By Gina Zakaria
December 10, 2019
Illustration by Janice Chang

Traveling for the holidays isn’t always fun. From flight delays to long transit times, there are so many factors out of our control.

While holiday travel plans will not always go as expected, there are things you can do to make your journey a little less stressful and a little more pleasant — and a bit more budget-friendly.

You already know you’ll be packing more than your clothes and essentials. Presents and bulky winter clothing can inch your bag toward the weight limit and cost you a lot in baggage fees. Luckily, there are some easy ways to pack and stay organized that take no time at all. Here’s exactly how I stay sane during holiday travel (while staying on budget).

1. Embrace packing cubes and never look back.

Before I started using packing cubes, my luggage was always a mess. I packed everything neatly, but it didn’t make much of a difference once I put my bag upright. Everything would get mixed up and trying to quickly find a specific piece of clothing was always an issue.

With packing cubes, I’m able to open my luggage easily without everything becoming jumbled, and I can get directly to the cube that has the item I need. The best part is all the space you gain — I only use one carry-on for my husband and me, which saves money on outrageous baggage fees.

2. Pack travel-sized products.

Using mini toiletries while traveling is such a space-saver and helps you use up all those samples and hotel supplies that you’ve accumulated over the years. It also eliminates the risk of having any of your items thrown out in the security line because of their size.

Bonus tip: I ask for perfume sample each time I visit a department store, so I always have plenty on hand to use when I’m traveling.

3. Head to Dollar Tree for their storage fixes.

The Dollar Tree has some great storage options for packing your personal bag for travel.

Their small sunglasses case is the perfect way to store earphones and small electronic accessories, makeup essentials, and other small items that tend to get lost at the bottom of your purse or bag. And it only costs a dollar!

It’s a simple and inexpensive way to organize your personal items so you can easily find them when you’re rushing through the airport.

Compartmentalizing your items using smaller cases and zipper bags keeps your purse tidy and clutter-free, while also giving you more space in your bag for items that you normally don’t carry around, like your passport.

4. Roll your clothes.

This is a trick I’ve used for years. It literally doubles your luggage space in such an effortless way.

When you roll your clothes instead of stacking them on top of one another, you also eliminate the risk of wrinkles. Roll your clothes and put them in the packing cubes, and you’ll find that you have much more room as well.

5. Pack a simple capsule wardrobe.

When you’re traveling, there’s a good chance you’ll need a variety of outfit choices. Of course, your luggage size may not be able to accommodate everything you want to bring.

Capsule wardrobes are the perfect solution, since you’ll be using the same pieces to mix and match and make several outfits. For a seven-day trip, I typically bring three tops and three bottoms and a blazer or cardigan sweater. Then, I switch up the accessories, and mix and match to get completely different outfits.

You’ll save room in your luggage while still getting enough outfit combinations to cover your trip.

6. Pack some travel snacks.

Whether your flight is long or short, if you’re anything like me, airports make you bored and hungry. Buying snacks from the airport gift shop can get expensive. The last time I purchased a pack of Raisinets (my favorite chocolate treat) from the airport, it nearly cost $7. Now, I plan ahead and purchase my favorite snack from the Dollar Tree for $1, so I have it ready when I want it.

I often pack crackers, cheese, chips, and sweets so I have all the craveable items on hand to hold me over until I get to my destination. Bringing your own snacks saves money and ensures that you have enough to keep you full while you’re in transit.

7. Check in early and arrive early.

To keep yourself sane, find time on the day before your flight to check in and complete any steps that can save time on your travel day.

Arrive early to combat stress. This is so important and easy to forget in the rush of traveling. Nothing is quite as stressful as rushing to get to the airport, getting stuck in traffic, and being at risk of missing your flight.

Getting there early helps make your travel day go along much smoother and ensures you won’t miss your flight if there are any unexpected delays when you arrive at the airport. Plus, depending on your location, if you allot enough time to get to the airport, you won’t have to shell out extra for an unexpected Uber or Lyft.

Holiday travel isn’t always easy, but if you plan ahead, you’ll have a smoother traveling experience — and even save money along the way.

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