We’ve all had luggage panic the night before a flight, checking that our bag fits the weight and size requirements of our airline in a bid to avoid unexpected fees at the airport. Though some airlines offer reasonably generous free hand luggage allowances, others are much stricter, meaning you can find yourself caught out if the strap of your bag or even its wheels make it too big for the baggage sizer.
Even if you’ve managed to find the best easyJet deal on a holiday or the best British Airways deal on flights, realising you might need more luggage than your ticket allows you can mean the cost of travel quickly adds up.
But when it comes to packing like a pro, flight attendants are a great help. Spending most of their time travelling the world, cabin crew members know a thing or two about beating baggage restrictions and keeping your suitcase organised.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite packing hacks to help you organise your luggage like a professional. Scroll down for complete guide or click on the links to jump to the relevant section.
Before you start packing, it’s crucial you understand exactly what limitations are in place for your chosen airline. You can find out the latest baggage rules, as well as some handy ways to get more for your money, in our Jet2 baggage rules and tricks guide, our “cheapest” easyJet luggage tricks guide or our handy guide to Ryanair’s baggage policy.
Flight attendant’s ‘biggest hack ever’ to save luggage space
Kat Nesbitt is a flight attendant who works for a major US airline and frequently shares her top travel tips to her YouTube channel. She revealed to her audience that one of the “best hacks” she has ever found comes in the form of portable hanging cubes which can be purchased on Amazon. Right now there are deals on offer for less than £20.
The packing cubes serve as a portable clothes organiser, with between two and four separate compartments for clothes. Certain types also come with a zip compartment on the bottom for items such as shoes or toiletries.
Once you have packed your belongings into the clothes organiser, it can be compressed using two handy straps. When tightened this can then be popped into your luggage with room for additional items left over. Kat explained how she is able to use this in her hand luggage when travelling for work – and it allows her to pack for four days.
In Kat’s review of the product, she explained: “This is actually going to be one of the best hacks to help me pack and you are all going to thank me later. As long as your suitcase is at least 20 inches, this is going to work for you.”
Fit ’12 to 14 days of clothes’ in a carry-on bag
Flight attendants often share their tips and tricks online with passengers eager to make the most of their luggage allowance. Posting to a Reddit forum under the username Phxflyer, an anonymous passenger shared a tip a cabin crew member had offered them.
According to the passenger, the flight attendant recommended always rolling your clothes. In fact, this hack works so well, it could allow you to pack as much as two weeks’ worth of clothing into a carry-on bag.
“Definitely roll your clothes,” the Reddit user explained. “I can get between 12 to 14 days’ worth of clothes in a carry-on rolling bag if I roll, slightly less in the winter. A flight attendant told me about it and I’ve been doing it for a while now.”
Rolling is one packing method which is regularly recommended for its space saving benefit, and if done correctly, it can even help to reduce wrinkles in your clothes.
The reason the method works well is because it forces air from between folds allowing you to make the most of the available space.
However, according to experts, this hack only works if you’re properly rolling. Experts from Travel + Leisure say the key is to practise something called “Ranger Rolling”.
“To properly roll your clothes, lay the item of clothing out flat,” they explained. “Then fold the bottom two inches of the item inside out so it creates a type of pocket along one side of the clothing.
“From the opposite end, roll the item tightly until you get to the pocket you’ve created. Fold one side of the pocket over the roll, securing it tightly.”
Taking a towel? Use this trick to save weight and space
If you’re heading on a beach holiday, taking a towel can be one essential that takes up a lot of space in your suitcase. And, if you’re tied down by weight restrictions, it could be the thing that tips you over the scale too.
That’s where microfibre towels come in. These clever towels have a very similar texture to a normal towel, with the ability to dry you off after a dip in the sea or a splash in the pool, but they aren’t as heavy or as bulky.
Some of these towels, such as the ones on offer from brand Regatta, dry “up to four times faster” than a regular towel, and fold up into a lightweight, compact travel bag.
And you can even purchase a microfibre towel ideal for your next holiday without breaking the bank, with certain styles available on Amazon for under £7.50.
This Fit-Flip microfibre towel from Amazon folds up into a compact carry case and comes in an array of colours.
This giant microfibre towel from Mountain Warehouse folds up small enough to pack into your suitcase and is also lightweight.
