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I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been in the position of having packed a bit too much on a previous trip. Whether it’s backup shoes or an extra iPad, even with our best efforts, sometimes avoiding overpacking is a hard thing to do.

Packing a suitcase is somewhat of a tricky mixture of artistry and science, but trust us it’s one totally worth mastering! So if you’d love to learn to pack less but have no idea how to pair down your options, let this be your guide to getting started.

Simply read ahead to find out my five essential packing tips.

5 Tips To Break Your Overpacking Habit

#1 Write Out Your Packing List

This common-sense tip is also the most frequently skipped. But writing out a list helps you to organize exactly what you’re going to wear each day and to select versatile items that you can wear two to three times.

By writing everything you pack down, you’re focused on the things you need, not the things you ‘may’ need. And, if you keep that packing list with you, you know exactly what’s in your suitcase, which does come in handy in the super unlikely (knock on wood) event that your bags get lost and you have to file an insurance claim!


#2: Only Bring The Shoes You Need

Do you really need more than one pair of heels or sandals? The answer is probably no. Which is why I recommend selecting your shoes before your outfits – a gold pump is perfect for a rehearsal dinner but all wrong for a conference.

Shoes can take up the most room in your suitcase, so try limiting them to three and planning your outfits around them. Or try opting for a pair of wear-with-anything flats such as Birkenstocks or greek sandals that will work with everything.

Shoe Care Guide to travel

#3: Tote-ally Essential

Your personal item (tote or backpack) can either maximize your luggage or literally weigh you down with things you’ll never need. Whatever you pack should be what you absolutely NEED: such as your laptop for work, reading material or notebooks.

But, do you really need to bring two pairs of headphones or three books? Are you actually going to watch anything on your tablet or will your computer suffice?

When you pack only the bare essentials, you’ll have extra room to pack the things you may actually need, like additional makeup or a first aid kit. Also make sure to choose your carry-on bag by what kind of holiday your going on.

Trekking up some mountains? You may want to choose a backpack rather than that roomy straw tote you picked up in Bali.

A practical wheeled travel backpack, with the versatility of a zip-off daypack and generous internal space.

#4: Roll up, roll up.

This is essential. Roll your clothes up. You’ll fit far more stuff in your little suitcase if it’s rolled up.

Roll up pants and put them in your shoes, roll up socks and stuff them down the side. Roll up breakables in your t-shirts and tie belts around your bulkier items (hoodies, hello) to make them even smaller.

It’s your version of vacuum packing.

#5: Pack Your Jewelry In Pill Boxes

Never misplace an earring or tangle up a necklace with your bracelets ever again. Buy an inexpensive pill box or vitamin organizer and store your jewelry in each of the individual compartments.


Pack-It Original™ Starter Set


Pack-It Specter Cube Set – 3pc

ProCase Toiletry Bag with Hanging Hook


Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.


  1. In the past I used to pack a lot of stuff, but the last year/year and half I’ve improved, also thanks to the fact that in Europe flying with just a backpack is getting cheaper and cheaper! Your suggestions of bringing a light tote (just one pair of headphones, I swear!) and just one pair of shoes are pure bliss. I’ve done so on our recent trip to Prague and I had much more space for all the other stuff!

    • Awesome Danila! I’ve found that you definitely get better at figuring out what you do and don’t need with practice – I haven’t quite mastered the carry on only yet though, so kudos to you for that! So jealous of everyone based in Europe being able to take such fabulous weekend trips lol Australia is a little more isolated so we tend to pack a lot of stuff for longer holidays :)

  2. I always roll my clothes as well, and am obsessed with packing cubes. Not only do they condense the clothes even more, but they also help keep my suitcase super organized.

