Looking for tips on how to save space when packing for your next trip? Here are 11 of the best packing tips to travel light.

Couple enjoying a serene sunset from a cruise ship balcony with a city skyline in the background.

I have been meaning to write this post forever, but somehow January and February got in the way.

Remember when we took off halfway ar0und the world and told you I packed perfectly for the trip?

Okay it was just the Caribbean—but you get my point.

In all my trips and all my journeys, I think it was my proudest packing moment.

I know this is a little random, but I kind of went to packing university. I never really paid that much attention to how I packed before, but I knew with this trip I had limited space in my suitcase and a whole lot of events that I wanted to attend and I didn’t want to miss an outfit opportunity so I did a little bit of packing research.

I wanted to try and fit everything into one suitcase.

So I found some packing products that I love.

And a few packing golden rules that I think every packer should live by.

Here are my top 11 best packing tips to travel light (and bringing everything you need and making it all fit.

A traveler holding onto a white suitcase with tan accents, equipped with packing tips to travel light, ready to embark on a journey.

// three-piece luggage set //

11 Best Packing Tips To Travel Light

Before I get started with the best packing tips to travel light, I think it’s important to go all Julie Andrews and start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start) before you ever start packing.

I started with this three-piece luggage set. I LOVE this set so much. It kind of reminds me of a vintage luggage set and the three pieces pack into each other (which was perfect for storing on the cruise.

I used the largest of the set to take on the cruise and packed everything I needed for the week in this suitcase.

You can see the luggage set here.

Next, I used a packing list. Now—it’s important to note that I am normally I am not really about a list. I love the IDEA of a list—but the actual list is usually too much for me. I have the greatest of confidences (which is ALWAYS misplaced) that I’ll remember everything on my own recognizance.

Umm.

No.

Just no, KariAnne.

This time I gave myself a good talking to and sat down and actually made a list. I jotted down everything I needed for the trip—including travel documents, etc. I also laid out all my outfits in the craft room along with jewelry and accessories and shoes so I could see what went with what and what I was duplicating.

The list was really the start of the perfect packing journey.

And then?

I used these tips.

Open suitcase neatly packed with clothing and shoes following packing tips to travel light, featuring a polka dot organizer with various folded items and a pair of white sneakers ready for a trip.

1. Roll, Don’t Fold:

Yes, please. I know this is Captain Obvious. But I’ve never really rolled before.

All my packing research on the best tips for packing light said that rolling your clothes not only saves space, but also helps prevent wrinkles.

You can get SO MUCH more in your suitcase if you roll—just try it. 🙂

Plus, it allows you to easily spot and access specific items without rummaging through your entire suitcase (which was perfect when we first got to the cabin and I needed to try and find my bathing suit).

2. Use Packing Cubes:

Have you ever used packing cubes before?

They are SUCH a game changer.

You can see the packing cubes I used here.

They come in a set of seven lightweight organizers that help you separate everything. You can sort your items by category or outfit and I also used them to organize everything in the shelves in the closet on the cruise (total aside—I also have used them in the drawers in a hotel to keep socks, etc. organized).

I’ve also seen compression bags like these recommended, too, but I didn’t use these on the trip.

They are on my list to try in the future.

Have you ever used them before?

Also—this luggage scale is GOLD if you have a weight restriction where you are traveling.

You can see it here.

A person zipping up a polka-dotted fabric suitcase, demonstrating packing tips to travel light, with the contents organized and visible through a mesh upper layer.

3. Pack Multi-Purpose Clothing:

When you make your list and lay out your outfits, look at your individual pieces and make sure they are versatile.

Everything should mix and match and do a little heavy lifting.

Here are some of the ideas that I used to streeettttchhhh my outfits:

  • large scarf: use as a shawl or a cover-up
  • Leggings: use for a workout or pair with a button-up shirt and tennis shoes
  • Button-Up Shirt: use for a lightweight jacket and tossed over a dress
  • Convertible Backpack/Purse: use as a backpack and a shoulder bag
  • Maxi Dress: dressed up with heels or dressed down with sandals and a denim jacket
  • Cardigan: Layer a cardigan or buttoned up as a top
  • Elastic waistband Skirt: adjust the waist (I roll mine up or down to make it longer or shorter)

4. Layer Strategically:

I never thought about this before I did a little research.

Heavier items and crush and wrinkle items.

When packing bulky items like jeans? Put them at the bottom so they don’t wrinkle the lighter items like a lightweight dress.

A person packing a brush into a stylish polka-dotted cosmetic bag with compartments, ready for travel or organization of beauty products, following packing tips to travel light.

5. Use a make-up bag with individual compartments:

I found this one for the trip that matched my packing cubes.

