How To: Pack ‘Light’ (When You Really, Really, Suck At It)

Having spent most of my childhood and adult life hopping from city to tropical destination to countryside, I thought I had the art of packing down pat.

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Packing ‘light’ on the other hand is a whole different ballgame.

A ball game that I rarely play well. In my opinion, those most successful at cramming their belongings into teensy-tiny cabin bags possess something that I clearly don’t. I think it’s called visuospatial awareness. They are able to imagine the array of clothes in front of them into neatly folded piles, constructed to utilise every little nook and cranny of their 55 x 45 x 25cm hand luggage.

So for me, a spontaneous weekend city break never fails to bring on the cold sweats as I swallow fear and approach my wardrobe(s) with trepidation. Will this be the time I manage to get all hair care, toiletries, makeup, shoes and clothes into the same cabin bag?

It sadly never is.


I end up having to wear most of my clothing on departure to circumnavigate the ridiculously stringent ‘one bag’ policy of certain low-fare airlines *cough EasyJet and Ryanair. It’s sweaty, it’s uncomfortable and the whole process leaves me feeling defeated.

So I recently devised a plan to tackle the packing light conundrum. And it worked! On a trip to Brussels to visit my lovely older sister, I managed not only to get all belongings into one bag, but I even had some space left over. Kinda. Sort of.
For those of you who can relate and break out in hives at the mere thought of ‘packing light’ like I used to, I hope the following tips can help ease some of that pre-travel stress!

The 10 Step Travel Light Bootcamp begins two weeks before the trip…

Lay out every item of clothing on the bed. And then look at your choice of suitcase. Look back at the medley of clothing on the bed. Feel embarrassed by your need to travel-hoard and proceed to steps 2 – 10.

Research your destination! I promise you will not face arid heat, humidity, rain AND snow all in one destination. I mean… nothing is 100% certain. But battling 10 different elements on a 10 day holiday is highly unlikely so try not to pack as though you are going to be living off the land for a month.

Try EVERYTHING on. Is there anything more annoying than getting to a destination and that skirt you hadn’t worn in ages but thought would look great on a museum expedition just doesn’t fit? I know, first world problems but still annoying lol.

This step is crucial. If you are really struggling to cut down on items, pick a colour palette and focus on utilising separates. The aim is to maximise wear out of the holiday clothing by mixing and matching separates with ease and thus, saving very valuable hand luggage space.


Albeit an optional part of the process, I do find that taking pictures with said items of clothing on gives me a better idea of how each item hangs on my body AND, more importantly, how well it photographs. I’m not ashamed to say that I research specific destination backdrops or landscapes in order to curate the perfect look for my Instagram page: @TheDrRecommends

Streamlining toiletries and only packing the absolute essentials can be very difficult for skincare / beauty product junkies like myself. However, this is where those little travel-sized bottles come in handy! Available in most discount or high street stores, the bottles adhere to the strict 100ml liquid quota for toiletries in hand luggage and actually help prevent wastage of product.

Another logical option if you have a travel companion is to communicate beforehand and share toiletries! Genius right?!

Vacuum packing, heard of it? I sure hope so because this ingenious trick can cut down the volume of larger clothing items such as jumpers, jackets and jeans by half. To be fair, I did not fully understand the hype behind vacuum packing until I trialled it on my latest trip and was bowled over by how much more compact my woollen scarves and winter coats were. The vacuum bags themselves are a little pricey, retailing for upwards of £5 but I do really recommend if you are struggling for luggage space.

Invest in good quality SOFT hand luggage. I say soft because the nylon or canvas fabric will generally be more malleable under pressure (when you inevitably sit on the case to squeeze out unnecessary air between the clothing) and these types of luggage often have expander sections offering greater versatility for different trips.


Last but not least…. BREATH. No, you haven’t forgotten anything. And no, you shouldn’t give up and pay to check in your bursting-at-the-seams cabin bag. Have confidence in steps 2-9!


Congrats #travelbug, you have just put your clothes through the 10 Step Travel Light Bootcamp and now know how to pack light despite really, really sucking at it!

Have a great trip and make sure to drop a comment if you enjoyed the article and found these tips useful =)

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