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At HPL, we generally recommend a minimalist packing approach, but we also understand there may be times when you need to fit more in. Heather provides some great ideas for making the most of your smaller luggage space so you can still travel with just a carry-on.
Every time I pack for a trip, I challenge myself to pack as much as possible in a carry-on size suitcase. It’s become a fun game, and I get better with every trip I take.
Choosing to only travel with a relatively small suitcase means I avoid many costly airline baggage fees, I can navigate bustling areas with greater ease than people hauling larger suitcases, and I am positive that I can pack as much into my suitcase as some people with the massive ones.
Packing Techniques and Products to Make the Most of Your Luggage
1: Compression Bags
I rarely pack appropriately when traveling to colder climates. Who has room for bulky items like jackets, hoodies, and sweaters? But even Australia’s winter can be downright cold, and I paid the price for leaving warmer clothes at home by having to buy new ones in Oz.
- If you are like Heather and struggle to pack for cold weather, check out our blog post: Winter Travel Packing Tips: How to Pack Light for Cold Weather
Compression bags are the perfect solution for when you want to pack heavier, thicker items in the same case or bag you always carry. Some products may save up to 75% of packing space per compression bag!
There are different versions available but to use most of them, place your clothes in the bag and pull the fabric tabs to suck the air out, leaving you with more room in your luggage.
Note from HPL: While compression bags are a great tool for fitting those bulky items in your luggage, they can also lead to your bag becoming heavy. No one wants to deal with overweight baggage fines at the airport or the dreaded repack at the check-in counter so use with caution!
Confession: The first time I rolled clothing was when I packed my bag for my first trip to Australia. How had I previously not known about one of the best methods of saving space when packing?!
What prompted me to roll? A video of a flight attendant who packed outfits for various occasions for a 10-day trip in one carry-on sized bag, including one or two pairs of shoes. Although I knew I could buy clothes throughout the year in Oz, I wanted to pack as many items from my existing wardrobe in my just-slightly-bigger-than-carry-on bag.
With rolling, I packed more shirts and bottoms than ever before but still managed to pull off the light-packer look to other travelers. It’s hard to believe that rolling makes a significant difference, but it does.
Before rolling, I stacked traditionally folded clothes in a packing cube (we’re getting into packing cubes next). With rolling, I can fit 2-4 more shirts in one cube!
Not only does rolling your clothes leave you with more space in your bag, but it also helps prevent wrinkles.
- If you are skeptical about whether rolling your clothes really saves more space, check out our blog post: Rolling vs. Folding – Which Saves More Space?
3: Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are often made from soft material in a box-like shape and can be zippered once full. In addition to serving as great organization tools (compartmentalizing your belongings), packing cubes help maximize space in your case. With their rectangular shape, they take advantage of the walls and corners of a suitcase and can be stacked on top of one another to make sure every inch is being utilized.
We love packing cubes here at HPL. Yes, they can help you fit more clothes into your luggage, but there are so many other reasons we love them as well.
Packing cubes help organize your clothes, keep your clothes neat with fewer wrinkles, help maximize space, keep your dirty and clean clothes separate, and when filled can be used as a makeshift travel pillow in a pinch. PLUS, they make it easy to pack, repack, and find your stuff.
And when you’re not traveling, they can be used for storage. (See this post on travel gear you can use at home for more on that.)
4: Jackets and Vests with (LOTS OF) Pockets
When a friend first showed me his jacket with countless interior and exterior pockets, I couldn’t help but laugh. Would he ever really use them?
As someone who hates to pay to check a bag, I’m now wondering if I should invest in one!
I read about a traveler who wanted to beat a low-cost carrier’s policy of traveling carry-on only with a limit of 10kg. Loading clothing, gadgets, and toiletries into 17 interior and exterior pockets, the traveler made it on board carrying nearly 12kg on his body.
Perhaps not the best solution for warm climates but a product like this could save you money and checked baggage hassles time and time again! The jacket isn’t just an item of clothing – it may just become your new carry-on “luggage”!
If you don’t want to pack EVERYTHING in a jacket (and I wouldn’t blame you), a product like this can still free up room in your carry-on bags by housing electronics, books, boarding documents, and IDs. And who doesn’t need more space from time to time for that new shirt or souvenir?
They also help you travel hands-free without a handbag.
SCOTTeVEST is a brand that specializes in pockets. Their Essential Jacket 2.0 has 24 pockets to organize your gear and zip off sleeves (that stow in the back pocket) making it the perfect choice for moderate weather.
We love pockets at HPL. While packing 12kg into your jacket is extreme, having a few usable pockets makes traveling a whole lot easier. Take a look at our Stylish Theft-Proof Travel Clothing and our Top Travel Dresses blog posts to find more great travel clothing options with pockets.
5: All-in-One Products
In addition to the above methods, all of which attempt to help you pack more, you can always pack more-with-less by traveling with all-in-one or multi-use products like:
- Dual shampoo and conditioner products, whether they’re solid (like LUSH’s bars) or liquid, and dual body wash and shampoo products.
- Moisturizer + sunscreen in one – in Oz, I found that I needed a higher SPF than my moisturizer from home provided, and a local recommended a great brand.
- Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps which can be used as shampoo, deodorant, soap, laundry detergent, and wound cleaning solution to name a few of the many uses.
- Smartphones: phone, internet, camera, alarm, and watch all in the palm of your hand.
- Convertible travel clothing. Like the Encircled Chrysalis Cardi (a scarf, dress, and top in one) or the Encircled Revolve Dress (which you can wear 6 ways).
- A versatile sarong that can be used as a towel, a wrap to keep you warm or for modesty when entering churches, a picnic blanket, or as a privacy screen hanging from your hostel room bunk. And I’ve only named a few of a sarong’s uses. There are so many more!
- An infinity skirt that can be worn as a skirt, a dress, or a top in so many different ways!
- For more multi-purpose recommendations like these, take a look at our blog post: Multipurpose, Stuffable and Foldable Items
More ideas to help you pack “smaller”:
- Choose a small bag to travel with and you’ll only pack what fits inside
- Take advantage of every available space – inside shoes, various pockets
- Wear your bulkiest items on the plane/train/bus and carry your coat instead of packing them
The easiest way to bypass this struggle is by learning to pack light! It’s so much easier to fit everything in your bag if you have less to pack. The HPL Packing Method is a proven 4-week program from Brooke Schoenman, Founder of Her Packing List.
You’ll learn to pack so confidently light you could travel for a week in a personal-item-sized bag. People who complete this masterclass, often feel like they have more options with less stuff!
What are some packing techniques you use to make the most of your luggage?