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Expert Advice

Simplify Packing for Vacation (Plus 6 Underrated Things to Put in Your Carry-on Today)

A practical guy's guide to packing for vacation

Eric Z
Plane taking flight off into the sunset painted sky.

It's happened to all of us: getting settled on a plane or arriving at a hotel and saying to yourself, "I wish I would have brought..." 

I know I have —countless times. 

So, over the years, I've developed a simple yet effective system to avoid repeating that scenario. 

Overhead shot of a man's suitcase preparing to travel.    

Master Your Vacation Packing List 

"How" to pack for vacation changes depending on the trip. The destination, season and trip activities impact what to pack. So for trip-specific items, I keep a dedicated, ever-changing packing list in my iPhone notes app.

It's always handy, so, as I think of things to pack, I make a note at the moment and refer to the list when it's time to pack. 

Aside from helping me remember what to pack, it serves as a general trip to-do list for things I need to do before leaving, such as paying bills or scheduling the post office to hold my mail.  

Then, there are the items that I always keep in my carry-on bag, so I never forget them. 

Packing for Vacation: Six Must-Haves for Your Carry-on

1. Bose QuietComfort + AirFly

Technically, two items, but I'm counting them as one because you need the pair to reap the benefits. But, Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling earbuds paired with the AirFly wireless headphone (or earbud) adapter make flying more comfortable. With this duo, you'll always have sound for in-flight movies and as a bonus — no need to unplug your earphones from the seatback in front of you when the window traveler exits the row.  

2. Extra iPhone USB Charging Cord

I always travel with an extra iPhone charging USB cord because you never know when your main one will stop working. Plus, most planes now have USB charging ports in the seats, so no more arriving at your vacation destination with a dead cell phone.

Interior shot of retail store while tourists shop for souvenirs.    

3. Passport Wallet Organizer

A passport wallet organizer that you love. My passport wallet organizer holds my passport and all my loyalty cards, a pen, and includes space for emergency money and important documents that I need for the trip. 

4. Digital Luggage Scale

Probably the most essential item that I never travel without is a digital luggage scale. Take it from me: you'll want the USB-charged version, not battery operated one. (I made that mistake already.)

Having this on hand has saved me tons of money in check-bag fees by ensuring I don't overpack checked bags, especially on the return after buying a few souvenirs. 

5. Lip Balm

Beat the dry cabin air onboard your flight by keeping Chapstick or lip balm in your carry-on. I hate dry lips on a plane, so I love the Jack Black Intense Therapy Balm. The flavors are great, and since it's a tube and not a stick, I know it won't melt in my pocket or bag. 

6. Thin Optics Folding Glasses

Finally, if you use readers regularly, keep a pair of Thin Optics Folding Glasses in your bag. They take up virtually no space, and you can attach them to your keyring or travel bag and so you never lose them.

Read "4 Extended Vacation Travel Hacks for the Ultimate Stress-Free Trip" for more vacation packing and planning tips.  

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Hilton Grand Vacations Explorer, Eric Z.

Eric Z

Seasoned Owner and returning Explorer, Eric made his home resort The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations in 2006 and never looked back on life before vacation ownership — quickly climbing the ownership tiers, reaching Elite Premier status. As an Elite Premier Owner, he and his family including, his wife, teenage son and parents, regularly enjoy elevated access to some of the best amenities and services offered to Members, such as extended vacations. 

Over the years, his travel has afforded him unforgettable father and son trips, priceless multigenerational family vacations and even his once-in-a-lifetime destination wedding at Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacations in Hilton Waikoloa Village. He's your go-to guide for practical vacation ownership tips and says, "I love Hilton Grand Vacations and the opportunity to share what I've learned over the years."

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