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How to pack the perfect suitcase

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“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just enough baggage,” Mark Twain’s friend and fellow novelist Charles Dudley Warner once mused. In our case, “just enough baggage” means well-packed carry-on when we set out on a trip.

Packing smart means you’re more likely to avoid luggage fees. Even if you buy prepaid baggage, fees will usually start from $35 per bag (if you’re flying with a major airline like Qantas). Budget airlines are known to be less generous: Qantas’s 2015 annual report had estimated its daughter company Jetstar’s ‘ancillary revenue’ comprised over 1/5 of its $230 million total profit, while its Virgin-owned counterpart Tigerair hauled in $164 million extra revenue.

You might be able to sort out your own in-flight entertainment, snacks and drinking water like an expert, but what about luggage? Many of the best flight deals only include carry-on luggage, which means you need to perfect the art of packing the essentials into one bag. We’ve put together a rulebook for you.

In this article we cover:

The best ways of packing for air travel

  1. Get the right bag for the right occasion: Perfecting the art of packing starts with getting the right luggage. As the rule of thumb, the lighter the bag, the more weight you’ll have for your things. Invest in a compact modern suitcase and confine your creaky old one to storage. You would have seen flight crews strolling with their little suitcases at airports – they pack all their items in those, and they know the value of space like few do!
  1. Check weight restrictions: Before you start packing, check your bag’s dimensions, as every airline has different carry-on baggage restrictions. 7kgs is a rather common limit for carry on, however it’s well worth checking with your carrier first. Remember that whatever the limit is, you can work with it – a little packing ingenuity always goes a long way!

Tip: Weigh your bag before heading to the airport. You never know whether you could be even slightly over the limit!

  1. Lay out everything you think you need before packing: Let’s be honest; there are two types of packers. Over-packers and under-packers. The middle ground is fairly scarcely populated. By laying out all the items that you think you’ll need to take, you’ll be easily be able to see what is missing and what isn’t (do you really need five jumpers?!).

Tip: We recommend using the ‘the rule of 3’ when choosing basic garments – 3 shirts, 3 pairs of underwear and 3 pairs of socks. This is usually enough to get you between washing machines when travelling!

  1. Put together your toiletry bag: You want to include the following personal items in your carry on:

Tip: Your product sample/tester collection is a brilliant source of travel cosmetics. Complimentary hotel toiletries from your past travels are likewise excellent for taking on a trip. Also, you can save yourself time and anxiety by packing your liquid toiletries/cosmetics in Ziploc bags.

  1. Make a sleep kit: If you’re taking a lengthy/overnight flight, it’s a great idea to have a handy sleep kit in your carry-on. You would usually need to have the following items in it:
  1. Pile the items you want to put into your carry-on bag on one side:

Tip: Wear your jumper/hoodie/sports jacket and walking shoes on travel day. It will not only save space and weight in your bag, but also keep you warm in the plane cabin.

  1. Pack heavier items first: By placing shoes and other bulky items at the bottom of your luggage, you save space and ensure your suitcase is properly balanced.

Tip: Only pack dress shoes or trainers if you absolutely need to. Pack lightweight footwear like sandals or thongs/flip-flops if you’re flying to warmer climes – the latter also make for great ‘hotel shoes’. Ladies, remember that you can always opt for a nice pair of flats instead of high heels!

  1. Pack fragile items in the middle: Now that your shoes are at the bottom of your bag, your toiletry bag or any other fragile items will need to go in the middle, where they’ll have plenty of padding.

Tip: Use bubble wrap or travel pouches/inflatable travel bags if you’re packing fragile gifts or souvenirs. Be mindful that the latter can expand at altitude!

  1. A layer of rolled clothes: On top of your layer of shoes, you will want to lay down your bulkier items. Roll up items like jeans, towels and jumpers and you’ll save a lot more space.
  2. Lastly, don’t stress! If pre-travel panic hits you, refer to the golden rule of packing experts: don’t pack frantically. There’s no use in stuffing everything at hand into your luggage, as you’ll most likely overpack.


How to pack a suit in a suitcase in 8 easy steps

If you need to pack a suit for your trip and ensure it doesn’t come out crinkled beyond recognition, you might want to follow the steps below:

How to fold a shirt for travel in under a minute

It’s always a good idea to pack a nice shirt in your luggage regardless of whether you’re travelling for work or holidays. Here’s how to do it properly so it doesn’t get all wrinkled up:

Tip: Pack the shirt around a piece of cardboard and pop a rolled-up belt into the collar to keep it firm.

How to fold a dress for packing in 6 quick steps

Save yourself the annoyance of dealing with a crinkled dress when you take it out of the suitcase. Here are some excellent, crease-preventing, folding techniques:

How to roll your clothes for packing

Rolling your softer garments will save you plenty of valuable suitcase space. You don’t have to be an ex-army serviceman to efficiently roll clothes for packing!

How to pack a suitcase to maximise space

Your travel bag might already look pretty full, but there is a number of ways to give you more packing space. This is what you can do:

5 reliable tips for wrinkle free packing

It might seem like there’s no way your packed clothes will stay wrinkle-free for the length of your journey, yet there’s a range of solutions for that.

Do you consider yourself a master packer? Share this story on Facebook and comment with your own tips (or mishaps)!

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