Use This Unique Packing Hack When You Need Extra Space In Your Bags For Souvenirs

According to Statista, gift, novelty, and souvenir sales in the U.S. surpassed $21 billion in 2022. Yes, billion, not million. A survey by YouGov also found that ⅔ of Americans bring souvenirs back from a trip. That's a lot of fridge magnets. 

If we were only buying fridge magnets, we probably wouldn't have any issues getting our purchases home, but many of us pick up other, larger items. We buy baubles from Christmas markets, mugs bearing the name of our destination city, paintings, T-shirts, bottles of the local tipple, and so on. And then we discover a problem; our bag was full when we arrived. With those expensive and budget-friendly souvenirs in it, it won't even zip up. 

What's a traveler to do? You could ship them home, but that can be costly, and you might never see them again, especially if you mail them from a certain European country. Alternatively, you could use the "throw-away packing" technique. Travel bloggers like Turnipseed Travel and Create Play Travel are big fans of this unique way to create more space in their bags. The name is pretty self-explanatory: while on vacation, you throw away clothing to make more room in your suitcase. If this sounds a bit wild (and not very environmentally friendly), read on, and you might adopt this packing hack the next time you go away. 

How this unique packing hack works

To utilize the throw-away packing technique, pack old clothing for your vacation and leave it behind, creating space in your luggage for souvenirs and anything else you picked up. However, there are several caveats to this. Firstly, no one advocates throwing away perfectly good items of clothing, nor is anyone saying you should purchase any specific "throw-away items."

However, we all have a few things in our closets that are worn and faded and ready for the donation pile or pairs of shoes that are on their last legs. By taking them on vacation, you can give your items one last hurrah before you get rid of them. You may also have clothing that's in good condition that doesn't get worn much at home. This is a good choice for throw-away clothing.

So, you have found some items that are good candidates for this hack. You packed them, wore them on vacation, and now you're ready to dispose of them and make way for your souvenirs. Throwing clothing away is not the way to go. It's much better to wash your clothes (or have them washed by the hotel) and then look for places to donate them to charity. Textile recycling banks are also good options for very worn clothing. You don't want to create additional trash for the country you're in.

Alternatives to clothing

The throw-away clothing hack has many advocates but also many detractors. Many posters in the Rick Steves Community forum object to creating trash or expecting hotel staff to deal with items you leave behind. However, there are other ways to make space in your luggage for souvenirs.

If you take travel-size cosmetics, they are usually empty by the end of the vacation and can be disposed of. Items like sunscreen and insect repellent are often almost used up at the end of a trip; if unfinished, they tend to be items others are happy to use. You probably wouldn't use a face moisturizer that someone else dug their fingers in, but a spray can of DEET is not to be sniffed at. (Seriously, don't sniff it). Books are also good candidates for things to leave behind, as hotels and vacation rentals often have shelves of books discarded by visitors.

If you don't want to throw anything away, the best option is to pack light on your way out, leaving room in your bag for souvenirs. On your way home, you can stuff your clothing inside and around items like mugs and vases to help protect them. You should also be prepared to wear your bulkiest items during travel, freeing up as much space as possible in your suitcase.