A travel blogger has revealed how families can pack for a two-week holiday without paying for any check-in luggage.
Jenna Carr, 33, from Worksop, Nottinghamshire, is a former doctor and founder of The Travel Mum, a website and online community which helps people holiday on a budget by sourcing deals and sharing advice for cost-effective travel.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Jenna shared her step-by-step guide to packing for a fortnight away for a family of three, squeezing more than 60 items of clothing into just one backpack and one standard pull-along trolley.
‘The possibilities are endless,’ said Jenna, who shares three-year-old son Leo with her partner Joao, 33. ‘We have travelled for two weeks with just the rucksack. But could definitely do longer. With the carry-on suitcase, we could emigrate.
‘The main point we try to get across is that whether you are travelling for one week or 10 weeks, you only need a weeks worth of clothes as you can wash them as you go along.’
Travelling light not only saves money but it also helps avoid the heartache and stress of lost luggage, an issue which continues to affect thousands of holidaymakers across the UK.
The key is to choose versatile pieces that can be mixed-and-matched, be sensible on shoes, and decant your toiletries rather than waste space on miniatures.
How to squeeze more than SIXTY pieces of clothing into two bags
Jenna revealed how it is possible to pack for a family of three for two weeks using hand luggage alone. The key is to only pack for seven days then be prepared to hand wash your clothes in the hotel sink.
1. 3 x pairs of sandals or flip-flops: One pair for each family member, wrapped in a plastic bag to stop other items getting dirty
2. Rolled up socks: Choosing socks in a single colour (like black) means they can be mixed and matched and makes it easier to find pairs
3. 4 x pieces of children’s clothing: Shorts and trousers rolled into parcels
4. 2 x formal shirts: Rolled up into a single parcel
5. 4 x t-shirts rolled together
6. 2 x children’s dungarees and more shorts
7. 1 x children’s jumper
8. 7 x children’s t-shirts rolled together
9. 1 x pair of jeans
10. 1 x pair of corduroy trousers; 4 x t-shirts rolled together
11. 3 x day dresses rolled together
12. 1 x jumpsuit
13. 1 x evening dress
14. 7 x pairs of underwear per person: Choose thin, lightweight styles to save space and wash after every wear
Also packed: 1 x thin black gym trousers; 2 x t-shirts and 1 x jumpsuit
Jenna advises bringing one backpack per person for additional shoes, clothes or gifts on the return flight but says it is possible to condense into one as above:
15. Liquids: One bag of 100ml items per person, divided between backpacks. See below for a breakdown of the liquids that should and shouldn’t be included.
16. DSLR camera with charger: This can also be carried around the neck to save room in the bag if needed
17. Amazon Fire stick and remote (seen below): To be plugged into any TV and allows the family to watch Netflix or Disney+ on the road
18. Extra clothes: 3 x extra shorts including swim shorts and 1 x bikini
19. Extension lead: Multiple sockets mean you can bring one travel adaptor but charge multiple devices at once. Chargers attached for ease.
20: Non-liquid make-up: Kept in a plastic bag to stop damage to clothes
21: Nappies and wipes
CHOOSE DARK BOTTOMS… AND DON’T GO WILD ON SHOES
Get ready to mix-and-match: Jenna Carr, 33, with three-year-old son Leo and partner Joao. The travel expert advised packing a pair of denim shorts or jeans (like the ones seen above) that can be worn several times before needing a wash and look good with almost any top
‘Think about the days you will be there and consider the activities you will do,’ said Jenna, who shares her packing advice on YouTube.
‘Make a list of things you would like to wear each day then decide if items like jeans or denim shorts can be used on more than one occasion.
