Take duct tape
I always travel with a roll of bright orange duct tape. If your suitcase lock breaks, duct tape will hold it together. Suitcase cracked? Duct tape to the rescue. Need to label an item as your property? Use duct tape and a Sharpie pen. Small injuries? Secure with duct tape until you can get first aid. Broken sandals? Crank up the style with your luminous duct tape. Believe me, it’s better than anything you’ll find in duty free.
Jimmy Hamilton, retired, Ontario
Swim naked if possible
Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are smarter and more useful than shorts and T-shirts. They protect against the sun and insects, and can always be rolled up. A large scarf or shawl is more useful than a hat as it gives shelter from the sun, warmth and privacy when you need it. It can also cover your mouth and nose. Toothpaste tablets are eco-friendly and take up almost no space. Two sets of underwear and socks can be rotated by hand-washing them nightly. PET water bottles that people usually throw away are effectively indestructible and can be left in the sun to sterilise suspect water. Any other water bottle is bulky by comparison. Electronic devices and their support paraphernalia are heavy, so leave them at home and ask locals for information. Don’t bring swimwear if you can possibly swim naked!
Jason, ambulance crew, London
Do laundry on holiday
Laundry soap sheets [little wafers of soap] are my favourite. I use them to wash my “unmentionables” while travelling, which I then hang in the bathroom to dry. This means I can take less underwear. But note: it does not work if you are going to a seriously humid location, as nothing will ever dry. If you are staying in a resort, laundry services are usually included within the cost, so you may as well use them. When I stay in NYC, I’ll find a local laundry service in the neighbourhood as many can do same-day service. It’s well worth the cost in order to save on time and space.
Julie Barton, financial compliance officer, Minneapolis
I wish I’d known about this sooner. My contact lens fluid always leaked on plane journeys, but if you put a piece of clingfilm over the open top of the bottle and then screw the lid on over it, there will be no leaks. This works on all bottles. Infallible!
Kathy Doyle, retired, Cheshire
Photograph everything you’re taking
Lay out everything you’re about to pack and take a photo – then you’ll know exactly what’s in your bag and what isn’t. On the last day of your trip, take a photo of everything you’ve used, and everything you haven’t. Print out those photos and stick them inside your suitcase as a reminder to leave that second pair of jeans at home next time you travel. You don’t need them, and won’t wear them.
Adrian, head of marketing, London
Pool your packing
Mix the stuff you’re taking with that of the people you are travelling with, so that everyone has some of everyone else’s clothes. That way, if one of your bags is lost or delayed, everybody will still have at least one set of clean underwear and a change of clothes. I don’t fly that often, but this advice has saved my holiday at least three times.
Jane Cooper, official reporter, Edinburgh
Leave knickers at home
I never take knickers on holiday; I only pack bikini bottoms. I am always ready for a swim without an embarrassing change into swimwear if out in the open without any privacy. As underwear, bikini bottoms wash and dry very quickly so I need fewer pairs.
Mary Rawlinson, retired, Salisbury
Take a spork
Pack a spare pair of glasses inside socks, and then place inside shoes, with underwear. Put your teabags inside your travel kettle to save space. Photocopy the relevant pages in your travel guide, rather than taking the entire book. If you are still sending postcards, put names and addresses into your smartphone. A spork (combined knife, fork and spoon, available from camping stores) is always very useful.
Geraldine Blake, retired, Sussex
Make a spreadsheet
I usually travel to Galicia in Spain at least twice a year to see family and friends, and to stock up at the local delicatessen. After one too many embarrassing airport experiences where I tried to bring back too many books, tinned fish and homemade preserves, my mum and I developed a fail-safe system: we weigh every single item that I might take in my checked luggage, and each item’s weight goes into a spreadsheet. Then, I can decide what to pack to maximise my luggage weight allowance and still take as much Galician food as possible. Everyone I’ve shared this method with thinks we are crazy, but they don’t complain when they get to taste delicious smoked Galician cheese.
Daniel Ovalle Costal, architect, London
Use resealable sandwich bags (one per outfit) to create a vacuum pack. Before closing the bag, spritz your favourite perfume on the clothes to save bringing it with you. Label each bag – Monday daytime, Thursday pm, Sunday beach etc – to save the stress of choosing outfits once you arrive, which wastes time when you could be out and about.
Nicoletta Primo, research and policy officer, Edinburgh
A few years ago, I was packing to leave Vietnam after living there for a year and I could only take one suitcase with me. I tried several ways to maximise suitcase space and it turned out the best method was to tightly roll each piece of clothing, really squeezing them against one another. I think I fitted close to 30 dresses into my suitcase, plus loads of other stuff including a lamp!
Alex Jakob, English teacher, Germany
Take a suction hook
Many places don’t think to provide a hook in bathrooms, or surfaces in the shower on which to put your essentials, so I take a suction hook. You can hang a waterproof wash bag from them and they’re also useful for hanging up a creased item of clothing. The steam from the shower helps remove the creases – coat hangers in hotels are often fixed to the wardrobe.
Adrienne Gilchrist, North Yorkshire
Avoid hard suitcases with wheels
I’m a merchant seaman and travel extensively as part of my job. After 18 years of experimentation I have settled on using waterproof duffel bags that are extremely lightweight yet incredibly strong. I loathe hard-sided suitcases and holdalls; the zips are often very weak and I see so many that have burst open. I don’t bother with wheels as they usually don’t last long and get caught inside baggage conveyors. I secure the zips of the bags with nylon cable ties, and carry spare ties in my hand baggage. I strongly advise taping lids shut on toothpaste, shower gel and shampoo bottles and, for extra security, pack toiletries into plastic zip-lock bags.
Alex Kirkby, merchant seaman, Mansfield
Fill old film canisters
Use an old 35mm film canister to hold small emergency items: mine is filled with a safety pin, a previously threaded needle, some Imodium and paracetamol tablets, sachets of salt and pepper and a tiny tin/bottle opener.
Michael Wilson, retired, Sheffield
Buy some packing cubes
Packing cubes are a revolution in suitcase organisation. You can get different sizes for different items and the see-through mesh allows you to instantly spot which cube you need depending on what you want. You’ll also have Tetris-style fun arranging/re-arranging them without causing an explosion of your once-neat, tidy and folded stuff as you root around to find what you’re looking for in your case. Beautifully simple organisational order, instead of case chaos. They can also help avoid potential embarrassment if you need to open your case at the airport.
Bernie Stiell, Sheffield