How I Pack for Travel

Today is a wonderful day because later tonight, I’m heading off on holiday! I always miss Asia after a while and I’m excited to be heading off to Bali for the first time for some relaxation and to see some friends (any tips from Bali experts are appreciated!). I’ll still be posting while I’m away but perhaps more sporadically (and this week there won’t be an interview). Thank you in advance for your patience!

In the spirit of vacation, today I thought I would show you all how I pack. I did an earlier post on this years ago and used a few photos from earlier for a more in depth post. I hope this helps some of you with your packing!

So first, let’s talk about bags.


This may be an obvious point, but a really important part of having an easy time packing and traveling is having the right luggage. These three bags are a few of my favorites and they’re all essentials. The black case is my checked baggage (rarely used), the red is my carry on (very often used), and on top is my easy, light, large tote which I bring as my handbag onto the plane. You can read more about my favorite handbags to travel with (and how I pack them), here. I do use my Birkin quite a bit as my carry on bag, though I have to say that sometimes I miss shoulder handles. A Birkin + a laptop inside can also reach weights that quickly tire my puny arms.

Now, onto how I actually pack. I will be upfront here and say that I am not a very neat clothing folder (despite some repeated experience working in mall stores during my teenage years). If you just give me all my clothes, toiletries, and what not, they’ll go into my suitcase in a huge, jumbled mess. That’s why I use lots of bags – especially for my clothing. My favorites are these excellent ones from eBags, I’ve purchased multiple sets over the years as friends keep stealing them on trips.


I usually roll up my dresses and tops, and store them in these bags. I use one for lighter knits, one for heavier knits (if I need them), and another for underwear and swim. These are fabulous because not only do they keep you organized, but in the rare event that your luggage gets searched, TSA agents will simply press down on the bags without opening them, instead of scattering everything around.

For clothes that I don’t want to wrinkle, I use a trick where I put them in old garment/dry cleaning bags, and then fold from there. This keeps them from getting wrinkled and works every time!


I also have separate bags for my cosmetics, shoes and various electronics cords, and at the end of packing, my suitcase usually looks like this. This is my actual suitcase for Bali.

The one clothing item I usually don’t pack in my little eBags cases are pants and shorts, since they fold flat so easily. Also, I try to only bring one heavy coat with me when traveling to cold climates, and always try to wear them onto the plane, rather than having it take up valuable suitcase space.

inside suitcase

If you look at the top left corner, you can see a little empty Target plastic bag. I always bring an extra plastic bag with me when I travel – it’s perfect for storing dirty laundry, that extra pair of flip flops you picked up, and anything else.

My main toiletries related tip for packing is to collect little sample vials of all the various cosmetics and skincare items that you use and love. I do this obsessively and have created quite a nice collection for myself. I actually bring my cosmetics/toiletries bag on the plane with me in my large handbag usually, especially if it’s a long haul flight. I like to wash my face (I try and use bottled water, I’m a bit scared of the water in plane bathrooms), and heavily moisturize my skin whenever I’m on a flight. If I’m feeling especially brave and have a fairly private seat, I sometimes also venture into Asian paper face mask territory.

I also put my hair up during a flight, and at the end of it let it down and use a little conditioning cream on the ends. I like to use Fekkai’s Glossing Cream for that.

You can also read about my full beauty travel essentials list, here.

beauty minis

One final point I’ll make is that I usually try to select clothing so that each piece gets worn at least 2-3 times over the duration of my trip (except underwear). Some travelers I know go as far as making detailed spreadsheets with items of clothing and the days they’ll be worn, but I’m not that organized, and plus weather conditions can always throw a wrench in things. Rather, I do a rough swag of how many days I’ll be traveling, and then my dresses + tops count should be roughly half that amount. Also, I try to make sure that everything is along the same color scheme, and use scarves to add color and patterns.

How do you all pack for travel? Please share! Anything from tips, to favorite luggage, to how you pack luggage, and anything else – all and any advice are all welcome!

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  • Prêt à Porter P
    May 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I love packing posts. I think I get more excited by the packing than the actual trip. what a neatly packed case. I think out-of-the-bag has done some posts on Bali. Have a great vacation!

    I bought mcqueen/samsonite luggage last year, that i hope i get to actually use sometime.

    • Katherine
      May 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Oh I loved those McQueen bags! Were they limited or still in regular production? Heading over to out of the bag now!

      • Prêt à Porter P
        May 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

        lmtd edition. I always wanted the ribcage one, but someone talked some sense into me about how impractical it is (doesn’t have a top handle). I have the black crocodile one.

  • Adele
    May 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

    You’re going to love Bali Katherine. We stayed in Nusa Dua, but we also toured the island. The people are so friendly, the food amazing & such beautiful scenery. I have very fond memories of my holiday there. Can’t wait to hear all about it on your return.
    Happy Wednesday Hun xoxo

  • kiwifashionblog
    May 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Have a wonderful time in Bali! Thanks for sharing your travel and packing insides with us 🙂

  • Sue
    May 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Hi, thanks for sharing your tips.