This microfibre towel from Regetta folds up small and is perfect for travel, but when unfolded is extra large – ideal for drying off after a swim.
Protect clothes while travelling with 6p item
There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination, unpacking and discovering that your clothes have become market while in transit. However, former flight attendant Kat Kamalani has an unusual hack to keep your garments safe from stains – and it won’t break the bank.
In a TikTok video titled ‘How you properly pack a suitcase from a flight attendant’, Kat explained: “The first items you want to start with are bulk items like shoes. But, before you put your shoes in there…grab these disposable hairnets, wrap them around so that you are not getting the dirt and grime from your shoes on your clothes.”
@katkamalani Packing HACKS from a Flight Attendant! #travel #flightattendant #packinghacks #suitcase #fyp ♬ original sound – Kat Kamalani
While you might not think to use hairnets while travelling, they can act as a barrier between the bottom of your shoes and your clothing items. This could be especially useful if you are travelling with lightly coloured clothes.
Paper hairnets or those made from an opaque material, rather than thin netting, are best to take on this challenge.
And the great thing is, you can purchase a pack of 100 hairnets from Amazon for as little as £6.39 – that works out to be roughly 6p per hairnet!
Costing £6.39 for a pack of 100, this deal works out at 6p per hair net – a perfectly cheap way of storing your shoes while travelling.
Keep luggage safe by using bag tags the right way
No matter how well you pack, in some cases, luggage doesn’t quite make it to your destination. With an estimated 28 million items of luggage being mishandled each year according to the latest data from Claim Compass, keeping your baggage safe is essential.
Bag tags are a cheap and easy way to help passengers reconnect with their bags in the event they are mishandled while in transit. They can be bought from Amazon for as little as £5.99.
These handy tags can be placed onto your suitcase or bag and will feature personal contact information such as your name, address, telephone number and email address.
This six-pack of luggage tags comes in a selection of bright, rainbow colours so that you can always clearly identify your bag.
These luggage tags are made from aluminium to ensure they safe and protected from take-off to arrival.
These synthetic leather luggage tags come with a cute, travel design and keep your details safely concealed inside.
But, there is one major mistake which flight attendant Ally says could land passengers and their luggage in danger if they are not careful. In a TikTok video, the cabin crew member explained: “Always make sure that your luggage tag has the contact information facing the other side.
“I see so many people with luggage tags and their information displayed for everyone to see. Their name, their address, their phone number, their email. That is way too much information for just anyone to have.
“So instead, just flip the contact information to the other side. In the event that your bag is lost or stolen, whoever finds your bag is going to take out the piece of paper and flip it over to the other side to get your contact information.”
She concluded: “It’s great to have a luggage tag just not to have all of your information displayed for anyone to see at all times. I ride the train a lot and there are a lot of crazies on the train, I don’t need my information just there for everyone to see.”
@allycase1 If I run into any of you guys in the airport with a phone number facing outwards I’m going to have some words for you #flightattendanttips #traveltips #travelsafety ♬ I Feel Funny – Justin Bieber
Disguise excess hand luggage with this neck pillow hack
One TikTok influencer revealed a clever hack which might just mean you can sneak some extra clothes onboard without exceeding your hand luggage weight or size restrictions.
The trick comes in the form of a handy fillable neck pillow, which can be purchased for under £30 on Etsy or on Amazon for £79.
While the majority of airlines limit the number of cabin bags passengers can bring onboard, most let passengers bring a neck pillow with them. Instead of selecting a cushioned neck pillow, look for a fillable neck pillow. These can then be stuffed with soft clothing items.
This fillable travel neck pillow is handmade by a seller on Etsy and can be stuffed with socks, underwear, t-shirts and even more to help you sneak extra items onboard.
This stuffable travel neck pillow case from Etsy can be filled with clothing, socks, underwear and more to create a soft place to rest while sneaking extra items onboard.
This refillable neck pillow by the brand Tube is available for purchase on Amazon. It can be stuffed with soft clothing items ahead of your trip, and then used as a comfy place to rest your head.
TikTok travel influencer @cheapholidayexpert put the hack to the test and described it as a “game changer”.
The hack can be used with airlines including easyJet and Ryanair – for more easyJet packing tips you can view our easyJet “cheapest” baggage tricks guide or if you’re flying with Ryanair, learn some crucial packing tips in our Ryanair baggage guide.
