How to pack light for your holiday: 11 tips for a lightweight suitcase

Do your back a favour – travel light on your next holiday

How to pack light for your holiday

If ‘Be Prepared’ is your motto when it comes to holiday packing, you may find yourself dreading the airport scales or loading the car instead of skipping off on your next adventure with a backpack like a nonchalant scout. 

But thanks to nifty storage solutions, tech and a little know-how, it’s possible to travel light, while making sure you have everything you need in the event of a fashion/weather/real emergency. 

So put down that second jumper ‘just in case’ and check out our favourite kit and tips for travelling intelligently.

Choose a lightweight bag 

It may seem obvious, but how do you expect to pack light if you’re using a chunky bag you’ve lugged around for a couple of decades? 

Of course this is especially important if you’re backpacking and there are a plethora of lightweight backpacks to suit specific needs. But when it comes to your average holiday, a lightweight bag is good investment and could save you case when it comes to excess baggage charges.

The IT luggage suitcase is claimed to the lightest case on four or two wheels in the world, and comes in a hard case and soft option as well as a number of sizes, designs and colours. The two-wheeled case option has a 33-litre capacity and weighs just 1.54kg. 

The popular soft case is made to withstand rough handling at airports with a tough fibreglass structure and high tensile material. Ingeniously, the wide handle creates a flat packing base and maximises capacity. 

Travellers can choose whether they would like two or four wheels, but both designs include two outer pockets, which are handy for keeping essentials in, especially if you’re flying with a carrier with an annoying one bag hand luggage policy. 

The two-wheel bag comes with a clip-in transparent bag for liquids, to stop the panicked scramble for illicit items at security. The small sized bag is designed to fit easily into airline cabin lockers and all sizes come with a 10-year warranty. Not bad for £30.

Edit and don’t go shoe-crazy

Write a list of what you’ll need for every scenario then be realistic about what you’ll really need. 

Some people find it helpful to plan outfits so they can make sure pretty much everything in their case goes with everything else, meaning they don’t have to pack as many options, such as different-coloured shoes and jumpers. 

A top tip is to wear your heaviest, bulkiest shoes and pack your lightweight plimsolls or sandals. 

Of course there are loads of sandals out there, but one super lightweight and on-trend option is Birkenstock’s Arizona sandals. 

More substantial than flip-flops, these classic sandals are extremely popular right now. Made out of cork and either leather or Birko-Flo synthetic leather, they also come in various colours and typically cost less than £50.

Pack versatile fashion favourites

A white t-shirt and a pair of jeans/denim shorts will go with pretty much everything, and neutral colours are easy to pair with each other as well as favourite bright t-shirts and accessories. But there are other items that are super versatile too. 

A lightweight blazer is a great option. It will not only keep you warm-ish if the temperature drops, but opens up a world of smart-casual opportunities, meaning you can get a last-minute ticket to a concert, take advantage of an offer in a posh restaurant, chick it on to peek inside a church or even crash a wedding, which might be less appealing or impossible without a smart item in your holiday wardrobe. 

Rohan’s men’s fusion blazer is made for seasoned travellers with a short lapel design to nail smart casual. It’s made from a micro canvas polyamide to be crease resistant after a stint in a suitcase and quick drying. 

There’s even a zipped internal pocket for keeping your passport safe. The jacket weighs just 485g and has a pack size of 1250ml (if measuring your luggage in millilitres is your thing). 

Apparently, that’s pretty small. The blazer costs £129, but there’s a ‘gravel’ version in the sale for £58.05

Pack neatly 

It’s tempting to just chuck everything into your bag at the 11th hour, but not only will you probably forget some essentials, you won’t fit as much in as if you spend a little time folding and rolling. 

‘Packing cubes’ may seem pernickety but will save you space and time when you’re on holiday so they’ll be less searching for your swim shorts and more hours soaking up the sun by the pool. 

The idea is that you group your stuff in different ‘cubes’ or bags, so you can find it easily again, and there’s the added bonus of keeping dirty washing separate from holiday presents on your way home – your family and friends will thank you. 

You can get different sizes for clothes and there are even mini versions for keeping small items such as gadgets and chargers in one place. 

Once you’ve decided what to put in your cubes by category – for instance one for t-shirts and shorts, another for underwear - it’s time to pack it neatly. 

Many people swear by folding but rolling devotees claim their method saves space and lessens creases…so long as you do it neatly.

Choose your tech wisely

While gadgets may not take up too much room, if you travel with them all you’ll find your bag full of leads and plugs. 

Before you go, declutter your phone or tablet and check you have any precious photos backed up and all the apps you want for your holiday. 

It may also be worthwhile checking the terms of your contract so you don’t rack up a surprisingly huge bill. As well as downloading a film or two, you might want to consider installing a specific mapping app, travel guide or a book so you can save space in your holdall. 

There are a heap of excellent travel apps but here are a few of our favourites:

The Flightradar24 app's a live flight tracker that allows you to check your flight's on time and log onto in-flight Wi-Fi and follow your progress. There’s also a cool feature whether you can point your phone’s camera at the sky to see where planes are going – a fun game for the airport if you’re delayed. 

Then there’s the GateGuru app, which can tell you where to check in, give estimated security wait times and maps of terminals, to help you breeze through the airport and arrive at your destination with your feathers unruffled. 