    I do have a question on rolling up the clothes to pack in the suitcase. In particular, I have wrinkle-prone dresses (i.e. unlike jersey, knit type materials) or even suiting dresses. Is it really okay to roll them as supposed to folding them to place in the suitcase? When I fold them, there are creases. But I am paranoid that the dresses will be a wrinkle mess if I roll them up in a small roll and have them stay like that for 8-10 hours of travel time.

    Your advice is appreciated.

    • Katherine
      May 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Sue, I roll because I’m lazy and if I fold they will be even more wrinkled. But if you are worried about wrinkles, I’d highly recommend the method I suggested which is to place each piece in an extra plastic garment bag, dry clean clear bag, etc, and then fold from there. They’ll stay wrinkle free that way. Do you have extra plastic bags you could use for that purpose?

      • Sue
        May 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        I can probably do that with the plastic bags, although space is always an issue when I try to put 1-week worth of clothes in a carry-on only. Doing that with the plastic bag per piece of clothing will increase the bulkiness.

  • Mrs C
    May 15, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Wow! I like the idea of Ebag, thanks for sharing. I would normally have a list, no, correction 3 lists – mine, hub’s and the boys’ and pack all 4 bags including mine. Like you I carry my heavy coat on board and I make everybody in my party do the same 😉 Hope you will have a great time in Bali.. I haven’t been there in a long time. I remember hanging out on Punchak (I hope the spelling is right) while watching the surfers riding the waves under the full moon light.. fabulous!


  • Dina
    May 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Have a fab holiday in Bali. I haven’t been there for a while (I’m Indonesian) but always had fond memories. Where are you staying? Nusa Dua is a small pretty secluded complex and also relatively quiet.
    Kuta is where all the buzz is. Very busy with pubs, restaurants, shops, etc.
    Ubud is more inland, very beautiful with padi rice all over the place.
    I haven’t been here myself, but all my friends said this place is amazing

    • Katherine
      May 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Dina, we are in Ubud and bouncing around the island a few other places as well. I am meeting some friends at Ayana (or at least we are planning on it) so am looking forward!

  • Jessica Young
    May 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Katherine! I’m so jealous! I love Bali! I was actually born in Indonesia but now I live in Los Angeles, and the last time I went to Bali was about 3 years ago. Make sure you go to Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort during sunset, its so beautiful. Potato Head and KU DE TA are both ocean front restaurants right by the water and its located in Seminyak and they’re very popular. I hope you’ll enjoy your vacation! =D

  • Tika
    May 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Lucky you! Have a fabulous holiday to my home country dear 🙂 We were just there for our honeymoon in September, stayed at Ayana, and watched the beautiful sunset from the famous Rock Bar daily. It is a must see, and it’s good if you have friends who are staying there, as the queue for hotel guests are very minimal compared to the latter. There are so many great places to see & dine in around Bali so you can’t go wrong anywhere! Enjoy the island of the Gods, Indo people are verry hospitable 🙂 – can’t wait to see your posts about it upon your return!

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  • Helen
    May 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    check out Kura Kura at the Oberoi for dinner. It’s a beautiful spot! Also Chandi is another great restaurant we ate at in Bali. If you’re sightseeing, skip the balinese dance.

    • Katherine
      May 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you! I heard of Chandi, it looks lovely!

  • Belen
    May 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    When you say you wear items 2/3 times, do you send them to wash while traveling? I can’t stand wearing a anything more than once, I guess that’s why packing is a nightmare for me 🙁

    • Belen
      May 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      BTW, I would love to see pictures of the clothing you packed (minus the underwear of course :-P) to get better ideas of what to pack trips!

    • Katherine
      May 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Okay I may be a dirty bird but I’ll generally wear a dress a few times especially if it’s not too hot/I’m not sweating, etc. For Bali though I’ll send out for laundry (since it is so hot and humid) especially since I’ve been told it’s fairly affordable over there 🙂

      • Belen
        May 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

        Our last trip to Argentina, for the cost of one garment in the hotel I could do whole bag around the block. And they even had it faster!

        See, dresses is something I don’t wear often and for sure they would take up less space, since it’s top and bottom in one. I should reconsider.

        I don’t usually see foundation in your toiletries pictures, do you wear any on trips?

        • Katherine
          May 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm

          Hi Belen, no I don’t wear foundation usually even day to day at home – that is not to say I have good skin (far from it) but I just don’t know how to apply it 🙂

  • mindy
    May 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    what luggage are using? the black and red one?

    • Katherine
      May 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Just the red, no checked 🙂

  • Wei
    May 15, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Have a great trip to Bali! Get your R&R on! Have fun and be safe 🙂

  • sesy hasan
    May 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    You are visiting my country! How marvelous. I stayed at Ayana in the bungalow that overlooked the ocean during our honeymoon. Unforgettable experience, it felt I own the whole world :). If you had a chance to visit Ayana, please go to their Rock Bar, a bar that sitting on top of the cliff with ocean waves splashing under it. Also, I heard their spa and massage is also recommended. Enjoy your holiday, I know it is a long journey but it’s totally worth it!

    • Katherine
      May 16, 2013 at 12:06 am

      Hi Sesy, thank you and I can’t wait to visit your beautiful country (at the airport now!)

