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Summer Packing Tips: 10 Mistakes You’re Making and How To Avoid Them

Written by Suzy Guese

This blog post was updated on August 25, 2021.

When we plan our summer getaways, most of us envision lounging about on a beach or lake while sipping on frozen cocktails. But this idealized vision of summer travel can quickly vanish if you don’t pack just right. From sunscreen-soaked suitcases to spending the majority of your vacation waiting on lost luggage, these classic packing mistakes can turn a carefree vacation into an avoidable nightmare. Before you pack your bags this summer, make sure you aren’t committing these summer packing list no-nos!

Checking a Bag

Too many suitcases for summer packing list

No matter how you swing it, more people are passing through the airport in the summer months. The increased crowds can mean a disaster at baggage claim and plenty of lost luggage. The key is to not overpack for your cheap flights in August so that you can carry on your bag instead. You’ll avoid lost luggage and wasting your precious vacation time. You will also dodge lugging heavy luggage through hot and humid locales by sticking to a carry-on-sized alternative.

Packing Outfits That Don’t Mix And Match

packing outfits

For most travelers, summer travel can lead to loads of outfit changes due to hot weather and outdoor activities like going to the beach, hiking, or, let’s be real, just walking around in a super humid climate. A common mistake that many summer travelers make is to just throw in pieces that have no rhyme or reason. They don’t match and simply aren’t interchangeable. Summer presents the desire to pack enough outfits but also the quest to not overpack. To avoid over-packing and still have what you need, be sure that all of your clothing items are interchangeable: they can easily mix and match and be worn several different ways. You can wear all items many times and in different combinations if everything follows a predetermined color scheme. Keep base layers neutral and add a colorful flair with accessories.

Bringing Only One Swimsuit

Never pack just one swimsuit! While it might seem excessive to pack more than one swimsuit, beach and water vacations demand more than one. Remember the sandy mess your swimsuit becomes after a day at the beach body surfing, playing volleyball, and lazily swimming around? You’ll need at least one other swimsuit to pinch-hit as the other dries out for the day.

Putting Unsecured Liquids in Your Suitcase

Liquid Luggage

Summer travel means you’ll be packing more liquids than you might in the fall and winter. You need items like sunscreen, bug spray, and more shampoo. More liquids often pose more of a risk that your bottle of SPF could explode, presenting a soggy suitcase when you arrive. The key is to pack liquids in plastic. You may want to bring extra plastic bags when you travel in the summer as an extra measure of precaution. To fully ensure that your clothing stays liquid-free, put plastic wrap over the openings of screw-top bottles as well.

You may also like: 8 Year-Round Sunny Destinations to Visit in the Summer

Taking Fabrics That Don’t Breathe

All too often, travelers don’t consider their fabric choices when planning their summer packing list. However, you really should make your entire packing list focused more on fabric type rather than pure aesthetics. You might absolutely love a cute and flattering dress, but its material will undoubtedly be too hot for your beach vacation. Linen is a great fabric to bring on a trip to sweltering destinations, and with the rise in athleisure fashions, comfortable workout-inspired clothing has become both a stylish and practical choice. With each item you toss in your bag, ask yourself if the fabric is going to breathe!

Not Packing at Least One Sweater, Fleece, or Hoodie

packing sweater

Traveling to warm climates may mean swimsuits, sundresses, and short sleeves fill your packing list but don’t forget to include at least one long-sleeved item. An unexpected weather change or chilly indoor activity could leave you with goosebumps if you aren’t prepared. A hoodie or fleece might be needed when a moonlit stroll on the beach turns breezy, and a cardigan sweater will be a welcome item in air-conditioned restaurants and museums. Place your long-sleeved item in your carry-on for cold plane rides, and then remember to keep it in your backpack, tote, or bag you will be using daily at your destination.

Not Using a Dopp Kit

Dopp kit for summer packing list

Careful, purposeful packing is necessary not just for clothing, but also for toiletry items. Loose bottles of shampoo and tubes of toothpaste tossed in with shorts and flip-flops can lead to a messy surprise when you reach your vacation destination. Organize toiletries in a Dopp kit to keep items neat and secure during travel. These small bags save on space and keep your grooming essentials in one easy-to-find location. Check the drugstore for your favorite grooming and hygiene items in travel sizes and remember to pick up a travel holder for your toothbrush. When sharing hotel rooms and vacation rentals with family and friends, Dopp kits keep each person’s toiletries organized on crowded bathroom counters.

Failing to Prepare for a Wet Swimsuit

wet swimsuit

When you zip your suitcase and prepare to checkout, don’t let that forgotten wet swimsuit dangling from the shower rod or the kids’ “one last time” down the water slide leave the rest of your clothing soggy on the way home. Before you leave home, tuck a plastic grocery bag or zippered gallon-size bag into the pocket of your suitcase, and you will be prepared for any last-minute dips in the pool or hot tub. The hotel shower cap is another good way to wrap up wet bathing suits when nothing else is handy. Also, consider saving any plastic shopping bags when buying souvenirs for your wet items before packing. The rest of your clothing will arrive home dry and not smelling of chlorine.

Not Wearing Your Heaviest Clothes When You Fly

With many airlines imposing weight limits on luggage and charging fees for checking bags, you can save room in your suitcase and keep money in your wallet by wearing your heaviest items as you travel to your destination. Wear heavy jackets and sweaters on the plane. These can be easily removed and placed in the overhead bin or across your lap after you board. You may even be glad for the extra layer as airplane cabins are sometimes chilly. If hiking is part of your vacation activities, go ahead and wear your hiking boots during travel. Freeing space in your suitcase lightens your load and leaves room for other, less heavy items.

Not Leaving Room in Your Bag for Travel Shopping

no travel shopping space

Starting a vacation with a suitcase so full it can hardly be zipped presents a challenge when it’s time to stash souvenirs for the journey home. If you plan to shop while traveling, leave a portion of your suitcase empty for your purchases. This bit of preparation will save you from having to purchase and carry one more bag while on your trip. You may need just enough space for some simple mementos or a destination T-shirt. However, a shopping spree may be part of the vacation if you’re visiting a large city or a destination near outlet malls. Delicate or breakable items may need their own space in a carry-on bag that will go on board with you during the plane ride. Don’t forget to leave space for gifts you have picked out for those back home.

Do you have any summer packing secrets? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at

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