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The Ultimate Suitcase Packing Tips: Smart Ways to Pack Your Luggage

Posted by Bea Manzano on
Lady packing a suitcase using clear cubes

Your suitcase is like a mini version of your closet that you can customize according to your trip. If you had to downsize your wardrobe, which essentials are you going to take? Most importantly, how are you going to pack them?

Having trouble fitting all your travel essentials in one suitcase? We’ve got the best suitcase packing tips to help you with that. You take care of the choosing, we’ll take care of organizing.

We know exactly how packing clothes in a suitcase can be quite tricky, whether it’s for a weekend or week-long trip. That is why we came up with these hacks to help you overcome the challenges of packing a suitcase.

Picking the Right Suitcase

White carry on suitcase

Before packing a suitcase, first, you must have... a suitcase! Here are some things you should consider before picking a home for all your travel essentials. The ideal suitcase should...

✔️ Encourage you to pack light.

Whether it's just for an overnight trip or a one-month vacation overseas, the perfect suitcase for every traveler is one that can train you to pack less so that you can enjoy more. The thing is, the bigger your suitcase, the more you'll be tempted to stuff more things in. A suitcase that can restrict the number of things you’re going to bring makes for a worthy purchase.

✔️ Be able to withstand the test of (traveling) time. 

A suitcase is your friend for all your travels. Make sure that it will last as long as you do. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or an occasional voyager, you’ll still need a reliable suitcase for your trip. Invest in a travel bag that can keep your clothes (and other essentials) in good condition for all your trips.

Consider these options:

Packing with clear cubes in a soft-shell suitcase
**Thanks to Clare from Casual Clare for this adorable photo!

Soft-shell vs Hard-shell suitcases

✔️ Soft-shell suitcases, like this Travelpro Maxlite Luggage, tend to be light and have external pockets that you can use to tuck in the essentials that you need right away (like your passport, boarding pass, etc.). This type of luggage is perfect for those who tend to buy lots of things to take home for their friends and family when they travel. Made with softer and flexible fabric material, it’s easier to stuff more items in these bags as they tend to expand, maximizing packing capacity.

✔️ Hard-shell suitcases, like this Coolife Luggage, are sturdier, sleeker, and less susceptible to wear and tear. This type of luggage can conveniently limit the number of items that you can store inside your bag - an advantage that allows you to pack lighter. Since these suitcases have a hard shell protection, you don’t have to worry as much about items inside getting damaged.

Packing with a Starter Set in a four-wheeled suitcase

Two-wheeled vs Four-wheeled bags

✔️ Two wheeled bags, like this Briggs & Riley Luggage, have wheels that don't pivot (or spin) so they are more durable and long-lasting compared to other bags. And since they have less wheels and take up less space, they tend to be cheaper than other models. However, this suitcase has the tendency to fall over as it is quite sensitive to the distribution and balance of the items inside.

✔️ Four wheeled bags, like this AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner, are easier to maneuver because they spin in all directions, that's why they're also called spinners. Even when they're upright, they can still be easily wheeled. It will be very easy to roll a spinner suitcase down the aisle at the airport. The only downsides are that the wheels are more likely to get damaged easily and they're a bit more expensive than the two-wheeled ones.

Know your size

✔️ 19 to 22 - Great for weekend getaways or as a carry-on for international trips

✔️ 25 to 26 - Caters 3 to 5 days worth of essentials

✔️ 28 to 30 - Best for trips that last more than a week

Overall, the final decision will be based on your preference. Whatever you decide to bring for your trip, our packing tips below apply to all types of suitcases.

Save Space in your Suitcase with These Hacks and Tips

Organized essentials in a suitcase using clear cubes

Learn how to pack your suitcase like a pro with these suitcase packing hacks. These tips will make packing sound less like a chore and more of a score! Let’s start with the first one... 

TIP #1 - Have a packing list

Clear packing cubes and a packing list

Every packing story starts with a packing list. Knowing what to bring (and how many you’re supposed to bring) will definitely help you start an organized journey. This will also prevent you from leaving behind important things that you will need during your trip. Whether you’re traveling for the 1st or 100th time, a packing list is something that you definitely need.

TIP #2 - Know your airline’s baggage limits

The worst thing (other than overpacking) is packing over your airline's baggage limits and paying extra fees. To avoid that, you have to look into your airline's baggage allowance and pack accordingly. Each airline has their own rules on baggage allowance so make sure you review them before packing. You can refer to this site and check your airline's luggage allowance.

TIP #3 -  Pack only the essentials

Packing less doesn't mean leaving behind other important things just for the sake of having "less" items in your bag. It simply means making sure ALL the things you're bringing with you are those that you are going to use for the entire trip. You can also avoid overpacking by getting rid of that “just in case” mentality.

