trip, here’s how I make sure I have everything I need (but not 12 things I don’t) before heading out the door.

1. Review the destination’s forecast and your itinerary. There’s nothing worse than showing up and not having the right attire for an event, activity, or climate. I made this mistake on my recent trip to San Francisco and the first stop after checking into our hotel was the Gap so I could buy a sweater. Funny enough, the Gap does not stock many sweaters in July. I’ve already added Portland and Seattle to my weather app to get a sense of how the weather looks throughout the day. With a heat wave hitting the Pacific Northwest all summer, I needed to stock up on cool workout clothes and hiking shoes for our adventures in Olympic National Park.

2. Make a list and check it twice. I love my lists and recommend you find a place in your heart for list love. After taking a look at the forecast and what I’ll need based on my itinerary, I plot out everything I need to do and pack to get ready for my trip. Since I know not everyone is as into lists as I am, here’s the one list you can’t vacation without: the final things. The night before a trip, when I’ve packed everything I can, I make a list of what needs to go in my suitcase before I walk out the door but will need to use before I leave (iPhone charger, toothbrush, etc.) and place the list on top of my suitcase. I also note any household items, like taking out the trash, that need to be done. Because believe you me, there is nothing that kills a vacation high like returning to smelly garbage.

3. Avoid over packing by seeing what amenities are offered. There’s no sense in packing something that your hotel will have or you can purchase at a nearby convenience store or pharmacy. The $1 bin of travel size items is nothing compared to a $25 checked bag fee. Since Best Western hotels are equipped with hair dryers and needed toiletries, I saved the space in my suitcase for souvenirs (hello, Oregon wine country!).

4. Layers are your friend. And I’m not talking the “you always threaten to make plans with when you bump into them” kind of friend. I’m talking BFF; purchase the matching necklaces, this is going to last. It’s not just layers though. It’s taking a holistic look at the items you’re packing so you can maximize outfits. Pick items that you can mix and match to make good use of every inch of that suitcase.

5. Maximize your pre-trip purchases with rewards. Let’s be honest. Your suitcase isn’t getting zipped without a little pre-trip shopping. I always set a budget to make sure I don’t end up in the red before my trip’s even begun. But with every purchase, I know I’ve already started paying for my next vacation by earning points. I personally use my American Express® Card where I earn Membership Rewards® points* for my purchases so I know I’m on my way to my next vacation. Talk about a win-win.

Whether it’s having the music to keep you entertained, gear for activities, or wardrobe for the climate, getting all your ducks in a row ahead of your vacation alleviates stress, allowing you to enjoy your time off. And who’s really going to complain about an extra trip to the mall?

The Project: Time Off team hit the road, with thanks to sponsors American Express and Best Western. We explored the Pacific Northwest to show how easy—and affordable—it can be to turn a vacation or day or two into a memorable experience. See more of our adventures on Twitter and Instagram via @ProjectTimeOff and using the hashtag #TakeADay.

*Terms and Conditions for the Membership Rewards® program apply. Visit or call 1-800-AXP-EARN (297-3276) for more information. Participating partners and available rewards are subject to change without notice. The value of Membership Rewards points varies according to how you choose to use them. To learn more, go to

Related Content