I’ve had a make-up bag before without compartments like these and my make-up can get jumbled and broken.

This was under $10 and it’s the best $10 I ever spent.

I actually used it for the entire trip because it kept everything in its place.

You can see it here.

I also use these travel make-up brushes that roll up so it keeps the power and blush from getting all over the bag.

6. Travel Size Toiletries:

I saved so much space with travel-sized toiletries.

They can get a little pricy, so you can also get a set of reusable travel bottles like these.

The travel bottles are on sale right now and they have a leak-proof design that prevents liquids from leaking or spilling (which could be disastrous in a suitcase on a trip).

Open suitcase neatly packed with clothing and shoes following packing tips to travel light, featuring a polka dot organizer with various folded items and a pair of white sneakers ready for a trip.

7.  Wrinkle-Free Clothing:

I have a travel steamer that I love.

It’s super lightweight and it’s easy to use.

But if you are in a hurry or can’t use a steamer (like on a cruise) pack Downy wrinkle release spray to keep your clothes looking fresh.

This travel-size Down wrinkle release spray is a game changer.

8. Wash clothes so you have to bring less:

This was INVALUABLE.

To save space, I ended up washing a few things in the sink. You can use these Tide packets designed for the sink.

I also packed a collapsible laundry hamper like this to help with laundry.

A person opening a striped zipper pouch to reveal packing tips for traveling light on the inside.

9. Zippered organizers:

Along with the packing cubes, these zippered bags were such a space saver.

They are surprisingly well made for the price with individual compartments on the sides to help keep everything in it’s place. They were perfect for jewelry and even my smaller electronics.

I have this smaller zippered bag.

And this larger zippered bag.

These bags come in tons of other different colors and patterns, too.

10. Nested Packing:

I also made use of every single inch of my suitcase.

When you are packing—pack smaller items within larger items to save space. For example, you can place socks inside shoes or roll smaller clothing items along with larger ones to make the most of every inch of space in your suitcase.

11. Collapsible Tote Bag:

I didn’t end up doing as much shopping as I planned on. There wasn’t really any good shopping in any of the ports.

But I was prepared just in case.

Packing a collapsible tote bag can be such a space saver and prepare for all those extra shopping trips.

This one is GOLD.

You can see it here.

And one last tip—this pillow that turns into a blanket is PERFECT for traveling.It’s superlight weight and compact and it’s on sale right now with an extra coupon.

You can see it here.

An elegant couple smiling for a photo during an evening event, illuminated by ambient blue lighting.

This is the smiling face of a packer that’s packed and ready for any occasion.

I’m extra happy that I figured it out.

Spoiler alert.

There are a lot more trips and adventures just around the corner. 🙂

A traveler's guide: "how I packed for a week with only one suitcase - simple packing tips to travel light!".

disclosure: affiliate links are used in this post.

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Comments

  1. Image for Kathy Menold Kathy Menold

    Our family have taken alot of cruises and I found that picking a color scheme makes for lots of .mixing and matching and less to pack. Example one trip my colors were aqua and coral with some white thrown in as my neutral. This year for a trip we are doing I have chosen blue and yellow again with some neutral white. Still find that shoes are my biggest problem because of needing to make sure I am comfortable whether dancing or walking! Bon voyage.

  2. Image for Carol Carol

    Always great tips from you. You are so down to earth - I have done the same thing washing a few things in the sink!

  3. Image for Lee Stearns Lee Stearns

    I wondered how the “ Queen of Cuteness” was gonna get all that glam in one suitcase and you did it! Like the champ you are! I’ve done over 30 cruises, gets easier every time! Mix/match, wear more than once- who’s keeping a record, right? I pack for comfort now, not to impress! Black leggings and pants, bright tops, scarves, jewelry…and lots of fun! I find now the “ extras”- pills/creams/rummikub game/book/pillow take up more room than clothes! All good! Bon Voyage! I bet you’re already planning your next one!

  4. Image for Kristine M Bourret Kristine M Bourret

    Most of our trips are 10-14 days to various European destinations. For the last 20+ year I have always traveled with only a carry on. It is really not that difficult if you limit to a few mix and match items and roll, as you mentioned, use cubes, bring items that don't wrinkle too much, and you can always hand wash in the sink. Traveling carry on saves so much time, not to mention the stress of lost luggage.

