Packing for a trip can be an absolute nightmare. Even with plenty of travel experience, we still somehow can’t fit everything in our suitcase, forget things at home, or completely overpack and get a huge surprise at the airport when our luggage hits the scale.
If you’re familiar with this struggle, we have asked our community of women who travel solo to share their best travel packing hacks and compiled this list of genius packing tricks for travel that will make life so much easier the next time you travel.
With just a few small changes in your usual packing method, you can change the frantic and anxiety-provoking experience to a calm, chill and even fun activity.
Yes, we said fun! It’s possible, we promise you!
Navigation: See what's in this post
- 1 Pack your heaviest items at the bottom
- 2 Pack Marie Kondo style
- 3 Get a fold up toiletry bag
- 4 Pack structured jackets in coat hangers
- 5 Swap liquid toiletries for dry solid ones
- 6 Roll your clothes
- 7 Compression bags
- 8 Shoes in cotton bags
- 9 Pack by outfit and color
- 10 Pack cords neatly
- 11 Stack bras and knickers
- 12 Wrap your toiletries in cling-wrap
- 13 Weigh your baggage at home
- 14 Pack a hat in its shape
- 15 Have a ziplock bag handy
- 16 The beauty of packing cubes
- 17 Place a cotton pad inside powder makeup
- 18 Stuff your shoes
- 19 Wear your bulkiest and heaviest items
- 20 Pack wine bottles inside socks, a jacket or jumper sleeves
- 21 Bring an foldable tote bag
- 22 Carry a portable washing machine
- 23 Put a herb sachet inside your suitcase
- 24 Bring non-wrinkle travel clothes
- 25 Get versatile travel clothes
- 26 Keep you necklaces from tangling
- 27 Make your own jewelry roll
- 28 Bring breast tape
- 29 Reuse airline amenity kits
- 30 Follow a system
- 31 Consider weather & activities
- 32 Tours for women by women
I used to have a terrible carry-on suitcase from a reputable brand that just never stood straight no matter what.
I never understood how it could have been designed in such an impractical way, but it reminded me of this travel packing hack: always pack your heaviest items at the bottom of the suitcase.
When your suitcase is open and standing, see where the bottom is and place the heaviest items (shoes, toiletry bag, etc.) on the bottom. This will not only help stabilize the suitcase but also reduce the risk of more delicate items being crushed.
Bottom heavy bags are also easier to roll through the airport, and you can hang your handbag or backpack on the handle without worrying that it will topple over.
Pack Marie Kondo style
You know what she says, if it does not spark joy…but that is not what this is travel packing tip is about, because I have never watched her content, but I did get inspired by her to pack the way I have been doing for the last couple of years when on the road leading our women-only tours.
What I mean by Marie Kondo style is that I pack vertically rather than flat, so I can see everything I have by just looking at the suitcase. I hated returning home with unworn clothes I forgot I had packed, so pacing this way mean that I can see everything and I can keep a degree of tidiness in the suitcase.
Pro tip: You can combine this packing hack with packing cubes by putting everything in the cube following the same vertical stacking technique so when you open it you immediately see what’s in it.
Needless to say, this works for both check in luggage and carry-on, but in my case, I travel carry on as much as I can because I don’t like waiting for the bag or taking the risk of it being lost or stolen.
Above is a picture of my suitcase and packing for Iceland, winter clothing required, to illustrate what I mean. In the summertime, when clothing is less bulky, this is even more useful because I can fit several dresses, tops and bottoms and see them all.
Pro tip: You need to keep repacking and putting all your clothing back in the suitcase the same way during your trip so you always see what you have, rather than take it all out, making a mess and then repacking only when you return, this is a packing hack that stays with you throughout.
Get a fold up toiletry bag
I have been using a fold up toiletry bag (the exact one above is my current one) for over 10 years. When I get home I don’t unpack it, I just hang it up in my bathroom and continue using it as my normal toiletry storage, so I am always ready to go.
