Going on holiday is supposed to be fun, but the organisation required before you head off can dull a break’s shine.
Packing is one of these tedious pre-travel chores, especially if your suitcase isn’t big enough for your grand plans of a beachfront fashion show.
Ever-dwindling airline baggage allowances mean that, if you’re flying, it’s a case of travel light or be penalised.
Budget operators typically offer one cabin bag and a small bag like a handbag per person, although Ryanair has recently limited passengers to just a single small bag each (that is unless you pay for an upgrade).
But whether you stump up for a checked case or stick with an under-chair backpack, it can still be a squeeze to get all your essentials in.
To help you make the most of your luggage space – and avoid having to awkwardly sit on your case to get it to close – we’ve compiled the best packing tips.
Wear your heaviest clothes
If you’re going somewhere warm, you’ll likely be packing small items like swimwear and light summer clothing.
But if you want to pack a jumper or jacket for chillier nights or a pair of sweatpants to wear while relaxing, it’s best not to pack them at all.
Wear the bulkiest clothing you’re taking while travelling. You may feel a bit like the Michelin man, but you can always take extra layers off once you board.
Fill your travel pillow
Sometimes no amount of organisation will make your possessions fit into your case. In these cases, it’s time to improvise.
TikToker Anayo Awuzie did just that when she was going to be charged $60 for a carry-on, hacking her existing travel pillow.
Anayo took the stuffing out of the zippable neck pillow and filled it with clothes she couldn’t fit in her hand luggage backpack.
She recommended: ‘Make sure to get a pillow with a zipper for easy stuffing.’
DIY a clothing neck pillow
Don’t have a travel pillow or need to rejig your luggage last-minute?
Another TikToker, Kristen Black, shared how she got around the dilemma.
Kristen laid a jumper down before placing extra clothing items flat on top of the torso. She then rolled the body of the jumper up and tucked the excess in, leaving the sleeves free.
Once you have a sausage shape, you can wrap this around your neck and tie the sleeves around your neck.
Pack in layers
Nick Drewe, trends expert at WeThrift, says that your packing strategy makes all the difference when it comes to fitting things in.
He says: ‘The trick is to start with your softer, smaller items (such as your socks and underwear) first and place these at the bottom of your suitcase.
‘Next, pay attention to your longer clothes like your trousers and stack these on top, folding these in half.
‘The third layer should ideally be dedicated to your chunkier and main pieces of clothing, such as jumpers, shirts and dresses. With these be sure to fold any collars and ends over once before folding the arms in.
‘When it comes to your shoes and belts, see if you can place these around the perimeter of the bag to make sure they take up as little room as possible.’
Roll and fold
Rolling has replaced folding as the space-saving method du jour. However, it might not be wise to fold all your clothes
Nick says that the roll and fold technique is more efficient.
‘When it comes to rolling, don’t do this for all the clothes you own, as this will most likely lead to unwanted wrinkles,’ says Nick.
‘With this in mind, be sure to only roll your softer garments, such as your underwear, t-shirts, cotton trousers and knitwear.’
He recommends, when dealing with ‘stiffer’ fabrics (such as shirts, blazers, dresses, and skirts) it’s better to fold than to roll.
Stuff your shoes
You want to make use of every bit of room you have in your bag, so consider ‘forgotten’ space like inside your shoes.
Socks and underwear can be stuffed inside shoes, or you could store sunglasses and other accessories.
Pack to unpack
Rather than haphazardly throwing your stuff into your suitcase, designate specific spaces for everything you need to make arriving at your destination much easier.
Nick says: ‘If there is a zip compartment at the bottom of your suitcase, you may want to dedicate this space to your smaller items. You could alternatively use a space such as this for your electrics or toiletries.
‘Doing this will also give you a good idea of where everything is, so you can unpack without the fuss when you get to your destination.’
Master the KonMari method on the go
The KonMari method isn’t just limited to your home.
Created by worldwide tidying sensation Marie Kondo, it involves assessing whether items ‘spark joy’ and then folding them in a way that maximises space and reduces clutter.
Use our guide to get to grips with the folding, but don’t forget to streamline what you’re actually packing. If it isn’t sparking joy (either through being an item you need or something that you’re excited to wear) then it doesn’t get brought.
Invest in luggage cubes
Nick says: ‘If your suitcase doesn’t have compartments, or you just want that extra bit of organisation, it would be handy to invest in mini luggage cubes.
‘The cubes fit into your suitcase neatly, meaning that you can easily pick out what you need, without worrying about messing everything up.’
Ultralight packing cubes are made from a ripstop material and are best for people who are trying to keep the weight of their luggage down.
Compression packing cubes level up the organisation, with a second zip that pushes out air and significantly reduces the bulk of clothing inside.
Vacuum your luggage
Vacuum sealed bags are common around the home for storing bedding and larger soft furnishings.
While you can use them for packing, there’s also a way that doesn’t cost a penny.
Put your clothes into a bin bag and hold the opening securely around your vacuum nozzle. It’ll suck the air out of the bag, after which you can seal it up and put into your bag.
Just beware, you’ll need a vacuum at your destination to make this work for the trip home.
Use a straw to avoid tangled jewellery
‘If you are dealing with jewellery,’ says Nick, ‘it would be a good idea to thread any necklaces you intend to take through a straw to prevent these pieces from getting tangled.’
He continues: ‘To do this, thread one end of the chain through a straw before closing up the necklace. This technique will keep your beloved accessories in order.’
Go for solid toiletries
Airport security rules mean you can only take liquids of up to 100ml in hand luggage, and all of your liquids must fit into a small plastic bag.
To save space for makeup, skincare, and sunscreen, go for solid options for the rest of your toiletries.
Soaps are an easy switch from shower gel, and shampoo, conditioner, and body moisturiser bars last longer than their bottled counterparts and can be purchased from most cosmetics stores.
Try the string bag bump trick
This one’s not exactly ethical, but as Ashlin from Mini Adventures showed on TikTok, it does at least work.
The travel content creator used a string backpack to store clothes, but wore it on her front and covered the secret compartment with a hoody so it looked like her stomach.
Ashlin later revealed she even got priority boarding due to ‘being pregnant’, but we wouldn’t advise actually pretending to be with child. Not only will you be unable to have a tipple on the flight, you could be taking attendants’ attention away from people who need it.
Pretending to be bloated after a big lunch, though, is far less frowned upon.