@cheapholidayexpert If this works it’s gonna be a GAMECHANGER ������ #travelhack #budgettravel #cheaptravel ♬ Soulful Strut – The Fame Gang
Save space with packing cubes
Another flight attendant must-have are packing cubes. Cabin crew member Rhiannon Corbett shared a video of her top packing tips to her Instagram page, and explained how she makes use of packing cubes.
“I like to use pouches for my clothes and shoes as it kept everything organised and nothing moves around while travelling,” she explained.
The crew member added that she typically packs her cosmetics into a clear bag or pouch. “A clear cosmetic bag so I can see everything that I have already and I don’t need to unpack too much when I get there,” she said.
Packing cubes not only keep your suitcase organised, but once again they can help to ensure you are maximising the space available to you. And the good news is, you don’t need to fork out a fortune in order to find some decent ones for your next holiday.
This packing cube set available for purchase on Amazon offers nine different items in a variety of shapes and sizes. The cheapest option comes in grey, but there are an additional selection of colours to choose from.
This eight piece packing cube set comes with laundry pouches and a shoe pouch to help you stay organised while travelling.
This four pack of compression packing cubes by the Amazon brand Eono offer a sleek way to organise and store your clothing in your suitcase or cabin bag. They come in black, as well as an array of additional colours.
Stay organised with this Ziploc bag hack
Although you might typically put Ziploc bags to use in the kitchen, they can be particularly useful when travelling. Not only are Ziploc bags essential for transporting any hand luggage liquid items through security, larger bags can double up as makeshift vacuum packs and, you guessed it, squeeze some extra space out of your baggage allowance.
You can find reusable Ziploc-style bags on Amazon for £5.49 which are a more eco-friendly altenrative to traditional, disposable Ziploc bags.
These plastic bags can also be helpful if you’re travelling for a short time and want to pre-plan outfits to avoid overpacking, or can help keep things organised when jetting off on holiday with little ones.
Organise your outfits into piles, folding them and then placing each one into an individual Ziploc bag. Then, simply sit on the bag to push all of the air out before sealing them to condense the space the items take up.
Finally, you can create a label to pop inside or stick onto each bag to easily identify what outfit is stored in each.
These resealable Ziplock bags are a great reusable option and are also waterproof.
These waterproof travel pouches from Amazon come in a variety of sizes and waterproof protection.
Opt for a lightweight travel bag
If you’re finding that your is tipping the scales every so slightly, you might want to consider a lightweight bag. Many airlines put weight restrictions in place for hand and hold luggage, so the lighter your bag is when empty, the more items you’ll be able to fit in without exceeding your allowance.
Of course, before purchasing your luggage make sure to check the size restrictions specified by your chosen carrier.
This light-weight carry on bag comes with two wheels and an extendable handle for easy transportation. With measurements of 55 x 35 x 20cm this cabin bag is compatible with Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways and Jet2 restrictions.
This lightweight bag, complete with handle and shoulder straps, makes a perfect underseat bag.
This medium suitcase is best suited to those looking for lightweight hold luggage, mesuring 68 x 45 x 23cm. It comes with four wheels and an extendable handle for easy transportation.
Plan your outfits in advance
Though it may seem simple, planning in advance is one tip which flight attendants swear by in order to maximise luggage space. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, cabin crew member Miguel Muñoz said: “It’s very important to only take the clothes you actually need”.
It can be easy to go overboard, and pack all of your favourite items, only to discover you don’t need half of them. Miguel added: “Don’t make the mistake of bringing two of each ‘just in case’.
He encourages travellers to “only carry the essentials”, including toiletries and make-up items. “You don’t need two perfumes”, he said. And he reminded holidaymakers hoping to travel with just hand luggage that they should always pack “the small travel size” of any liquid toiletry items.
One easy way to plan your outfits is to lay out everything you hope to take before packing them in your suitcase. Opt for clothing items that can be worn together and compile a capsule wadrobe allowing you to mix and match.
Wear your heaviest clothing
If you are battling with a weight restriction, or have one large item of clothing taking up the majority of space in your hand luggage, a good way to get around this is simply by wearing your heaviest item of clothing.
This is particularly useful if you’re travelling with a large coat or a heavy pair of shoes. You can even fill the pockets of your coat with additional items such as socks, or clothing items which can be folded up small. Just make sure you empty your pockets before going through security!
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