Fold up toiletry bags will help you keep everything tidy and easy to find, plus if you are staying in a hostel, it’ll save you from placing the bag on what may be a dirty or wet surface (nobody likes that).
This kind of bag can also double up as a first aid kit (thanks to the many compartments it has) and because every item has its own dedicated compartment, I always know what needs to be replenished.
We like this cute dusty pink one that packs square.
Pack structured jackets in coat hangers
When I was a consultant I used to travel every week for work and mostly packed structured pants suits.
My trusty Tumi Alpha 3 which I have been using for almost 10 years without fault (and I take more than 50 flights every year), came with its own insert accessory to carry suits, as many carry-on bags designed for business travel do, but it was pretty heavy so I decided to mimic the same functionality with a coat hanger and that was enough.
Fold the sleeves towards the inside, fold the bottom half way towards the shoulder pads and slide the coat hanger down until the hook is inside the collar, then place the jacket at the top after you have packed everything else to make sure it stays in place.
The coat hanger will prevent the jacket from crumbling and losing shape and when you get to your hotel, you can simply take it out and hang straightaway, so even if the hotel room doesn’t have enough hangers, you brought your own.
Pro tip: Make sure that the coat hanger you use is one of the light plastic ones and not a wooden heavier one to save on weight.
Swap liquid toiletries for dry solid ones
Dry solid toiletries will not only help you with saving space in your luggage, but also avoid spillages and contribute to a greener environment free from single use plastic. What is more, several of these dry toiletries are also chemical-free, vegan and generally more natural.
There are several brands that we love and can recommend:
- Naturalist and especially their coconut solid shampoo bar.
- HiBAR shampoo and conditioner bars come in more ergonomic shapes that are easier to hold and use. Try their sampler product with one of each of their three kinds.
- Ethique makes not only shampoo and conditioner but also body wash, face soap and even dry deodorant.
Roll your clothes
if you don’t like my Marie Kondo style of packing, the next best thing is rolling up your clothes instead of folding them, a genius packing hack that has two uses.
- First of all, it’s an absolute space saver. Neatly rolling your clothing, especially those made with lightweight materials like nylon, cotton and wool, is a compact way to pack. Larger items like jackets, might be a bit more difficult to roll up, so you can just fold these bulkier items neatly and place them on top.
- The second use is that rolling can greatly reduce creases in your clothing, if rolled tight enough.
This is probably not news to you since this is the most famous packing tip everyone talks about, but it is still useful and smart, especially if you have clothes that get easily creased.
Vacuum pack bags are an amazing packing hack, you won’t believe how tightly they can pack even the bulkiest of items! I was left speechless the first time I tried them and wondered why I hadn’t tried them sooner.
Check out these vacuum sealed bags like from Tooerlen. You don’t actually need a vacuum or air sucking device as these reusable bags work by letting air out as you roll them up.
“The part about compression is true, especially useful for winter, you don’t even need a vacuum machine, they make manual ones that work quite well, i’ve used them before”, shared a group member.
if you are traveling when it’s colder and need to take bulkier jackets, this is the best way to save space.
A genius, yet basic, packing hack!
Shoes in cotton bags
Forget about using plastic shower caps to pack your shoes so the soles do not soil the rest of your clothes (a common packing hack I’ve seen recommended), I put shoes inside the cotton bags that come with the shoes when you buy them. After-all, that’s what they were made for!
The only downside with this vs a shower cap is that the bag won’t be protecting the rest of your luggage from muddy or wet shoes (but who would pack a pair of muddy dirty shoes anyway?!).
It’s best to dry or wash off your shoes, if they are very dirty, before packing them, in which case you just want to keep your shoes from directly touching the rest of your clothes because they touch the floor and are full of dirt.
What’s more, no single plastic is used and you can re-use them over again, even to put your laundry in. When you are back home, you can wash them with your usual laundry.
