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Are you over-packing your suitcase? The top 25 items we never unpack

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Our latest research shows that 74% of us admit that we pack things for our holidays that we never end up using – with each of us taking 3.4 unused items on average.

At a time when the average UK traveller accounts for approximately 92 kg of CO2 emissions per hour of their flight1, taking unneeded bulky items on holiday certainly doesn’t help. This unnecessary extra luggage we take adds to carbon emissions that can easily be reduced simply by travelling lighter.

What are the unused items packed in our suitcases?

Looking at the top items that holidaymakers pack, but don’t use abroad, our data suggests some people may be thinking more about the country they’re leaving rather than where they’re going when they pack their suitcases. 

This may explain why some holidaymakers pack wellies, raincoats, formal wear and smart shoes. Also, some people seem to be bringing home comforts that are commonly found in hotel rooms – such as dressing gowns, an iron, a kettle and slippers. 

Top 25 items that never leave the suitcase:

First Aid Kits22%
Smart evening clothes16%
Umbrella / raincoat15%
Formal / smart shoes13%
Hair dryer12%
Steam iron12%
Board games9%
Bluetooth speaker9%
Alarm clock9%
Dressing gown9%
Sun hat9%
Work laptop / phone9%
Foreign currency8%
Game console7%
Guide books7%
CD’s / cassettes7%
Wellington boots6%

Who’s most likely to pack items they don’t end up using on holiday?

When grouping people based on their attitudes to sustainability, it was people who said they care the most about sustainability that were surprisingly the most likely to over-pack for their holidays (84%). 41% admitted that at least 20% of their suitcase was packed with items they never used on holiday. 

Another group included parents of young children, with 85% of those with children aged under 10 saying that they over-packed their suitcases with items they didn’t end up using. A quarter of these said unused items accounted for up to 20% of the available space in their suitcases.

By age group, it was Millennials that were most likely to admit to packing holiday items they never used – 84% for 25-34 year olds and 81% for 35-44 year olds. In contrast, older travellers (aged 65+) were those least likely to pack things they didn’t need (57%).

Regionally, people in the North East (79%), Wales (78%) and London (78%) were the worst offenders when it came to over-packing for their holidays abroad, while Scots were the most sensible, those most likely to only take what they would need.

Percentage of people that pack their suitcase with items they don’t use on holiday – by region 

1.    North East79%
2.    London78%
3.    Wales78%
4.    North West76%
5.    East of England75%
6.    South West74%
7.    South East72%
8.    East Midlands71%
9.    West Midlands71%
10. Yorkshire / Humberside71%
11. Scotland65%

Garry Nelson, our Head of Corporate Affairs comments: 

“We are all becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability and striking the right balance between caring for the planet but still enjoying memorable holidays. The simple but significant changes we can all make are often the simple ones – and thinking differently about how we pack and what we pack can make a huge difference on a holidaymaker’s carbon footprint. 

We all remember holidays where we have struggled to zip up a bulging suitcase before heading off to the airport. In truth, the majority of holidaymakers acknowledge they over-pack – many taking items they don’t need, won’t use or can buy or hire at resort. Let’s leave the wellie boots, the kettle, the dumb bells, the boardgames and steam iron at home – and if we all stake simple steps, we can make a huge difference together to protect the planet without in any way diminishing the joys of a great holiday experience with friends and loved ones.”

The research was carried out by Sago Research among a nationally representative sample of 2,077 holidaymakers in January 2024.

[1] https://www.carbonindependent.org/22.html