Travel Tips

9 Budget Packing Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like A Genius

By James Shackell - 25 Nov 2018


Travel is about broadening the mind, sure. But it’s also about cutting corners, pinching pennies, squeezing every Euro, and not being too proud to smuggle hostel croissants in your purse. And the good news is, there’s a bunch of ways to save money while you travel, particularly when it comes to packing. 

Sure, you can shell out for whizz-bang gadgets like Herschel’s new phone-charging suitcase—but being a shameless cheapskate is almost more satisfying. Here are our top 9 budget travel packing hacks. 

Packing Cubes

Welcome to the number one travel trend for 2018. Packing cubes. They’re individual zipped pouches, usually made of mesh or polyester, perfect for storing socks, underwear, dirty laundry, toiletries or anything else you want to keep separate. It’s like turning one big suitcase into eight tiny suitcases. Very handy for those who usually follow the ‘teenage-bedroom-floor’ school of packing. Pro tip: colour code your cubes to take anally retentive organising to the next level.

Our pick: Don’t bother with the boutique brands. Kmart sells a 3-pack of cubes for just $9. Bargain. 

Cheap Luggage

Cheap luggage is getting scarily good. This year, ALDI released their 56cm Skylite carry-on as part of a limited-edition Special Buys sale. RRP $40. The scary bit? Consumer group, Choice, said it was basically identical to the $329 Samsonite DLX. Seriously, don’t get sucked in by the designer labels. Choice also gave Kmart’s $45 Active & Co suitcase a score of 86%, putting it in the Top 5 pieces of luggage in the country. Do your research. 

Our pick: The ALDI Skylite might come back (you’ll have to watch Special Buys), but in the meantime, check out Kmart’s Hard Case ($38) or Big W’s Jetstream ($80) 

Pegless Clothes Line

Don’t want to shell out for a dryer overseas? Fair call. You can drop a LOT of shrapnel into those things. Try this instead. It’s a pegless clothes line from Kmart, and it costs $2. Just attach the two suction cups to a tiled surface (like your hotel bathroom), and bam—instant clothesline. It takes up no space at all, and it means you can pack fewer clothes, since you’ll be washing on the road. 

Our pick: $2 from Kmart is hard to beat. Big W has one for $8. Or you can try a fancy one from Rays for $10.95.

Dental Floss

Most people don’t realise, but dental floss is strong. Like weirdly strong. And not just in a ‘fighting tartar’ sort of way. You can use it as a substitute for a broken shoe-lace, doubled over as a make-shift clothesline, for sewing thread or luggage cable ties, even fixing broken glasses (just thread the floss through the hinge arm and tie off). It’s also good for keeping your teeth clean.

Our pick: Coles mint dental floss starts at $3. We haven’t done an objective tensile strength comparison, but Colgate Total looks pretty good value at $3.30. 

Travel Bottles

You’re probably familiar with carry-on rules for international flights by now: you’re allowed one bag of liquids and aerosols. It’s got to be sealed, plastic and transparent. Each individual liquid container has to be 100ml or less. Break those rules and you’re gonna get the dreaded finger beckoning motion from the scary dude behind the baggage scanner. Good thing you can now get approved, standard issue travel bottles. Not only are these perfect for carry-on, they’ll save you carrying around full-size shampoo and conditioner in your check-in luggage. Did we mention they’re cheap?  

Our pick: Target sells these colourful bottles for $1.19 each. Big W also has this nifty pack for $8. 

Zip-Lock Bags 

Anyone who’s travelled before knows the value of zip-lock bags. They’re waterproof, you can scrunch them up small, they can carry everything from trail mix to a kidney (let’s hope it doesn’t come to that). Coles sells them from $1.60 a pack. Only problem is, they’re pretty bad for the environment. Really quite awful, actually. So if you care about things like sea turtles, check out eco-friendly, re-useable alternatives like (re)zip or Planet Wise

Our pick: A three-pack of Planet Wise bags will set you back $17.50, but you can use them forever. 

Dry Travel Shampoo 

It’s everything you love about dry shampoo, but tiny and cute and it fits legally in your carry-on luggage. Perfect for the traveller who is either unable or unwilling to take showers. Stick with the trusted Batiste brand when you can—they don’t test on animals. Apparently, Batiste sells two of these cans every second. Sweet Jesus.

Our pick: Target is selling the check-in approved travel bottles for $2.97 a pop. 

Hand-Powered Washing Bag

All right, it’s a little pricey, but this ingenious bit of kit means you never have to pay to wash clothes ever again. And it folds up so small you can fit it in your fist. It’s called The Scrubba is basically a bag with a washboard built-in. You just steal some hotel handsoap or detergent, chuck your clothes in the bag, add water, fold down and give it a rub. Three minutes of elbow grease is (apparently) a “machine quality wash”. 

Our pick: There’s only one Scrubba. It’ll cost you $65. 

Soap Box

Hard soaps take up way less space than their liquid counterparts. They also tend to last longer, and won’t get you strip searched at LAX. Here’s a pro tip—if you’re short on space, grab your full-size bar from home and cut it in half with a knife. Bam, instant travel soap. Just remember to enclose it in a soap box (they’re really, really cheap). Let it dry between uses to avoid soap slime. 

Our pick: Don’t muck about. Kmart has a white soap box for $1.75. Done. 

With all the money you've saved there, feel free to splash some cash on these carry-ons that are too cool to stow away.

Image credit: Lumina

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