Pack by outfit and color
I always pack considering what I will be wearing by laying it all out in outfits on my bed and then packing to maximise the mix and match of the pieces.
This way I don’t pack clothing pieces that don’t go with anything and I make sure that tops and bottoms can be interchanged as much as possible, so that I multiply my outfits and can reuse some.
For example, a bottom can be used with more than one top and a top can be used with more than one bottom.
If all my tops and bottoms go with all the rest I then pack by type; bottoms on a pile, tops on another pile. If they don’t all go together, I pack by outfit, layering them one on top of the other.
You don’t have to pack your entire suitcase in one color, I actually like to wear colorful clothing, especially in the summer, but if you maximise the amount of cross matching between clothing items, you magically have more outfits. A basic packing hack, but a useful one nonethelesss.
Pack cords neatly
I travel with a lot of electronics, A LOT, and they are always tricky to pack in a way that they are not entangled or even broken in the process.
For that, I use a cable organizer which also helps me remember what I may have missed because there would be an empty space, trust me, you don’t want to realize you forgot your phone charger when you’ve run out of battery.
If you don’t have a lot of cables or don’t have the space to carry a cable organizer, a simple travel packing hack would be to roll cables and then secure them with hair bands to make sure they don’t tangle, and that they occupy the least amount of space.
For extra care, you can then place them inside a sunglasses or pencil case. You can also use paper or hair clips to keep cables untangled.
Stack bras and knickers
I always stack bras and underwear inside the side compartment of the suitcase, one inside the other so they occupy the least amount of space and I make sure to pack the exact amount I need.
If you don’t have a side compartment to place them in, put them in the top curved edges of the suitcase where they will be easy to find and where they will fill a space.
I hate going through my whole suitcase trying to find clean underwear, so knowing exactly where I packed it makes it all much easier.
Wrap your toiletries in cling-wrap
Cling-wrap is light, compact and extremely versatile. You can use it to line your bag or packing cubes, to wrap snacks and food, etc. but the smartest packing hack I can share is to use of cling-wrap is to stop any spillages or leakages from toiletries or food.
All you have to do is unscrew the bottle cap of any toiletry or liquid bottle, place the cling-wrap over the hole, and then screw the lid back on. You can do the same thing with a Tupperware. Just pop the top off, place the cling-wrap over the top and click the lid back on.
This neat little trick will prevent any of the liquid from escaping, especially if you have some kind of liquid you’re traveling with. No liquid spillage means dry luggage and a happy traveler.
Weigh your baggage at home
This one is an oldie, but a goodie.
Every airline has their own baggage and weight allowances and you must always make sure that you stick to the limits.
Some airlines do offer cheaper rates if you book your overweight items ahead of time, or if you purchase check in luggage, but it all adds-up.
I recently flew with carry on only (which I had paid for to have with me in the cabin) and then got given so many gifts that I had to pay to check in. The free gifts suddenly cost me 80 EUR.
The old method of weighing your bags is to get on your home scale, weigh yourself and then get on the scale again with your bag. Minus your weight from the second number and you’ll get the weight of your bag.
An easier and more accurate way to weigh your luggage is to purchase an electronic hand luggage scale which you clip onto the handle of your bag and simply pull upward to reveal the weight.
This is also a better option when actually traveling as the hotel may not have a scale, or it may not be that accurate.
Pack a hat in its shape
I used to just carry my hats with me to the cabin instead of packing them because I was afraid they would lose their shape in transit, until I realized that the best way to pack a hat is by simply stuffing it and putting it inside the suitacase.
Place the hat in the middle of your suitcase, then stuff it with rolled clothes such as t-shirts, socks and under garments, and pack the rest of the clothes around it so that it does not move. Make sure the hat flaps are flat.
Pro tip: I like to put the hat over a layer of clothing and right in the middle so that it is at the top.
Have a ziplock bag handy
There’s no worse feeling than being caught in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm with no shelter and all of your electronics at risk of permanent damage.