    • I’m totally obsessed with packing cubes too!! I only discovered them last year, but was like “where have you been all my life!!”. I’ve found they’re awesome for dirty clothes throughout your trip too – helps keep everything separate – it’s so handy :)

  3. I really do need to sort out the shoe problem. I always carry a pair of trainers (sneakers), sandals (for hot destinations), winter boots (for arctic) and running shoes (as I seem to do a lot of running whilst on the road now). Really need to get it sorted. :D

    • But do you hit each of these scenarios in every trip? You could definitely probably cut it down to a pair of runners and a pair of sandals; granted, I don’t run professionally, so I don’t really know the technical differences between trainers and running shoes, but I usually use one pair for both purposes :)

  4. One simple tip to avoid overpacking is thinking of the last trip. Discard all that you packed but never used on the last trip. It is easy. You are so right about the shoes, they take up a lot of space. I usually wear my crocs and that is all I carry.

    • That’s a fabulous idea Anu – I do agree that packing the right amount you need is a skill which you better acquire over time. Practice makes perfect after all!

  5. So on point! It’s so hard for me to ignore the thought of “I might need this, just in case”. But I’m working on it. When packing, I would sometimes tell myself one extra is fine but two-three extras will leave no space for souvenirs. :)

    • I think we all fall into the “just in case” trap – me especially! But I do think it gets easier with each trip you take, the practical voice in your head says “I’ve taken this 4 times and never needed it”. Haha I usually use no space for souvenirs as an excuse not to buy them lol

  6. I am a chronic overpacker! love the tip of putting the jewelery in pill boxes. and rolling clothes! I am a big fan of kindles as well – loads of books but not the space!

    • I was a chronic overpacker – I’ve gotten a lot better over time lol. Rolling clothes really helps, and I’ve found it also helps keep clothes relatively crease free too. Kindles are amazing, I used to travel with so many books and it was like I had packed rocks lol!

  7. I used to be notorious for overpacking but I’m a lot better at it now. It does depend on where we are going, and how easily we could go shopping for something we need if we don’t have it — for sure I overpacked for our Antarctic trips! I have a template for packing that has sections for clothing (for each of us), toiletries, meds, documentation, and a bunch of other bits and pieces, some are only specific to certain types of holiday so will get deleted completely as I save out a copy for an individual trip. Makes packing much easier and makes me feel like I’m less likely to forget something obvious! I’m not into shoes so rarely take more than 2 pairs, at a stretch 3 if I need specialist ones like snowboots! Our backpac k usually has laptop, camera gear and any power chargers etc. things which go into the main case once we land but which we don’t want to risk losing if the case goes missing!! And I’m so boring with jewellery, it’s just wedding ring and a simple silver chain with a pendant, that I wear 24/7! Having seen some of my friends (and strangers) try to take their entire HOUSES with them (it loos like), I think we need to send this to them!!!

    • I’m right there with you – I was a serial overpacker for the longest time! I’ve gotten a lot better now though with practice lol!

      A template is a really good idea though, I might actually look at organizing this too. Would definitely help with that feeling that you’ve forgotten something for the whole time you’re in transit – always happens even if I haven’t left anything behind!! It’s the worst feeling lol.

      It sounds like our carry on is pretty similar – we take all our electronics that I don’t want packed underneath the plane – I’ve seen how baggage handlers throw luggage with little care for what’s inside!!

      Feel free to forward this to as many friends as you like. Hope it helps! (& appreciate the share :) Happy travels! X

  8. I love this list! Amen to rolling things up – so key. Especially for backpacking! I also love the idea of the lists – absolutely essential to do beforehand, so you KNOW you are bringing only the essentials! Anything else that sneaks its way in can be left behind, hehe! <3

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Alli! And yes, I’m a big fan of lists even for the most experienced travelers – not only re forgetting items, but they also act as a great aid if you have to make an insurance claim and prove what was in your bag. Knock on wood that you never need to though!

  9. It is always a toss-up between what to carry and what to jettison while packing, and more so when it is a longish trip. Between us, we always squabble over this. One of us wants to carry more stuff while the other prefers to leave a lot of the stuff at home. No prizes for guessing who is who here! But seriously one should categorize stuff as necessary and the ones that can be managed without. This will make the process easier.

