Whether you’re packing for a short holiday or for full-time travel, these unique packing tips for travel will help you maximise the space in your luggage.
We’ve tried and tested every travel packing hack on this list (many for months at a time) and we can personally vouch for them all. Find the right combination for you and you’ll be able to save time, weight and effort when packing and travelling.
Packing Tips for Travel
1. Invest in packing cubes
We used to think there was no need for these. We were so wrong! You’ll be surprised at how much you can squeeze into these cubes and you can separate out your t-shirts, pants etc. This makes it so much easier to find items rather than rummaging through your suitcase trying to find ‘that’ t-shirt. It also means keeping things organised and tidy.
We recently upgraded to the Eagle Creek Specter packing cubes to save weight (we’re always travelling so every ounce helps).
However, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative try the highly rated packing cubes from AmazonBasics. We used these budget packing cubes for years and they are literally amazing. The quality is top notch, especially for the price you pay and they do everything you expect from a packing cube. We recommend them to all our friends and family.
2. Roll your clothing
The rolling versus folding debate. It is generally understood that rolling takes up less space than folding, and also prevents creasing. It also makes it a lot easier to find the item of clothing you’re after and you can pack things into the extra spaces and crevices in your luggage.
3. Use a lightweight suitcase
It’s easy to forget your suitcase takes up part of your weight allowance. The lighter your suitcase, the heavier the items you bring can be. When packing for air travel on budget airlines, you’ll need to be even more conscious of this due to strict weight limits.
Opt for a lightweight suitcase or even consider a large backpack. This is often preferred if moving from place to place every few days or if you’re travelling to somewhere remote with gravel roads where lugging around a wheely bag may get tricky and damage the wheels.
When choosing a suitcase, we recommend one that has 360 degree wheels and a hard outer case, as well as sticking to the best, most popular brands. American Tourister and Samsonite make the best rolling luggage available, whilst Amazon Basics is a great, lightweight and affordable option.
Best suitcase: Samsonite Freeform
Best Budget Suitcase: AmazonBasics 21″ (honestly, this is perfect for most people)
Best hard luggage set: Samsonite Winfield 2
4. Create a travel packing checklist
Spend five minutes writing down all the items you need to bring, and this will save you so much time and stress in the long run. It’s so easy to forget the little things like a phone charger, pen or a hairbrush. Write everything down and tick the items off your travel packing checklist once you’ve packed them.
5. Leave half the clothing you’ve packed at home
I’ll admit, I’m guilty of overpacking every time, even for full-time travel with 40 L of luggage space. Once you’ve created a packing list, remove half of the clothing items on there. If you pack something as a ‘just in case’, you’re probably not going to use it.
6. Cut back on shoes
Shoes are the bulkiest items you’re going to pack. Limit the number of shoes you bring to save a lot of luggage space, especially if you’re packing for air travel. Bring a nice pair of sandals that can double as evening wear, and a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Two pairs are really all you need.
Consider not bringing heels. I brought heels on a five-week trip to Southeast Asia and didn’t end up wearing them at all. Instead, I opted for a nice pair of sandals as I spent a lot of the time walking around.
If you do want to bring heels, consider bringing a low pair that weighs less and takes up less space. Stilettos aren’t a great idea if you’re planning on doing a bit of walking or are going to places with gravel or cobblestone pathways – your ankles will thank you.
90% of the time (on holiday and back home) I live in either my Birkenstocks or Adidas Ultraboosts. They’re both super comfortable and I can spend the whole day walking in them without aching feet. Even better, they’re both unisex so they’re perfect for everyone. Here is the men’s version of Ultraboosts.
7. Dryer sheets for dirty laundry
Put dryer sheets in your dirty laundry bag to keep your clothing from smelling, especially if you’re unable to do your washing for a week or more. The sheets take up virtually no space in your luggage.
8. Use plastic and zip lock bags for organization
You’ll never know when these will come in handy; whether you need a place to keep wet swimwear, dirty laundry or leaking toiletries.