Carry an extra zip-lock bag wherever you go which you can quickly use to put them inside. You can even reuse the one you used for your toiletries to go through airport security checks with or just have a neatly folded one inside your wallet, they pack super small and occupy no space.
The beauty of packing cubes
Packing cubes are life changing.
When packing for a trip, you might be rolling everything up, sorting items by type and having a neatly packed suitcase. But we all know that once you’ve hit the road, that beautifully pristine packing turns into a tornado of used clothes.
The best way to combat your luggage turning into a garbage heap is to use packing cubes.
These nifty little squares with zippers allow you to separate your clothing by type, so that you know which panties are clean and which ones need a wash.
You can also separate by weather type, mood or color – whatever way suits you. They also fit into your bag really well, like a fun game of Tetris.
Beyond clothing, you can also use packing cubes to separate wires and cords, or in-flight supplies from those you put in your checked luggage. You can even use packing cubes in your carry on or backpack, so you don’t have to frantically search for your gum mid-flight.
Pro tip: Packing cubes are one of the most popularly recommended packing hacks, everyone and their mother will praise their “amazingness”, but they are not for everyone and require a level of organization that may not be your thing. I recommend you borrow a set from a friend for your next trip and try them out before splurging.
If you are a fan, you can’t beat these packing cubes from Veken which still have a 5-star rating with over 9,000 reviews.
Place a cotton pad inside powder makeup
Makeup can easily crack when traveling, especially pressed powder, and that results in a mess of powder everywhere.
Put a cotton pad inside the box and then close it to soften the blow in case it gets tossed around inside your makeup bag.
Stuff your shoes
In order to fit as many things inside your suitcase as possible, consider stuffing every single empty space. The first place to look is inside your shoes.
Stuff socks or even underwear inside, any small item that may otherwise get lost inside your suitcase or which is delicate and which in turn, helps your shoes keep their shape.
Pro tip: If your shoes are old or smelly, consider putting the items inside a ziplock bag to avoid transferring the smell.
Wear your bulkiest and heaviest items
Probably the most ubiquitous advice for travel packing is to wear your heaviest, biggest clothing and shoes on the plane.
You hear this all the time, and it is common sense; it not only saves space in your suitcase but also saves on weight allowance.
We have all arrived at check in only to be told we are 1-2kg over our allowance and then decided to wear everything we could to avoid that. Plan ahead and avoid the mess at the airport.
When I travel to Iceland for our women only Wellness & Wilderness trip, I always wear my winter boots and my jacket, which I take off in the plane, and then carry my scarf, hat and gloves in my handbag so that I have them handy when I land and the freezing air hits me in the face while walking towards the airport bus.
This easily saves me 5kg / 10 pounds of luggage weigh since just the boots are extremely heavy and bulky, and I ready to go when I land.
Pro tip: Make sure your laces are easy to undo so that you don’t have to spend ten minutes trying to detangle them every time you need to take them off to go through security checks or in the plane.
Pack wine bottles inside socks, a jacket or jumper sleeves
If you forgot to bring your bubble wrap wine sleeves on your wine trip, or you’ve gone a bit crazy in duty free, follow this packing procedure:
- Wrap the bottles in a plastic bag to make sure no spillage transfers to the rest of your luggage
- Place the bottles inside your socks
- Place them inside your jacket or jumper sleeves to create cushion
- Then place them in the middle of your suitcase
Better yet, if you plan to shop for wine (I have gone on wine tourism trips before) buy Wine Skins, they come in bottle shape and padded with bubble wrap.
These can be sealed, but the glue will eventually wear off so you might want to bring some duct tape. I got mine in Spain and have been packing them with me on every trip because I like to buy the typical local liquor or spirit as a souvenir.
Bring an foldable tote bag
On our last women only trips to Tuscany, many of our guests were so excited about shopping that they needed an extra suitcase to put all their souvenirs!
