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Packing Hacks For Clever Travellers

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Packing Hacks For Clever Travellers

How To Maximise Suitcase Space, Avoid Baggage Fees And Pack Like A Pro

Whether you’re gearing up for international or domestic travel, the age-old challenge of fitting everything into your suitcase never goes away. We live in an age where we carry more ‘stuff’ than ever – and where airlines, trains, cruise ships and other forms of transport are becoming increasingly stingy with their baggage allowances.

Of course, there’s no shortage of advice about the best ways to maximise available luggage space. A quick browse of the Internet will turn up a plethora of ‘packing hack’ lists. Budget Direct’s Packing List may prove to be helpful but let’s start from scratch with some common-sense, real-world packing tips that will help you organise your suitcase like a jet-setting legend.

1. Know What You’re Allowed To Carry

Make sure your cabin bag doesn’t exceed the specified dimensions and weight.

Airline baggage allowances vary a lot, even within Australia. If you’re heading from Sydney to the Kimberley, for example, you may be allowed one large-sized bag to Darwin, but a smaller/lighter bag between Darwin and Kununurra. Internationally or at home, never make assumptions about the number of bags you’re allowed or the weight and size requirements.

Always check with the airline.

Many airlines have finally started to crack down on folks who abuse the privilege when it comes to cabin baggage – and with valid reason. Make sure your cabin bag doesn’t exceed the specified dimensions and weight.

If it’s too big and you’re caught out, it will mean extra hassle for your journey.

2. When In Doubt, Leave It Out

The lighter you pack, the more freedom you’ll have and the less likely you’ll injure yourself toting ultra-heavy bags around.

Try to remove the phrase ‘just in case’ from your vocabulary when packing.

Female traveller walking airport terminal.

Learn from previous trips: which items did you pack last time that you never ended up using? Ask yourself if you really need two pairs of ‘good shoes’, 6 different electronic gadgets (and all their cords and chargers), a fluffy beach towel, more than one jacket or pair of jeans, lots of jewellery or 3kgs of toiletries.

If heading overseas, many items you might otherwise be tempted to pack can easily be purchased at your destination – from t-shirts and sarongs to shaving cream and a floppy hat. They may even be cheaper to buy abroad.

Don’t fall into the trap of cramming your bags so full at home that you leave no room for overseas shopping – after all, bringing back goodies is one of the joys of a foreign adventure!

3. Wear Your Heaviest Items On The Plane

You can store an extra jacket or pullover in the overhead compartment during flight and remove your boots after take-off

If your trip requires that you bring along a pair of full-leather hiking boots, a heavy fleece jumper or a bulky parka, don’t try to cram these into your checked luggage or carry-on.

Instead, wear them onto the plane to save weight and space in your bags.

You can store an extra jacket or pullover in the overhead compartment during the flight and remove your boots after take-off, stowing them beneath the seat in front of you so that you’re more comfortable. And if you’re really tight for luggage space, cram a couple of rolled up socks in each pocket of that parka.

4. To Fold, Roll or Bundle – That Is The Question

Packing clothing in a suitcase is a bit of an art form, and everyone has their own technique. Some swear by neat folding and stacking while others believe in tight rolling. Some travellers use clear storage bags that suck out extra air. Then there is bundle wrapping, a packing method that also has its share of followers (it’s great for wrinkle prevention, but not-so-great for accessibility).

If you have breakable items in your luggage, wrap them up in a cushioning layer of soft clothing like socks or jumpers.

Woman trying to pack clothes in a bag

Spillable liquids or gels should, of course, be in waterproof containers. The old trick of slipping a piece of cling wrap over tube containers before screwing on the lid still works a treat, too.

5. Plastic Bags Can Do It All

Some packing experts suggest you store items in hard sunglass cases (too weighty and bulky), plastic pill boxes (a waste of space) or empty metal mint containers (unnecessarily heavy).

Storing things in plastic bags work great as long as you squeeze the extra air out of them.

In the case of shoes, a popular tip is to wrap them in a shower cap to separate them from your clothing (a lightweight plastic shopping bag offers more protection).