  • Amy
    May 16, 2013 at 5:03 am

    Wow, Bali would be an amazing trip! I’m totally with you on packing light. I roll my clothes, too, and find they get less wrinkled that way. I make sure the material is smooth as I’m rolling so there are no weird creases… works great! If I’m really concerned about wrinkling, though, I’ll take along a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release, but that does take up valuable space.

    As far as what to pack, I agree with taking a few key pieces that all go together and can be mixed and matched and dressed up or down. This makes getting dressed a lot faster and easier (for maximum relax time!)

    I looove your suitcases!

  • Naaj Rona
    May 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I love those cases.

  • TC
    May 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    after years traveling extensively, i’ve learned to pack efficiently. i try to only have carry-on luggage because i like walking off the plane, getting to passport control and out the airport before everyone else! i would rather launder clothes rather than check luggage. i use those compressible plastic bags. they’re great during the winter when you have to take heavier knits; you can roll the air out so that they take up little space.

    we booked last minute travel to Indonesia a few years ago. i liked Ubud a lot although i thought the monkeys in the monkey forest were creepy aggressive. we stayed at the Komaneka Resort at Bisma (good rooms at a great price). they, thankfully, had interior bathrooms; i loathe those indoor/outdoor bathrooms so common in asian resorts.

    at Nusa Dua we stayed at the Nusa Dua Resort, which i will not recommend but most of the other hotels were booked.

    my favorite part of Bali are the Gili Ts. we had a private villa so it was total relaxation with no interruptions. hubby was able to dive to his heart’s content while i strolled around the island and made sure they didn’t leave him out in the middle of the sea. i loved the thousands of fruit juice choices at all the restaurants!

    have fun!

    • Katherine
      May 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      hi TC! Oh Bisma looked beautiful, I wanted to stay there after looking at the rooms but they didn’t have the beautiful pool villas available. I also saw those outdoor bathroom photos – ours right now is also indoors and still has some ants so can’t imagine what an outdoor one would feature!

      Thank you for the recommendation on the laundry! A first small load has already gone out, I hope it’s not too scented when it returns!

  • TC
    May 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    P.S. when you send out for laundry ask if they can use unscented detergent. the clothes i got back were nicely laundered but over-perfumed, so to speak.

  • Megan
    May 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Have fun! Please share pictures of your trip. How long will you be staying there for? I’m surprise you are not checking in any luggage. I always check in a luggage (or a big duffel bag with rollers underneath) just in case I buy some souvenirs. 😉

    • Katherine
      May 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      No checked baggage, I always travel light especially to hot countries!

  • miss K
    May 16, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    You’re gonna love Bali!

    I could go to Bali twice a year just for short weekend getaway.

    As mentioned by several readers, you should check out Rock Bar while you are in Ayana. Make sure you got there around 4 – 4.30 PM to get the perfect spot for sunset.
    You also should try the seafood dinner at Jimbaran beach. I recommend the restaurant “Menega”. And again, it’s better to arrive early because it can get really packed during dinner time.

    If you are still in Bali on Sunday, you should try the brunch at St. Regis’ Boneka restaurant. They have the most amazeball brunch ever ! The brunch is only available every Sunday.

    While in Ubud, you should try the spa treatment. Some spa offers outdoor treatment, so you can be pampered with rice paddy field surrounding you. I recommend Beji Ayu. Their therapist do a really good massage.
    Oh and also you must try “Bebek Bengil” restaurant in Ubud. It’s one the must go to restaurant in Bali. They serve duck dish with special herbs which is really really good.

    As for the beach, Kuta is the most famous but I don’t like to go there since it’s too crowded.
    I prefer the southern beach. Finns and Karma Kandara are recommended. Or you could try the Padang Padang beach.

    I could go on and go on about Bali. So many things to do and see and eat. I hope you have a wonderful time there !

    • Katherine
      May 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you so much! We are having a fabulous time here 🙂

  • Marlene @CCC
    May 17, 2013 at 4:03 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Bali but somehow we never made it there despite having plenty of relatives in Malaysia and Indonesia. I’m in love with your bag and luggage collection. I’ll make sure to visit the Globe-Trotter luggage store in Burlington Arcade. I’ve walked past the arcade on many occasions but never ventured in. Have a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to see your photos.

  • Diva In Me
    May 19, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Have a happy holiday Katherine! I’m sure you are already there laying by the beach and getting some tan by the time you see my comment. It’s hot hot hot over this part of the world and make sure you have the highest SPF sunscreen on you at all time! =)

  • Kari Ann
    May 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Where are your red and black suitcases from? My husband and I are going to Europe next month and I would love to have a suitcase like that for the trip!

    • Katherine
      May 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Globe Trotter 🙂

  • Sasha
    June 2, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Hi, love your blog and the packing posts! Where did you get our suitcases from? Thank yo.

    • Katherine
      June 2, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Globe Trotter!

  • DivaEsquire14
    July 1, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Katherine, where did you get that adorable bicycle case from in your luggage pic? It’s too cute!

    • Katherine
      July 1, 2013 at 7:41 am

      LeSportsac! 🙂

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