For this purpose, I bring my foldable “Just in case” Tumi tote bag with me when I feel like there may shopping opportunities I don’t want to miss (while still traveling carry-on).
This one folds super small and comes with its travel pouch so it occupies no space and no weight, but if I feel like buying something that does not fit in my regular handbag, I will unfold it and ta-da! I have a proper shopping bag to stuff everything in.
Carry a portable washing machine
One sure way to reduce your luggage size and packing needs is to wash your clothes so you only carry 2 or 3 pairs of each clothing item and then wash every other day.
This is a travel packing hack that requires a bit of effort but can help you go from check in luggage to carry-on only, if that is what makes you happy.
You can wash your clothes in a regular washing basin, or you can get one of the portable washing machines, though I use the term loosely.
The Scrubba stealth bag is a great option because it is versatile and can be used for several purposes; you can use it as a dry bag, a compression bag for packing and even a portable camping shower, in addition to being a hand washing device.
Put a herb sachet inside your suitcase
You know those sachets with lavender or similar herbs that are sometimes given away by luxury hotels or brands as gifts? What better way to keep your suitcase smelling nice than by placing one inside.
Pro tip: If you are traveling a lot for work and may struggle to be away so much, bring the same one you place in your closet with you so you smell the familiar, home scent wherever you are.
I also keep the drying sachets that often come with foods or tea bags to absorb the moisture, and throw them inside the suitcase, my trusted Tumi carry on bag even came with some, just to keep moisture at bay, especially if traveling through tropical countries.
Bring non-wrinkle travel clothes
This is a no brainer packing suggestion but one that cannot be emphasised enough.
All of us want to look fresh and comfy while we travel, but often find wrinkled chaos when we unpack our suitcases at our first destination.
I don’t like to spend time ironing or steaming during my trips (I don’t even do that at home), so my favorite and easiest travel packing hack is to bring non-wrinkle clothing that doesn’t arrive all creased.
There are many options of wrinkle-free clothes out there. Besides the obvious clothing labeled as non-wrinkle, you can find travel clothes made from high quality fabrics that are naturally non-wrinkle or which wrinkle less.
Consider these fabrics the next time you are shopping or packing for a trip: polyester, denim, wool, knits, spandex and lyocell.
Avoid 100% linen or linen-cotton blends which are more wrinkle-prone, unless you plan to iron during your trip.
This is one of the most useful packing hacks for clothes!
Get versatile travel clothes
Packing light is possible if that is what you want, the secret is versatility.
There are clothes made specifically to be worn in many ways. You don’t have to pack a dress, a skirt and a scarf, instead pack one multi-functional garment that covers all of them. For example, I have a dress that can be worn in 20 different ways so can testify to the greatness of this travel packing tip.
Other ways in which you can save space by packing multi-functional items:
- Tops that have in-built bras like the ones you wear to work out, I always wear them when I travel so I don’t get poked on my back by my bra inflight. You also save on packing bras if you just wear those.
- A scarf that you can smartly use as a beach pareo or a top.
- A kimono top that you can wear as a beach accessory, as a cover up for the evening, as protection from the sun, etc.
- The popular Wolford Fatal Dress which was made even more famous by Kim Kardashian and which can be worn as a top, a long skirt, a mini skirt, a mini dress and a long tube dress.
Convertible clothing is great for travel and it means more room in your bag. Although some versatile clothes can come with a high price tag, we believe it’s worth spending a few extra bucks keeping in mind that you will get many outfits using the same item.
Keep you necklaces from tangling
If you love packing jewelry to accessorize your outfits, you have surely come across a mess of tangled necklaces.
Next time, follow this great and simple travel packing trick to avoid worrying about damaged or tangled jewelry abroad.
Thread your necklaces or bracelets through a straw (can be paper one, doesn’t need to be plastic). All you need to do is insert one end of the necklace or bracelet through the straw and then fasten the clasp. This way, you’ll have your individually packaged necklaces handy when you unpack.