  5. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Nice job! I have problems when I have to carry computers and other electronic equipment. I did it but it was always a challenge! Thanks for the great hints!❤️

  6. Image for Rizae Rizae

    I dont cruise but I do travel by train and motorhome. The travel cubes are great for any travel and even camping! They have saved my sanity when packing/traveling with gkids!!! Each kid has a cube for their personal items and it is a game changer.... Big Hugs,

  7. Image for Nana Diana Nana Diana

    When I am going on a trip I keep a small notebook/pad in my suitcase that lists everything I must have for the trip. I do columns on each side of it. One for packing to make sure I take it and I check off on the other side when I repack it to go home. Since I have been doing this I have never left anything behind-like phone chargers or extension cords (yep -always carry those). It has been a time saver because I don't have to think about. what I absolutely NEED and what I want to take. Love your packing-you do a lot of the same things I do.

  8. Image for Tracey Enright Tracey Enright

    These are such great tips Karianne! I’m a terrible packer. Plus, you two are just so darn cute!!! That is all! XO

  9. Image for DeMarie Ingraham DeMarie Ingraham

    Great tips. My DIL and I are headed to Italy for 2 weeks later this year, so we’ve been reading up on packing light. The one thing I’ve read several times is to use the compression cubes that have the 2 zippers (not the ones that you suck the air out of as they don’t last very long and wrinkle your clothes mightily). I’ve always been an over packer so this time I’m using the capsule wardrobe method. It’s going to be a struggle, but I will prevail! You looked so adorable standing next to your sweetie all gussied up. 🥰

  10. Image for Patricia Patricia

    My husband and I travel every year to Europe for a month and I use only my rolling carryon and a black Vera Bradley tote ( my personal item) that slips over my carryon. Our trip includes a week long sailing trip plus 3 week of land travel and goes from September into the first week of October so have to plan for weather changes. I use 4 Packing cubes that are the same size- approximately 10 x11. I find that the mixture of sizes adds a level of mental gymnastics I have no interest in. One contains undergarments, socks, sleepwear and swimwear. The second contains bottoms and the other two contain tops and a dress or two. Everything gets rolled or tightly folded. I wear my walking sneakers on the plane, along with a cardigan and a comfortable slack. and pack water shoes and a dress sandal in the bottom of the suitcase ( where the handle grooves are located. Scarves and one or two statement necklaces, makeup, meds, hairbrush, and an emergency ziplock with panties and a white t shirt. I also travel with needlepoint so that goes in my VB bag along with a crossbody small enough to carry my passport, cc, sunnies and a lipstick that doubles as blush in a pinch. Included in the VB bag is an ipad and iphone and the usually assortment of wires, fast chargers, power adapters, notebook and travel/touring notes needed and a packable wind breaker/ jacket. Last year in the Dolomites I even managed a puffer jacket and a pair of hiking shoes! I buy my toiletries at my destination which is part of the adventure. While I do have a hard-sided Away carry on, I actually think soft-sided luggage allows you to squeeze in a bit more than hard-sided suitcases.

  11. Image for PJ PJ

    Packing cubes are so handy. I have taken things a step further and tied a label onto each cube. It helps me to find things a bit more quickly and speeds up my packing.

    1. Image for Pauline Pauline

      When I went to Scotland I tied Christmas tinsel around the handles of my luggage handles, it is very strong and with so much luggage that looks alike mine Sparkled coming down the conveyor belt everyone waiting wanted to know where they could get some for their luggage!!!

  12. Image for Ann Ann

    You asked if anyone has traveled with compression bags -- I have used one to compress a heavy down overcoat during winter travel. I knew I MIGHT need it at my destination....but I for sure had to take it. With compression, it used just a fraction of my suitcase instead of half of it. I didn't need it, which was fortunate because I hadn't figured out how I could recompress and repack it.

  13. Image for Lee Christine Stratforf Lee Christine Stratforf

    Hi Karianne! I’ve been following you for a several months now. Love your content! My cousin has taught at Baylor for many years, so a slight connection to your Baylor fandom. 😊 It’s funny, I kinda feel like I randomly started following you. No research. Just a plug from someone else who followed you (via fb?) And voila! I’ve totally enjoyed reading your things these last few months.❤️ I’m commenting to say, so thankful for this post in packing. My husband and I do travel from time to time (via planes, trains, or automobile), but will be embarking on our first cruise to Alaska in May (courtesy of our three sweet daughters and their hubbies), so this is so timely. I am a bit of a geeky “lister”, and “screenshoter” of cool tips, but todays post has now been deposited safely in its own special folder of my favorite “helps” for upcoming important events. Thanks again! ❤️

    1. Image for Lee Christine Stratford Lee Christine Stratford

      Sorry for the misspell on my last name. It’s Stratford. Not sure how to edit my comment. 🤦🏼‍♀️

  14. Image for Susan Johnston Susan Johnston

    Just the advice I needed! Headed on a land/sea trip to ALASKA (I’m so excited ❣️) this summer and your links will set me up perfectly! Thanks KariAnne!!

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