We all know the inconveniences of living out of a suitcase—including not being able to squeeze in all of the essentials. Here are some tips on how to pack some lesser-known necessities. Most of these tools can be purchased online or at an outdoor recreation, sporting goods, or travel store.


Photo by Brian Jones. ©REI


Travel towels will not only fit more compactly into your suitcase, but due to their synthetic blend of fabric, they can absorb anywhere from four to eight times their weight in water and dry quickly, which helps reduce unwanted odors.

Laundry or Dish Soap

If you will be able to wash laundry or dishes, pack small Ziploc bags with powdered or tablet detergents. This helps you avoid packing more clothes and using disposable dinnerware, which saves both money and luggage space.

Shower Shoes


Photo by Brian Jones. ©REI

Avoid foot fungus! Bring a cheap pair of foam flip-flops, which won’t take up much room, can hang on the outside of your bag when wet, and can be tossed to create space for souvenirs.


Fleece sleeping bag liners can readily roll up and fit inside your luggage, attach to the outside of your luggage, or be carried by the handle or drawstring. The liners conveniently serve as a blanket while traveling or as a hostel sheet or sleeping bag.


If you plan to buy groceries to save on meals, you will need utensils. The most compact utensil? The combined fork/spoon, or spork. Not to worry, this isn’t the flimsy spork from grade school. Look for a durable, lightweight travel spork.


Photo by Brian Jones. ©REI


A small, inflatable travel pillow can easily be inflated for sleeping during travel or at night and then be deflated to pack flat. These are often used inside the hoods of mummy sleeping bags, so look for them at an outdoor recreation store.

Kindle or Tablet

For those hours spent in airports, train stations, and bus depots, bringing a Kindle or tablet is a great way to provide hours of entertainment without the weight of books.

Remember that packing light and compact will be to your advantage, especially if you plan to bring any souvenirs home. Good luck, and feel free to leave the kitchen sink at home this time!

—Rebecca Hamson