Have you ever found yourself standing over an open suitcase, feeling overwhelmed, wondering if there's a better way to pack or worse, kicking yourself for overpacking once again?

We've all faced that packing dilemma at some point, but the good news is that after hitting more than 45 countries, I've picked up some packing insights and tips. You might be surprised to find out that many travel items are actually useless and many experienced travellers don’t pack them.

In this post, I share packing tips for international travel, ensuring that every item in your suitcase is there for a reason. Smart packing is not just about having a lighter suitcase, it can enhance your travel experience. 

This post contains affiliate links and if you click one I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

How to choose the right luggage

When it comes to international travel, choosing the right suitcase is a decision that can dramatically improve your journey. For the frequent traveller, a lightweight suitcase with four wheels stands out as the best option. These suitcases, often referred to as "spinners," allow effortless manoeuvrability through crowded airport terminals, city streets, and down narrow airplane aisles. The four-wheel setup ensures the suitcase can be pushed or pulled in any direction, providing ease and flexibility, particularly useful in tight spaces.

One of my favourite brands is Level 8, they sent me the luggage and we used it for our two-month trip around Asia, and, honestly, they passed the test. They are spacious and have a hard shell case, but the real game-changer is definitely the wheels. They glide so smoothly and are indestructible.

Another feature that I love about these suitcases is the TSA locks. It's such a relief to know that your belongings are secure, whether you're flying or leaving your bag with the hotel's front desk.

Exclusively for our audience

Enjoy a 15% discount by using the code "TravelWithMansoureh15"


Choose the colour of your suitcase wisely

One might overlook the colour of a suitcase, but it plays a vital role in your travel experience. While black might be the go-to for many, it becomes a nightmare trying to spot your bag on a crowded baggage carousel. Going for a brighter or more unusual colour can save you time and hassle. Plus, it reduces the risk of someone else mistakenly walking off with your luggage. Believe me, I have seen that before. A simple change can make a big difference in your travel experience. Luckily, Level 8 has a variety of colours. You can get the luggage by using the code "TravelWithMansoureh15" to get a 15% discount on their website or you can get it on Amazon

Deciding between carry-on and checked luggage

Deciding whether to check bags or rely solely on carry-on luggage is an important consideration for any international traveller and it can depend on many factors. 

For short trips or if you are a light packer opting for a carry-on only can be the best choice. It allows you to bypass the baggage claim area, saving time and the hassle of waiting for your bags upon arrival. This is particularly advantageous during peak travel times when delays at the carousel can be lengthy.

However, for longer international trips or if you need to bring more items, such as changes of clothing for different climates or special gear for activities like hiking, skiing or scuba diving, checking a bag is necessary. When checking luggage, use your carry-on for essential items and valuables. This approach not only ensures that you have everything you need with you but also keeps your carry-on light and manageable. To help you get started, I've created a comprehensive travel packing list that you can download for free. 

Download my travel packing checklist

Packing tips for your carry-on

When it comes to packing your carry-on, especially if you also have checked luggage, the key is to keep it light and organised. Your carry-on should contain only the essentials and your electronics, ensuring everything you might need quickly is easily accessible.

Ditch the passport cover

Your passport is non-negotiable for international travel. However, consider leaving at home the passport cover. Experienced travellers never use them, trust me, they're more of a hassle than help. While they might look nice, you'll find yourself constantly removing the cover for security checks and border control. In the end, it's just easier and faster to keep your passport without a cover. 

Take some cash with you

It’s wise to have a bit of cash on you. Many transactions can indeed be done digitally or by card, but when you travel to a new destination, it is always helpful to have some cash. You never know, you might not find a working ATM, or your cards might stop working. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Do you really need a neck pillow?

When I started travelling, I bought one, but I ended up just carrying it around and didn’t know what to do with it. Neck pillows take up a lot of space and honestly, they are useless. If you are on a long-haul flight, most likely the airline will give you a pillow. But, if you still think you need it get an inflatable one, they're compact and easy to carry.

Take your headphones

Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. The quality far exceeds what you might receive on the flight and can significantly improve your travel experience by allowing you to enjoy movies or music without the disturbance of cabin noise. I personally can’t travel without mine. Sometimes, I just wear headphones even when I’m not listening to anything, just to block out all the noise in the cabin.

Keep your medication on your carry-on

Any medications you need should always be with you, even if you are on a short flight, checked bags can arrive late or even get lost. 

Carry hand sanitiser and wet wipes

The confined space of an aircraft and the high turnover of passengers make planes a hotspot for germs. Carrying hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes on a plane is essential for maintaining hygiene during your flight. They’re perfect for quick clean-ups and sanitising your space on the plane. 

Don’t carry physical books

Physical books are heavy and take up space. Digital alternatives like a Kindle or audiobooks are more travel-friendly. They allow you to bring along as many books as you like without adding weight to your luggage. 

Buy Kindle on Amazon

Checked luggage packing tips

When packing your checked luggage for international travel, it's essential to think strategically to maximise space and minimise hassle. This next section provides tips to help you pack your checked luggage efficiently, ensuring that everything from clothing to toiletries is organised and easily accessible upon arrival. 

Don’t pack your jewellery in checked bags

Always remember, valuables like jewellery, electronics, and important documents should stay with you in your carry-on, and never pack them in your checked-in luggage. This strategy minimises the risk of theft or loss during handling and transit. As I mentioned earlier checked luggage can get lost. 

Plan a mix-and-match outfits

For clothing, you need to pack items that you can mix and match, creating multiple outfits from a few pieces. This is especially crucial for longer trips. It is important to choose fabrics that are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant and easy to dry, in case you need to wash your clothes.

Use waterproof bags for toiletries

Packing for travel - Depositphotos
Packing liquids for travel

Obviously, you can bring larger toiletry items in your checked luggage, but to save some space, you can use smaller refill containers. Remember, you still need to pack them in a waterproof bag to prevent leaks from ruining your clothes.

Roll, don’t fold

Rolling your clothes rather than folding them is a smart packing strategy. This technique not only maximises space within your suitcase but also helps to minimise wrinkles. By tightly rolling your garments, you can fit more items into your luggage and keep your clothes looking neat and presentable upon arrival.

Don’t pack hiking boots

Avoid packing hiking boots, unless your travel involves actual hiking in the mountains. Instead, go for comfortable walking shoes. I personally like to go for stylish trainers that I can match with dresses. Always wrap your shoes in a plastic bag to keep your clothes clean.

You don’t need a travel-sized hair dryer

I have seen many people buying a travel-sized hair dryer, but you won’t need it, most hotels and Airbnbs provide hair dryers. It is a waste of money and space. 

Pack a first-aid kit 

It is always good to pack a small emergency kit with basics like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and any necessary medications. I usually pack a small first-aid kit mostly because all travel involves adventure and outdoor activities.

Ditch “just in case” items

Let's address the issue of “just in case” items. You definitely don’t need them. Pack only what you are sure you will need. This approach not only saves space but also spares you from lugging around unnecessary weight.

Packing for summer holiday - Depositphotos

Leave some space in your bags

Always leave a little room in your luggage for the things you plan to bring back. Travelling exposes us to unique cultures, experiences, and items that we won't find anywhere else. When I come across something truly special that I want to bring back home having that extra space in my luggage is a lifesaver. It's disappointing to fall in love with a souvenir only to realise there's no room to pack it, so, I plan ahead. This doesn’t mean packing less than I need, but rather packing smart.

Efficient packing is fundamental for a stress-free travel experience. By selecting the right luggage, prioritising essentials, and understanding what to leave behind you can travel smarter and lighter.