How to Pack a Suitcase? (12 Tips)

The best way to pack a suitcase is to bring only essential items that serve multiple purposes.

Thus, packing a suitcase efficiently requires a particular approach and certain tools.

3 Tips on How to Think About Packing

Your approach to life often has a bigger impact than you think. The same is true of packing. 

Granted, you won’t suddenly have more room in your luggage if you think a certain way. However, with these tips, you can bring everything you need.  

Don’t Bring More Than You Need

First, let’s get the obvious packing technique out of the way. 

It can be easy to slip into an overpreparing mindset and bring extras of everything. While it might make you feel better, remember that you only have so much storage space in your carry-on bags or checked bag.

So, scratch some of those extras off your packing lists. 

For example, limit yourself to a few sets of clothes, one or two pairs of small luggage shoes, and a few accessories. 

And as long as they don’t get too dirty, you can re-wear clothes. But, even when your dirty clothes do start to smell, you will likely have access to or can find a laundry machine.

Also, don’t overfill your carry-on luggage. 

For example, you probably won’t need your phone, tablet, computer, and a book. Most likely, you won’t have the time or need to use all of these things.  

Pack Multi-Function Items 

This tip applies to clothing as well as any utility items. So, get creative and think of how you can use various items.

Utilize Empty Luggage Space

For example, packing shoes doesn’t have to be a waste of space. So, go ahead and put small items inside them like socks. 

You can also wind belts through shirt collars, which has the added benefit of keeping collars crisp. 

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3 Packing Tips for Maximizing Your Available Space

When you get down to the actual packing, there are a few ways you can pack that’ll give you more space. Each one works well, so it is up to you to pick your favorite or mix and match as you see fit.

Compress Clothes 

For this tip, you can use clothes that don’t wrinkle easily and are bulky. To maximize space, just fold clothes and place them in a plastic bag or a garment bag, then squeeze all the air out.  

If you just try to pack items and compress them with the suitcase lid, they will fight you the whole way. When you place them inside a bag, however, the sealed bag will keep them tight.

Resealable plastic bags can work with some items but often do not have a strong enough seal. So, look for bags designed for clothes compression. 

You can also use these bags again later as a laundry bag, so you don’t have to put clean and dirty clothes together. Instead, you can put dirty laundry in a separate bag. 

Roll Your Clothes

Folded clothes can take up a lot of space, so instead, roll your clothes before you put them in your duffel bag. This rolling method works for clothes that aren’t too bulky, like T-shirts. 

After folding clothes, roll them like you would a sleeping bag. If done correctly, this method should keep clothes wrinkle-free.

Wrap Outfits Together

If you have outfits set ahead of time, you can use this third method. Like a matryoshka doll, you start with smaller items in the outfit and wrap them with larger items.

This one keeps everything you need for each day organized. Plus, for further organization, you can pack these sets by the day you’ll wear them and put them in a packing cube.

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3 Tools for Organized Packing

In addition to methods and approaches, you can also benefit from packing equipment. These tools are primarily for keeping organized, but a few will also help you save space.

Vacuum Seal Bags

Vacuum seal bags will help you compress any large items you are packing, so they take up less space. 

Often, squeezing the air out of a bag will only get you so far. Thus, vacuum-sealed bags are much more effective as well as reusable.

Packing Cubes

While packing cubes probably won’t save space, they will help you pack efficiently and stay organized.

Packing cubes come in various sizes and shapes to suit your needs. And best of all, you can use as few or as many as you want.

Hard Exterior Suitcase

Finally, there is the checked luggage suitcase itself. If you don’t already have one or are looking for a replacement, go for a hard exterior suitcase.

Beyond the already useful feature of protecting its contents better, it will also help provide structure during your packing process. Plus, the hard exterior will prevent you from trying to cram more than you realistically can.

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3 Things Not to Pack

There are, of course, the obvious things all frequent travelers know are no-nos, like packing liquids. But, here are some more things you don’t need to or shouldn’t pack for a vacation.

Regular-Sized Items

Saving space includes not packing any regular-sized items in your toiletry bag if you can help it.

You obviously won’t need a month’s worth of shampoo on a one-week trip. However, if you only have a large version of these essentials, it can seem unavoidable. 

To solve this, purchase some small bottles and other containers, so you only have to take a small amount with you, especially if you are putting these things in your carry-on bag. Another option is to purchase travel sizes of these items.

Bulky Clothes 

Wear bulky items to the airport to save on suitcase space and to lower your bag’s weight. This tip is a great way to stay efficiently packed. 

This method will save a ton of space, and you can still bring those big walking shoes. 

Common Hotel Room Items

Lastly, remove from your packing list any items that are common in hotels. 

For instance, if you know the hotel will have a hairdryer either in the room or available upon request, you don’t need to pack your own. Similarly, most hotels have clothes irons and towels. 

A Few More Packing and Travel Tips

  • Bring a small first aid kit
  • Pack toiletries in one bag away from clean clothes to reduce the fear of liquids spilling
  • Nix heavy items to reduce baggage fees from surpassing the weight limit
  • On a family vacation, multiple family members can share bags
  • Surround fragile items in soft clothes
  • A portable luggage scale can help keep your checked bags from getting stopped at airport security
  • If you can, pack clothes made of thin material like yoga pants
  • Leave extra space for souvenirs