Packing Tips

If you’re still struggling to cram all those essential just-in-case outfits into your bag, here are some of the best packing tips from suitcase nuts around the world to make packing for your holiday a little easier.

1. Reduce by a third

We've all done it - packed 4 pairs of shorts and then only worn one pair all holiday. Don't make the cardinal sin of over-packing. Lay all of your clothes on the bed and be ruthless - aim to get rid of a third.

Reduce by a third

"Stop reading list articles about packing and just get on with it."

Thanks Kevin from Tnooz, clearly not referring to this guide!

3. Towel on top

What's the first thing everyone wants to do when they get to the hotel? Go to the beach, of course! Make life easier by packing your towel last - not only will it mean a quick turnaround from landing to lounger, but it will also cover any loose clothing in your case. Win-win!

Towel on top

5. Clever accessorizing

A few well-chosen accessories, rather than entire extra outfits, will keep you prepared for any unexpected holiday occasions. Think fancy flip-flops, a beautiful scarf or tie, a smart belt or some fashion jewellery to give your outfit some oomph.

" Put all your shoes in plastic bags, and pack them next to the wheels at the bottom."

2. Breathing room

This isn't a pre-flight meditation technique - we're talking about your case. There's no denying that when you return you'll be packing some serious souvenirs for your friends and family - just leave enough room!

Breathing room in your case

"3 things I always pack... earplugs, eyemask & dental floss."

4. Use a vacuum pack

They're cheap to buy and don't actually need a vacuum - just roll the air out. They keep all of your clothes packed neatly together and protect them from any spillages. Beware, your clothes may appear to shrink but they'll still weigh the same. Know your baggage allowance.

Vacuum Packing

6. Wear your heavy items

How many clothes can you wear at once? On a serious note, make sure you wear your heaviest boots and pack your lightest flip flops. Not only will you save space in your case, you'll also save on baggage allowance.

"Bags, bags, and more bags. Packing cubes and those light nylon reusable sacks are organization linchpins."

Fold it

Fold it

Mum always told me to keep
it neat and tidy

Roll with it

Roll with it

No fuss
and no creases

Stuff it

Stuff it

I'm on holiday, not a catwalk -
stuff it in and lets go

Bundle it

Bundle it

Wrapped up & bundled
together works for us

Folding is most people's go-to packing technique, and it's a favourite for business travellers. It's perfect if your case is full of suits, shirts and blazers.

At Holiday Extras we love to fold it - don't forget the eggs!

Tips from around the web

Travel blogger Will Klass says that bringing something ‘random or fun’ will always help you on your travels. He recalls a trip to Tibet where he had with him two inflatable swans…

“My single favourite memory from that trip came after I pulled the swans out at a lake where some monks were swimming. They ended up conducting these inflatable swan swimming races as the whole monastery cheered on.”

Unconventional, but brilliant!

Some renegade travellers recommend flat-packing your clothes - check out Fathom, an inspirational travel website, and the team's packing tips.

Johnny from OneStep4ward advises against ever travelling with a top-loading backpack. Go for easy access with a backpack that unzips all the way round.

How to fold a shirt

  1. Lay buttoned shirt facedown.
  2. Place a rectangular piece of card or a magazine on the back, just below the collar and in the centre.
  3. Smooth wrinkles and fold the right side over the card/magazine - the sleeve should be folded down along the length of the shirt.
  4. Repeat with the left side.
  5. Fold the shirt in half from the bottom up.

How to fold trousers

  1. Simply fold in half so that only one leg is visible.
  2. Fold in half again (twice) and your trousers are ready to be packed.

How to fold a dress

  1. Fold the dress at the shoulders, aligning the seams along the side of the dress.
  2. Shake out any wrinkles.
  3. Lay flat and smooth out the dress.
  4. Fold the bottom third of the skirt up and the top third down.
  5. Then, fold the skirt upwards towards the middle of the dress and fold the top part of the dress over this.

"I actually have a packing list/spreadsheet that I print off every time I'm going away to ensure I remember everything I need be it an overnight business trip or a two week holiday - leaves out the stress of having forgotten something important!"

One for the super-organised - the 'rolling' technique keeps all of your things neatly organised and saves tons of space. We've taken inspiration from The Feminist Breeder for this uber-organised method of packing for your holiday.

Tips from around the web

Brenda Kinsel, a best-selling fashion and style author, even goes as far as to roll her clothes in outfits. By rolling a few 'related' items, you'll avoid wrinkles and your outfits will be ready to go at the other end - that means no more rummaging around in your case!

Legendary domestic goddess Martha Stewart suggests rolling up casual clothing such as tshirts and filling the corners of your suitcase with them. You'll save space and prevent other items from getting creased.

Theodora from Escape Artistes’ top tip is to never underestimate the power of a smart outfit. As long as you pack one smart frock and a decent pair of shoes, you won’t feel too shabby when you fancy visiting any spontaneous upmarket bars or restaurants.

