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Everything you need to stay organized before, during and after vacation, according to the pros

Packing cubes aren’t the only thing you’ll need.
Vivian Le / TODAY

Types of products to keep things neat | Travel organization products | Tips for packing | Staying organized on vacation | Meet the experts

If you've been dreaming of your next vacation ever since you returned home from your last adventure, odds are you already have a few destinations on your wishlist.

With any vacation or getaway comes the dreaded packing list AKA figuring out how everything you're going to need is going to fit into a suitcase or weekender bag.

To help set your mind at ease, the Shop TODAY team reached out to several organizing pros to give you tips and tricks on how to pack efficiently and stay organized while traveling this year.

What organization products can keep your bags neat?

Ready to keep your bags neat while you're traveling? Packing cubes will be your new best friend.

Packing cubes and stand-alone products are great for any trip," says professional organizer Di Ter Avest. "It is easy to get everything out of the suitcase or backpack, and it helps you find what you need since they are separated. You can use small packing cubes and pack clothes by date, or you can use bigger ones to pack clothes according to your destination and the days you are staying in each place.”

The following organization products can also set you on the right track:

  • Jewelry organizer with compartments to prevent tangling
  • Toiletry bags that unfold and hang
  • Shoe covers
  • Travel-sized containers for toiletries
  • Electronic organizer for chargers and cords

Best organization products for traveling

Rensare Clothes Bag

Packing cubes and bags are a great way to keep your clothes organized. This set of three from Ikea is a great deal for just under $6. Each bag has a zip closure and is a different color so you can remember what’s in which bag.

Mutiport USB Charger Cube

With over 12,000 five-star ratings under its belt, this Amazon bestseller comes well recommended. It has four USB ports so you can charge multiple devices at once, eliminating the need for multiple bulky chargers.

Refillable Travel Bottles

“Instead of purchasing miniature plastic versions of shampoo and body wash, consider investing in a set of travel bottles that are leak-proof. These containers enable you to carry your preferred products from home while on the go and are more sustainable,”‘s North America head of communications Angela Cavis says.

Waterproof Dry Bag

This Amazon bestseller has over 21,000 verified five-star ratings from happy customers and it’s easy to see why. The waterproof bag helps you protect precious items from water damage or isolate semi-wet items when you have to pack in a hurry (like when your bathing suit isn’t quite dry yet). It’s available in multiple colors and features a handy adjustable shoulder strap.

Zoppen RFID-Blocking Travel Passport Wallet

This wallet is a classic Shop TODAY favorite that has space for several cards, cash, your passport and even several boarding passes. According to the brand, it’s made with RFID-blocking technology that keeps thieves from stealing your card information. NBC News photo editor Vivian Le took this wallet on trips to Mexico City and Japan and said she found it “super useful.”

Travel Shoe Bags

Instead of shoving your shoes in the corner of your suitcase and risking getting other items dirty, slip them in these travel shoe bags so your bag can stay clean while looking aesthetically pleasing. It’s a No. 1 bestseller that comes in several colors.

Brookstone Compression Packing Cube Set

If space is limited in your suitcase, these packing cubes are ideal for keeping things organized. This set of two comes with one large and one small cube that’ll keep everything neat and compact.

Erin Condren Petite Planner Travel Journal

Keeping all of your travel plans and documents in one spot is easy with this travel journal. Each page includes blank reservation and confirmation sections, along with areas for the daily weather forecast and meal plans. It also has a built-in pocket for documents like flight tickets and museum entry passes.

Honey Can Do Duffle Style Laundry Bag

If you’re looking for a stylish laundry bag that goes beyond a kitchen garbage bag, this is the one. We love that it can collapse to fit into a suitcase before vacation begins and it’s easy to put back once it’s full at the end of a trip. The cinch top also ensures that dirty laundry doesn’t spill out onto your belongings while you’re in transit.

Ziploc Big Bags

Packing cubes are great, but if you prefer something see-through, an oversized Ziploc bag is the next best thing. These have an expandable bottom and double zipper seal to lock in your items and built-in handles.

STM Goods Must Stash Accessory Storage

This storage pouch is a great option to keep small things from floating around at the bottom of your travel backpack. It can hold everything from sunglasses and your smartphone to AirPods and pens. It comes in two colors.

Bagsmart Travel Jewelry Organizer

This Amazon bestseller has nearly 8,000 verified five-star ratings and plenty of space to store your favorite baubles so nothing gets lost or tangled. It features five compartments, including dedicated areas for rings, earrings, necklaces and more.

Mossio Shoe Bag

If you prefer one bag for all of your shoes instead of several individual ones, try this highly-rated option on Amazon. It holds three pairs of shoes (more if you're only packing sandals) and even has a trolley strap so you can slide it right over the handle of your suitcase.

Erin Condren Accordion Zipper Pouch

Get the most out of your carry-on space with this accordion zipper pouch. It’s perfect for holding everything from smartphone cords to toiletries.

STNKY Washable Laundry Bag

If you want a smaller laundry bag for a quick trip, this option could be just what you need. According to the brand, it locks in germs and keeps the rest of your items (and your nose) safe from that dreaded dirty laundry smell. Once you're ready to wash, all you have to do is open the bottom zipper, turn the bag inside out and it becomes a wash bag. So you can throw it directly into the washer and dryer without having to touch your clothes until they're clean again.

