Tips and Inspiration Tips Ultimate vacation packing checklist and tips to help you pack like a pro

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Ultimate vacation packing checklist and tips to help you pack like a pro

Want to know how to pack your suitcase like a professional and squeeze in as much as possible? Here's some of our best Skyscanner tips for packing as much as you can into a suitcase, as well as the ultimate vacation packing checklist to make sure you never forget the essentials.

How do you pack a suitcase?

The most important thing, before you even consider how to pack properly, is choosing the right suitcase for your needs. If you’re packing a lot of heavy items, stick to a hard, wheelie case that’s easier to lift in and out of cars and carry through the airport. If you have to carry your luggage long distances in busy areas, consider a backpack-style bag with proper waist and shoulder support. Soft, sports-style duffel bags might look trendy on the baggage belt but can you imagine trying to carry 20kg of luggage on one shoulder strap? Sounds painful to us. Read more: Check out our guide to the top luggage you didn’t know you needed until now!

Image of items laid out

How do you fit more into a suitcase?

There are a few tried-and-tested ways to fit as much as possible into your case without ending up with a load of wrinkly clothes and squashed (or leaking!) toiletries.

  • Roll your clothes. This method not only helps keep things wrinkle-free, but it means each item takes up less room

  • Fill your shoes. Put small things like underwear inside your shoes to make use of the otherwise dead space

  • Lay your socks flat. Lying your socks flat or squeezing them into any empty spaces is more economical than having large sock balls all over your case

  • Items that need to be folded such as shirts should be placed on top of the rolled items to keep them as flat as possible

  • Fill the gaps. Fill any smaller gaps with toiletries in ziplock bags (always, always, always in ziplock bags, no-one wants a suitcase of clothes covered in shampoo), underwear or inexpensive jewelry (make sure you pack expensive items in your cabin bag!)

  • Line the bag with belts. Wrap your belts around the perimeter of your bag where they’ll take up less room and stay flat

  • Organize outfits. If you’re moving from place to place you don’t want to unpack your whole case to find a pair of socks or a specific vest. Organize and roll whole outfits so you immediately have everything you need. This tip is especially useful when you’re traveling with kids!

If you’re going somewhere where you’re likely to come back with more stuff than you went with (for example, shopping in New York), take an expandable bag but DON’T use the extra space on the outward journey. Chances are you’re never going to pack as well on the return journey so the extra space you can fill with vacation souvenirs will be invaluable.

What do you need for backpacking?

It’s important to find a bag that fits your shape if you’re going backpacking. A tall, slim person will likely have different requirements to someone shorter, for example. Or if you have very wide shoulders, or experience back pain, it’s important to get a bag that fits properly. Do some research then visit a shop such as Adventure HQ or Go Sport and find a salesperson who knows what they’re talking about. Backpacking usually requires a different essential packing list to a normal vacation. You’ll need to consider bulkier items like sleeping bags, microfiber towels, a smaller day pack and a waterproof pack cover. But on the plus side you’re not likely to be carrying as many luxuries like make-up, shampoo or dress shoes.

You need to drop the luxuries when you pack for backpacking

Here’s our ultimate vacation packing list:

Ultimate vacation packing list
Essentials Toiletries Clothes Health & Hygiene
Copies of passport Toothbrush Sun hat Insect repellant
Boarding passes/flight details Toothpaste Sun glasses Sun screen
Foreign currency Floss & travel mouthwash Swimwear Aftersun cream
Copies of driving license Soap / shower gel Sandals Sunglasses
Medical insurance documents Face cloth Trainers / walking shoes Antiseptic wash
Eye mask & ear plugs Face wipes T-shirts Deoderant
Chargers – phone, tablet and camera Face wash/cleanser Shirts Shaving gel
Power adapter Moisturizer Skirts First-aid supplies
Bank emergency contact for stolen/lost cards Razor Dresses Re-hydration salts
Emergency contact details Nail file Sweater / cardigan Paracetamol / Ibuprofen
Prescription medication (& prescription) Contact lenses & solution Trousers / joggers Band-Aids
Spare ziplocks Make up & remover Scarves Tweezers
Suitcase padlock   Underwear  

What medication should I pack?

If you have a prescription for medication we recommend always carrying the prescription with the medicine when you travel. If it’s a controlled substance you should also check the rules of the country/countries you’re traveling to before you go, to make sure you’re not breaking any rules. In general, be prepared! If you’re traveling to India, for example, re-hydration salts and Imodium are a good idea, but if you’re heading to Europe, you can likely pick up anything you need while you’re there, so can get away with packing fewer of the basics.

What do I need to pack for a child on vacation?

It depends on the age of the child. For a very young child it’s best to take as many home comforts (sleeping bag, comforters, familiar foods/milk powder, etc) as you can fit in your case. You might also need a travel cot and black-out blind depending on where you’re staying. It’s also not a bad idea to pack Panadol/Ibuprofen for the flight in case they experience discomfort with their ears. For slightly older children you can’t have enough toys, crayons and games to keep them happy on the flight, as well as the quiet moments on vacation! Read more here: Tips for keeping your children happy on a flight.

Keep children happy on a plane by packing lots of activities

Always on the hunt for the best travel tips and tricks? Check these out:

Top travel tips: how to survive a long-haul flight!

If you plan well, pack long-haul flight essentials, wear the right clothes and know how to pass the time, a long-haul flight doesn’t have to be a total nightmare….

Hand luggage rules: 10 unusual items banned on board

Take a look at our list of some of the more unusual items you should never put in your carry-on luggage…

Luggage you didn’t know you needed – until now!

If you want cheap suitcases or lightweight luggage that make your traveling life easier, Skyscanner’s new luggage recommendations for 2017 have you covered…

Skyscanner is the world’s travel search engine, helping your money go further on flights, hotels and car rental.

*Published August 2017. Information correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.