The Best Packing Tip I Learned In 2018

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

I’m getting towards the end of my four month, hand luggage only trip.

Over the course of this trip I’ve written about:

I get loads of questions from people I meet or catch up with as I travel regarding my luggage on this trip — the first question is usually — ‘where’s the rest of it?!’

There’s loads of packing lists and other packing tutorials floating around the web — they’re all great and everyone has their own secret trick to packing.

My tips and experiences may not work for everyone but other than the minor grumbles above, four months of HLO has been a dream.

Some people swear by rolling clothes to fit more in — I have tried that but found that I ended up with several giant rolls of clothes that didn’t fit neatly into my bag — maybe I was rolling too many clothes together? I don’t have the energy to roll everything separately every few days!

For clothes I would fold or roll them together — that wasn’t a problem and I would keep them all in the same place.

But all the small, non clothes items were always getting lost or falling down to the bottom of my bag and I couldn’t easily find them when on board a plane or in an airport lounge.

I’d be digging through my bag as it was either on a seat or in an overhead bin, and could never find what I was looking for. I’m talking things like earbud headphones, charging cables, ear plugs, adaptors, sunglasses, etc.

So here’s a tip I mentioned briefly when I started my trip, but it’s worth explaining properly.

I’ve discovered that keeping these items in a couple of separately categorised old (otherwise empty) similar sized airline amenity kits has been the perfect way to transport them.

They never go missing, won’t break, and best of all can be found in seconds.

I have been carrying three similar sized kit bags with me on this trip – one from a Qantas flight and two from Virgin Atlantic flights. It’s important to me that these kits are different designs or colors so you immediately know which one to grab and unzip.

Let me run you through how I’ve organized them.

Kit #1 – Cords and charging cables

  • Laptop charger
  • Phone/tablet charger
  • Kindle charger
  • Audio cable (for where bluetooth doesn’t work)
  • Headphone splitter, so two of us can listen to something on a plane at the same time
  • Google chrome to stream from my laptop onto different hotel and Airbnb televisions

Kit #2 – Small electronics

  • Cordless mouse (for writing these articles!)
  • Travel speaker
  • Electric shaver
  • Power bank battery
  • Universal adaptor
  • Fast charger

Kit #3 -All other small incidentals

  • Lip balm, so I have as much space in my liquids bag as possible
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • Gum/mints
  • Any medications
  • Spare coins, as they keep falling out of my passport wallet
  • Sunglasses (in a soft case, with cleaning cloth)
  • An extra pen

Think about it — how quickly could you fish out a pair of earplugs from your luggage if, say, a crying baby is next to you on a flight or a train?

Bottom line

Some of you may do this already, so apologies if I’m late to the party on this.

But this has made traveling so much easier on this trip – if I need to find any of these items I instantly know which colored kit to grab and find what I’m looking for in seconds.

This is certainly the best use I have ever had for all those amenity kits I’ve been given on flights!

Does anyone else already do this? What was your best packing tip of 2018?

  1. That’s a very organised way of packing these small items. Most certainly packing them this way for my next trip. Many thanks James.

  2. It’s supposed to roll each shirt individually? I actually find it helps filling the space in my luggage more efficiently.

    Another tip that I want to share is to stuff socks/dirty underwear into your (formal dress) shoes so that the shoes won’t get deformed and free up the space otherwise taken up by these small items.

  3. If you use clear see thru bags (instead of those shown), it will help as you search for cords. I bought one at a local drug store and love the ease.

  4. This is a fantastic tip. I’ve been doing it for years, and occasionally I’ll swap bags around from my pretty large stash (I keep every unique one I get as a souvenir), but I’m glad to see it shared. My laptop bag currently has a hardside Tumi Delta One case from 2017, a Porsche Design Saudia bag, and two Herschel VS bags from a few months ago.

  5. Wow, are you in Hungary at the moment? (just because of the HUF coins). I really would like to join you for a coffee or something. Or is there any way you are flying out from BUD on 19th January?

  6. Yes, I’ve also been doing it for years. But it’s also why I find those stylish black amenity kits so irritating; they’re much harder to find in the bottom of a bag, and difficult to tell one from another (BA’s White Company black pouches are irritating for this reason!).

    And, incidentally, it’s a good idea to have luggage with a light coloured lining, not stylish black – much easier to find things against a light background.

    Muji do cheap transparent bags made of really strong plastic for your liquids.

  7. I bought the Standard Luggage bag on your recommendation and love it. I’m a luggage addict so I have (at least) one of every type and I’ve found the Standard to be the most functional and flexible bag I’ve ever bought. I wish the color tags were better quality, but otherwise I’m really pleased with everything they thought of. Thanks for the tip on that. I’ve used Eagle Creek small bags for years to organize cords, etc.; they are nice as they are mesh see-through. I’m curious, did you also buy the Standard packing cube set; if so, what do you think of them?

  8. I use the garment packing cubes from MUJI, the cheap Japanese brand. They come in different colors and sizes and I find them very convenient for keeping clothes organized.

  9. I do the same thing and it helps so much!!!

    The containers I use is a Qatar long haul Bricks amenity kit (for basically amenities I need), an emirates economy long haul amenity bag (their new zip pouch) for toiletries, and then emirates old economy kit for earbuds, gum, adaptors, etc. (it’s a small brown zip up and very small and compact).

