My smart packing tips and tricks

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I used to be awful at packing. I was the type of person who would take 2 outfits per day for a 14 day holiday and then some extra just in case. My suitcase was always bulging and in turn, everything ended up creased. But then I had to learn to travel with a backpack and suddenly I went from a tragic packer to a smart packer. No longer do I fear the packing process, I simply take it in my stride ( however it will still take me a good ten days of being home before I will even consider unpacking a case). There is nothing groundbreaking in my packing method, they are just logical travel packing tips and tricks (and a lot of help from Ikea packing cubes!).

Looking for more travel tips? My travel resources page is full of all my travel essentials and favourite travel websites.

My travel tips and tricks for smart packing:

Smart packing for hold luggage:

First of all, you need to decide whether you are going to use a suitcase or a backpack. My general rule is if I am staying in one place, it is a suitcase, over the past year I have been using my colourful American Tourister Bon Air.  However, if I am moving between locations it will be a backpack, purely because it is so much easier just to chuck it on my back. Up until a few years ago, I was using a top-loading backpack, which I now do not recommend, it is hard to see what you need quickly. Always go for a front-loading backpack. I also recommend making your bag stand out by purchasing a distinctive luggage tag.

If you are looking for a practical cabin case, I personally recommend the Travel Hack Pro Cabin Case by Cabin Max. A practical and spacious cabin bag with in-built handbag compartment.
mircofibre towels and packing cubes are great smart packing options

Pack what you think you need then reduce it by half. As I previously mentioned, I used to be awful with over packing. I would lug half my wardrobe abroad and only end up wearing a quarter of the clothes I had actually packed. It is so easy to get carried away, however now I place out everything I think I want to take away with them, then the next day I will go back and start to pull things out which I have just placed in their impulsively. If you want to take it to the next level, then keep colour coordination in mind. If you are only packing the items of clothing you will need, you need to ensure they are interchangeable between outfits, therefore the colours need to coordinate. Pack neutral colour clothes and brighten up outfits with accessories. If you are going backpacking, I can guarantee after a few weeks you will have swapped the bright coloured dresses or shirt for more comfier travelling clothes.

Packing cubes are king, in particular, Ikea packing cubesI am not really sure how I coped before packing cubes, because now I do not travel without them. Packing cubes or bags as they are also known, are small mesh bags which are used to separate your clothes and organise your case or backpack.

Ikea packing cubes review

Ikea packing bags/cubes are my favourites. The Ikea packing cubes are sold in a pack of six from the ‘Forfina’ range and at priced at £6. At £1 per bag, they are the cheapest and best quality for the price I have found so far. I have had multiple other sets before but their zips always seem to break after time, however, these ones still seem to be holding strong. The main reason I prefer the packing cubes from Ikea is that they are all different sizes and they also have mesh tops, meaning you can quickly see which is in each one, it also makes it breathable to prevent odour inside the cubes. Annoyingly you cannot always purchase them online and often have to find them in store in the ‘home organisation’ section. If you are unable to get to an Ikea, Pro Packing Cubes are also highly recommended, however, there is a big price difference.

I choose to organise my packing cubes by clothing type, for example, all my t-shirts are in one and all my underwear will be in another, gradually throughout the trip I will have one which just contains dirty clothes. However, packing cubes have a number of benefits aside from the organisation factor:

  • Keep clothes neat and minimize wrinkles: It’s unavoidable to have a few wrinkles, even when rolling clothing. By filling packing cubes to capacity with tightly rolled or neatly folded clothing, the items are kept in place and wrinkles are reduced during movement.
  • Maximize space: Packing cubes can keep your clothes a bit more compressed, meaning you can fit more into your backpack or case. Also due to the building-block shape of the cubes – they’re easy to stack and fit neatly into every available inch of your case.
  • Keeping clothes clean: I have one packing cube I just use to put my shoes in, this prevents any dirt on the soles coming into contact with my clothes. I have also seen people use shower caps for the same purpose.
  • Use them at home: When I am not away I store my packing bags inside my case, to ensure I do not lose them, but I do keep one for storing my dedicated travel gadgets, such as travel adaptors, to ensure these do not get lost either.