Revealed: 8 surprising travel essentials everyone needs
- Vacuum bags: For clothes
- Wrinkle release spray: Fill a 100ml bottle and use on minor creases
- Laundry powder: Carry in small plastic bag for handwashing clothes
- Portable charger: Don’t be caught out while on the move
- Extension lead: Charge multiple devices at the same time
- Travel adaptor
- Large shawl: To be worn at night or can double as a beach towel
- Kindle Fire stick: Watch your favourite TV on the move
‘People frequently pack way too many shoes, too many outfits, things they haven’t worn for years but take “just in case!”.’
The packing pro suggests planning seven outfits for each person – this can be less if you are away for under a week – and choosing a colour schemes that mean any t-shirt can go with any pair of shorts or trousers.
She continued: ‘I don’t know about you but I would wear a pair of denim shorts a few times before I need to wash them.
‘T-shirts tend to need washing after each wear, but having enough tops to mix with the same pair of shorts or trousers means multiple days can be covered with less items.
‘We all have two swimsuits, so one can be drying as we wear the other. We all take a pair of flip flops, a pair of trainers (usually attached to the outside of our bag) and we then wear a pair of a bulkier shoes.
‘For me that is usually a pair of boots with heels for me because I can wear them in the evening.’
Other bulky items like jeans or a jumper can be worn on the airplane to save space.
Jenna also brings a ‘just in case outfit’, something a little smarter that could be worn to a nice restaurant, bar or event.
Holidaymakers often pack too many shoes, even though they tend to re-wear the same pair of sandals or flip-flops for most of the holiday.
She added: ‘Choose shoes that will take up the least space, think sandals, flip flops and light weight trainers. Black or neutral colours mean they will match with most of your outfits.’
BRING SUNSCREEN BUT LEAVE SHAMPOO AT HOME
Don’t overpack: Jenna, pictured on holiday with her husband and son, follows the rule of thumb that she only brings items that would be difficult or expensive to replace on arrival
Why towels are the biggest space-waster
Travel adaptors are essential for many destinations but can be pricey if you need more than one.
Jenna suggests bringing just one adaptor with an extension lead so you can charge devices at the same time.
The biggest space-waster? Towels.
She continued: ‘They’re big and heavy and all hotels, even cheaper guest houses, will provide them.
‘I always have a lightweight shawl or travel towel to put down on the beach, but most hotels will have beach and pool towels that you can use.’
An easy way to save space is to cut down on liquids.
Jenna follows the rule of thumb that she only brings items that would be difficult or expensive to replace on arrival.
Shower gel and soap, for example, are provided even in the most basic hotels, while toothpaste is cheap enough to buy at the airport.
The same is true of shampoo and conditioner, so long as you don’t have particular hair concerns.
If you need specific products then think about decanting these into travel bottoms rather than investing in pricey miniatures that are far more expensive per 100ml.
However there are some liquids that are worth bringing with you.
She continued: ‘Sunscreen is always expensive abroad so we often fill two 100ml travel bottles with sun cream at home and one with after-sun in case anyone gets burnt.
‘We use cheap atomisers for our perfume, they take up minimal room and always last a whole trip.’
Remember: Children get an allowance too so you can use that extra bag to bring more essentials.
REATE MULTI-LAYER CLOTHING ROLLS
Space-saving: The key to fitting more clothing into a small space is to roll, rather than fold. Jenna recommends dividing clothes into sections – like t-shirts or children’s shorts – then rolling these into a single unit that can be tucked into the suitcase
Find space for the ‘little extras’ in a backpack
Other essentials like laptops, cameras, chargers or even straighteners can be brought in a backpack.
While it is possible to travel with just one backpack between a family, having several gives you more space to fit an extra swimsuit or charger.
Jenna also uses the backpack to store extras like the Kindle Fire Stick and remote, which means the family can watch their favourite TV wherever they are in the world.
The key to fitting more clothing into a small space is to roll, rather than fold. Jenna recommends dividing clothes into sections – like t-shirts or children’s shorts – then rolling these into a single unit that can be tucked into the suitcase.
The family also swears by vacuum packing their carry-on suitcase.
