As a frequent hostel dorm guest and fairly budget traveller, I’ve had to live in some seriously small spaces on the road. Even when you fork out the extra for a private room, some countries are just notoriously stingy with real estate and you end up in a rather cramped claustrophobic closet of a room unless you are willing to fork out an astronomical sum for a luxurious experience. How do you deal with tiny spaces on the road? Here are some of my packing tips.
For short trips, be strategic not just about what you pack but how you pack. Think about your itinerary for the next few days and order your luggage accordingly if possible, by putting the stuff you’ll need nearer the top of the bag so it’s easy to pull out.
I usually have a smaller bag with just my essentials, so I can keep them close to me while my larger bag can be left aside without too much worry about someone stealing it. One reason I advocate carry-on only is that you force yourself to carry less, and that is just so much more convenient in situations like these.
I also like softer bags that fold up so you can stow them easily if you have to, or they can double up as a pillow or cushion if you need to put the bag on your lap.
Organize Your Items
I love packing cubes because they make it easy to organise stuff in your bag. Even without packing cubes, I always have bags within bags so it’s easier to find items. It helps when the bags are slightly different in material or shape because it’s easy for you to tell what bag you’re digging into without looking, especially useful if you’re in a dark cramped space. The satin bag has the lingerie, the linen has the clean clothes, the weird handle has the toiletries…
The idea is that you want to use your bag to keep everything together; you don’t want to pull out all your stuff when you have no place to put them, just the essentials when you need them. If you’re a naturally messy person like I am, it takes some effort to stay organized, but you’ll find it all worthwhile when you don’t have to sleep in a pile of your clothes!
Hooks, Lines and Suckers
When there’s very little floor space, having somewhere to hang your stuff is a lifesaver. Make use of any available banisters, walls or hooks that you can find in the room, or bring some of your own along just in case. Carabiners which you can hook on your backpack or use to extend hook space are helpful, and string or rope stashed in your bag can double as an excellent clothesline between bedposts. Suckers are great for bathroom tiles but when all else fails, revert to the good ol’ plastic bag.
If the small space is killing you, just remember: you only need to be in your room to spend the night. Get out, socialise and make some friends and explore!
I have stayed in some seriously small rooms on my trips, especially once I started travelling with my friends and on my own and have less budget to afford a decent sized room. But even so, some hotels are just really, really small, even for the price you pay!
Two legendarily small rooms I’ve stayed in that I’ll always remember:
The Berjaya Eden Park Hotel in London with my parents. I can’t remember what special deal we had, but we got the room cheap and it had one of the tiniest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. Notably, they don’t show the toilet in the pix on their website, but here it is.
And it’s not just me! Check out their Trip Advisor page for more reviews from fellow tourists who’ve stayed at the place. I’ve heard that hotels in London are generally small because they’re quite strapped for space, but that toilet is insanely small.
The Dragon Inn Hostel in Mongkok was also pretty small. Basic amenities were there, and it’s a hostel so it’s not that surprising. Hong Kong accommodation is also not very cheap and like Hong Kong they are extremely strapped for space; we were but students back then, so we put up with it.
I didn’t manage to get a picture of the toilet, but it had just enough space for a toilet bowl with a shower above it and a sink next to it; you had to shower while sitting on the toilet bowl! We were so relieved that our hotel in Taiwan (Da Shun Hotel) was so much bigger at an equivalent price.