  10. In addition to using amenity it bags, I’ve become a big fan of packing cubes sized around 3″x10″x14″– sized so several fit nicely into a carry-on rollaboard . Folded shirts go into one, underwear socks into another etc.
    Great benefit is you easily transfer them directly from your bag into a dresser/shelf at your hotel/guest room. Really speeds up packing and unpacking your bag.

  11. Some key tips I share with friends, which I’ve acquired during my nomadic life for the last thirteen years:

    1. Pack for seven days at a time
    2. Besides tees, there is no need for taking two of anything
    3. Nice sneakers for daily travels and a pair of nice shoes for evening wear is all one needs
    4. Keep one pouch (airline amenity bags) for electronics, one for toiletries and one for meds.
    5. A good smartphone is sufficient for documenting and taking pictures.
    6. Keep immigration documents in a nice waterproof document bag. Keep copies of most important documents, such as passports and visas. Maintain a backup on your email.
    7. Keep all money and credit cards for daily outings in a compact and discreet wallet.
    8. Keep a handkerchief – it can play a multitude of roles.

    Travel light and stay happy. Peace & love to all.

  12. those little bags are great. Along a similar vein, using packing cubes has always worked great for keeping things organized for me. I like the ultra-light ones like the Eagle Creek Spectre versions (but there are cheaper ones from other companies).

  13. Pockets! (on the bag) easy to access from the outside! Pick a bag with a few pockets of varying sizes.

  14. As an old backpacker, I’ve always used stuff sacks easily available at REI or other other outdoor outfitters. All clothes, everything goes into a stuff sack and I try to keep track of what’s in what color bag 🙂

    Everything but ironed (!) shirts since I have an old Briggs & Riley wheelie with the garment section.

    Now different question. Can I get by with just my NorthFace Surge daypack on next week’s RTW19 1.0 IAD-Tokyo-FRA-IAD?? Just 2 nights in hotel. 1 pair of blue jeans or Kakies (haven’t decided) & 1 pair of shoes which I’ll wear. Then pack 1 extra button shirt and 2 sets of underwear/ T-shirts (All Boeing airplanes) along with hoodie and rain jacket?

    Should work. I’ll have My Yellowstone canvas shopping to cart home the aminty kits and PJs 🙂

  15. Little bags that I label “toothbrush” “lotion” “phone Charger” etc. Everything
    I need is in little bags I label in marker and refill

  16. Been doing similar since 2015! Recently used the great Qatar Business and First class and Thai First class hard sided ones for various stuff, they’re brilliant. I also keep all my contact lens stuff in one handy soft one so I can get st on a long haul.

  17. I have checked my luggage all of 6 times in my life. Twice the airline temporarily lost it by a day. Once someone opened it. I have away of telling it was intentional and once the luggage came back with a big footprint on it. These days I carry luggage covers in cases where I have to unexpectedly check my bag.
    my packing tips, use different color or texture usb cables. You really only need an A to micro, A to C and C to C cable. Get yourself some A to C, C to micro tips to make those cables dual use. I always have one of my 10,000 amenities bag packed with cables I need for travel so I don’t have to keep thinking about which cables and tips I need to pack whenever I travel. I have one for travel, one for work and one for everday.
    Don’t bring any chargers for phone or tablet. Just invest in a 20k mah power bank with 2 to 3 outputs and always charge off of that which is also safer for your devices than international outlets. Bring 1 charger for the battery. Or better yet if you need a latop, get a latop charger with usb output.

    Dirty clothing, bring a febreeze trash bag or plastic bag with some fabric softener sheets.

  18. Looks like most points are covered. The key is to travel light and avoid packing items, which may be inexpensive and easily available at the destination. Also, roasted coffee beans wrapped in a cheese cloth are great for absorbing moisture & odors and keeping the bag smelling crisp, especially when in the wilderness for months.

  19. I have a Boliviana and a TAP amenity bag for electronics and medicines/sunscreens/solid toiletries respectively and a clear MUJI bag for liquids.

  20. I have tried many different amenity kit pouches over the years but have settled on Zip Lock plastic bags (the ones with the sliding lock). They work great for several reasons:
    -they are clear so you can see everything
    -they are waterproof (or close to it) so that if something leaks inside it stays inside.
    -they are super lightweight.
    -they come in different sizes

  21. Be careful about using the same bag that is currently offered by the airline you’re flying. I just left my travel medicine bag on an Air Canada flight thinking I was leaving just another amenity kit empty of the products I wanted. Unlikely to be noticed by crew/cabin cleaners either.

  22. I may have missed it in an earlier post but I’m wondering why you take a Kindle. I just have a Kindle app on my iPad for traveling. It cuts down on one device (and its attendant cord).

  23. I do this also but I use the various cosmetic bags companies give away or I buy new ones at Goodwill for a couple dollars. I also carry my own variety of tea bags in planes and get hot water to steep.

  24. I use plastic slider baggies except for cords and such. A set go into a “hard” mesh zip bag UAL used to use for FC amenity kits. They were the best, the tins were the worst. I pack two days ahead, then semi-unpack the night before, really scrutinizing everything and usually able to leave a couple of things out. The best place to tool and stuff things is into the corners and along side of siutcase. Amazing how much you can squirrel away in those spots. I use a Mandatin Duck hard sided carry on and can go for a 3 weeks. But I do wash/rinse things out throughout my journey.

  25. Get some packing cubes. It’s the only way to pack, IMO. The Muji ones are light, thin, breathable, cheap. Breathable is key. Most amenity bags are not.

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