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Travel Tips: 8 Really Easy Ways to Pack Lighter and Smarter

Struggling to get your head around what to pack for a trip? These packing tips will help you to travel smarter and lighter so you can enjoy your time on the road!

Packing is often a bit of a mind-boggle. I mean, how do you know what situations you’re going to come across when you’re on the road? If, like me, you often find yourself standing in front of your wardrobe for a good half an hour, looking blankly into the abyss of clothes and not knowing what wear, then packing can seem like the ultimate headache.

When I first started travelling I absolutely hated packing. I always packed too much and it took me ages to sort out what I wanted to take with me.

Now, though, I can pack pretty quickly. I can have a bag ready to go in about fifteen minutes thanks to a few little tricks I've picked up along the way. Hopefully these ideas will be general enough so that you can apply them to any sort of trip and personalize them so they fit in with your style of travel.

Things to think about before you pack:

Most places have shops

It might be difficult to believe, but the vast, vast majority of places around the world have shops and supermarkets, which means that if you forget something it’s not the end of the world.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I used to line my suitcase with cereal bars in case I got hungry during my trip. Guess what? You can buy food anywhere in the world – and it’s usually cheaper than a multi-pack of cereal bars!

This also applies to cosmetics, toiletries, and clothes. Realize you desperately need something? Well just pop to the shop and pick it up.

Know your (weight) limits

I highly recommend finding out the weight limits on the flights your taking. There’s nothing worse than having to re-jiggle your belongings around at check-in whilst everyone in the queue behind you looks on.

Know your travel style

Before you even consider packing, figure out what kind luggage you’ll need for your trip. If you’re spending a week in the same place then a suitcase will work just fine, but if you’re going to be slumming it from hostel to hostel with lots of walking transport-hopping, you might want to go for a backpack that’s easy to carry around.

Research your destination

Don’t try and guess what the weather will be like or what you think you might need. The internet is filled with useful information that can really set you on the right path for smarter packing. For example, if you’re travelling to somewhere like Istanbul you’ll need something to cover your shoulders and legs if you want to go to any religious sites. Things like this are well worth researching first to save you the embarrassment.

Now we've got those initial worries out of the way, let’s move onto the actual art of packing.

Create a packing list

Seriously, don’t try and memorize what you've packed and what you still need to pack in your head – this is a sure fire way to forget something.

Instead, before you start, write out a packing list that itemizes everything you need, from the amount of underwear you want to the chargers and electrical accessories that you require.

Roll don’t fold

This is such an easy packing hack that so many people skip over. If you’re tight on space, roll all your clothes instead of folding them.

For starters it’ll save way more space and, secondly, your clothes are less likely to get creased after days of being squashed flat.

Pack diverse items

When it comes to clothes you’re probably going to want a few options. You’ll need day wear, evening wear, layers for different temperatures, pajamas, and swimwear. Instead of packing a separate selection of clothes for each of these categories, figure out what you can combine.

For example, slouchy t-shirts that you've packed for day wear can double up as pajama tops, and simple black shirts can be dressed up with accessories. If you’re somewhere hot, bikinis can double up as bras and beach dresses can be worn as evening wear.

Whilst you’re packing, make a note of whether an item of clothing can be used for multiple scenarios and, if it can’t, ditch it!

Play with packing cubes

There’s nothing worse than having to dig through your suitcase to find that one top you were certain you packed but now can’t find. To make rummaging for outfits easier, divide up your clothes into packing cubes and make life much, much easier for yourself.

Pack all tops into one cube, trousers into another, and so on. Then label each cube so you know what goes where and voila! You’ll never have that mad panic again.

Downsize toiletries

Let’s face it, toiletries take up a lot of space and add a hefty bit of weight to any luggage. If you’re insistent on sticking to your daily routine then consider downsizing your products so you don’t have to lug around full-size bottles of shampoo.

Instead, buy a selection of miniature travel bottles and dispense all the liquids and gels you need into those, then pack them all neatly into one packing cube.

You can always go one step further, too, and pack half a tube of toothpaste squeezed right down, or use shampoo as body wash and baby wipes as face wipes. It’s all about being economical with the space you've got.

Pack some plastic bags

I've lost count of the amount of times plastic bags have come to the rescue whilst I've been travelling. I highly recommend slipping a few into your luggage just in case. They’re small and squash-able so they hardly take up any room, and they’re perfect for packing dirty shoes, wet toiletries, and clothes that need washing.

Be ruthless

Efficient and smart packing is all about having the right mind-set. The best advice I can give you is to really be strict with yourself when you’re writing your packing list and laying your clothes out to pack. Do you really need that extra pair of shoes? How often, honestly, are you going to use that nail polish?

Imagine each item costs you money to pack – would you be willing to pay to pack it?

Your turn! Do you struggle to pack light? What tips and tricks do you have for smarter packing?

About the author

Lizzie

I am a tea-loving freelance travel writer and blogger with over three years’ experience creating blog posts, articles, copy, and content for international travel brands, booking sites, hotel chains, and travel guides. I've had stories published in National Geographic Traveler and The Huffington Post, and work circulated with the Lonely Planet Magazine. Travel is my biggest passion, and in the past few years I've explored 30 countries. I've bungee jumped in South Africa, sipped tea on the streets of Sarajevo, and I recently moved to a small town just outside Barcelona to start a new adventure. I currently spend my time running two of my own travel blogs and helping brands to create beautiful stories that span the globe. My main aim, though, is to encourage people to get out there and explore the big wide world!

  • Lizzie, I love these tips – I’m a huge convert for the squeezy plastic containers for cosmetics (well my wifes) as the cleanser, moisturizer, plus countless other bottles really do add to the weight! Plus it means you can go carry on if your bag is small enough without worrying about throwing items away at the security checkpoint (been there several times…).

    • So true! I always try and take just a carry on if I can help it, so smaller containers are a godsend!