Alternately if you opt to not use packing cubes, pack your clothes vertically to the rim of your suitcase. This is another great way of saving space, it also means it will be a lot easier to find the item you want at a quick glance. I found this ‘KonMari’ way of packing on YouTube and you can see it in the video below.

Make use of the inside of shoes, shoes can easily be stuffed with items to further conserve on space. If they are particularly sturdy shoes, such as boots, then use this space for more fragile items such as sunglasses to keep them from getting squashed or broken. Again, as I mentioned before, ensure shoe soles are covered, either in a packing cube or with a shower cap.

Now you have your clothes organised and compact, the next thing is your toiletries. Again I am going to rave about Ikea and recommend their Forfina 10 piece travel set. This set includes 10 travel size bottles for £3, the set also includes a funnel for decanting the liquids as well as a carry case which they all slot into, further helping with compact packing and to prevent any spillage disasters. The bottle sizes are all under 100mls, meaning they are also suitable to be used in carry-on luggage. It goes without saying this is a lot more practical than taking full-size bottles, although for longer trips I will tend to just buy toiletries such as shampoo and shower gel when I reach a destination to save on case space. Another alternative for this would be to invest in a Lush Shampoo Bar , these shampoo bars are perfect for travel, as they are compact, last a long time and also plastic-free.

Roll up one or two spare tote bags they are handy to have on you just in case, for storing dirty laundry or protecting souvenirs. They weigh nothing and can be stuffed into small spaces as it will not matter if they get patches are great small souvenirs which take up minimal space when smart packing.

I always travel with multiple charging wires and SD Cards. I keep these stored together inside a sturdy case, an old sunglasses case works great for this as it just the right size to not allow movement, meaning the wires will not get tangled like they do in a bag.  Any bigger electrical items such as my cameras will stay with me in my cabin bag, this may be an obvious thing but I never used to do this until I lost my bag travelling to Atlanta at the start of the year. I was reunited with my case after a few days but I spent the whole time worrying that my GoPro had been stolen.

I always read while I am away but I will only take a Kindle with me, it is not unusual for me to go through 3-4 books on a two-week break, carrying physical books would be a waste of valuable space and not smart packing at all. Carrying a Kindle means I can also purchase a new book quickly if I get through all of my allocated ones. If you are interested, you can find all my other technology packing essentials.

If you are planning on taking a towel with you, I would urge you to opt for a microfibre towel over a standard beach towel, especially if you are travelling with a backpack. It is compact and dries quickly, I also find the quality holds for longer than a beach towel. If you do want to take your favourite beach towel, it will need to be the last thing which goes in your case. Lay it over the top of all your items and it will also work as a protective layer.

If you are big on souvenirs, ensure you think about this when you are packing! I know many people who fill their case to the brim, but when it comes to packing to go home they have no room for any of the souvenirs they have bought. If you are only taking a small handbag for your cabin bag, you can combat this but using one of the spare tote bags for additional space on the way home. Personally, I do not tend to buy as many souvenirs these days, the only things I will collect from each country is a patch and a pin badge which take up no room at all. Then when I get home I will print off my photos as my souvenirs, for photo printing I use Truprint. I use Truprint as the process of uploading is really simple and they are currently the most cost effective I have found.

print at home photos are great when aiming for smart packing

Lastly, I always like to ensure my case smells fresh, even if it is a weekend break or a bigger trip, I like my clothes and my case to smell nice. A really simple trick to ensure this is to use dryer sheets or a lavender bag. The dryer sheets are my preferred choice as they can be used to line the bottom of your Ikea packing bags and the clothes placed on top.

Many people get really overwhelmed back the thought of packing, especially for larger trips. I used to as well but my ultimate tip for smart packing is to not leave it to the last minute, starting packing at least three days in advance. This way you can go away, think and then take out things which were just put in through impulse and panic. Smart and compact packing are simply down to being logical.

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smart packing guide

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