After a decade of working in the travel industry with countless work and personal trips, I feel as though I finally have packing down to a fine art. These tips will take the stress out of travel prep and make you feel as though you’ve lost a tonne of weight!
My first solo trip overseas I brought a huge suitcase, my snowboard bag, AND my guitar, that I didn’t play once! I struggled through the airport like I was carrying my whole life with me. 16-years later, I am a pro at packing. It took time and practice, trial and error, but I am a diehard when it comes to only taking a carry-on suitcase on my journeys. You would be surprised by how much you can fit into carry-on bags these days. I always buy the biggest one allowed for the cabin and cram a LOT into it.
The benefits of carry-on luggage:
- Not having to wait for luggage when you arrive. The joy of walking off a plane and straight out of the airport is second to none for me!
- No risk of having your luggage lost by the airline
- Prevents over-packing and hauling big bags around
- Stops you from shopping excessively. You can always buy a bag for new purchases. Bonus!
- Save money; as many airlines charge for checked bags now
- Save time at check-in. No lengthy bag drop queues
- Allows for flexibility; run for a tight connecting flight, or catch an earlier plane if there’s space
It sounds daunting to fit everything in a carry-on bag but they’re surprisingly big these days. Plus, it’s all a process. You might not achieve it on the next trip, but you will on the one after that. Take note of what you don’t use next time you travel!
Backpack or suitcase?
The eternal question, backpack or suitcase?! I am a suitcase girl for life! I have always had a dodgy back and hauling a heavy bag around isn’t an option for me. I also don’t like having to rummage to the bottom of my bag to find things. My favourite suitcases have hard cases and 360-degree spinning wheels.
My fiance, Mark, is a backpack guy. He vows he will never travel with a suitcase, then ends up carrying mine around cobblestone streets! Mark swears by duffel bags that have straps and convert into a backpack. The Northface duffel is a wonderful bag with a great warranty. Patagonia, Arcteryx, and outdoor brands have great duffel/backpack options.
Create a travel toiletries bag
Buy mini sizes that you refill. No need to pack huge bottles of shampoo! Remember the magic number is 100ml, anything under 100ml can go in carry-on luggage. See if your beauty store will give you a sample size of your favourite cologne and just bring your makeup essentials. Red lipstick is my number one! Keep your moisturizers handy, as planes dry out your skin.
Only bring multi-wear items
Don’t pack that gorgeous pair of red pumps that you only wear once a year (unless you’re going to Vegas!) Bring items you will get a lot of wear from. A versatile dress that can be dressed up or down, your favourite pair of heels, a bow-tie that classes up your shirts. If it’s cooler weather, only bring one winter coat. A scarf and gloves are always handy for cooler climates!
Stick to a style/colour palette for clothes & shoes (with light fabrics)
No sense bringing a bunch of clothes that can’t be mixed and matched to complement each other. Light packable shoes & fabrics are best.
Check the weather of your destination
I always do quite a bit of research about the weather where I’m going. Average temperatures, rainfall, winds, day versus night. I hate being cold or wet, so I make sure I’m prepared! It ensures I bring the right clothing.
Consider the style in your destination
When visiting Iceland I brought all outdoor clothing, I knew it would be an active trip. For SE Asia, I pack casual, beachy clothes. America, Australia, or Europe are harder to pack for, as you can be stylish or casual. I usually bring clothes that I can walk in all day, but dress up if needed!
Share items if you’re traveling with a companion
No need to both bring toothpaste or external battery packs, just share!
Wear layers, your heaviest shoes, and jacket on the plane
If I’m bringing boots or a winter coat, I always wear them on the plane. I often find I get cold flying anyway. My down jacket was a game-changer, as it weighs nothing and can be packed into a tiny ball!
How you pack makes all the difference!
- Give yourself time! I start throwing clothes in my suitcase a week before leaving
- Layout everything you want to pack to visualize what you’re taking. Remove any items you’re not 100% sure of.
- Lose another 20-30% of everything you want to bring
- Roll your clothes or use vacuum bags to compress clothing
My favourite items to travel with
Down-jacket: Warm, light, packable. It rolls into a ball! This is the only jacket I travel with. I bought it in black and it’s long, with a hood, so it’s versatile.
External battery pack: Game changer for long travel days for charging phones, cameras, e-readers.
Water bottle: Do yourself & the environment a favour and use a refillable bottle. Take it the extra mile and get one that filters water.
Tea/coffee thermos: I am a tea addict, so I always bring my own loose-leaf and thermos. I couldn’t travel without it!
E-Reader: I’m an avid reader and now have thousands of books at my fingertips.
Headphones: Goes without saying really! I download podcasts and music for offline listening. I also love having my own set for watching plane movies.
Snacks: I’m a picky vegetarian so I always take my own food on planes. I often pack granola & energy bars so I have breakfast food wherever I go.
Hat: Wind, rain, or sun, a hat always comes in handy.
Melatonin, earplugs & eyemask: A sleeping kit is so important.
Water filtration system: We bought a platypus water filter that cleans 4L of water in under 5-minutes. We never have to buy water or single-use plastics!