Travel packing hacks!

Packing for a trip can be stressful, especially if you have an unreasonable weight restriction for your luggage. There are many tips for packing available on the internet and various blogs, so I’ve combined clever tricks from the interweb and my own tips to give you a comprehensive guide to packing for travel. This guide is tailored mainly to air travel, so the aim is efficient use of space and minimizing the weight of your luggage. It’s also mainly aimed at women – sorry guys! ­čśë

Check-in luggage:

There are many tips I’ve found for packing your check-in luggage, some of which are invaluable, and some that I generally┬áskip. I came across the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” rule recently, so I tried it out. Here are my findings and thoughts:

So, the 5-4-3-2-1 rule says that you should pack 5 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 accessories, 2┬ápairs of shoes, and 1 swimsuit for a week-long trip. I picked out items I’d take on a summer holiday and this is what I ended up with:


5 tops

Five tops

I chose a coral pink sleeveless shirt, a comfy grey T-shirt, a black sleeveless peplum top, a long-sleeved black top, and a bright green tank top with a funky flower print. This was difficult, as I prefer more options, even for a week. What if I want to wear one top to the beach, and another out for dinner? That’s two tops in one day! What about beach cover-ups? What about clothes for nightclubs or beach bars? So, the verdict – 5 tops is not enough! For me at least. I prefer taking at least 10 for 7 days, with at least 4 of those small enough (e.g., tank tops or simple vests) to roll up and squish into tiny corners of my bag. This could work for 5 days, however, as you can judge what the weather will be like and plan outfits accordingly.


4 bottoms


Choosing bottoms┬áwas much easier. I chose a pair of short-shorts, a neon skirt, a pair of jeans, and a long, flowy skirt. I could definitely make these work on a week-long trip! The jeans can be worn on the flight, saving space in your suitcase. You could also get away with two pairs of jeans – pack one, and wear one. Verdict – four bottoms = good idea!


3 accessories


I found this one a bit unnecessary – I always carry my “hobo” sling bag everywhere, and I usually don’t wear a belt. But, the clutch bag could be cute for a special night out or cocktails at a beach bar. Also, it doesn’t take up much space. So, maybe one accessory, like a clutch bag. My handbag is a given, not an accessory, and the rest (earrings, bangles, etc) can be packed separately as they’re small.


2 pairs of shoes


For shoes, I chose a pair of leather gladiator sandals and a pair of wedges. I’d have to say I’d add another pair of shoes – a closed pair for walking (sightseeing, hiking, etc). Wedges are good for travelling as they’re easier to walk in on cobbled streets, and they go well with beachwear. I usually wear the sandals/casual shoes on the flight, pack the heels in my check-in luggage, and tie my walking shoes to my backpack as carry-on luggage. So I’d say 3 pairs of shoes are ideal.


1 swimsuit


I currently only own one swimsuit, but I always take as many as possible (ALL the swimsuits!). They don’t take up much space, and it’s lovely to be able to take off your wet swimsuit after being in the ocean or pool and throwing on a dry one for the rest of the day. No wet bum and boob patches when you’re leaving the pool to go grab lunch!

In general, I’d agree that this method works. For me, not really. I’d say 10 tops for 7 days, 7 tops for 5 days, 4 bottoms, one or two accessories, 3 pairs of shoes, and 2+ swimsuits. I’d also add:


One dress – something pretty and classic for going out, or a beach dress for a beach holiday. Also, beach cover-ups (a sarong or wrap), a light jersey, and a sun hat. (Of course, you’d have underwear and socks etc too – but those are small and you can squeeze them into gaps in your suitcase).


General packing tips for check-in luggage: 

  • Fold clothes that may get creased/wrinkled and layer them in-between towels. The rest of your clothes you can roll and wedge in together to save space. You can even make little “outfit rolls” – choose an outfit and roll the clothes up together. This saves time when you’re looking for an outfit in the morning before you rush off to go sightseeing.
Packing travel hacks
Outfit (top, bottom, undies) rolled up in an “outfit bundle”


  • Be aware of all luggage regulations! Check the weight restrictions, and weight your bag before leaving home if possible. Some airlines charge exorbitant fees for each kilogram your bag is overweight, or they might refuse your bag altogether.


  • Store all sharp and potentially dangerous objects (scissors, tweezers, nail-clippers, pocket knives, metal nail files) and liquids over 100ml in your check-in luggage. To prevent spillage, try stretching a small amount of cling film over the opening of bottles of liquids/gels, and then replacing the lids. As an extra precaution, I often put my shampoo bottle and body wash etc in a big plastic bag with a zipper before storing the whole thing in my toiletry bag.
Clingfilm to stop leakage
Clingfilm to stop leakage
  • ┬áPack socks in your shoes to save space. You can also use a plastic shower cap to keep the bottoms of your shoes from touching your clean clothes, but I generally just pop my pair of shoes into a good old plastic bag.


  • Pack jewelry into pill boxes to keep them safe. I came across this tip on Pinterest, and I haven’t used it yet, but it looks very handy.
Keep jewelry safe in a pill box
Keep jewelry safe in a pill box

Those are my main tips for check-in luggage. Feel free to comment below if you have your own tips to add!


Cabin Luggage:

The luggage you take with you onto the plane should be ONLY your essentials for the flight, important/valuable items, and things to keep you entertained and comfortable.

Here are my top 10 tips for packing your cabin/carry-on luggage:


1. Travel documents

Keep your travel documents in a safe place
Keep your travel documents in a safe place

The MOST IMPORTANT thing is your passport. I keep my passport and boarding pass in a small ziploc bag in my handbag, so they are┬áeasy to access and I always know exactly where they are. It’s also a good idea to make 2 or 3 copies of your passport and to keep one in your check-in luggage and one in your carry-on as a precaution.