In fact, plastic bags will work for just about everything. For lightweight items, a simple freezer bag will suffice. For a more robust container, use heavier grade zip-top bags, available from the supermarket in different sizes.

Storing things in plastic bags work great as long as you squeeze the extra air out of them.

They’re perfect for electronics, toiletries, shoes and anything else that will fit in them. And if you need extra protection, you can easily double-bag fragile or potentially leaky items.

6. What You Should Take In Your Carry-On

Ever been the last person to board a plane?

There’s a good chance you’ll need assistance from the flight attendant to find room for your carry-on in the crammed overhead lockers – and your bag may end up 14 rows back from your assigned seat. You may be doing the right thing with your properly-sized carry-on, but what about the passengers who hop on board with a pull-along case, a bulging daypack and a plastic tote bag bulging with pillows, clothing and electronic gizmos?

man putting luggage on the top shelf on airplane

‘Cabin baggage abuse’ is an increasing annoyance for all of us.

In a recent traveller.com.au poll, 89 per cent of travellers agreed that airline staff should be more diligent about monitoring oversized carry-ons (perhaps the other 11 per cent were the ones with the huge bags!). Many airlines are now getting tougher, with ‘cabin baggage officers’ on hand to check sizes, weights and the number of bags per passenger.

So what should go in your cabin bag?

Many airlines are now getting tougher, with ‘cabin baggage officers’ on hand to check sizes, weights and the number of bags per passenger.

Start with your passport, credit cards, cash, itineraries and other important documents, vital medications (and written authorisations to use them), your phone, a spare pen for filling out immigration/customs forms, ear plugs and prescription eyewear.

Pack a light jumper: airplanes can get cold.

If you can only sleep on planes with an eye mask and your own inflatable neck pillow, take them.

If you don’t think you can sit through four different Liam Neeson action movies or another comic-book-inspired save-the-world flick, bring your tablet and power cord with your own downloaded movies, to plug into the airline’s conveniently provided socket.

When packing your carry-on, think about the possibility of your checked-in baggage being lost. Do you have everything you need in your carry-on to get you through the next day or two? You should always include a spare set of clothing so you don’t have to wander around in the same duds you wore on the plane.

Fortunately, incidents of lost luggage are decreasing around the world. Statistics show that in 2013, airlines mishandled 21.8 million bags (about 7 per 1000 passengers). This was down from 46.9 million in 2007 (around 19 per thousand passengers), mostly due to improved technology.

7. Some Quick Tips For Packing Smart

Here are some handy ‘pack hacks’ that will help you optimise baggage space when you travel:

Fill up your shoes – The spaces inside your packed shoes is just too good to waste. Stuff them with a rolled tee shirt, socks, undies or charger cords.

Go easy on the jewellery – There are plenty of packing tricks for separating and storing your jewellery in a suitcase, but leaving most jewellery at home is a much simpler option.

Lighter fabrics rule – A lightweight merino top may keep you warmer than a heavy jumper and takes up less space. Ditch bulky clothes for travelling and go for thinner mix-and-match layers instead.

handsome man at the beach reading his electronic reader

Reduce your towel load – Microfibre towels are inexpensive, dry super-quickly and take up a fraction of the space that big, fluffy cotton towels occupy. One is all you need.

Try the ‘minus-one’ packing method – After collecting the bare minimum of clothing you intend to pack, remove one of each: leave behind one pair of socks, one short-sleeved shirt, one pair of shoes, etc. You’re unlikely to miss them.

Microfibre towels are inexpensive, dry super-quickly and take up a fraction of the space that big, fluffy cotton towels occupy.

Become a light reader – Unless you’re a print-and-paper purist, abandon those heavy paperbacks and switch to an eBook reader. A thin, portable Kindle can hold oodles of books and the charged battery should keep you going for a fortnight or more.

Weigh your bags before you leave – Don’t get a horrible surprise at the airport.

If you are going over seas soon, be sure to get travel insurance through Budget Direct.