There is nothing like the rush of planning a new trip. Your bookings are squared away and you are counting down the days. But there is one crucial thing that must be done-and that is packing! Maybe you are leaving for 2 weeks but can only take one suitcase, or maybe you need to take all your photography gear. Whatever the trip, one thing is certain; you must maximise your packing space!
To help you out, your fellow Globalwot are here to share some of their favourite packing tips to help you squeeze as much into that little suitcase as possible.
As a traveler extraordinaire, Robin flies all over Asia for volunteering and work, when she’s not jetting with her husband on business trips or flying to the US to visit her kids. She once took a 2 week trip to Nepal with only one carry-on suitcase. Now that takes serious packing skills!
She says, “It’s true that I’m on the road more than I’m home! Recently I did a 9 day trip to Bangkok and Cambodia with a carry on. My packing included beachwear, 3 days of professional wear, and a formal sari with high heels and a curling iron!”
Maximise your packing space for clothing:
- A lightweight carry-on spinner suitcase plus a big bag/purse can hold most of what you need. My favorite carry-on right now is a hard-side Samsonite. I’ve been loading it way too heavy and it is still standing strong! They keep changing their styles but this suitcase is the closest to what I am using.
- Plan to wear items at least twice. When travelling to hot, humid places I find cotton dresses are best. They pack tight, keep you cool and can be dressed up with a scarf or down with sneakers. Hotels and AirBnB’s (usually) will have laundry service that can clean them up if needed.
2-3 pairs of shoes – closed toe (wear on the flight to protect feet from stray roller bags) and sandals that can go fancy if needed.
- One or two large scarves that can serve as a sarong, skirt, shawl, and mini blanket for the plane. I usually travel with one silk and one cotton scarf. They extend your wardrobe.
Maximise your packing space for beauty care:
- Most hotels in the west have blow dryers, but they aren’t as common in Asia. Call and ask and if they don’t have one bring this little guy that has dual voltage and folds up small.
- Travel size everything! Hair spray, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, even a teeny-tiny travel size first aid kit with an emergency assortment of medications for tummy trouble or pain management. My teeny-tiny first aid kit fits in an old film roll canister, back from the days when people used real film!
- Makeup bag is smaller when items are in stick form. Mascara, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, blush, lipstick, foundation and even eye shadow travel light. I use these items every day as I travel constantly, no time to be packing a makeup bag every week.
- For my lotions and cleansers I use these 3ml pots. One pot can hold about 12 days worth of face moisturizer, cleanser, cream, or serum. You can use them for pills too! They also come in 5ml and 10ml sizes.
My favorite makeup sticks:
Maybelline Eyeshadow Base – this brightens and stays all day
Smashbox Lipstick – I use this for lips and cheeks and the color lasts! I love the Fig color.
Clinique Chubby Stick Foundation – portable and doesn’t make a mess of your travel bag.
Clinique Pretty Easy Eyeliner – my go-to for 3 years now.
Smashbox Brow pencil – I’ve tried a lot of pencils and this is my favorite.
Lash Paradise Mascara – stays all day and makes my eyes look huge! I keep buying this over and over.
Kristie is usually travelling with her 5 kids which involves a lot of creative packing. She has learned a lot about what to take and what not to take, when travelling with kids. It’s a skill you hone over time based on y0ur family, but start with some of these tips to maximise packing space for you and your kiddos.
- Find out if your accommodations have a laundry facility. If yes, you can cut your packing by half and plan in a wash day. If not, you can pack lightweight items you can wash in the sink or bathtub and hang to dry. A blowdryer will get out the last of the moisture if needed.
- For little kids, pack two extra shirts since they get dirty fast and are easier to clean and make room for extra underwear for accidents.
- Roll shirt and bottoms together into one tight tube. It saves space and makes it easy for kids to find their clothes.
- Take a laundry bag (or use the hotel’s) to keep dirty laundry separate from clean as the days go by.
- Buy diapers for baby once you are at your destination, it will save on luggage space.
- For short trips have kids pack two/three days of clothes in their own backpack to carry themselves. It frees up your bag substantially!
- Organize your hotel and airline bookings, passports, visas, custom forms, foreign currency and a pen, in a separate zip pouch that stays on top of your bag for quick access. These pouches fit everything and you can see what’s in it.
This wonderful woman has been an expat for more than a decade and has traveled the world with her kids, with girlfriends and even solo! She loves to bring her camera to snap great pics and has many tips on how to simplify your camera packing and beyond.
“It has taken me years to figure out the elusive trick to packing light and it started with the hard, long unheeded truth hitting me each time at the end of a trip: that I never needed half of the items I had packed. Applying these tips have made all the difference in my travel.”
Maximise Luggage Space:
- Camera. Like so many avid travelers, I love taking my Nikon SLR everywhere. Most recently I have chosen to leave it home in favor of my amazing iPhone XS Max with it’s killer built in camera. That said, when I do take it, my best suggestion is a travel camera backpack by Lowepro to carry it in, which I’ve used exclusively for a decade. When on the road, I can also store my laptop inside the main pocket, so between all my gear and lenses, I feel fully equipped. I take it everywhere with me on trips and it is my constant carry-on. Newer versions today look equally fabulous.
- Besides the camera backpack, a version of this camera pouch is my next carry-on travel essential. It’s small and I struggle to not overpack it, but it forces me to pack light. Carrying personal items, including easy access to travel documents while on the road makes this my next best travel buddy.
