Keep Calm and Carry-on With These Pro Packing Tips


Chuck the checked bags and the interminable queues that go with them. Photo: Natalia Kostikova/EyeEm/Getty Images

Global destinations have reopened but ongoing airport chaos means getting there continues to be a bit of a hassle. The key thing you can do to streamline your travel days is to pack like a pro. Chuck the checked bags and the interminable queues that go with them.

And now that so many of us are getting set to go again, we’ve curated a helpful list of reminders to make the most of your packing and your travels. Just remember, less really is more, these days. And honestly, you don’t need five pairs of shoes.

Make a List


Packing light requires a well-edited selection of multipurpose wardrobe pieces. Make a list of garments, accessories and toiletries a couple of days ahead of departure so you have time to co-ordinate a super-efficient selection of outfits, as well as pick up anything that might be missing.

The Bantam-Weight Bag


Airports are far less exasperating when you’re able to glide through self-serve check-in and head right for your gate, skipping queues to check bags as well as the baggage belt once you’ve landed. Choose a durable hard case that conforms to standard airline size requirements. Carry-on makes connections a breeze and a rollie tucked into the overhead bin ensures that your luggage arrives with you — lost bags being more and more common these days, given the shortage of airport staff.


Maximize Your Personal Item


All but the most budget of airlines allow travellers one personal item along with their carry-on bag, so make it a roomy, lightweight tote to increase your packing space. A classic Longchamps Le Pliage, size large, is the ideal choice. They double as waterproof beach bags as well as shopping totes and zip closed.


Pack in Modes


Create a holiday capsule wardrobe with items that effortlessly mix and match. Select a trio of neutrals — navy, white and tan, or black, white and cream — and pack only those colours. When everything co-ordinates, you utilize all the items packed, instead of taking up space with random stand-alone pieces. Add a couple of pops of colour and pattern. A jaunty striped top, a floral dress. Mode packing also allows for easy layering as you shift between different climates.




Choose versatile garments that can be dressed up or down and work with several other pieces. A good maxim is: “If it doesn’t go with three things, it doesn’t go.” An oversized scarf is among the handiest things you can take with you. A wrap for a chilly plane that you can also roll into a pillow, it works as a sarong for your next beach getaway as well. Large, cotton Turkish towels are also a great choice. They come in every colour, do all of the above and make a perfect beach or picnic blanket too. Packing fewer pieces that do more things means wearing some items more than once. Toss a few OxiClean tabs in your bag to clean any garments as needed with a quick power soak and air dry.


Rolled & Cubed


Rolling items fits as much into your suitcase as possible with the added bonus of reduced creasing. Some prefer the ‘bundle’ technique — laying full outfits on the bed from longest to shortest piece of clothing, then rolling them up as complete ‘looks.’ There’s also the ranger roll, folding the bottom two inches of an item inside out so it creates a pocket along one side that holds the roll in place. Finally, sort clothing by day, itinerary, or type, and organize rolls into packing cubes. This way, you don’t have to unfold and displace everything to locate one item or outfit.


Heavy Lifting


Shoes take up space and weight. Wear your bulkiest pair on the plane and be ruthless about which ones go in your suitcase. Really, all you need is a comfortable day/walking shoe, something fancier and for a seaside holiday, a beachy flip-flop. For women, tan or metallic shoes work with any ensemble and a gold sandal goes a very long way, day or night. Men should pack a dressier loafer for evening. Arrange heftier things, like shoes, at the wheeled end of the suitcase. This helps it stay stable when upright and keeps lighter items from getting squashed.




These should always be placed on top of your clothes in a clear bag, so airport security doesn’t muss up the carefully calibrated contents of your carry-on if they need to have a look. Buy flight-approved 100 ml containers and fill them with as many multi-use products as possible — a shampoo-conditioner, a conditioner that doubles as shaving cream, a baby shampoo that works for hair and body. Or go with travel-friendly solids like these and these. Lots of brands make carry-on convenient, non-liquid grooming products these days.


No Weigh


A final excellent advantage of flying carry-on only is that it allows you to skip the airline desk — and in many cases, the scale. Check in online and download the boarding pass into your mobile to make your journey through any airport as efficient and interaction-free as possible. Your suitcase is rarely, if ever, weighed. With skilful packing, you can really stuff it without worrying about the kilos. Just make sure you’re still able to lift into the overhead bin without putting out your back.


Quick Tips


  • Seven-day pill containers keep jewelry items separate so they don’t tangle together.
  • Bring an empty, reusable water bottle through airport security and fill it once you’re in the terminal. It’s greener than buying endless plastic bottles while on holiday, plus you won’t need to constantly flag down a flight attendant to refill your tiny airplane water glass.
  • Add a small muslin bag of rice to your luggage when travelling to humid destinations. It absorbs moisture and keeps clothes fresh. A cedar chip or a sprig of lavender makes everything smell great.
  • Keep a structured sun hat from getting crushed en route by stuffing soft clothing items both in and around it to reinforce its shape. Or pack a foldable model.
  • Always keep medications in your handbag. Even when travelling carry-on, you may occasionally be asked to check your case at the gate and don’t want to lose access to any pills you may need on a longer flight.
  • If you’re an avid reader, opt for a Kindle or other e-reader, and skip lugging books around on holiday.