After 20+ years of travelling I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way to lessen the packing headache. These are my top packing tips.
1. Make a packing list
Even though I travel frequently I’ll still forget things if I don’t make a list. There are certain things I never travel without and I keep a list of them in my phone notes app to check off before I go. It’s easy to forget things like phone chargers, camera batteries, and toothbrushes. For bigger trips I usually use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything.
Break your list into different sections: clothes, footwear, toiletries, electronics etc. This makes it easier to remember things. Tick items off as you pack them.
Having a list also helps you to remember exactly what you packed if your luggage goes missing.
2. Invest in good quality luggage
Investing in good quality lightweight luggage will make your travels so much easier. If you’re travelling independently you’ll spend a lot of time carrying, pulling, lifting and stowing your bag.
It’s worth spending money on a good quality backpack or a lightweight wheelie case. That suitcase you bought on offer in the supermarket probably isn’t the best choice!
I once tried to save money by borrowing one of my dad’s old duffel bags when going to Russia. The bag had wheels but only a soft cloth handle to pull it. I didn’t try it out before I left and on my way to the airport I realised that it was really difficult to pull along.
There was no way I was going to be able to drag it around Russia for three weeks. I ended up having to leave it in my Moscow hostel and buy a very expensive Samsonite wheeled duffel bag. Lesson learnt!
3. Use Luggage tags
Make sure to put a luggage tag on any bags you check in. The tag should have your full name, a mobile number, home city, and an email address.
If your luggage doesn’t turn up on the baggage carousel it will make it significantly easier to reunite you with it. If you have a popular type of bag you can also quickly check to make sure it’s your luggage.
Years ago, my brother was bringing some clothes back from London for me. When I asked him if he had a luggage tag he laughed at me. He ended up picking up the wrong suitcase in Dublin Airport. That identical looking suitcase didn’t have a tag on it either. It took over a week to track down the owner and swap the suitcases. My brother always uses luggage tags now!
4. Zip lock bags
Simple, cheap, and widely available, clear zip lock plastic bags are perfect for organising your packing.
They’re great for packing a change of underwear, keeping charger cables together, and stopping books and documents from getting damp. More importantly they help prevent your toiletries from spilling all over your bag. Because they’re see-through, you can quickly locate what you want.
5. Travel Cubes
When it comes to packing clothes, travel cubes are hard to beat. They are particular useful for backpacking. Living out of a backpack for months is not easy, especially if your clothes are all over the place. Packing cubes help you keep some sort of order.
I’ve used eagle creek and Osprey cubes for several years now. They are easy to pull in and out of your bag and you can fit more in. Keep underwear in one, t-shirts in another and you’ll always be able to find what you need.
6. Bring a Pack Towel
Ordinary towels are heavy and take up far too much space. A lightweight, quick drying, travel towel is a much better option. As well taking up far less space, the quick drying material means they are much easier to pack after an early morning swim on departure day.
7. Keep a change of clothes in your hand luggage
If you are checking in your luggage it’s always a good idea to pack a set of underwear and a t-shirt in your hand luggage. If your checked bag doesn’t arrive at least you’ll have something to sleep in and clean underwear until you get it back.
8. Carry a separate travel wallet
You won’t need your hometown travelcard, library, or supermarket loyalty card when you’re on the road, but replacing them will be a headache if you lose your wallet or it gets stolen.
Only take the cards you need and buy yourself a small separate wallet to use while travelling.
9. Travel Light!
This really is the number one travel packing tip but often the hardest to do. It’s taken me years of lugging around huge heavy bags to finally get it right.
Packing is a very personal thing, we all have certain things we can’t do without and that’s fine. But always ask yourself ‘am I definitely going to use this?’ if the answer is not a definitive ‘yes!’, leave it behind. I’ve yet to find myself really stuck for anything on the road but I’ve often found myself carrying way more than I need!
Take no more than two bags, one backpack or wheelie bag/case and a daypack. Never bring more than you are able to lift or carry.