How to Pack Light and Save Money

Packing tips

  • Jens headshot 2:6:23
  • The Travel Mum

There are tons of reasons you will benefit from learning how to pack light. Not only will it save you a lot of money over the years – it will also make your travels so much easier. Being able to walk straight to the boarding gate with your carry-on bag and not having to queue for the check in desk makes the whole airport process so much easier. When you arrive at your destination you wont have to wait for your bag on the carousel. If you can learn to pack light, you will open up a whole new world of cheap travel.


We often travel with just a rucksack


Packing Tips


Understand your baggage allowance

This is really important. It is often a lack of understanding that leads people to check in a 20kg suitcase every time they fly. It is unnecessary and extremely expensive. Every flight allows you to bring a free “personal item” – This is essentially a bag that fits under the seat in front of you. This is in addition to the carry-on suitcase that you may decide to purchase. These are both different to the additional Check In luggage (that you hopefully won’t be paying for after reading this!)

Don’t waste your personal item by carrying a small handbag, take a rucksack. If you can learn to pack light, you can travel with less luggage and consequently save a lot of money over the years. This is the rucksack we currently use, it is great quality and fits a lot in.


Get a good quality rucksack and carry on suitcase.

Your rucksack and carry-on suitcase will become your best friend. It’s worth getting something that is good quality and will last you for many years (see the ones we recommend here.) Dimensions vary slightly amongst airlines, but in general carry-on suitcases need to be approximately 55x40x20cm and weigh no more than 10kg. Within Europe it is very uncommon to have your suitcase weighed, but make sure you can easily lift it into the overhead locker.

A base budget airline ticket usually only includes the personal item. Some airlines like Jet2 and TUI will allow you to take a carry on suitcase on board as part of their basic ticket. We highly recommend you learn to pack light and utilise the personal item on most of your trips, but we do understand that sometimes it isn’t possible. A carry-on suitcase is the next level up – it will usually add around £20 – £40pp onto the ticket price and you still get to bring the rucksack as well. This will be a lot cheaper than taking a large check in suitcase.

When booking your flights with Ryanair you will often be faced with the screen shot below. Continue with the ‘value fare’ at this point if you are happy to not reserve seats. You will have the option for adding ‘cabin bags’ later in the process. By adding the bag but not the reserved seat, your price will be lower than the ‘regular’ fare.

You never need more than a weeks worth of clothes

Everything can be washed and worn again. Buy detergent at your destination or take a small food bag with some in – you can wash your clothes in the bath/sink. Hot weather means things will dry quickly. There is absolutely no need to take 14 outfits for a two weeks trip. A lot of hotels will offer laundry services or you can find a laundrette close by. Having a good packing plan is crucial. Try your holiday outfits on before you travel and make sure things are similar colours to allow mixing and matching of tops and bottoms. This allows you to create more looks, with less items.

Shampoo bars

Shampoo bars are a great way to save space and avoid carrying large bottles of shampoo. I absolutely love this one – it is really cheap and last for months. A bonus is that they aren’t included in your liquid allowance, which will save space for other important items.

Use vacuum bags or packing cubes

You can get a lot more clothes into your small personal item by vacuum packing. Alternatively packing cubes work in a similar way. By squashing things into each cube, you reduce the amount of empty space in your luggage. You’ll be surprised how much more you can get in when using these. Just remember, this will also increase the weight of your suitcase. A set of travel scales will help you keep track of your luggage weight. We have a variety of useful travel accessories including some great compression packing cubes and vacuum packs over on our Amazon shop.

Be smart with your liquid allowance

No individual liquid item can be more than 100ml. And ALL of your items need to fit into a clear plastic ‘flight bag’ – you can buy these from many places but they need to be the airport approved size. Alternatively, use the ones provided at the airport and be cautious of not only using them once. There are lots of ways you can reuse these little plastic bags to be a more sustainable traveller.


Buy small reusable travel bottles so that you can decant larger items and only take what you need. Hotels often have shower gel and sometimes body lotion, find out what they provide so you don’t waste space with unnecessary items. I only take expensive items that I wouldn’t purchase when I get there, such as face creams, perfume and hair products. Small sample bottles of perfume are perfect for travelling, or use an atomiser to take only a small amount. Toothpaste is cheap to buy anywhere, either buy it when you get there or take a small travel sized tube. I like to order my suncream to the boots in the airport, this means I can get through security with no issues and then collect my larger liquid items. 

airport bag

Clear liquids bag for airport


Wear your bulky items

If you need to take a pair of boots or chunky footwear, make sure you wear these on the plane and pack the lighter option in your bag. Same goes for bulky items of clothing like jeans, jumpers and coats. There are no rules about how many layers you can wear on the plane, so take that ‘onboard’ when picking your travel outfit! We often board the plane wearing at least a jumper and coat. If you have a big DSLR camera, wear this around your neck as you board, there is no need to take up space in your rucksack. You can buy a meal deal at the airport which will come with a reusable plastic bag, you can then off load a layer or two into there should you get hot – the bag will be useful during your trip (to store dirty washing or shoes).


Utilise a child’s check in allowance

Each airline has different rules for small children but their tickets usually include two check in items (usually a pram and a car seat) plus a carry on nappy bag (the same size as the rucksack you will have). You can buy special bags for both your pram and car seat to protect them whilst they’re in the hold. The benefit of this is that you can add additional items into these bags and have them checked in for free. (There is an unwritten rule that you really shouldn’t do this, however we would add things such as the baby’s clothes, nappies and a pop up cot)

As a family of three, we often travel with three ruck sacks and occasionally will pay for one carry-on suitcase to use between us on longer trips. This is more than enough space for all of our things.


If you have only ever travelled with a large check in suitcase, packing light may sound intimidating. I promise you it is more than possible with a slight change of mind set and some good quality packing. If you can learn how to travel with just a rucksack you can frequently travel on super cheap flights, stay in budget accommodation and travel so much more often! Use our search feature to find. the perfect budget trip. I hope our tips on how to pack light have been useful. Check out this TikTok video of me packing for a recent trip!


Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. We only promote things we genuinely love – Jen

Recent Posts