When people hear us saying that we left for a 4-month trip in South East Asia with a carry on bag only, they are usually shocked. It’s doesn’t sound possible as people need so much stuff in their daily lives, right?
However, there are such game-changing packing hacks that make it happen. For us, few of the keys how to pack a suitcase to maximize space and be able to travel light are the space saver bags (my favorite of all suitcase packing hacks) and the method of rolling clothes.
As fashion and style loving girls, we also like to look good when traveling. So how to pack a suitcase efficiently to have a variety of clothes and looks good while traveling with a carry on luggage only?
Here’s what we usually do…
No matter if it’s a sunny summer destination or a winter one, where you need to bring more clothes, there are a few tricks that always helps us fit everything needed in the luggage. We used these packing tricks to pack a carry-on suitcase for a long-term Asia trip and 1 large 20kg suitcase shared for two for a winter month in Europe. The second one required quite a lot of warm clothing.
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We have tried different packing methods over the years of travel. Laying the clothes flat, folding clothes, stuffing clothes in shoes etc. But as it turns out, nothing is nearly as effective as rolling clothes to maximize space in your luggage.
Rolling clothes go for everything and therefore is another one of the all time best suitcase packing hacks. Starting from large pieces as pants and jackets to the small ones like underwear and socks. Once everything is rolled, it’s best to place everything in compression packing bags.
This will save you 2/3 more luggage space than packing without specific space saver bags for travel. Keep reading to find out why.
Dividing clothes in travel packing bags
Hands down the best packing trick is to divide all your stuff over several travel packing bags. All the clothes should go in plastic vacuum seal bags. The smaller things, like socks, swimsuits, underwe, r and cosmetics should go in separate smaller travel space bags. Each shoe should also go in a separate bag. Then all of these bags can be organized in your suitcase like a Lego house, piece by piece to fill up all the space.
The best compression bags & tips and tricks on how to use them
During our travels, we like to use compression packing bags.
We currently use the roll-up compression storage bags by Solse, as they come in two different sizes and are handy to use for a large suitcase as well as the carry-on size. Plus this package also includes a shoe bag and a luggage tag.
When packing our clothes in these compression packing bags, we always like to place a scented lavender fabric or a dryer sheet inside the bag. That way the clothes have a nice, fresh scent when unpacked from the bag.
In order to get all the air out of the bag, fill it up and zip it, leaving just a little corner open. Then insert the bag under a mattress or a couch cushion, leaving the unzipped corner out. Gently press on it, to squeeze all the air out.
If you don’t have anything to put the bag under available, just sitting on it yourself works well too. That’s the method we’ve mostly used ourselves. Only this way the clothes might get a bit wrinkly.
Bring the extra empty travel packing bags to be able to separate the clean clothes from used ones during your trip.
We are happy with our Solse compression packing bags as their set also includes a shoe bag, that can also be used as a light beach bag or a backpack where to carry your water bottles and some small items bought during a day while on the trip.
Also, for very practical people, you can use compression packing bags at home while you are not traveling as well. They are great for seasonal clothes storage. Place your summer clothes in the plastic bags over winter or the other way around to keep clothes fresh, clean, dry and free of moisture.
Knowing how to pack a suitcase rolling clothes adds quite a lot of efficiency to packing. But that can be easily killed if you bring the wrong amount of stuff. So how to know you’re not bringing too much or too little stuff?
A crucial part of smart packing: making a packing list
One of the most important parts of packing, and I mean packing strategically, is making a proper packing list. It has 3 main benefits:
1. It will help you to plan the content of your bag and to have an overview of all the things you will be taking with you on your trip;
2. It will be easy to cut down a few things if needed, or see where you can still add something;
3. Ticking off each item from the list will help you not to forget anything when actually packing your bag.
I used to make these kinds of packing lists for years and they would help me to be well prepared for different kind of destinations, warm and cold.
Turns out I’ve structured and memorized it so well over the years, it’s not possible to forget it anymore. And just to make sure you’re really doing everything right in terms of packing, check out this article about what not to pack in your carry-on bag.
My packing list for a long-term trip to sunny destinations
What I’ve seen from my years of traveling is that there is two kind of people – those who like to take absolutely everything with them, to be ready for any situation and the opposite kind – almost nothing at all.
We have partly been both of those people, but we do believe that less is more. Or at least a good balance of things in our suitcases is what works the best, so that we feel and look good, but are not overpacked with stuff.
I usually divide the packing list into 5 categories:
1. Outfits and Shoes
I never take a lot of clothes and shoes as I normally tend to wear two of my most favorite outfit combinations anyway. I always try to take such tops and bottoms that can be easily combined one with another. That way I can create a different look with mixing and matching the same clothes for days. However, it’s always good to have something a bit extra special to wear when going out.
So the usual clothing & shoe list would look like this:
a pair of flip-flops
a set of gym clothes
Think about what you’re going to wear on the day when you travel. Wear all the heaviest things to make your luggage as light as possible.
2. Makeup and other cosmetic products
I would take just the most crucial daily make up products that I use daily. In warm destinations, you most likely will not want to use makeup anyway as it’s not the nicest thing with the high air humidity and heat.
All the lotions, face creams and things that can only be bought in your home country take with you in a small travel size containers. All the bigger things like toothpaste, shower gel, sunscreen can most likely be bought at your destination, so no need to carry them in your limited space luggage.
It’s always nice to have some accessories to brighten your outfit and just feel nice. But it’s important to not go overboard with them and use only some of the most practical ones. So in my list usually are such items:
2 pairs of earrings
This part includes all the other small but essential details such as a toothbrush (check out this guide of the best travel electric toothbrushes) and face products, hair products, hair dryer or hair straightener, basic painkillers, something for stomach problems and food poisoning. Also, antiseptic gel and bandages might come in handy. All the rest you can buy right in the place if needed.
Other miscellaneous includes things like a light backpack or a tote bag where to put your stuff during your daily activities.
5. The most important things
This section includes the things you definitely shouldn’t forget at home. Our list usually is like this:
Phone + Charger
PC + Charger
We use this kind of packing list structure everywhere we go. Just the content differs a bit if it’s a summer or winter destination. But either way it’s always nice not to be overpacked and feel comfortable & beautiful during your trip.