Pro tip: Use see through straws so you can see which is which.
Make your own jewelry roll
An alternative to the travel packing hack above is to make your own jewelry roll with a scarf, t-shirt or washcloth. When you get to your destination, you can unroll it and hang it all, plus wear the t-short you rolled them in.
First, lay your necklaces and bracelets separately and roll the fabric lengthwise. Then add some rubber bands or clips to each end to keep your jewelry from sliding out. You can easily pack your roll in between clothes, it won’t take up much space.
Bring breast tape
Breast tape (also referred to as athletic tape or sport tape is a total game changer and a very versatile product that can have many uses while traveling and several of our group members highly recommend adding what they casually call boob tape to your packing list.
Its main function is to replace a bra when you can’t really wear one, while still providing you with comfortable support. With breast tape you can wear all kinds of cleavage. Or you can choose to bring no bra at all and use breast tape the way it fits you best.
Breast tape can also be useful for other things beyond supporting your girls, such as:
- Blister prevention/treatment
- Taping toes to reduce foot pain
- Covering nipples under sheer or braless outfits
- An extra layer to keep bandaids in place
- Protecting a hydrocolloid bandaid over a sliver
Breast tape is hypoallergenic and skin safe. It’s also very easy to apply and remove (without pain!).
Pro tip: Make sure to buy a tape that can be easily torn with your hands, like the ones linked to above, so you don’t need scissors, which you can’t pack in your carry on.
Reuse airline amenity kits
I once had accumulated so many amenity kids I had an entire closet full of them. I gave them to my mum who gave them to charity. While I love amenity kits, I never really use them because I carry what I need for air travel with me, so what they give is nice, and often high quality, but redundant and thus, wasted.
When I traveled for work business class every week, I would get 2 of them weekly, so at the end of the year that was more than 100 amenity kits.
Fun fact: If you’d like to get your hands on one, you can usually find them for sale on Ebay.
But onto our travel packing hack; If you also have an amenity kit you don’t know what to do with, consider reusing it as a first aid kit bag or a make up travel bag.
Why? Not only they tend to be quite nice bags but they also always come with handy compartments where you can classify all your first aid kit items easily and neatly.
I am currently traveling with my first aid kit stuffed inside an Emirates amenity bag, and my make up is stored inside an amenity bag from Lufthansa.
Environmentally friendly, classy and practical, the triad we like the most when trying to pack smartly.
Follow a system
I used to travel for work every single week for over 10 years, packing on Sunday evening, barely unpacking on Friday. Rinse and repeat the following week, so I had a packing system / process that I still keep to today, 17 years later, every single time I travel.
What I mean by a system is that I always packed everything in the same place.
- Shoes at the bottom right
- Wash bag bottom middle
- Ziplock bag with liquids next to wash bag
- First aid kit bag right next to the ziplock
- Underwear, bras, socks, bikinis if traveling in the summer, pyjamas, smaller one off items such as gloves or hats, pareos, etc. and accessories such as jewelry, in the top part of the suitcase which is zipped. Flip flops facing down on top of everything else
- Clothes in the main compartment
I still travel twice or three times a month, usually for a week or longer, and most of the non-clothing items are left in my carry on bag week after week.
Everything has its place and every space has it’s item. I can’t forget something, because it would leave an empty space, and I always know where to find everything in the suitcase.
Everyone has their own system, but whatever that may be, stick to it.
Consider weather & activities
Remember to check the weather of your destination or multiple destinations of your trip. Also, it’s important to consider the activities you will be doing during your travels, so you can make an adequate packing list for your trip.
There are also some handy travel apps that help you make a customized packing list considering the weather of your destination, trip dates, activities and interests.
For example, do you need a bikini and pareo or a hat and gloves? Do you need to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent?
Tours for women by women
Now that you’re packed, meet up with us on one of our women-only small group tours!
Have you got any travel packing hacks to share? Add them in the comments!