How to fix these 7 packing mistakes even smart travellers make

How to fix these 7 packing mistakes even smart travellers make

Fred Perrotta is co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks, the makers of the ultimate travel backpack.

Hostels are fun, inexpensive, and social. But you wouldn’t describe them as “spacious.”

When you’re sharing space with other travellers, packing list becomes even more important – and even smart travellers make packing mistakes that add bulk to their bag.

Don’t be that guy with the full-sized suitcase and rolling duffel bag. Keep it light. Your travels will be easier, and your hostel mates will appreciate you.

Here’s what to swap out of your luggage and what to swap in to travel light on your next hostel trip.

Here is a list of Packing Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Include a space-obliterating, heavy towel

Out: Full-sized towel

In: Travel towel

travel towel

Some hostels don’t have towels or charge you to rent them. To avoid the uncertainty and cost, bring your own towel.

A huge, fluffy towel might feel nice, but it eats up space in your bag.

Instead carry a travel towel. These thin, microfiber towels don’t look very absorbent, but they’ll do the job. Unlike a cotton towel, they dry quickly, so you never have to carry around a sopping wet towel in your bag.

2. Bring too many toiletries

Out: body wash, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, detergent

In: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

Dr Broner's magic soap

Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps can clean anything. They are organic and safe to use on your clothes or yourself. The soaps come in a variety of forms (bar, liquid), sizes (two ounces to one gallon), and scents.

Best of all, Dr. Bronner’s soaps are concentrated, so you only need a few drops for most jobs. Buy a small bottle and carry it in your hand luggage or buy a larger bottle and store the soap in the next item on the list.

3. Pack Full-size toiletries

Out: toiletries over 100ml

In: GoToob

small traveling

Only liquids up to 100ml (3.4 ounces) can be brought in your carry-on luggage. Larger bottles have to be checked. Don’t let your vanity force you to pay airline baggage fees.

Pour must-have toiletries that don’t come in travel sizes into a reusable travel bottle. You can find cheap ones at most drug stores, but GoToobs are higher quality and more durable. GoToobs are made of thick rubber and have a much better nozzle and cap than store-brand bottles, so you don’t have to worry about leaks in your bag.

4. Bring a heavy lock

Out: Padlock

In: TSA-approved lock

Lock travel security

You might need to lock up your bag in a hostel or train station locker when you’re on the road. You don’t need a big, heavy padlock to do it.

TSA-approved locks are smaller and lighter but just as effective. Plus, TSA locks are small enough to use on your bag’s zippers to keep your stuff safe even if it’s not in a locker. Choose a cable lock (for flexibility) that uses a combination, not a key that could get misplaced.

5. Have with you too many adapters

Out: Adapters

In: Power strip

power strip

You’re already carrying plenty of gadgets and chargers. Don’t bring a power adapterfor each one.

Instead, bring one adapter and a small power strip. A three-outlet strip should be big enough to charge all of your devices at once.

6. Forgetting your laptop is a giant charger

Out: Wall chargers

In: Mini USB connectors

USB connector

If you’re bringing your laptop, you can get rid of even accessories. Just use your laptop as a power strip and charge your other gadgets through your computer’s USB ports.

A few mini USB cables are lighter than adapters and power strips but will allow you to charge multiple gadgets from one outlet.

7. Giving yourself to much space

Out: Giant suitcases and backpacks

In: Carry-on luggage

So far, we’ve focused on the inside of your luggage. What about the luggage itself?

The easiest way to downsize your stuff for a hostel is to carry less stuff, not just swap out individual items.

Constraints can be good. A maximum-sized carry-on bag will fit plenty of stuff for a 7-10 day trip. If you’re traveling any longer, you’ll have to do laundry anyway. Spend an hour every week or two at a Laundromat and save yourself the hassle of oversized luggage.

What’s your favourite way to hostel-size your luggage? Let us know in the comments…


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21 Responses to “How to fix these 7 packing mistakes even smart travellers make”

  1. Dr. Bronners’ is a great choice if you have short hair. If you have longer hair, it leaves noticeable soap residue — your One True Cleaning Fluid needs to be a detergent. A cheap brand of shampoo with no silicone or conditioner works really well for hair, body, clothes, spot-cleaning your pack…

    (I once took a bath with a campground’s lemon-scented liquid dish soap; it worked really well to soak my makeshift bandage off of a nasty scrape.)

  2. In so many countries you can buy shaving cream, shampoo, soap and toothpaste. For flying skip these things for added space and reduced weight plus an on flight discharge can wreck all the lovely packed stuff.
    Decide what you need and reduce by 25% always better to buy a tourist t-shirt than lug all the extra days of clean shirts.
    any packed shoe/s should be full of socks, ties or other stuff don’t loose the space.

    • Filling my shoes with socks etc is a brilliant idea! I’ve been traveling the world for decades and this never occurred to me.

  3. Tips that I’m finding out as im on my backpacking trip right now.
    If you’re Plus sized or a big guy, the rolling technique is not the best for fitting stuff in a backpack.
    -USING MESH BAGS/small plastic bags to put my clothes in(packing cubes r bulky)1 for my shirts, 2nd for my pants/shorts, 3rd for my swimwear& undergarments has been the BEST BACKPACK PACKING TIP IVE USED. Getting a change of clothes is super easy instead of having to go crazy digging through your bag.
    -travel day pack is a must one that folds up and can be fitted into a tiny square
    -if using dr. Bronners you can do laundry when you shower..for dry fit, moisture wicking clothes they’ll dry overnight or hanging from a backpack…
    -a backpack cover had been amazing for having peace of mind when getting on full buses and walking down busy streets, thief’s are not inclined to pickpocket your bag this way, amazon has the best deals.GET A WATERPROOF ONE.

  4. I bring an empty backpack and a cell phone, I buy what I need when I need it….believe me it works out fine.

  5. I disagree on the lock. I stay in hostels and a thief with 5 minutes could unlock a combo lock. I’d rather pocket the key knowing a bored thief wasn’t hauling off with the rest of my stuff!

    On the towel, I bought a regular bath towel and cut it in half and hemmed the edge. Larger than a hand towel but half the size of a bath towel 🙂

  6. All helpful tips, thank you!

    Re the travel towels, I find they don’t really dry the armpits, intimate areas or between the toes all that well so I tend to take 2 towels – 1 travel one to get the worst of the wet off and a small hand towel/flannel/face cloth to finish off.
    Some good ideas:
    1) take microfibre trousers that can turn into shorts (2 for 1 item), I have a pair and they dry quickly if they get wet, they have loads of pockets (including zipped ones) and they are lightweight.
    2) I usually take/wear a long sleeved merino wool top/base layer, it keeps you warm as its wool even when wet, it doesn’t stink when you sweat and again its lightweight.

  7. Love the tips thanks especially the empty back pack then you’re sharing your wealth probably with those less fortunate. I pack and roll my clothes in sets for purpose and possible weather changes. On toiletries nothing worst than not having that favorite toothpaste and shampoo without going on a shopping trip. We are so blessed. Thank you all. Ngahiraka.

  8. I’ve had expensive combination padlocks that have jammed on me and could only be removed using boltcutters. Luckily it was on a gym locker so not a great disaster , imagine if it was fastening my backpack to a train luggage rack. Now i use a padlock with several keys that i spread around so that if i lose one there’s a backup available, e.g. one in my money belt, one in my day bag etc.

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