‘We find this allows us to get more in and importantly separates the clothes from shoes and liquids that might potentially leak,’ Jenna explained.
While vacuum bags are much easier to pack with an electric vacuum cleaner, they can be deflated using a small deflated hand pump which can be tucked down the side of the suitcase.
This trick could fall short if your carry-on bag is weighed at the airport.
‘We have never had our carry on luggage weighed when we check in online and go straight to the gate within Europe,’ Jenna said. ‘However they will weigh it if you go to the check in counters.
‘Some commenters on our viral video about vacuum packing state that in the US and Asia they frequently weigh carry on bags at the gate, so always be aware of the weight limitations.’
TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN
Boredom is the enemy! Jenna makes sure her bag is filled with activities for her three-year-old son Leo, pictured on holiday, so that he is kept busy while on-the-move
‘Parents with small kids often forget the importance of activities for the plane, plus a plan to counter act the pressure changes that can affect their little ears,’ Jenna explained.
‘We always take multiple activities. Our favourites include crayons and a little note pad, threading games, little books, and an iPad with lots of age appropriate educational apps.
‘We also bring something suck on when the plan is taking off and landing. As a baby this was a bottle of milk or dummy, now Leo is older we give him some juice or a lolly pop while keeping a close eye on him.’
She continued: ‘We always let Leo choose a magazine at the airport, one of those with a you, stickers and lots of activities.
‘This also allows us to get a WHSmith carrier bag to put other things in that might be bursting out of our backpacks, like Leo’s iPad or other activities, for example.
Why I quit my medical career to become a full-time travel expert
Jenna was working as a doctor during the pandemic when she decided to channel a lifelong love of travel into The Travel Mum.
For a £24 annual membership, The Travel Mum members are given access to an online website which gives travellers the information they need to book the cheapest holiday possible without the help of a travel agent.
It also provides inspiration for bargain holidays, as well as practical advice for saving money on every step of the journey.
Change of pace: Jenna, pictured with her son Leo, was working as a doctor during the pandemic when she decided to channel a lifelong love of travel into The Travel Mum
She explained: ‘I have always travelled on a budget, from being 17 when I went to Thailand alone for three months with little to no plan.
‘Since then I have been travel obsessed and learnt everything there is to know about saving a bit of money (meaning more money for more trips!).
‘I had my son just before the pandemic and people were shocked that we were still travelling lots. I started posting videos on TikTok of the travels we had pre pandemic, and they got tonnes of attention.
‘I realised there was a huge lack of knowledge on DIY trips. So many people use travel agents for the convenience, and give you a look of terror when you suggest they do it themselves.
Family business: Joao, pictured with son Leo, quit his job in May to join The Travel Mum full-time
‘You do have to take precautions when booking trips this way. For example, booking with a credit card ideally, getting travel insurance immediately on booking, booking rooms with free cancellation. Plus you don’t have the support of a travel agency if something goes wrong, you are very much alone to sort it.
‘I realised there was a real need for a service that helped people do this and provided support, so I bought the domain (www.thetravelmum.com) and started working out how to make a website.’
Jenna, who has 241,000 TikTok followers and 24,000 Instagram followers, initially juggled growing the business with raising her baby and studying for post-graduate exams.
As her social media presence grew, Jenna began receiving offers of brand partnerships. Eventually one was big enough to ‘just about’ cover the mortgage and bills.
‘I decided to take a risk and quit my job,’ she said. ‘I realised I was getting nowhere fast by only giving it 10-20 per cent of my time, it needed 100 per cent.
‘Super risky with a young baby, 15 years wasted on medicine and progress in my surgical career, but in my heart of hearts, I know this is what I am supposed to be doing.
‘It was February 2022 when I worked my last shift at the hospital and I haven’t looked back.
‘At the end of May 2022 we were earning enough from our new premium membership and other brand deals for my partner to quit too! So now we can travel a lot more, work together, and get to watch our son grow up.’