Pack smart for travel

For me,

Smart Packing = Packing light + Taking everything you need on a holiday

Striking a balance is key!

Holidays should be stress free, happy and rejuvenating, something that will make you feel good once you are back home! Seriously you don’t want to come home with a back pain with all the pulling, pushing, lifting, lugging and carrying huge heavy suitcases. Neither do you want to spend your holidays in stinking clothes because you only took 1 pair for 10 days.

Recently we went on a holiday to Melbourne and Sydney, Australia with our two kids for 15 days. Being autumn there (18-8 degree C daily temperature range with 30-40kmph winds in Melbourne!), we had to keep in mind the sudden temperature changes, so layering was compulsory, and we all know layering means more clothes! Remember, we have always lived in hot and humid places like Kolkata and Singapore, so this was winter for us.

In addition we had to carry medicines for the kids, toiletries, diapers, baby milk powder tin, milk bottles, some bowls and spoons, toys, breast pump and its related accessories, husband’s laptop and charger etc.

We had heard that in Melbourne one can experience four seasons in a day! So in addition to enough warm clothes we had to pack raincoats and umbrellas too.

We packed all this in 2 suitcases, one large size 28 inches (final weight 20kg) and a medium 24 inches (final weight 15kg), and two backpacks for myself and the husband (around 4kgs each mostly because of bottles filled with boiled water for the infant).


For those of you who think we did a good job with the luggage, let me share some tips how packing a suitcase in a smart way can make your travel easier.


Tip 1# Mixing and matching

I used to pack a lot of clothes earlier but I have realized that fashion is all about mixing and matching clothing pieces and creating beautiful fresh new outfits everyday on holiday. You don’t really need 15 items for  a 15 day trip. For the last quite many trips I have been trying to pack as little clothes as possible. This does not mean I wear the same outfit for 10 days at a stretch. I generally take 3 bottoms: could be jeans, shorts, skirts, and about 6 tops and t-shirts, 2 jackets, 2 sweaters, couple of scarfs and caps. This way I can create new outfits for many weeks. It’s fun and the best part is since you have some space in the suitcase you have the opportunity to shop on vacation without fear of excess baggage fees!

Tip 2# Make a List

Packing can be fun!

True! All you need to do is make an exhaustive list of things you need that are categorised and just stick to it. For this you may need some good amount of time to think about all the things you generally need on a holiday and customise it according to the holiday destination (my general packing list is at the end of this post). Believe me more than half of your work is already done. Now it’s just organising the items in the suitcases. Simple!

Google beforehand about the climate/weather of the place you want to visit so you have a fair idea of what things you can pack.

Make a mental note of the clothes you want to carry, for yourself and your kids. Take all the clothes out and start putting them in separate piles according to individuals, so that you know how much you are taking. Visualising a huge heap of clothes and shoes can make you decide sensibly.

“Do I really need that extra pair of fancy shoes?”

“How much wear can i get out of this super heavy woollen scarf?”

“Can I not mix and match the tops and trousers skirts instead of taking a pair for each day?”

Two other advantages with a list are:

  1. Essential items will not get forgotten and
  2. It’s fun for almost everyone to strike things off a list.


Tip 3# Organize with Packing Cubes

After finalising what to take, comes how to take: that brings us to Packing Cubes, which changed the way I pack now!

We recently got introduced to them and can’t thank enough for that.

Packing cubes are bags of various shapes and sizes which helps you organise and compartmentalise your clothes in a suitcase.You can get them at Daiso (sometimes, but often out of stock) or online where the options are much much more. The most popular one is Pack-It cubes from Eagle Creek but we got ours from Qoo10 and Muji. These should last out at least 3 trips before they get torn or zipper doesn’t work and that is a very small cost compared to the whole trip.

We separated the winter wear and the daily clothes for all of us which made it quite convenient. We had taken about 9 cubes:

  • 2 medium sizes for El Mono (the pre-schooler)
  • 1 big double sided for El Gato (the infant)
  • 1  double sided for myself
  • 1 medium for the husband.
  • 1 separate cube for night wear for the four of us together
  • 2 separate cubes for our inner wears and
  • 1 cube for the dirty ones – I had put a dryer sheet in it which made everything smell fresh till the last day.

With these cubes, packing and re-arranging between two suitcases was easy and quick. Clothes did not tumble around in the suitcase and the husband didn’t get confused between the clothes of the two kids as everything was labelled. I still remember that on our previous holidays, me and hubby would spend a good half hour re-organising and re-packing the suitcases, after the kids went to bed. Everything went haywire inside the suitcase, and the whole process felt like an ordeal!

Now whenever I needed anything all I did was to take out the particular cube and Voila! it was done. The suitcases looked neat and strangely it made us feel calm and relaxed to see them so. Such is the power of organising I suppose!


After the trip, you can still use the cubes for organising your clothes in the wardrobe.

Tip 4# Rolling instead of folding

Another tip which helped us is rolling up the clothing items instead of folding them and laying them flat on top of each other. This way you can see all your clothes at the same time. Decision making becomes easier and lot many clothes can be fit into the cube than usual. The clothes also don’t get creased this way.

A small digression: this can also be used for storage of clothes in drawers – I learnt this from the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever” by Marie Kondo. I recommend it highly.


Tip 5# Reduce the amount of Toiletries

This can be done in two ways:

  1. Consider buying toiletries at your destination unless you are going to a place where things are more expensive.
  2. Take smaller amounts in small plastic bottles.

Also remember that not all varieties of lipsticks, eye-shadows, etc needs to be taken – take only the essential ones.


For us, it’s an ongoing effort to keep reducing baggage weight with every trip – I would like to cut down more on kids’ clothes as they are growing up and as a target hopefully we can fit everything into 25kgs for the four of us for a 2-3 week vacation.


I would love to hear other tips on travelling light – please do leave them in comments.


My packing list:



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