If you’re one of those people who come home from vacation with half your clothes unworn, this post on packing light is for you! And to be honest, since Covid, I got out of practice and have indeed given some clothes a free holiday.
Whether it be for a short weekend trip or several weeks of travel – packing light is a skill requiring great mastery and years of practice.
Fortunately for you, I have been attempting this endeavour for the last 20 years as a full time travel writer. Not that I have my masters in Packing Light yet (it is a very long degree), but I have learned a trick or two along the way.
I now take the same size suitcase whether I am travelling for one week or one month.
Have you heard that Japan Airlines is trialing no luggage, instead you rent clothes online that will be delivered to your hotel for your holiday!
Here’s how I pack!
Most airlines charge for luggage these days (in fact pretty much EVERY airline except Southwest Airlines, which is why they are my favourite airline in the US for domestic travel, but you need to know some tips for flying Southwest as they do not issue seat numbers!) so if you want to snap up the cheapest deals, you need to know how to throw yourself together in under 7kg. I know!
Now I don’t ever pack in just a cabin bag if I’m going to be more than two days away, but to ensure you don’t OVERPACK and give half your wardrobe a free holiday, I’ve put together 8 easy tips for packing a suitcase to help you take charge of the life part of your work/life balance to get away on vacation and save money on baggage fees while you do it – so you can spend it on things to put in them:
1. Roll v Fold & packing cells
When it comes to packing a suitcase, my husband is a roller and I am a folder. As much as I hate to admit it, he gets more into his bag than I do.
Fortunately, he is not likely to find this post, so I can retain my superior status in our household. I have now become a semi roller. I roll anything cotton like leggings, singlets and tops. I fold anything floaty like tunic tops. I also squeeze. I squeeze socks into shoes and smalls into a sunhat to make sure it keeps its shape.
But the discovery of packing cells last year was a revelation and now my clothes just fit into my bag like a jigsaw. Underwear in one, tops in another, 3/4 length leggings in one, singlets in one, long pant might share with a cardigan or light jacket… You get the gist.
What’s more, when you arrive at your hotel you can just put the cells into the drawer and not live out of you suitcase at all.
2. Wear it, don’t pack it
Even if I’m flying to LA via Fiji or Tahiti, I wear my boots and jacket on the plane because they are usually the most awkward items to stuff in.
I’ve even been known to wear my sunhat when leaving Auckland on a winter’s day because I don’t want it to get squished. (Except for the tip above which I only mastered recently, i.e. stuffing it with smalls).
3. Wash on the road
If you’re away for a couple of weeks, you’ll do laundry. Whether that’s washing out your smalls in the hotel or taking them to a local laundromat. I usually take a little container of washing powder or liquid so I can wash my smalls every couple of days and tops a bit longer.
If you’re staying in the same place for two nights or more, wash and ring them out by rolling and twisting them in towels, then hang them on coat hangers with your air conditioning left on. They’ll be dry overnight.
(I have added a twisty clothesline in my online store which solves the coathanger issue! Visit my Travel Store here >>) *Sorry I can only ship NZ-wide at this stage.
4. Best colour to travel
Black is the new black! Seriously, the New Zealand penchant for black comes into its own when travelling. (We love black, you’ve heard of our All Blacks rugby team? Riiiiight.)
Throw your best department store black look together and you can wear this same ensemble every day and no one will notice if you just add a pop of colour via your tops, a big necklace, a simple cardy or poncho or even a scarf.
5. Don’t give any clothes a free holiday!
I always hate when I get home from a trip and haven’t worn everything in my bag. Fail. That’s why I haven’t yet earned my Packing Light Masters Degree.
You always wear things more than once, so be ruthless and leave that extra skirt behind. Besides, you know you’ll probably buy stuff! Pack for seven days even if you are going for 14. Rotation is the operative word.
AND I never take more than three pairs of shoes. Walking/hiking shoe, sandal for day wear, nice shoe for restaurants and shows.
6. Toiletries are the tricky part
Little bottles or refillable pouches are the trick. Save your hotel amenities to reuse next time you travel and refill them with your own products from home. I’ve added little shampoo pouches to my Travel Store which I prefer as when they’re empty they lie flat rather than still taking up the same space as a bottle.
Also if they are under 100ml you can take them on international flights in your hand luggage.
Use a washable makeup remover cloth to cut down on make up wipes – which is also much kinder on the environment. I have my own Bare Face Cloth range, sold NZ-wide.
7. Wear it then throw it!
This great tip came in from a reader: she wears her oldest clothes on the plane and chucks them out, either halfway through a long-haul flight or when she lands. This is genius. Especially if you are flying 12-24 hours from winter to summer. Wear your old daggy winter trackies on the flight, then get changed half way across the world into your “arrival” gear!
For quick and easy packing, packing cubes are a revelation! I also have these in the Travel Store, but if you are outside New Zealand, you can pick some up on Amazon.
Here are 8 reasons why I love to use packing cells now:
- Pack your clothes neatly by type (underwear/pants/tops, etc)
- Know where everything is at a glance as you can see through the mesh top, so you don’t rifle through your suitcase every morning
- Itemise by outfit with the top, bottom and accessories all packed together for specific days, if that makes your life easier
- Unpack in your hotel or cruise cabin by simply placing the cells in the drawers and you’re done
- Repack and be ready to depart in under 5 minutes!
- Use one packing cell for items that might need declaring to make it easy at Customs
- It’s simple to remove one cell at check in if your luggage is over weight
AND if packing really is a nightmare for you, get my free printable packing list, just print it out, fill out the boxes and have it beside you as you go.
You might also like to see tips for my post on Packing for a Cruise here >>