For when you've reached your destination, UV Lens lets you check UV levels at different locations, so you'll be less likely to get burnt at the beach, while Google Translate will help you decipher signs and navigate the local lingo.

Don’t forget to make memories 

Many of us use our phones to take photos when we’re out and about. But while this saves space, it does put your pricey handset in peril, especially if you’re planning on spending time at the beach or on water, so a good compact camera is a sensible purchase. 

Nikon's COOLPIX W300 camera is small but rugged. It's waterproof - up to 30 metres so you can take pictures of the fishes, - freeze proof, dustproof and shockproof, meaning you can drop it up to 2.4 metres without any problems, making it perfect for backpackers and (let's face it) family holidays. 

The camera boasts a wide-angle zoom lens coupled with a back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, which enables users to take great snaps in low light or underwater. 

There's also a 10x Dynamic Fine Zoom, Macro mode. With a fast autofocus and vibration reduction tech, the camera promises crisp images. There's also the ability to shoot video footage in hyper-detailed 4K Ultra High Definition, or Full HD 1080p. 

Despite its unassuming size, the camera packs in features to make professional-looking videos, including an AE lock to maintain consistency as the light changes and wind-noise reduction.

All these features are packed into a camera small-enough to stash in your pocket and that weighs just 231g. 

Don’t forget a travel adapter 

On a list of holiday essentials, a travel adapter plug ranks pretty highly, as without it, most of your gadgets are useless. 

Yes, you could panic buy one in duty free, but Adam Elements’ OMNIA TA502-Adapter could last you for a lifetime of adventures. 

It’s claimed to be the world’s smallest travel adapter, measuring 5cm cubed and weighing 96 grams. The five-in-one adapter is built to work in 150 countries by enabling users to slide and lock a plug in place. 

It’s great for couples as there are two USB Type-A ports so two people can charge their phones at once, or of course, it’s handy for a gadget fiend. 

There are LED lights built into the cube so users can easily see the charging status of their devices, and a built-in safety fuse to protect your devices from any damage.

And a shaver that does it all 

Unless you’re off backpacking in the wilderness or planning on discovering yourself on a yoga retreat, much like the trusty blazer, a versatile shaver is a must. 

Philips' One Blade can be used to trim, edge and shave any length of facial hair using one tool - making it ideal to fit in your wash bag and handy to hack off any unwanted holiday hairstyles that might look a big daft or shaggy back home. 

The tool combines a rotary shaver a trimmer in one cutting element and features a hybrid razor with a replaceable head that lasts around 4 months. It also comes with 3 clip-on combs so it can be used for trimming. 

OneBlade’s innovative cutting mechanism moves 200 times per second, hacking off even the longest hair while its 'glide strip' and skin-friendly polymer shield also mean that no unsightly, stinging cuts. 

The ‘Face and Body’ version may also be a draw for anyone inspired by Love Island who fancies a smooth chest.

Pack all your liquids in a see-through bag

We’re all used to this now, but still, you’ll always get stuck behind someone in the queue for security who’s desperately rifling through their suitcase of the dreaded liquids. Don’t let it be you with the help of a transparent washbag. 

Osprey’s version meets airline regulations and is a lot tougher than a sandwich bag, so you’ll be less likely to spill everything when you take it out, or get to your destination with stained clothing. 

The bag itself is nothing special, but is made from transparent plastic and a rugged black kite material. 

There’s also a large toggle on the zip so it will be easy to open in a hurry. While you can buy more luxurious options, this one does the trick for just £7 and will be handy for many holidays to come.

Or skip liquids all together

For minimal faffing, why not forgo packing liquids all together? The chances are that wherever you’re staying will have shower gel and you can get ‘solid’ versions of most products. 

For example, ditch your hair gel or putty in favour of wax and swap your moisturiser for a moisturising stick, such as the Body Shop’s cocoa butter stick, which claims to leave skin soft and smooth. 

And for shampoo, there’s Lush’s solid shampoo bars. Available in different scents, the circular bars can be stashed in a tin and last for up to 80 washes, making them brilliant for holidays. 

Our favourite is Seanik – a solid seaweed, sea salt and lemon bar, which has a combination of Irish moss gel (made from bushy red seaweed), with protein-rich Japanese nori seaweed and fine sea salt for volume and lemon oil to add shine. 

Most of all though, it smells of summer and won’t leak all over your case.

And grab your coat

Whether you’re off to the Caribbean or camping in Wales, there’s always the chance of bad weather casting a cloud over your perfect holiday. So it’s worth stashing a waterproof in your case. 

Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Lite jacket is one of the lightest waterproof hard shell jackets we know of, weighing in at just 87g, so there’s no excuse not to be prepared for downpour.

However, the low weight doesn't sacrifice its water-shedding abilities, with 15D ripstop nylon fabric and Z-Grav technology built in, which combines waterproofing and breathability to take care of any water, whether it's on the inside or outside. 

It’s easy to crumple the jacket into its own pocket so you’ll barely notice it in your suitcase.

Sarah Griffiths

A journalist with 10 years experience, Sarah specialises in Science and Technology, writing for the BBC, national papers and consumer magazines, including T3, of course. Sarah has reviewed a range of products for T3, from children’s electric toothbrushes to water bottles and photo printing services. There's nothing she can't become an expert in!