L.L. Bean Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag

Packing toiletries into a bunch of little bags for everyone in your family can be a thing of the past with this toiletry organizer. The bag sits comfortably in a large suitcase and is made of water-resistant fabric to prevent accidental leaks from damaging your belongings. Try hanging this entire bag on the hotel bathroom door hook instead of having pouches and makeup bags take up precious space on the counter.

Calpak Tech Organizer

This organizer eliminates the need to dig around in a bag full of tangled wires while looking for your charger. It has slot compartments and a zippered pocket so you'll always know exactly where to find what you're looking for. It comes in eight different colorways.

mumi Toiletry Bags

These spill-proof and water-resistant bags come in three different sizes and are made with a clear mesh material that lets you see what’s inside. If you don’t end up using all three bags for toiletries, they're also the perfect size for socks and undergarments.

Tips to help you pack for vacation

Travel anxiety is real, but you can fend it off by focusing on organization every step of the way throughout the travel process.

“Implementing organization systems to our travel plans before, during and after a trip can help us alleviate the fear of forgetting to pack something important,” says Ter Avest. “It reduces stress so we can enjoy every moment of the trip, and it allows us to save time and money.”

Here are some expert tips for packing for your vacation:

  • Plan ahead: Ter Avest suggests planning your trip and vacation packing list well in advance. “Make plans, research and schedule local attractions and make packing lists. A well-made packing list will ensure you pack all your essentials (for vacation),” she explains.
  • Pack light: “Use the formula of one outfit per day for adults and one-and-a-half outfits per day for kids. Packing light will help you to know where everything is, plus fewer things equal less mess,” Ter Avest says. The same message goes for non-clothing related items. “Try to focus on the essentials and remember that you can purchase most items at your destination if needed or even borrow things from your hotel,” Cavis tells us.
  • Check the local weather: “Check the weather at your destination so you don’t pack clothing that’s not suited for the climate. For colder climates, plan more layered outfits instead of packing bulky sweaters/coats,” Mindy Godding, a certified professional organizer and owner of Abundance Organizing, says.
  • Pack smart: “Place heavier items at the bottom of your suitcase to keep it balanced,” Cavis says.
  • Multitask your wardrobe: “I recommend a capsule wardrobe with pieces that coordinate and can mix and match into different outfits. Scarves are an especially useful (and easily packable) way to change the look of outfits and add pops of color to a basic wardrobe. Pack versatile items that can be worn multiple times and build outfits around these core pieces,” Godding says.
  • Consider a different packing strategy for kids: “For smaller children, consider packing daily outfits in single-use bags. Each bag should contain one full outfit, including any hair accessories. This will make getting them dressed in the morning that much easier. Store the bags in your luggage to reuse for the next trip,” Lisa Ruff, director of marketing at Neat Method, says.
  • Leave room for souvenirs: “One reason I embrace minimalism when packing is to leave room in my suitcase for any vacation shopping. According to research, 42% of U.S. travelers are leaving room in their suitcases as they are looking to ‘buy local’ from small, independent stores on vacation to adapt sustainable practices during packing and on vacation,” Cavis tells us.
  • Pick your travel outfit strategically: “Have a designated travel outfit for the flight. Plan to wear your bulkiest clothing and shoes on the plane to keep them out of your carry-on,” Godding recommends.
  • Determine your packing style: “When placing everything in your suitcase, choose one of two methods: 1) Roll everything as you place it into your suitcase instead of folding. Or 2) Use the ‘file fold’ technique where compactly folded items are placed on their side in the suitcase (instead of stacked flat) so that you can view the folded edges when looking down into the suitcase,” Godding says.
  • Don’t forget the toiletries: “Pack your travel toiletry bag like you would organize your bathroom — like products with like. Compartmentalize your makeup, hair products, skin care and other items together so everything has a place and you can quickly find what you need,” Ruff says.
  • Maximize your space: “Tuck lightweight items into gaps in or around bulky items (e.g. socks and undergarments can easily fit into shoes),” Godding says.
  • Never forget your charger again: “If you travel often, buy duplicates for your charging needs. Contain them in a pouch and store the pouch in your luggage. This will ensure you can charge everything from your phone to your e-reader without having to worry about buying expensive charging cords on vacation,” Ruff says. “Also consider buying a 3-in-1 or multi-charging cord to cut down on how many you need to take with you.”

How can you stay organized while you’re on vacation?

We all have the best intentions when we’re packing, but chaos can sometimes ensure when you arrive at your destination. Here are some expert tips for maintaining your organized bag on vacation:

  • Unpack at your destination: Ter Avest recommends unpacking at your destination. “If you stay at a hotel for more than two nights, unpack your suitcase into the dressers or hang your clothes. Store your suitcases in the closet; that will eliminate the clutter and help you relax,” she says.
  • Keep your laundry organized: Ter Avest also suggests packing a laundry bag, even if it’s just a standard kitchen garbage bag, so that you can collect dirty clothes during the trip. “When you get home, you can leave the whole bag in the laundry room,” she notes.
  • Plan ahead for stops: “If you have a one night stop-over, pack one outfit and overnight necessities in your smaller ‘personal item’ (tote bag, backpack, etc.),” Godding suggests.
  • Keep your souvenirs separate but safe: “Take a compact reusable shopping bag so you can eliminate excess packaging if you buy souvenirs during your trip,” Godding says.
  • Protect dry items if you’re planning water activities: “If you are planning any water activities on your trip, pack a small waterproof bag or pouch to segregate wet or damp items on the way home,” Godding says.

Meet the experts