Skip To Content
  • BuzzFeed Mates badge
Updated on 11 Dec 2019. Posted on 14 Dec 2017

I Tested Your Travel Hacks For Packing A Small Suitcase

Carry-on only is the way to go!

Recently we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community for their tips on packing light. There were some great hacks in there so I decided to test some of them for myself.

1. Get a carry-on only sized bag.


The hack: "Limiting the size of your luggage is a great way to start. If you only take a carry-on there's only so much you can fit!" – amandar

Did it work: It was hard, but yes. Having a small bag to begin with definitely stopped me from overpacking, and it made travelling SO MUCH EASIER. I fit two weeks worth of clothes in this backpack, plus my computer, tripods, a first aid kit, and other random assorted crap. Plus having a carry-on sized bag means you don't have to wait around after your flight for your luggage!

FYI, this bag from Kathmandu is amazing. It can be carried as a backpack or a duffel bag, and it fits SO MUCH MORE than it looks like it will. I borrowed it from my brother for a trip and immediately bought my own.

2. Roll your clothes!


The hack: "It isn't about packing LESS, it's just that the stuff you pack should take less space. Roll your socks into your underwear, roll your shirts into you pants... don't fold anything into squares like you would for a drawer. Rolling has saved me so much space." – caelaglukler

Did it work: YES! Not only did everything fit in nicely, it also made it a lot easier to see every single item in my bag, so I could pull out things as I needed them.

3. Invest in some solid toiletries.


The hack: "Solid soap, shampoo, conditioner, and laundry soap take up much less space than their liquid counterparts. I even use a serrated knife to cut them down to the size I'll need on a trip." – ameliad

Did it work: Yep, it sure did. I used shampoo and conditioner bars from LUSH, but didn't bother cutting them down because they both fit inside this small soap container I got at a $2 store. The only downside is that they need about half a day to dry out before repacking them, otherwise they get slimy. So solid shampoo mightn't be a good option if you're constantly on the move, unless you're in a hot place and can dry them overnight.

4. Wear your biggest items on the plane.


The hack: "Wear the bulkiest item if possible (including the clunkiest shoes, again if possible)." – j48ee8166c

Did it work: Yes! I was going to a warm place so I didn't have a big coat or anything, but I tied my jumper around my waist on the plane. Plus, it doubled as a good pillow! I didn't take a photo so please enjoy this pic of my colleague wearing a lot of clothes when she had the same idea for a trip.

5. Make a really good checklist.


The hack: "Do not underestimate the power of a well done checklist. It helped me pack for my honeymoon by letting me really see what I needed." – Roberta Howey, Facebook

Did it work: So well! I couldn't be bothered making my own, but I found this one (or just Google "packing list") which helped me make sure I didn't forget anything important. (For the record, I'd forgotten to pack glasses and bandaids before I read this.)

6. Get some packing cubes.


The hack: "Seems like it would take up more space, but no, instead it gives your bag structure. You also avoid the situation of having to either fold or roll dirty clothes on the way home- who wants to deal with that? With packing cubes I was able to fit two weeks of clothing into my small gym bag." – qbeckstead1

Did it work: Hmm. Sort of. I used one large cube for clothes, one for underwear/swimmers/socks etc. They were great for keeping my bag ordered, and made it easier to get one thing out without having to dig through everything and then repack. But I found that they ended up taking more space, only because I didn't really have enough clothes to fill up one cube. Rolling my clothes was a much better option for me.

These cubes would be perfect if you're taking a big bag, with a lot of clothes for all different occasions (like if you're going on a multi-destination trip and want to keep summer clothes separate from winter ones) but for my little bag and small wardrobe, they weren't really suitable. FYI I used these cubes, which cost $30AUD.

7. Pack minimal clothing and just take laundry detergent.


The hack: "Get 'sink detergent' so you can wash your clothes in the hotel sink or bathtub and if you have a reliable way of doing laundry, you can pack a little less." – Desi Ferber, Facebook

Did it work: Yes! Obviously no one wants to do laundry while on holiday but it really helps you cut down on luggage space. I took a plastic bag of soap flakes that dissolve in water. You just fill up a sink or tub with warm water and soap, and scrub away. Then I hung them up to dry on random bits of furniture around my hotel room. If you're camping, or travelling for a while, check out this Scrubba bag which makes things so, so easy.

8. Get some quick-dry underwear.

9. Only take a couple of outfits.


The hack: "Let's be honest here, you never wear everything you bring on vacation. Pack interchangeable items of clothing for three different outfits. No one knows you anyway and will not be aware you're wearing what you wore the day before." – katefredborg

Did it work: Well, clearly Kate doesn't understand my desire for lit Instagram photos where I'm not wearing the same outfit in every pic. Though I did try very hard to only bring shirts that went with every pair of shorts/pants/skirt and vice versa. So from seven items, I had 12 different complete outfits. By the end of the trip I was VERY SICK of all of my clothes, but not to the point where I regretted my choice.

10. Use an app to style your outfits.

BuzzFeed / Pureple

The hack: "Use an app like Stylebook or Pureple to make sure everything you're packing actually goes together. I used this before moving to France for a year and I was able to immediately see what pieces didn't fit with the rest of my wardrobe and would therefore be a waste of space." – jenniem

Did it work: Not for me. Using Pureple, I took (bad, wrinkled) photos of the clothes I'd packed and created different outfits from them all. But then each day I just grabbed whatever and put it on, without really thinking about them going together. This app would be great if you have a lot of different clothes, or events that required specific dress codes.

11. Check the weather and your itinerary!


The hack: "I make a list of planned activities and then come up with outfits for them. It helps me figure out what I can rewear." –  marycatherineh3

Did it work: Yes! This would be great for a trip with heaps of different activities, or trip to different places with different climates. It's not really necessary for a chilled-out beach holiday, but a good tip to keep in mind nonetheless.

12. Take a dirty laundry bag, even if it's just a big Ziploc bag.


"So you don't have to sift through everything trying to separate the clean from the dirty." – caitlinm18

Did it work: YES omg. This was great. It's just a small bag I've had lying around for ages and it was the perfect size, especially for dirty underwear and socks. It kept my laundry all in one place, and it was easy to just empty into the washing machine when I got home.

13. Bonus! Every time I travel somewhere, I take a tube of Sorbolene.


It costs like $3 and it works on everything. I use it as a moisturiser, makeup remover, and it's so good to lather on after a sunburn. I cannot recommend it enough.

Bon voyage!


Sign Up For The Bring Me! Newsletter!

The latest travel tips, off-the-beaten-path experiences, and inspiration delivered to your inbox.

Newsletter signup form