Holiday packing tips

Beat excess baggage charges by reading our top 10 hints for packing your holiday bags, featuring the expert advice of two maths professors.

Taking too much luggage is a common mistake made by rookie and experienced travellers alike.

Avoid rolling large items like towels, because the gaps around the cylindrical shape will be hard to fill efficiently

When you get into the habit of holidaying heavy it can be a hard one to break, but the costs of doing this can be significant, with many airlines charging premium prices for excess baggage.

Factor in the hassle of lugging weighty bags around - not to mention the wear and tear on your back - and it's easy to see why choosing to travel light might be one of the best decisions you make. called on the help of Cardiff University's Rhyd Lewis and Jonathan Thomas, and the maths professors have shown that it's possible to pack enough clothes and other items for a week's summer holiday into a bag measuring 45cm x 40cm x 20cm - small enough to carry on to a plane and avoid checking in any luggage at all. The bag contained:


  • Two pairs of shorts
  • Two pairs of swimming trunks
  • Two shirts
  • Four t-shirts
  • Five pairs of underpants and five pairs of socks
  • A pair of jeans and hoodie
  • A towel
  • Pyjama bottoms
  • A pair of flip flops and a pair of trainers
  • Sun cream, insect repellent, deodorant, shower gel, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • A Kindle and an iPod touch
If you're travelling with family or friends, try to spread the weight between cases

Top 10 packing tips

Lewis and Thomas, who honed their skills calculating the most efficient way of packing sea containers, offer the following packing tips for air travellers:

1. Be organised

Make a list of everything you might want to take. You don't need to pack everything on the list, but it'll be easy to decide the things you really need, and those of less importance. You can also re-use the list for future trips - so why not save it on your computer?

2. Be ruthless

Reduce the number of items to pack by removing the things you probably won't use or those that you can buy cheaply at the destination.

3. Use technology

Forget about hefty paperbacks and travel guides - store all your reading material on your phone/tablet/Kindle before you go. Don't forget to pack your charger, though.Package holiday gear

4. Fold!

Folding clothes and towels makes their shapes regular and makes them easier to pack together with no spaces in between. When folding things, make sure they're not wrinkled. Avoid rolling large items like towels, because the gaps around the cylindrical shape will be hard to fill efficiently.

5. Share the burden

If you're travelling with family or friends, try to spread the weight between cases so that none of them exceed the airline's weight limit. Luggage scales for use at home can be bought cheaply. Weight savings can also be made by using light bags instead of heavy suitcases.

6. Protect your possessions

Avoid unwanted breaks and spills by packing things sensibly. If you have toothpaste or lotions with a pop-up top, then consider putting them in a polythene bag and packing them inside your shoes. You can also protect your valuables by packing them in the centre of the case, using durable items like flip-flops, wetsuits or towels as protection around the edges of the bag.

Speedos take up less space than traditional swimming costumes

7. Pack things in the right order

Put the largest items into your case first, and then use the small items to fill in the spaces between.

8. Use all the voids

Put things inside other things. For example, if packing shoes, stuff them full of socks or underwear. Also, avoid putting things like half-empty bottles of sun-tan lotion in your case - either find a smaller bottle, or buy some when you're at your destination.

9. Reorganise if necessary

If the suitcase seems full but there are still items to pack, look for spaces and then reorganise the items around that area to increase the size of the space.

10. Carry-on luggage

If your checked-in baggage is still overflowing or overweight, consider putting some items into your hand luggage. Special travel jackets can also be bought with extra-large pockets for laptops, books, clothes and even shoes.Suitcases

Check your travel insurance

"The professors have shown that it's possible to pack a week's worth of holiday clothes and belongings into a single carry-on bag but, however much you take on holiday, always check out the cover details of your insurance," said's Caroline Lloyd.

"Don't pack anything delicate or valuable in hold luggage as it might not be covered by your travel insurance if it gets damaged or lost.

"There are single-item limits, but the excesses on some policies can sometimes mean that it won't be worth claiming if something goes missing or is destroyed.

"You may also be asked by your insurer for proof of purchase or ownership for any items you're claiming have been lost or stolen. This can be difficult if you've had them for quite a while, although some insurers may accept previous photographs showing you and the item.

"A good rule of thumb is that if you can't bear to lose something, don't take it on holiday."

Did you know…?

  • 56% of UK holidaymakers said they fold their items, 33% that they roll[1]
  • 44% said that they always pack too much and bring home unused items[1]
  • The top five unused items are t-shirts (75%), shoes (68%), trousers (62%), underwear (59%), shorts (57%)[1]
  • 3% brought back 10 pairs of unworn underwear[1]
  • Speedos take up less space than traditional swimming costumes - just saying…

See also:

By Sean Davies