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How to pack like a pro!

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

What we’ve learnt from holidaying abroad over the years

A suitcase on a holiday beach
Packed for a holiday

We have been lucky enough to holiday abroad several times a year for many years. We always stay in self-catering accommodation, usually in villas, but have also stayed in apartments, gites, lodges etc.

Here are some top tips we swear by on how to pack like a pro!

To help, many of the titles link to relevant pages on Amazon.

Pre-travel tips

We have found that airlines are getting stricter with weight allowances. It never used to be a problem if we were one or two kilograms over our allowance; not anymore. We have a digital scale that we use to weigh our packed cases. Well worth buying one to avoid hefty charges at the airport.

As an aside, we have made the mistake (once!) of buying a very swish suitcase which weighed, empty, 5kg. Here are some lightweight options:

Since investing in a collapsible clothes rail, we never overpack!

Simply pick out the clothes you want to take on holiday, including shoes and accessories. It's then easy to see how you can mix and match items making sure no impulse items are added to your suitcase that are not going to be worn when away!

It also helps to rewear evening outfits and limit the amount of footwear to three pairs, including the footwear you travel in.

We realise this is an Apple product and you need an iPhone, but an AirTag means you can keep track of your cases as they move around an airport. It is also comforting to see the case at the same location as you as a plane pushes back from the terminal!

Packing cubes keep everything organised inside your case and when you get to your destination simply lift out and place items that don’t need hanging directly into drawers. Use different coloured packing cubes for each family member, then they can organise their own wardrobe!

Mandalay Moon Fashion Tip

Our wrinkle free tops, trousers and dresses are perfect for packing; lightweight and many are non-iron!

Photograph the contents of your suitcase

Just in case you have to claim on your travel insurance, a photograph of the contents of your suitcase can help with not just proving what you're claiming for, but also as a reminder to you not to miss anything.

We know that things like boarding passes etc can be on smart phones, but we have seen people have problems; battery dying, tapping away not able to find that ellusive electonic document. We prefer to use a smal plastic wallet to hold all of our travel travel documents, boarding passes, car hire vouchers, security fast track etc.

What to take

With the weight and sometimes the expense of taking a suitcase on a plane, it helps to pack a few lightweight essential items that can really help you enjoy your holiday.

Here is a list of things we have found useful over the years.

This has been invaluable on many ocassions:

  • Tin opener when your villa doesn't have a tin opener (it happens!)

  • Small screwdriver to tighten sunglasses

  • Pliers for fixing sink plugs

  • Tweezers for splinters

  • And lots more uses...

After years of taking various charging leads each with a plug adaptor, we now have a charger block that needs one plug adaptor and can charge several devices at once. We've used an Anker charger for years and it just does the job (be aware of cheaper, potentially unsafe chargers; before our Anker charger we bought a cheap one that started smoking!)

We bought branded versions; initially more expensive but refills are readily available. Plug one in next to your bed(s) as the light fades in the evening. We also use one close to the main entrance door; useful as the door will keep opening as we move inside and out in the evening.

Great for keeping insects at bay and providing a lovely atmosphere when sitting outside on a warm evening. We take a jam jar lid to put them in; stops wax spilling on to tables.

Although we don’t have small children anymore, it's great to have a nightlight which we plug into the landing or bedroom. It can often be pitch black when all the shutters are firmly closed to block out the early morning sun.

On some showers, you can't adjust the height of the showerhead. We take a simple, plastic suction bracket that allows the showerhead to be placed where you want it.

Traditional, simple, multi-generational and hundreds of games to play. We've taken things like Uno before, but always come back to a pack of cards.

Decant your favourite creams etc to save valuable space. Cheaper than buying small versions of your favourites and can be re-used.

Put one in the bathroom so everyone knows where to place their dirty laundry, rather than in piles in bedrooms!


If you are self-catering

Although we love to go out and try local food, it can sometimes feel too much to eat out twice a day every day.  We’ve noticed how expensive it can be to do a grocery shop, especially in the Greek islands, with simple basics sometimes costing twice as much as at home. Also, we don’t want to eat basic bland food or overbuy food that will just be left behind and wasted.


Keeping in mind the all important suitcase weight limit, here are a few things we take that we find useful.


Microwave rice packets

And you don’t need a microwave, you can use on the hob to warm up the rice. Helps make a great mushroom or chorizo “risotto”.


Garlic granules, smoked paprika, oregano and chilli are our favourite herbs and spices that can jazz up plain pasta, rice, salads, eggs etc. We take a small amount in some small screw top plastic pots.


Stock cubes

Take a few flavours to add to rice or pasta to ramp up the flavour.


Rather than buy bags of ice when you're away or hoping your villa has ice trays, packing a few ice cube bags means you have ice on tap, so to speak. 

Tea bags

Because tea just isn't the same as at home!

Large bin bag(s)

Sounds a silly thing to take, but we once had to buy 25 bin bags in Spain, only to use one (we brought the rest home!).

How to pack like a pro - a final tip

Before heading off, we contact the owners/hosts of our villa to check if they have the following available: bathroom toiletries, dishwasher tablets, washing machine tablets, if there's a BBQ whether there are bbq tongs, gloves, charcoal. If there's a log burner, are logs supplied.

There's no point taking something that's there waiting for you!

If you have any thoughts on this article or other great packing tips you have, please comment below.

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