18 Essential Travel Packing Tips

Travelling light is travelling smart. This is a sentiment you will often hear, thrown around the travel community and it rings true for the most part. Most of us, however, will be guilty of the opposite. Let’s be honest, we’re all sometimes guilty of over-packing. Hence why you’re in need of some essential travel packing tips.

“What if I need this?”

“What if we end up doing that?”

These are just a couple of the questions you will likely ask yourself when you pack for a trip and, as a result, you will bring far more than what you actually need. Because of this, it becomes more difficult to travel around with an oversized, heavy bag and you have to pay the extra baggage fees when checking in for flights.

This stress-filled packing nightmare can be easily avoided. All it takes is a bit of creativity and common sense. Here’s a list of 18 of the most important packing tips to keep in mind every time you travel.

Get the right backpack

I personally travel everywhere with just a backpack and nothing else (unless I’m going skiing or snowboarding, in which case, I will need to check in a bag). I find this easier than hauling around a big, bulky suitcase. Whether you’re a backpack person like me or a simple suitcase wielder, it’s so important for you to choose the right bag. You’re going to be carrying your life in this thing so you’re going to want it to be up to the task of travelling (especially if you’re travelling for an extended period of time). For all you backpackers, I would recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40L if you want a bag that will be accepted as carry-on luggage. If you’re okay with checking your bag in, you can opt for one of the bigger sizes like the 55 or the 70.

Make a packing list (and stick to it)

Making a packing list is the perfect way to stay organised when packing and it will also prevent you from worrying on the day if you’ve got everything because you’ll have checked everything off. It may seem like a hassle at the time, to make this list, but it will end up saving you a lot more time (and stress) in the long run. Keep your list with you so you can refer back to it whenever you need to.

As you become a more experienced traveller, you can tweak your packing list based on your experiences. You will start to develop your knowledge of what’s essential and what you can leave behind.

Don’t pack too many clothes

A general rule I stick to is to pack enough clothes to last me a week, no matter how long I plan on travelling for. This may not seem like much at first but it will be more than enough, especially since you will be able to do laundry while you’re away. By packing fewer clothes, you will have more space in your bag for things you buy while you’re away (maybe some new clothes). I’m sure you’re no stranger to packing a ton of different clothes, only to realise you wear the same few things repeatedly.

Roll your clothes (don’t fold them)

I know it’s social convention to fold your clothes, but it actually saves more space if you roll them. This will also stop your clothes from getting creases and folds in them so you won’t have to do a batch of ironing as soon as you unpack!

Pack stuff into your shoes

Packing things like socks into your shoes is a great way to save some extra space. This will also help your shoes keep their form and structure and prevent them from getting squished in your bag.

Wear your bulkiest clothes for the flight

Maybe your bag is approaching the weight limit. Maybe you want to bring a few extra items. Whatever the reason, wearing your biggest and bulkiest clothes on the plane will save you space in your bag, and may even allow you to avoid paying any additional baggage fees.

Use packing cubes

Another great way to make the best use of the space you have available is to use packing cubes. Packing cubes are also great for helping you organise your stuff so it becomes even easier to pack and to unpack as well.

Bring a kindle

If you struggle to get by without a book, it can become a problem when you travel. Books are reasonably bulky and can easily get damaged in your bag. A simple solution to this is to invest in a device like a Kindle; something you can store all of your books on.

Weigh your bag(s) with luggage scales

This is the solution to never being charged additional fees at airports again! Invest in a set of luggage scales and be sure to weigh your bag(s) at each stage of your journey. If you’re approaching the limit, maybe consider wearing a few extra layers to avoid being charged.

Bring a lightweight travel towel

If you feel like you must bring a towel with you, opt for one of these microfibre lightweight travel towels. They’re far less bulky than regular towels, they’re lighter and they also dry quicker, which can be ideal if you need to pack in a hurry just after you’ve had a shower.

Don’t bring more shoes than you need

Know what type of trip you are embarking on, and thus, what shoes you will likely need. Unless you’re going on a hiking trip, leave the hiking shoes at home.

On the flip side, if you are going hiking, like climbing Mount Fuji in Japan, bring hiking shoes with you. Don’t do what I did and climb the thing wearing shitty trainers. Your feet will end up hurting and your shoes will likely be destroyed!

Shoes are among the biggest and bulkiest items in your bag so only pack them if you are 100% sure that you will need them at some point.

Resist last-minute temptations

The morning you set off rolls around and you may have a last-minute panic about the stuff you’ve packed. You may have sudden temptations to throw in a few extra t-shirts or something but just resist this urge. As long as you’ve stuck to the other tips on this list, you will be fine and you’ll have everything you need already with you.

Practice packing

Lay out everything you intend to take with you and go through it all, asking yourself if you really need it. You will never regret not bringing a certain thing but I think we can all say we’ve regretted bringing too much. None of us want that unbearable back and shoulder pain caused by a backpack that is twice as heavy as it should be. Just take a little extra time to go through all of your stuff and make sure you’re only bringing the important stuff, not the “what if” stuff.

Bring versatile clothing

Instead of packing one piece of clothing for every conceivable event or weather occurrence, pack clothes that are multi-purpose and versatile. I can imagine this will be more of a girl problem than a guy one, but we should all be aware of it.

Buy a universal travel adaptor

This proves cheaper in the long run, compared to buying individual adaptors for each country you visit. It will also provide you with more flexibility if you decide to extend your trip or travel to a country you weren’t planning on visiting before.

Make use of hotel freebies

If you’re staying in hotels on your trip, bear in mind that they usually provide free amenities like toiletries. Make use of these freebies and you won’t have to pack as many toiletries of your own.

Pack mini toiletries

But, if you do pack toiletries, pack them in mini bottles or just buy the “travel” version of the product. They’re easier to pack and you won’t run into any trouble at airport security.

Pack less than you think you need

We never need as much as we think. Until you become experienced enough to know what you actually need instead of what you think you need, give yourself limitations. An example of a limitation could be to use a smaller bag. Giving yourself this limit will cause you to be more selective and deliberate when it comes to what you bring with you.

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Hi, I'm Jamie, freelance writer and travel blogger. Just so you know, you may find affiliate links in some of my posts. For more info, read my disclaimer.

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