2. Medications 


I always keep my important medications in a small makeup bag in my carry-on luggage. Besides my chronic medication, I carry painkillers, travel sickness chewing gum, anti-diarrhea pills, and plasters. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, but I’ve found this to be useful. If you’re taking a few weeks worth of important medication, take at least one week’s worth in your carry-on in case your luggage goes missing.


3. Light jersey, scarf, comfy socks, earplugs, and neck pillow

Things to keep you comfy on your flight
Things to keep you comfy on your flight

For a long-haul overnight flight, I find having these few things keeps me comfortable. A light jersey is a must as the cabin can be chilly at night, and a scarf is perfect to drape over your shoulders to keep you warm. You can also use it to cover your face when you sleep, or as a pillow. I don’t really like those weird airplane socks they give you on a long flight, so I bring my own thick, comfy socks for the journey. Lastly, a neck pillow can help relieve neck strain and aid sleeping, and ear plugs will block out the noises that may disturb you when you’re trying to sleep.


4. Hand lotion, eye/nose drops, face wipes, mouth wash


Most airlines restrict liquids to 100ml containers, adding up to 1 litre (so, approx 10 small containers of no more than 100ml each). To make your security check a breeze, take all your carry-on liquids and pop them in a 1 litre clear ziploc bag. Have your bag in your hand as you join the security queue, and put it in the bin so it can go through the x-ray.


As for what to take on board:

  • Hand lotion – my hands get very dry from the air conditioning, and I find a good hand lotion can ease the dryness.
  • Deodorant – either roll-on or a small aerosol can. I always take deodorant to smell fresh after a 12 hour flight!
  • Hair spray or dry shampoo (travel sized) – if you want to feel and look refreshed after a long flight, take a small hair spray or can of dry shampoo along with you. You can use it in the airport bathrooms (NOT in the airplane toilet!) to freshen up before you go to fetch your luggage.
  • Lip balm – dry lips are awful, especially in the dry cabin air at night.
  • Mini mouth wash – I’m a bit lazy and I hate actually brushing my teeth in that tiny airplane bathroom, so I usually take some mouthwash to rinse my mouth out at night and in the morning. You can always clean your teeth properly in the hotel room!
  • Hand sanitizer – travelling can be gross, with so many people using airplane facilities and touching things with dirty hands. Use alcohol hand gel to sanitize hands, or better still, alcohol hand wipes (gel can’t kill all the germs, so it’s best to wipe them off your hands).
  • Nose/eye drops – Battle dry, itchy eyes and dry nasal passages with eye drops and a saline nose spray.


Face wipes, gum, tissues, and wipes for your specs
Face wipes, gum, tissues, and wipes for your specs

I also love face wipes – they remove makeup, clean your face, and add a bit of moisture too. Perfect for feeling refreshed and removing makeup at night on your flight. Gum can help with cabin pressure (chewing helps your ears “pop”), tissues are handy, and if you wear specs, cleaning tissues are a bonus.


5. Your own headphones/noise cancelling headphones, reading light, chargers

Earphones, book light, and chargers
Earphones, book light, and chargers

Most airline provide earphones for the in-flight entertainment, but you can also bring your own. If you want to plug your own into the airline console, you may need a two-prong plug. I know there are reading lights above you when seated, but I prefer my own little book light – it’s less distracting to others and it’s a bit brighter. Finally, keep your chargers in your carry-on bag, just in case you need them in the airport or your luggage is lost.


7. A spare pair of underwear, socks, and a tank top


If you have a long layover or your luggage is delayed by a day or two, it’s nice to have fresh undies, socks, and a top to wear in the meantime. (Pug socks are recommended but not mandatory). Roll them up together and pack them at the bottom of your bag as emergency clothes.

8. Book, tablet, phone, Kindle, gaming console


Pack all the gadgets and books you want so you can entertain yourself during the flight. Remember to set devices to flight mode! Travel books and guides are a great choice as you can plan for your trip (if you haven’t already), and you can distract yourself by getting excited for your travels.

9. Notebook or journal, pens, pencil, camera


I adore my notebooks and travel journals. They’re handy for sleep-deprived musings, making lists of things to do, and general doodles to pass the time. I’d recommend Moleskine journals, and an Italian brand called Ciak that makes great leather-bound journals (the green journal in the pic above is my Ciak journal).

10. Tie trainers to your backpack


Running/walking shoes or hiking boots can be big and bulky to pack, so I usually tie mine to my backpack. They should hang at hip-height and shouldn’t get in anyone’s way. You may look like a backpacking hippy, but that’s fine by me ­čśÇ

So, that’s about it really! Please leave extra tips and suggestions in the comments ­čÖé

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  1. Lots of great tips here Carmen ­čÖé I never thought of putting socks into shoes to save space.I love your sandals and wedges by the way!

  2. Thank you! ­čÖé I need to get fashion inspiration from you, hehe! I think another trip to Primark is in order ­čśë

  3. Fantastic tips! I am going to study abroad. I am so happy that I found your article. I was afraid I am not going to manage to pack everything. With your help it is possible. My advice is to put your jewellery in your socks and your socks in your shoes. Absolutely space saving method. Greets!

  4. […] it takes at least 10 hours to get anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere! I’ve already written an article about travel packing┬áhacks, which is more for long-haul flights, so I thought I’d write about my recent experience with […]

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