- My best discovery for travel: Packing cubes! While a ton are on the market I prefer Eagle Creek best. The fabric is light and crushes into almost nothing when it’s empty. Bonus is that the larger size can double as a place to put dirty clothes! The packs help me stay organized when I’m on the go and speeds up packing time between destinations: $29USD on Amazon.
Clothing and Accessories:
For cold weather:
- Layers and more layers which include: merino wool long sleeve tops/leggings and socks which can ensure warmth while still being very light. If you’re in cold weather and aren’t sweating much you can air them out each night for next day use. This allows you to pack only ONE item of each of the critical pieces. In addition, determine which hat, pair of gloves and scarf can cover all the destinations/events you’ll be visiting.
For hot weather:
- I consider where I’m going and what I’ll be doing; beach/mountain/city or country. I prefer to travel with a couple light cotton/linen/rayon fabric tops and only one extra pair of pants or shorts that I may be travelling in, and one dress.
- Dressing up? Working out? Climbing mountains? It’s tricky when you have multiple activities and events which require various types of foot support. Maximize your packing space by considering what you can use for most activities. Try not to pack more than 2 pair. For me, the basics in summer are a pair of flip flops for (public) showers, beaches, casual dresses and evening wear. My second pair is hiking boots, which can cover me in mountains, and transport on trains or planes. If I am feeling confident on space I can throw in running shoes for working out if I want to. Aside from that, sunglasses and a great travel hat is essential.
- I always want to stay well hydrated and love carrying the Nalgene brand water bottle. It’s thick BPA free material allows you to fill it with hot water (not insulated) as well as cold, and I love that it hooks and I can carry it anywhere. Just remember – dump the water before you enter airport security or it might be confiscated as mine was at SFO.
As an adventurer, Constance and can sometimes be found with an overnight pack rather than a suitcase. She recently took a backpacking trip to Nepal and can share what to pack when you are in the mood for the great outdoors:
“I use a lot of the same tricks that my fellow Globalwot do. Here are a few tips for packing to hike in cool weather.”
- If there is limited access to water, I pack no-rinse bathing wipes (nice large size) or some people prefer baby wipes, (more for your money).
- Skin care: I skip the cleansers and bring mini packs of face wipes instead. Also moisturizer, sunscreen and lip balm are essential.
- If there is no heat in the sleeping area, I wear base layers (Uniqlo Heattech, Patagonia) as pajamas, or a set of merino wool thermals. You can wear them under clothes during the day if needed. Wool doesn’t retain odor like other fabrics, so it can be worn for more days and is both lightweight and warm.
- Extra wool socks, since clean, dry feet make hiking so much nicer. Two pair of shoes because when hiking all day for several days, changing your shoes can refresh your feet, plus if one pair gets wet, you can wear the other. I prefer hiking shoes instead of boots because they take up less room and are more flexible.
- Maximize your packing space by taking lightweight pants, not jeans, (too bulky and take too long to dry). Pack a couple of gray Columbia or prAna pants. They look clean even when dirty. They go with everything, dry fast and can slide over a base layer if it gets really cold.
- Tops – several long-sleeved base layers and a couple of heavier over-shirts to wear multiple times.
- A lightweight jacket, plus a down coat (Uniqlo) that stuffs into a small sack if you get too warm.
- Lightweight wool hat and scarf, plus gloves and I will be warm without wearing bulky clothing.
- Wear most clothes multiple times but save one fresh outfit to wear on the plane home.
Teena is the kind of girl who is always in the know! She is on top of travel trends and can share with you some must-have items that will make your packing easier and maximise your packing space.
She says if space is at a premium, always roll your clothes instead of folding them. “If you’re going somewhere for a week – do not begin with thinking ‘right, I need seven outfits.’ Instead, become the mix n’ match specialist. Don’t take two pairs of denim jeans when one will do. No one cares if you wear the same pair of jeans two days in a row. I travelled around the US on a motorbike for 2 months. Storage was at an all-time premium. My husband and I shared the same deodorant stick to help save space!”
My clothing was essentially:
- One nice ‘going out’ outfit (skirt and top – so the top could be repurposed and worn with denims or dressy pants, nice shoes).
- Three long pants incl. two pairs of denim jeans (essential for riding all day, every day). The other pair of pants were dressier.
- Three T-shirts (incl. one for exercise).
- Two long sleeved T-shirt that I could layer under the T-shirts for extra warmth.
- Exercise gear (yoga pants, sports bra, socks, walking shorts, trainers, swimsuit).
- Underwear and other essentials
- Light sweater x 2 (because I like sweaters)
Now that I’ve learned to travel light, I’m all about having order to my packing. I love the organisers that allow you to compartmentalise your luggage within your suitcase.
- One is for underwear, socks, exercise gear. One might be for my beachwear and swimsuits if I’m going on a beach holiday. Another will be for T-shirts and tops, and another will be for all ‘bottoms.’ And one will be for electronic stuff – travel adaptor, phone charger and laptop charger, etc).
- Travel with as few pairs of shoes as possible – they take up so much room!
- The clothes you wear on the plane count as an outfit so be smart with what you choose to wear.
BIG TIP: wear something comfortable for the flight – cotton clothing breathes best.
Where will your luggage take you?:
And there you have it! So many great tips from ladies just like you who have done enough packing to know how to work it best.
We have many itineraries you can download to help you apply all these new packing ideas. Check out Robin’s 9 day adventure through Sri Lanka, Kristie’s family travel itinerary to Vietnam, or Teena’s lovely wedding anniversary trip to Bangkok with her husband. Whether it’s 2 days or 2 weeks, we are confident there is something here that will help you maximise your packing space and simplify your future travel.