9. Maximise unused space
A few efficient packing tips that will enable you to use up every bit of space in your suitcase:
- Store socks inside shoes
- Stack bras then tuck underwear in the cups to keep their shape
- Store a belt into a collared shirt to keep its shape
10. Pack two full outfits in your carry-on for air travel
Fingers crossed your luggage doesn’t go missing, but if it does happen, you’ll be prepared. If you’ve got space, pack your swimwear, another pair of shoes and plenty of underwear too. Be sure to pack all your chargers and tech equipment as well.
11. Pack an international travel adapter
If you do a lot of travelling and going to different countries in a single trip, invest in an international travel adapter. They take up less space than multiple single country adapters.
We have two power banks with two USBs and two powerpoints to charge a phone, laptop, power bank and camera batteries. We use a Belkin one and this one by Joomfeen.
Before you buy the adapter, check the voltage capacity required for your destination country, in case it differs from your current location.
One of our favourite packing tips for international travel is to consolidate your chargers down to just one or two. GAN chargers are recent technology that allow for high powered charging of multiple devices from one adapter. This Amazon Basics 2-Port charger is perfect for solo travellers with only a couple of devices (you can charge your phone and laptop from one charger).
We use the Amazon Basics 100w GAN charger with 2 extra USB ports to charge a smartphone, laptop, camera batteries and a kindle all at the same time.
12. Pack travel-sized toiletries
Don’t bother bringing full-sized toiletries. Liquids account for a lot of your luggage weight and if you’re not travelling for months on end, the chances are, you won’t need to bring the full size.
These silicon travel bottles from Amazon are great and come in a range of colours.
For even shorter trips, considering filling up spare contact lens cases or testers with creams, moisturisers and liquid makeup.
13. Keep like items together
When going through airport customs, the last thing you want to do is fish around your bag looking for all your liquids. Don’t be that person who holds up the line! Keep everything together in a ziplock bag and it’ll make life so much easier.
This also goes for things like cables, camera gear, toiletries etc. It just makes it easier when looking for something in your suitcase.
14. Put plastic wrap under bottle lids
To prevent spills, put plastic wrap under your bottle lids before screwing on the lid. Then put them inside a ziplock bag. This is such a simple hack to prevent spills.
15. Bring an empty water bottle in your carry-on
Once you’re through customs, buying water is incredibly overpriced. One of our favourite travel packing tips is to bring an empty water bottle that you can fill up before getting on the plane.
Hydroflask makes he best waterbottles for travel. We love ours, they are extremely durable, packable and keep drinks warm or cold thanks to the insulation. The only issue is the weight, a tradeoff ultralight travellers may not wish to make.
16. Invest in a travel towel
I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but the Sea to Summit Drylite Travel Towel changed my life. It takes up a fraction of the space of a regular microfibre travel towel and folds down to the size of my hand!
Towels take up so much space in your suitcase, so opt for a travel towel. Make sure you pick one that absorbs water well and doesn’t smell after multiple uses.
The Sea to Summit towel looks to be having some stock issues, and although we’d recommend trying to find it, this one by Bagail looks just as good.
17. Pack shoes in shower caps
You never know what’s on the underside of your shoes so don’t let this touch your suitcase. Instead, pack shoes in shower caps (these are sometimes provided in your hotel room) or simply opt for a plastic bag.
18. Bring a mini first aid kit
Although I’ve mentioned earlier you shouldn’t bring anything ‘just in case’, this is an exception to the rule. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, having a first aid kit handy will make everything that little bit easier. Take it with you in your day pack. Remove cardboard box packing to further save space.
This is what our mini first aid kit (the size of a hand) contains:
- Immodium, ibuprofen, paracetamol, sore throat lozenges and cold/flu tablets
- Antiseptic and antihistamine creams
- Alcohol swabs
We personally built up our own first aid kit over years of travelling, but if you’re starting from scratch you should check out the First Aid Only First Aid Kit as a great starter kit. It has all the essentials to get you started, then you can just add in a few extras like medication.
19. Use a sarong
Instead of carrying around a few beach dresses, bring a sarong for a cover-up. These take up very little space and serves a double purpose as temple wear to cover your shoulders and knees. Better still, buy one when you’re there to use and then keep it as a souvenir when you’re back home.