    • Definitely more difficult on a longer trip – the “just in case” seems to have more merit when you’re away longer! It’s probably good to have one of you a very light packer and one an overpacker lol you can balance each other out :D

      Love your approach of packing the essential items first and then anything else can be taken out if needed. Happy travels!

  10. This topic is the center of all argument between my wife and me. We mostly prefer self drive road trips and she always stuff our car with everything :) even after creating a complete checklist to refer. So, your this article is very useful for us. I have taken a note of few things like Roll up cloths and bring only one pair of shoes. However, I Tote-ally agree the most important is to go for ESSENTIALS only.

    • Haha sounds like Mike and myself – I’m always the one that packs the car to the roof – one trip we were worried that we had too much weight in the back actually :S!!

      Glad that the article was helpful for you – happy road tripping!

  11. I am such an overpacker! Every time I think I have everything under control I find myself cursing whenever I have to carry a super heavy luggage. I agree with you, shoes do take a lot of space and it is very difficult for me to narrow it down. But thanks for the tips! I’ll use them next time =)

    • Haha d/w I think we’ve all been there at some point – I still struggle sometimes and I wrote the post lol :D I have found though that shoes are the easiest way to save space – it’s always the shoes lol

  12. These are some handy tips for over-packers like me, LOL. Especially the one about making a list – somehow I always think about it but never actually end up doing it. I do, however, make sure that I carry just the shoes I need. It’s the clothes that I end up taking extra and that too, because I want to have enough choice while I am there, lol. I do roll up my clothes, that gives me space for more, and makes me keep more. HAHA.

    • Glad we could help Medha! The list takes some practice to get into the habit of, because it’s one of those things you can easily brush off as silly, but it does help me :) And the extra benefit of having a list of everything you have packed is if you ever need to file an insurance claim for lost luggage (fingers crossed that never happens though!)

  13. Great tips, Meg. I really do need to look into simplifying my packing. I love to change outfits when I travel and I don’t like to worry about washing my clothes on the road. I can get by with a carryon if I only travel for a week, but from two weeks up I need a bigger suitcase. I never tried rolling my clothes though and that may save some room. I’ll follow your advice and try it next time. Wouldn’t they wrinkle though?

    • Thanks Anda :) I hate having to worry about laundry on the road too – I swear the thing I pack most of is underwear lol I don’t blame you for needing s bigger suitcase for longer than two weeks – I’m in awe of people who can travel carryon only, even for just a week! I can do a weekend trip lol

      I’ve found with my clothes that I can shake them out when I roll them. It probably depends on the material, but I’ve never had a problem with rolling. Folding them puts creases you might need to iron out, but rolling allows the material to keep its shape :)

  14. With all the travel I’ve done you’d think I’d have it down and never overpack again but nope. I definitely love rolling things up but I’m not a list maker. A few days before the trip I pull out all I ‘need’ and plan a color scheme then work that. It really works best to do as you suggest and plan for days, then pack what can be washed easily enough. Shoes are my bane too but I’ve learned that comfort matters most to keep me going.

    • Haha it’s one of those things – I do think we’re able to get better with practice, but a lot of the time, once an overpacker, always an overpacker lol – it’s a difficult habit to break … I think it’s very much a personality trait :D

      Totally with you on comfort matters most – when I was much younger and had just started traveling, I had dresses, and heels, but OMG the pain!! Lol now my primary concern is comfort :)

  15. Thanks, these tips are essential. :)

    • You’re welcome Trevor – glad they help!

  16. Very useful tips Meg. Thanks.

    • Thank Ahal, glad it was helpful for you :)

  17. Hey Meg!
    Thanks for the tips. rolling up the clothes saved my half-space. I never knew this before. Your tips were effective for me.

    • You’re welcome Flip! So glad the tips were helpful, absolutely, rolling clothes has been a god send for my packing!!

      Happy travels :)

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