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12 Genius Packing Hacks Every Traveler Should Know

So long, suitcase struggles!

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Who doesn't hate packing? You roll, you fold, and you cram into corners—yet somehow, no matter how hard you try, your stuff never seems to fit quite right. And when you do finally get your suitcase zipped (even if you had to sit on it), there's still that nagging fear that you forgot something essential. The good news is, we've rounded up the best space-saving tips to ease your packing woes. So read on, and erase your stress with these packing hacks!

Create a customized packing list.

packing list with shoes and open suitcase

There's nothing worse than checking your bag and getting whacked with a fee because it's just a few pounds over the weight limit. Luckily, one Reddit user has found a solution with LighterPack, a free website that helps you visualize your packing list. Here's how it works: You enter each item's weight and quantity (organized by category) and it creates a graph that shows you exactly what's weighing you down. You can even convert from pounds to kilograms in one click, which is convenient when you're traveling on international airlines. Other Reddit users commented that it's also a big help when packing gear for a long hiking trip.

Fit your toiletries in creative containers.

Top view of kit for hygiene during hiking and travel on wooden table with empty space. Items include towel, comb, soap, toothbrushes, shampoo.

Just because your favorite hair product or toothpaste comes in a certain container doesn't mean it has to stay there. Think about it. If you're going away for one week, do you really need three months' worth of moisturizer? The answer is no. If one of your essential products takes up a lot of space, get creative and see if you can repurpose a smaller container (like an Altoid tin). For example, Reddit user @joeyyacono's downsized his three-ounce pomade jar into an empty chapstick tube. Pro tip: You can also buy a set of TSA-approved travel bottles, organized by color.

Wash your clothes with shampoo.

hands washing clothes in water

If you're going on a long trip (or one with lots of dirty, outdoor activities), there's no avoiding the fact that you will need to do laundry. To avoid lugging around a tub of detergent, Reddit user @plaid-knight suggests substituting it with shampoo and multi-tasking by washing your clothes while you're in the shower. They also recommend investing in odor-resistant fabrics like merino wool: "My socks [and T-shirts] are merino wool and can be reworn for days without smelling." Another genius tip? Bring lace undergarments, which can air dry within minutes.

Compress your stuff.

collapsible water bottle

A few objects seem impossible to compress: bulky backpacks or heavy water bottles, for instance. However, there are some ingenious solutions. Reddit user @SeattleHikeBike swears by the Osprey Stuff Pack, which folds down into a tiny, pocket-sized bundle. He also writes, "Those super light shopping bags like ChicoBags are really handy." Pro tip: Collapsible water bottles—such as Vapur, Hydaway, or Nomader—are ultra-portable as they fold or flatten to fit in your bag.

Use a packing cube as a carry-on.

Target Packing Cubes Travel Accessories

You've organized your bag to the point where it looks like a game of Tetris, with each item fit perfectly in its own spot. But that lasts for a whole three seconds when you dig through it to find something you need. Reddit user @gilmergirl wrote, "I've sometimes used a packing cube. Put all in-flight supplies in one cube, pull it out when I board, put it back when I land." If you don't have a packing cube, she writes that she also uses a Baggallini crossbody tote or a Timbuk2 messenger bag, "which stands up perfectly under an airline seat and keeps everything exactly where I put it." Another Reddit user, @SeattleHikeBike, adds that Tom Bihn makes a great packing cube shoulder bag as well.

Bring a zippered pillowcase.

zippered pillow case

You won't believe how versatile a simple pillowcase can be during your travels. Reddit user @laurensomm wrote, "It won't take much space, but if you bring along one while traveling, you can pack your coat inside. Boom: Instant pillow." Another Reddit user added that it doubles as a laundry bag as well. And if you have a linen pillowcase, it could act as an amazing towel alternative, too!

Arrange clothes by category.

packing cube with clothes in it

Sometimes packing smart is less about conserving space and more about saving precious time. Packing cubes or other organizers can help you quickly sort through your stuff—without leaving a messy mountain of clothes on the floor. "They're basically my drawers when I travel," writes Reddit user @mug3n. "It's nice to pull a cube out and know, oh hey, this one only has tops, or this one only has socks/undies."

Wear a money belt.

money belt with money in it

It might seem like an unnecessary item, but a money belt is worth the peace of mind. Reddit user @FrantaB writes, "Even though many people can't stand it, I still use [a] hidden money belt anywhere I travel." They might be a little corny, but money belts are lightweight and can be worn on the plane, taking up no extra space in your luggage. Plus, you'll feel secure that your credit cards and documents are safe from pick-pockets.

Slip on comfortable walking shoes.

pink running shoes

As any road warrior will tell you, reliable footwear is more about function over fashion. Reddit user @ft_wanderer writes, "I have had amazing experiences with Crocs (I know… hear me out). They tend to make shoes that are incredibly lightweight and can look really dressy. Nobody would ever suspect the brand." And don't forget to wear your clunkiest kicks on the plane instead of wasting space shoving them in your bag.

Leave items that you can find abroad.

hair dryer, brush, straightener on a marble countertop

A few things are better left at home. Consider the objects that your hotel may already provide: soap, hair dryers, towels, and so on. Reddit user @weekendedition wrote that instead of buying an expensive travel-sized beard trimmer, he prefers to go to a barber, where there's "always chill people with great stories." Reddit user @mind_the_gap agrees, "This is one of my favorite things to do when I travel… I'll draw a crowd at the barber when I'm on the road and talking about this trip or that one."

Swap liquid toiletries for solid ones.

Black Toothpaste Tablets

Whether you're bringing full size bottles, or travel size items in your luggage, there's always the chance that they'll leak all over your stuff during transport. Not only do you risk spillage, they also take up a lot of space.

Erica Forrest, the founder of Trip Scholars recommends using sustainable toiletries like toothpaste tablets from Super Bee or deodorant and shampoo/conditioner bars from Silver Falls Sustainability Company.  "They are an excellent addition to your sustainable travel gear because they are solids, so you don't need treat them as liquids through security," she says. All of these products are environmentally friendly as well.

Use a laundry sheet in your suitcase.

Woman Smelling Clothes in Suitcase
Artit Wongpradu/Shutterstock

If you're going away for any period of time, it's important to keep your clothes fresh and odor-free while you're traveling. "Throw a laundry sheet in your suitcase before departure, this will keep your clothes smelling fresh throughout your journey," Lauren LaBar, co-founder and COO of Upaway says.

Adding this quick step is extra helpful especially if you're going somewhere where washing your clothes isn't easily accessible. You should also pack a small laundry bag so it's easy to distinguish what has already been worn and what you still can pick from for the remainder of the trip.

Courtney Shapiro
Courtney Shapiro is an Associate Editor at Best Life. Before joining the Best Life team, she had editorial internships with BizBash and Anton Media Group. Read more
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