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Rolling rather than folding clothes saves space if you are trying to pack all your holiday needs in carry-on bag to avoid checked baggage being lost or delayed at understaffed airports this summer. Photo: Shutterstock

How to pack light and avoid lost or delayed baggage this summer – curate your wardrobe and fit everything in a carry-on bag

  • Post-pandemic staff shortages are causing chaos at airports around the world. Avoid holiday stress by following these tips, designed to help you pack light
  • No matter which airline you fly with, rolling your clothes, thinking about space, and mixing outfits will reduce the amount of baggage – and stress – you have

I always wanted to be part of the hand-baggage-only crowd – the people who smugly stepped off the plane and into a taxi and were sipping a cocktail while I was still struggling with my oversized suitcase. But having to decant my moisturiser and only bring one book never made it feel worthwhile.

Until now, that is.

Wherever you are in Europe or the United States, airport chaos reigns. In Amsterdam, people are waiting six hours for their baggage; in Nice in the South of France, bags are being lost every day and in London – where I live – frazzled baggage handlers are breaking down in tears when they’re interviewed by the media.

Why is this happening? A mix of post-pandemic staff shortages and a busier-than-expected summer season, but the result is that anyone flying away for the summer should think light.

Build your outfits one by one and arrange them in piles – you can even add specific underwear so it’s complete
Sophie Liard, organisational expert
Not that this is easy in 2022. Many short-haul airlines insist paid-for cabin bags weigh under 15kg (33lb); considering the suitcases themselves usually come in at about 4kg, these companies seem to be suggesting we approach our holiday packing with an outlook even Marie Kondo might find draconian.

Take heart, however, in the fact that there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to make the process a lot less painful (and allow you to wear more than one dress). “Begin by writing down the events you’ll need an outfit for – from day trips to pool days,” says organisational expert Sophie Liard.

Luggage piles up at Roissy Airport outside Paris. Photo: EPA-EFE
“This way, you’ll pack smarter and avoid overpacking. Build your outfits one by one and arrange them in piles – you can even add specific underwear so it’s complete. Once finished, add a Post-it note to each pile so you can see it’s ready for packing.

“You’ll find this process gives you ideas of how to mix and match your clothes, building multiple outfits out of fewer core items.”

Then think very carefully about shoes. How likely, really, are you to go on a run? If the answer is “not very” then please leave your trainers at home – they’re big, bulky and will take up half the suitcase.

How to pack a suitcase like a pro: the six secrets to travelling light

In fact, clever planning means you should be able to travel with just one pair of packed shoes (personally, I find black sliders work for beach trips and city visits).
“Remember to use shoe bags – these will keep any buckles or laces tidy, and keep the soles away from your clothes,” says Liard. “Make the most of the space inside your shoes, too – use it to pack socks and even jewellery.”

If, like 56 per cent of people, you fold rather than roll your clothes – shame on you. Rolling each item means that not only do your belongings emerge relatively uncreased at the other end, but you’ll save a lot of space. Or try zip-up bags.


“They are perfect for packing in tidy and organised categories, whatever your preference. You can access your clothes easily and use these in the drawers of your accommodation, too – so anything you don’t end up using is packed and ready to go,” says Liard.

Travellers at understaffed airports such as London Heathrow (above) face long delays at check-in and security and risk checked baggage being delayed or lost. Pack everything in a carry-on to avoid the risk. Photo: AP
Instead of dresses, consider buying co-ords – outfits made from matching colours, prints or fabrics; a dress gives you one outfit, a matching top and skirt or shorts can be paired with everything else in your case.

Put belts around the inside edge of your suitcase, and opt for lightweight fabrics.

If you need something bulkier, then think very carefully about what you wear on the plane, as (thankfully) even the most rule-bound airlines are not yet at the point of weighing passengers.

Being organised and packing well can save significant amounts of time and stress when travelling. Photo: Shutterstock
I’m going to a wedding in France this summer – there are three days of events and the only way I’ll be able to pack enough outfits is if I wear half of them on the plane, making my airport outfit an extension of my wedding wardrobe.
That doesn’t mean turning up to a dawn flight dressed like Mariah Carey, but wearing certain pieces of clothing that are too bulky to pack – trousers and a glitzy jacket I want to wear to one of the events – and always use your beach bag as your travel bag.

“As with packing smart, it’s crucial to shop smart,” says Rich Simmons from styling service Stitch Fix. “The key here is to invest in a few quality pieces that you absolutely love so that you can re-wear and restyle them over the course of your trip.”

I’m always a little wary of preflight shopping. Something strange happens to the almost-on-holiday brain – particularly the brain of anyone who has spent too much time dreaming about a holiday after two years in the same city.

So if you start imagining yourself wafting around in Pucci kaftans when you’re a denim shorts kind of person – stop. The you of tomorrow will thank you for it.