Some favour the capsule wardrobe approach, others are more 'everything but the kitchen sink'. Packing - or rather how much you pack - used to be a matter of personal preference. But as airlines turn the screws on personal baggage allowance, packing has become a financial decision too.
Ideally, all of us would travel with a little light hand luggage, but - kids' toys, hiking boots, dress-up/dress-down wear ... how do you fit it all in? We've folded, squished, and packed in, here's our top ten tips to packing light.
Think before you pack
Do you really need all those shoes? Several coats? The days of taking everything you might need are long gone: time to think about what you actually need! Think strategically, and mix & match - what goes together? Take clothes that work as outfits.
Know your carry on rules
Different airlines have different carry on requirements, so check your bag is acceptable - both in size and weight - before you go. Virgin Atlantic's carry-on requirements are stricter than British Airways, for example (56cm x36cm x23cm as opposed to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm). And while Ryanair will penalise you if your bag weighs more than 10kg, Easyjet doesn't mind so long as you can lift your bag into the overhead locker with out help (or a crow bar).
Put heavy items at the bottom
Follow this simple rule: the heavier the item (coats, jeans etc), the nearer the bottom it goes. Lighter items that will get creased (shirts, dresses) put nearer the top.
Make use of the shoes
Shoes are bulky and heavy - and also, admittedly, necessary - so make use of the space inside. This is the perfect place to stuff your socks, pants, swimming costumes. Stick toiletries and electric toothbrushes wrapped in plastic bags inside, to protect them. Shoes packed heel-to-toe to take up less space, and packed around the outside of the case, cocoon more delicate items.
your clothes, and you'll get more in. And you'll cut down on creases. There are two things to remember here, though: clothes must be very tightly rolled, and then tightly packed in the suitcase. If there is any room for unfurling en-route then the creases will creep in.
Do you really need a family-sized bottle of shampoo for a week's holiday? We think not. Let the carry on restrictions be your guide - keep it to 100mls. Boots sell travel-size bottles you can use again and again.
Shrink to fit
If you've really got to fit a lot in, then you might want to consider stealing some tips from the pros. Shrink-wrap! Basically vacuum packing items in a plastic sleeve. It uses a lot of plastic, but it also squashes things down into tiny packages.
Buy it when you get there
Don't bother taking space-hogging flip flops or cotton dresses to Thailand, for example, when you can buy them cheap when you arrive. Yes, we all want to save money, but it means you won't have to pay for excess baggage - and, hey presto, instant presents when you get home!
Wear as much as you can
Need to take a heavy pair of boots and a thick jumper? Wear it on the journey. There's no point being vain about what you look like on the airplane (jetlag makes mingers of us all) - and if it frees up your bag for an teddy or slinky dress, so much the better.
Carry a spare outfit in your carry on
We all think it won't happen to us but luggage does get lost, Prepare for the worst and pop a change of clothes, clean underwear and a toothbrush in your hand luggage.
Finally, take our comprehensive travel insurance - with baggage cover to protect your belongings.
If you're planning a career break, sabbatical or gap year - we've got heaps more information for you, visit the Career Gap site.
Last Updated: February 2014