8 Packing Hacks to Travel Lightly When You Go Abroad

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I’m notorious for my travel packing hacks that allow me to pack lightly and take only one carryon bag and a backpack on my trips, and rarely (if ever) checking anything in. I prefer it this way for several reasons.

  • Its the convenience of not spending as much time at the airport waiting to check-in or pick up your bags at the baggage claim. In addition, you eliminate the chances of your luggage getting lost.
  • It forces you to be a minimalist traveler. By incorporating packing hacks and taking only what you really need, you eliminate a lot of weight and waste
  • It can lead to cost savings as some airlines will charge you for check-in, and some taxis will charge you for bigger suitcases.
  • On multi-city trips packing hacks and tricks give you the advantage in eliminating the need for bigger pieces of luggage, improving the ease of travel and thus making it easier to take public transportation should you need to.
  • Many hotel rooms abroad are small. With a carryon and backpack, you eliminate the issue of being able to fit your suitcase into the room, especially if you’re sharing a space with other people.

So what travel packing hacks do I use to manage to pack lightly on ALL of my trips, no matter how long?

Choose lightweight luggage with plenty of interior room

This first packing hack is the most important. You want lightweight, yet strong and reliable luggage that allows you the space and the ability to carry it with you without a struggle.

I like the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Luggage, Black, Carry-On. I like Samsonite for its durability, and this one has the four spinner wheels (makes things SO much easier), and also the TSA approved lock. Plus, when it’s empty it’s super lightweight, which then makes it easier to stay within your airline’s weight limits. Given that it’s a hardtop, you will also never have to worry about your carryon fitting in the overhead bin space. I’ve seen people forced to place their bags on a luggage scale because they “looked big”. This carryon can help you eliminate that issue altogether.

Pack lightweight clothing that you can layer

Depending on the weather where you’ll be, you want to be prepared for anything. I recommend packing lightweight clothing that you can layer, for instance, light tanks, flowy tops, tights, cardigans, etc. This way you can pack more while not taking up as much room.

A packing hack here: consider a capsule wardrobe for your carryon. In other words, pick a color scheme and stick to it. That way you can mix and match all your garments and have more overall outfits to choose from! Another packing hack when putting your garments into your suitcase, make sure you roll them. Doing this saves a ton of room!

roll clothes.jpg
Packing Hack: roll your garments before putting them in your luggage!

An alternative to rolling, and a great travel hack: get packing cubes. These can help organize all your stuff and save space. (Make sure you roll your clothes into the cubes too!) . I like these Veken 6 Set Packing Cubes, Travel Luggage Organizers with Laundry Bag & Shoe Bag (Teal). I think it’s a great deal for the price, and using them does save quite a bit of space, plus you’re fully organized!

Another thing to consider is that, for longer trips, you may be able to do laundry when you’re there. So, just pack only 5-7 days worth of outfits and then plan on doing laundry while abroad. Many of the packing cube sets also come with a bag for dirty laundry, so you’ll have an easy way to keep it separate. This is a great way to travel light and limit excess baggage weight!

Limit Your Shoes

I never pack more than two pairs of shoes. Pick one sandal and one pair of closed-toed shoes, e.g. flats that are comfortable to walk around in. Pick ones that go with all or the majority of your outfits. Then, wear sneakers on the plane, which saves you room in your suitcase and comes in handy for any outdoorsy or physical activities you may want to do.

Use Travel-Sized Everything

Find the travel size of your favorite products, or, if you can’t, squeeze your favorites into 3 oz. travel size bottles. A packing hack I use frequently here is to use my contact cases for lotions and creams – especially if I can’t find travel sizes, or if I know I’ll only need a little bit each day, e.g., eye creams or night time only creams. If you don’t wear contacts, you can easily buy them at a drug store, or even go into an optometry clinic and see if they have spares they can give you. These cases are so small, you’ll be able to easily fit them into your toiletry bag with room to spare.

Another packing hack is to keep the sample sized containers you get when you go to Sephora or Kiehls, for instance, and then reuse those for your favorite products. Yet another idea: get one of those pill containers and use each compartment for a different lotion or cream that you like.

The packing hack trick to consider here is that you only need a little bit of each thing, and sometimes 3oz bottles are still too big. If anything I mentioned is difficult for you to come by, just take a look around your home for similar things that you can re-purpose to save you space on your travels.

kiehls sample
Packing hack: using sample size containers for your favorite products–>super easy way to save room!

Packing Hacks to Save Your Jewelry

I usually throw everything into a small plastic box that won’t get compressed or crushed.

If you want to prevent tangles and keep things more organized then consider the following:

  • Use pill containers to keep everything separate
  • Thread necklaces through straws, or better yet, through loops of your jeans/pants that you pack into your carry on. They’ll stay cushioned among your clothes and stay untangled. (Caution—don’t do this with truly valuable items. I would keep those on your person/in your backpack or personal item at all times.)
  • Place your jewelry into small pouches or bags and tuck them into your shoes before you put them in the carryon.

Keep Your Backpack for in Flight Essentials

In your backpack just pack pajamas and one extra travel outfit (including a set of undergarments) for easy access in case you need to change. In addition, add in your toiletries, valuables (always keep these on your person!), a small first aid kit and any snacks.  You literally just need the essentials.  You don’t want to break your back carrying something too heavy.

Take a Collapsible Bag That Fits in Your Carry On

This packing hack is a game-changer. This allows you extra space without having to lug around a large/heavy suitcase. Because let us all be honest, we always seem to have more stuff coming back from a trip than on the way there. Makes sense though right? We all go shopping for souvenirs.

The collapsible bag I’m referring to is a foldable duffel (see below). Open this bag up to carry extra souvenirs/purchases you make while abroad, then ON THE WAY BACK, you can check in your carry on (if you need to). International flights are less likely to charge you for check-in; even if they do, with this method you may only have to do so on one leg of your journey.

I bought two of these below, one for me and one for my Mom when we went on our trip to Germany. We both took carryons there and then utilized the foldable duffel on the way home!

Packing Hacks for Random Items

I find that being able to pack lightly with the random stuff you might need like chargers, headphones, curling irons can get really frustrating. My strategy for staying organized, if you don’t have any spare packing cubes, is to group them together in a Ziploc plastic bag. This way they are all together in one place.

If you’re traveling with friends, then divide and conquer. Split up the items between you two. For instance, you bring a phone charger, and they’ll bring a curling iron. That way there’s not double of everything and you each save space. This is especially useful for those items that you both need/use.

Hopefully these travel hacks make packing easier for you on your next trip. What are some of your space-saving tricks?? Share them below!

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5 thoughts on “8 Packing Hacks to Travel Lightly When You Go Abroad”

  1. I am surprised that there are no comments/compliments…I picked up on a few things I didn’t think about, and this is amazing, well thought of ideas and great advice for people who pack way too much! I am a seasoned traveler, and always looking for packing ideas because we learn from each other for sure! Thank you so much Kathy Manie.

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