If you’ve ever opened your suitcase to find a shampoo bottle has burst, or cringed as airport security had to rifle through your dirty pants and socks, then you’ll know luggage problems are a rite of passage for travellers – we've all been there, done that, and lost the t-shirt.

So to celebrate our new book How to Pack for Any Trip, we asked Lonely Planet staff to share some of their packing fails and provide a top tip to help you avoid their mistakes.

shampoo
Memories of relaxing in Ibiza were soon out of mind when Gemma opened her suitcase to find this © Gemma Graham / Lonely Planet

Suncream screams

I give my suitcase OCD-levels of attention when packing to go on a trip, but returning home my relaxed, post-holiday self always seems to say, ‘forgeddaboutit’. Unfortunately, on my way back from Ibiza last year, this resulted in a bottle of sunblock cracking and leaking over everything else. Apparently, sunblock stains white and light-coloured fabric really badly (who knew?) and I had to throw away several items of clothing that couldn't be salvaged even by washing them several times.

Top tip: Place your bottles in ziplock bags and try to pack them between soft items like towels so any knocks your bag receives on the luggage carousel are cushioned.

Gemma Graham – Destination Editor for North Europe. Follow her tweets @gglpde

Falling apart at the seams

As a fresh-faced graduate, saving every penny for my imminent round-the-world trip, I decided to opt for the cheapest backpack I could find in my local retail outlet. It was purple, which was the main selling point for me. What I should have examined, however, were the practical features – including the quality of the lining, which proceeded to rip within the first week of my four-month journey. Sitting on the floor of San Francisco's bus terminal stitching my bag back together wasn't quite how I'd envisaged my time in California.

Top tip: Invest in a decent backpack for long-term travels. Do your research and try on a few different styles to see which one works for you – and always pack a needle and thread.

Emma Sparks – Deputy Editor, lonelyplanet.com. Follow her tweets @Emma_Sparks

car boot
Pack individual bags to avoid car boot chaos on road trips © Fredrik Nyman / Getty Images

Divide and conquer

On our first long road trip, my partner and I decided to pack everything in one big case as we had only hired a little car. This was a nightmare. Not only did it mean we had to sift through each other's clothes to get to a pair of socks, but towards the end of the holiday our suitcase was just a pile of mixed-up, unfolded clothing, and we had to keep unpacking and repacking every time we needed to get anything.

Top tip: When road-tripping as a couple, take a small case each and pack clothes according to outfits for each day.

Maria McKenzie – Social Comms Manager. Follow her tweets @MazMckenzie

Disa-beering act

I thought it would be great to take some rather unique Newfoundland beer back to Vancouver after a Lonely Planet research trip. I packed the six bottles of beer carefully in a rubber dry-bag (from my kayak) and bundled my clothing around each of them to ensure that the odd knock wouldn't shatter them. But when the bag eventually arrived in British Columbia a week later (another story!), the bottles had all survived – caps still sealed – but the beer had not. The changes in pressure during the flight had lifted the caps off enough for the beer to escape, and when the plane descended the caps resealed themselves.

Top tip: Beers bottles with caps (twist off or not) don't take well to flying. Wine/booze bottles with screw tops and corks seem to pass the test.

Matt Phillips – Destination Editor for Sub Saharan Africa. Follow his tweets @Go2MattPhillips

Backpackers crossing remote stream
A bulging backpack could put a serious dampener on your spectacular hike © Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich / Getty Images

The back-breaker

Many years ago a friend and I followed Alfred Wainright's classic coast-to-coast walk across the UK from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire. We completed this 192-mile route, which cuts through three national parks (the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors) in seven brutal days. And we did it all carrying bulging, back-breaking rucksacks. Years later, I repeated my mistake, packing way too much gear for a similarly spectacular tramp along Tasmania's Overland Track. Never again.

Top tip: Assemble everything you want to take. Now put half of it away again. Then pack your bag.

James Kay – Editor, lonelyplanet.com. Follow his tweets @jameskay123

The healthiest drug smuggler

I've got into the habit of taking all my vitamin tablets on holiday with me and earlier this year I had the genius idea that to save space – since I was only taking hand luggage – I would stuff all the bottles in my shoes. Unsurprisingly, this caught the attention of airport security and resulted in my bag, and all its contents, being swabbed for drugs every time I had to go through customs.

Top tip: Keep all medication, vitamins, creams etc. together. Vitamins look a lot less suspicious stowed next to plasters and painkillers than as random tablets stuffed in your shoes.

Louise Bastock – Assistant Editor, lonelyplanet.com. Follow her tweets @LouiseBastock

camera
Don't miss those once-in-a-lifetime captures because of forgotten kit © WIN-Initiative/Neleman / Getty Images

One camera short of a kit

I am super organised about toiletries in travel bottles, having the right travel plugs and taking the right technology along for a trip. Having said that, I was pretty annoyed when I flew back to Australia from the UK for a family wedding and realised that I had packed the battery charger for my camera, but not the actual camera.

Top tip: Organising your tech – ensuring devises are charged, you have enough room on your memory cards etc. – is a job in itself. But in the pursuit of packing all your device’s accessories and add-ons, make sure to pack the actual device too.

Jane Atkin – Community Manager. Follow her tweets @dulynoted

Hand-luggage headaches

My partner and I have a secret fetish for car-boot sales, of which there happened to be two huge ones on our recent trip to Jersey in the Channel Islands. We ended up buying three huge coffee pots (because those are essential, obviously) that we had to stuff with used pants and socks to fit in our already bursting hand luggage. The security worker in the airport didn't appreciate having to rifle through these when the pots appeared as three large, unidentified, fully-packed metal objects.

Top tip: Scale your souvenir shopping to suit your luggage size. If you only have hand baggage, resist the urge to purchase large items. Otherwise, make sure you have cabin baggage.

Ellie Simpson – Traveller Comms Analyst. Follow her tweets @GutsyGrad

Are you a pro packer or could your technique use some work? Take our quiz to find out.

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