How to roll

  1. Grab a pillowcase and layer your clothing on top of it.
  2. Then, roll up each pillowcase to create a 'burrito' of clothes.
  3. Repeat with all of your groups of clothes.
  4. Place them at the bottom of your case with extra items, such as toiletry bags, can surround them.

Voila! You'll have all of your clothes neatly packed together ready to wear - plus loads of extra room for souvenirs.

Bonus points:

Use rolled up clothes to protect any bottles you want to travel with, making sure to protect the neck and place in the middle of your suitcase.

To roll or not to roll?

Rolling is great for those that hate ironing - it's handy for keeping creases at bay. As well as saving space, it groups all of your different types of clothes together, making for some handy unpacking. Sound too good to be true? Of course there are downsides. It's not ideal for suits, shirts and blazers, and you may want to ask life too short to spend half an hour rolling up your knickers?!

"Roll your clothing. You can fit so much more when you roll clothing. Also, bring clothing that can be used for more than one outfit. Think solid colors, a jacket and mix-and-match."

We're all guilty of this one. The old 'cram and hope' technique has been the packing choice of many for years. It's the ultimate last-minute plan of attack, though there are undoubtedly better ways to make the most of your space!

stuff it technique

Tips from around the web

Smarter Travel recommends that you use bulky shoes to your advantage by filling them with ties, socks and underwear. Shoes also make a great storage spot for jewellery (just put them in a zip lock bag first)!

Adam Groffman from Eating Prague Tours always packs at the very last minute. According to him, the last-minute scramble will mean you’ll only pack what is absolutely necessary.

Once you've packed your case, it's important not to forget about your carry-on luggage. STA Travel suggest that you always take enough for your first night in your cabin bag just in case your luggage gets lost. Avoid keeping anything in your checked baggage that you would be devastated to lose.

The last-minute cram is an art in itself, requiring a number of steps:

  1. Don't begin packing until approximately 3 hours before take off. If possible, pack in the car on the way to the airport.
  2. Choose clothes at random - you can't go wrong with the old mix and match look.
  3. Forget folding, rolling or bundling. Simply grab, aim and throw. Repeat if necessary.
  4. Sit on your case (you may need a second person) and pull the straining zip to a close.
  5. Breathe a sigh of relief.

Things to leave behind

With all that suitcase-stuffing, there's not much space left for any little extras. These are the things that you can really do without.

  1. Toiletries
  2. Who needs fancy toiletries when you've got hotel freebies? Make the most of them, or buy some when you arrive.

  3. Books
  4. Ever heard of a Kindle? There's nothing like turning the pages of a good book - but not so much when it's taking you over your baggage allowance.

  5. Hair dryers & straighteners
  6. Go beach boho and ditch the straighteners - your hair will thank you for it!

  7. Outfits for every occasion
  8. Be ruthless when it comes to your clothes. If you're not 100% sure you'll need it, leave it behind.

    Take a look at our 10 things you really don't need to take on holiday.

"Packing for your journey is a transformational and liberating process. Like so many wandering nomads of the past, you can only bring what you can carry on your back. Packing light is key."

Bundling your clothes is great for getting the most out of your suitcase space. The basic idea is that you lay all of your clothes on top of each other before creating a 'parcel' to go in your case. You can find a detailed diagram of the bundling packing technique here.

Tom Ayzenberg shows us how to pack like a pro with the bundle technique his mother taught him!

Tips from around the web

Nick Huggins of Nick's Travel Bug swears by never packing for more than 7 days away - even if you're going away for longer. His logic is that finding a laundrette is always easier and less stressful than lugging around an overpacked case.

Super-organised Backpacker Boy always packs each different type of clothing into different coloured carrier bags - seriously cutting down on time spent rummaging around in your backpack!

For the fashionistas, check out Travel Fashion Girl's awesome packing lists, and never be caught out with a mismatched outfit again!

How to bundle

  1. Find a 'core'. What you use will depend on the size or shape of your case, but this could be a magazine or a book.
  2. Start with larger, tailored clothing, and particularly the things that are less likely to wrinkle.
  3. Using a large, flat surface (such as a bed), lay the first item flat, allowing the sleeves or legs to lay naturally. Place all items face up, with the exception of tailored jackets.
  4. Continue to add clothes to the bundle. With shirts or jackets, align the sleeves and place it the opposite way round to the previous item. Trouser legs will also align with sleeves, and will alternate between being places over the left or right sides.
  5. Make sure you still have the rectangular 'core' shape in the middle of the clothes.
  6. When all items are layered, place your core in the middle.
  7. Then, start the 'wrapping' process - one by one, you need to wrap each item of clothing around your core. For tops and dresses, wrap the sleeves before you wrap the skirt.
  8. You should have a parcel-like bundle. Place it into your case and secure.

"Take along one gallon heavy duty ziploc bags. These can be used for anything and everything: as "filing cabinets" for receipts and paperwork; as "wet bags" for swimwear; as "laundry bags" for dirty underwear; and as "pantry shelves" for food items."

More helpful links and resources

We've been helping travellers get organised for their holidays for 30 years now.

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