20. Ditch the umbrella or bulky raincoat
Umbrellas and big raincoats are bulky. Ditch these and buy a light, pocketable raincoat. Don’t be fooled by a jacket advertising ‘water resistance’ as this will only withstand showers. Instead, make sure you’ve got something waterproof.
We’ve found the brand Columbia to be great for waterproof raincoats. Even better, they’re pocketable so they take up barely any room and are convenient to carry around during the day. Great for both hot, humid weather and for colder weather, they’re easy to layer underneath.
21. Wear bulky items on the plane
A quick fix for overflowing luggage is to wear your bulky items. This includes a floppy sunhat, large coat or bulky boots. You may also be able to free up a bit of weight doing this.
22. Pack neutral coloured clothing
This is an easy way to reduce the amount of clothing you need to bring, especially if you are packing for a long vacation. Packing neutral clothing makes it easier to match with and thus allowing for more outfit combinations. If you love wearing colour, consider packing colourful dresses that you’d wear by itself, whilst sticking to neutral t-shirts and bottoms that you can mix and match easily.
This goes for shoes too so you can easily match them with your clothing.
23. Choose your clothing fabrics wisely
Another great way to reduce the amount of clothing you bring. Choose fabrics that are breathable and antibacterial so they don’t smell after a few wears. Linens are great for hot weather as they are super breathable to keep you from overheating.
Merino wool is great for both hot and cold temperatures. Wool is antibacterial so you can wear items multiple times before they start to smell and regulates body temperatures so it keeps you warm in the cold, and cool when it’s hot.
We spend a lot of time holidaying in tropical climates and my partner swears by these Icebreaker t-shirts.
They’ve got long sleeve shirts available for the colder weather, and Icebreaker t-shirts available for women too.
24. Pack from the bottom up
It’ll be easier to wheel around your suitcase if you pack the heavier items at the bottom. Put shoes and toiletries at the bottom of your suitcase.
25. Bring a pen in your carry on
You’ll need a pen to fill out departure/arrival cards on your flight, and if you need an address written by a local on the street this could also come in handy.
26. Print your flight/hotel/tour details
Print everything in case technology plays up. If you’ve got everything saved on your smartphone or the hotel has been double booked, it may pay to have booking information as a hard copy. This has become incredibly useful to us at more remote locations.
Paper takes up very little space in your luggage and you can recycle the paper once you’ve flown or checked into the hotel.
27. Use a microfibre makeup remover towel
Makeup remover liquid takes up too much weight and makeup remover wipes take up space. Opt for a hand-sized makeup remover towel that can be rolled up. All you need is water so you’re not putting any chemicals on your face, and there’s no waste, meaning it’s better for the environment too.
For only a few dollars, you’ll save in the long run. This is the makeup remover cloth I use.
28. Pack earplugs, a face mask and a blow-up travel pillow for air travel
This is one of our top packing tips for air travel. If you’ve got a long flight, you’ll want to get some shut eye. Ear plugs and a face mask are incredibly compact and may come in handy in a hostel or accommodation in a busy city.
Travel pillows take up a lot of space. Either choose one that clips onto your carry on, or opt for a blow-up travel pillow. Buy something relatively cheap, so that you can throw these away if you need that extra space.
I use the Moldex SparkPlugs which are designed for use on construction sites. They are extremely comfortable and block out almost all noise.
29. Place cotton wool balls in makeup palettes
When you can, opting for powder rather than liquid makeup will save you some extra weight. Place cotton wool balls inside the makeup palette to keep it from breaking.
30. Dry your laundry on a travel line
Instead of bringing many items of clothing, consider doing your washing while on holiday. Bring a few teaspoons of laundry powder or liquid detergent in a travel-sized bottle, and a travel line. Get a travel clothesline that doesn’t require pegs so it is super compact.
How to Pack a Suitcase to Maximise Space
Packing a suitcase requires a lot of thought and care to ensure the most efficient use of space, whilst still remaining organized. There’s no point being able to fit everything in when you depart if you can’t find what you’re looking for on your vacation or trip itself.
You can utilise all of the tips we’ve discussed here in order to pack a suitcase as efficiently as possible, even if you’re travelling with a lot of clothes. We’ve also written a detailed guide specifically on how to pack a suitcase with 12 of our top tips.