Packing Tips To Be A Better Traveller

All you need to know about packing lighter, better and smarter.
Monday 30 December 2019

Travelling abroad can be as arduous an affair as it is enjoyable. Among the things you’ll find yourself stressing over in the weeks and months preceding your trip is the hefty matter of luggage – how much should you pack for so many days abroad? How little can you get away with packing to make room for the inevitable camel’s load of souvenirs you’ll cram into your bags for your friends and family? How big should your bags be? Will your family’s old, beaten suitcase do, and will it fit in the overhead compartment without popping its wheels?

All fairly reasonable questions. Whether you travel with your house, on your back or prefer to keep your footsteps light, here are some tips on how to do it right:

Saving space

If you’re the kind of person that absolutely has to pack your entire wardrobe for a five-day trip, you’ll first want to look into your preferred airline’s guidelines on baggage. AirAsia, for example, has different rates based on different routes; it charges upwards of RM127 for checked baggage weighing 20kg and above for a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul.

airasia baggage luggage size
AirAsia baggage size dimensions

Obviously, as a budget airline, AirAsia rates its baggage fees for low-fare flights completely on a sliding scale. If you’re not on a tight budget, you’ll most likely not bother with this. AirAsia gives baggage allowances for its higher flight classes as do most other airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and Emirates.

As for cabin baggage, you’ll have to think of both size and weight. Across most carriers, a cabin-sized bag should not weigh more than 7kg once packed. Airlines will specify varying maximum baggage dimensions; that said, they generally go around 56cm long, 45cm wide, and 25cm deep.

It’s also best to maximise packing space to provide for unexpected additions. Clothes are best rolled up, not stacked; they pack tighter rolled into a slim cylinder. Avoid packing coats and jackets – wearing them on your flight will save you more space, and a sweater can take up a lot of real estate. Fit your belts lengthwise around the sides of your luggage. If you’re really skint for space, do away with small pouches as much as possible, as they lead to gaps in your luggage.

Consider what you really need to bring as well. Draw up a checklist of the absolute essentials. You may realise that some of the things you think you need are probably going to only be used once or twice during your trip. Basically, you need to Marie Kondo your trip.

Strength and durability

Consider strength and durability as well. Whether it’s a soft bag or a hardshell case, it should be reasonably resistant to wear and tear and sharp edges, and if you’re travelling in places with high crime rates, attempts at snatch theft.

If you’re not carrying anything fragile, you should try to opt for soft bags over hardshell cases. Not only are they more flexible space-wise, but they also don’t crack or break. Airline cargo staff are notoriously cavalier. Horror stories of broken suitcases and missing underclothes abound.

Whatever you choose, note the material used. Hardshell cases generally use polycarbonate which is strong, tough, and fairly lightweight. They’re good for storing fragile items and don’t cave in; however, they do scratch easily, and occasionally crack. Cases made of synthetic fabrics such as nylon are more durable, and bend and give a little more. Some are made of Kevlar – the synthetic fibre famously used in bulletproof vests, so even if you’re not expecting to fend off gunmen, they should do fairly well against sharp edges. The cheapest cases are made of polyester fabric, and don’t last much longer than a trip or two.



If you’re going to walk for an extended period of time, you’ll want something with wheels. The number of wheels vary across cases, as do the material used for the wheels. Four-wheeled cases roll well on smooth floors, but are usually a little heavier.

However, if you’re expecting bumpy terrain such as cobblestones and gravel, the more common two-wheeled cases will do better. Pay attention to what the wheels are made of as well. Polyurethane is the stuff of skating wheels – hard, resilient, and manoeuvrable – while rubber and lesser plastics take a bigger beating from wear and tear. Of course, if you’re travelling light or just for a couple of days, you’ll roll fine with a weekender bag.

This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s November 2019 issue from the article THE PREPARED TRAVELER, brought to you by Standard Chartered. For the best travel experiences, visit here.