TIP #4 - Follow the 1-2-3-4-5-6 Rule

Organizing travel essentials using clear cubes

Wondering how to pack a suitcase for one week? Follow the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule: 1 hat, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of bottoms, 4 tops, 5 pairs of socks, and 6 sets of undies. Personalize according to your travel needs and the length of your trip. Steer clear away from the “just in case” mindset.

TIP #5 - Bring only 2-3 pairs of shoes

Leave behind your stilettos and knee-length boots, all you need is your golden trio of shoes. Bring 1 pair of sandals you can use for casual walking, 1 pair of dress shoes for a night out, and 1 pair of sneakers for a more comfortable lengthy stroll. Wear one pair to the airport and pack the rest in a travel shoe bag.

TIP #6 - Have a place for your dirty shoes

Separate your dirty, used shoes in a travel shoe bag to keep your clothes clean. This way, you'll avoid contaminating your clean travel items. This shoe pouch is perfect if you're bringing several pairs of shoes with you on the trip. You can also use this as a mini laundry bag for the kids! Simply fold it up using the elastic band when not in use. 

TIP #7 - Downsize your cosmetics

Makeup essentials in a clear makeup bag

When traveling, cut your cosmetics in half and bring only the basic makeup essentials you need. These are your primer, concealer, foundation, blush, mascara, and lipstick or lip balm. Leave the rest at home so you won’t feel the need to do a full face of makeup and go for a more natural look for your trip.

TIP #8 - Use this Travel Jewelry Roll for your accessories

Accessories organized in a travel jewelry roll

Leave any expensive jewelry items behind and keep your fashion accessories safe and secure in this lovely jewelry roll. Keep your necklaces and bracelets from tangling and avoid losing a pair of earrings with this jewelry organizer. You can also stash your favorite scrunchies, hair ties and hair clips while you’re at it.

TIP #9 - Plan and coordinate your outfits

Planning your outfits ahead of time is the key to packing efficiently (and looking super stylish)! Pack tops and bottoms in the same color palette so you have a LOT of outfit options. Don’t forget to color coordinate your shoes, accessories and bags as well. 

Pro Tip: Choose travel-friendly clothes. Always go for knits and stretchy garments that are less likely to get crease or wrinkles. Linen or cotton fabrics are more prone to these.

TIP #10  - Decide on your packing strategy

Folded clothes and a medium packing cube

Once you’re done planning your outfits, it’s time to decide on how you’re going to pack them in your suitcase. This is the key to packing efficiently! You have three options:

✔️ Packing by outfit - Pack your favorite outfits, like a top and bottom, plus throw in some socks and undies and pack them in their own cube for each day of the trip.

✔️ Packing by category - Categorize your clothes by packing all tops together in one small cube, all bottoms together in a medium cube, and socks/undies in an extra small cube

✔️ Packing by individual - This is perfect for families with shared luggage. Assign a colored cube to each member and pack all their essentials in one large cube or medium cube. Color coding will help you know who owns which cube. Smart packing at its finest!

TIP #11 - Fold your jeans (and dress shirts) 

Bulkier items of clothing such as jeans, jean shorts, and dress shirts can’t be rolled, so the most efficient way to pack them is to fold them. Not sure how to fold jeans? Check out this guide. And if you want to fold bulky items the KonMari way, this video will help you.

TIP #12  - Roll your shirts, shorts & undies

Rolled clothes packed in clear cubes

Clothes made of thin and light materials like your tank tops, leggings, summer dress, scarf, etc. are best rolled.  You can also avoid creases and wrinkles during the trip. They will do very well perfectly tucked in the remaining tight space in your luggage after everything else has been packed. #WasteNoSpace!

TIP #13 - Wear your heaviest, bulkiest items

Bringing your heavy jacket or bulky shoes? These things take up a lot of space so instead of packing them, wear them!

TIP #14 - Bring a foldable laundry bag for your dirty clothes

Foldable travel laundry bag

Separate your clean clothes from your dirty ones with a travel laundry bag. This travel-sized, foldable laundry bag can fit 7 to 10 days worth of dirty clothes! You can fit any type of clothing, even bulkier ones like jackets and sweaters in this big pouch.

TIP #15 - Pack a sarong instead of a towel

A cotton sarong doesn’t take up much space like a towel. It’s also super versatile, you can use it as a towel, scarf, blanket, beach coverup, etc. Multipurpose at its best!

TIP #16  - Use dryer sheets to keep clothes fresh

Cover your clothes with these Beyond Natural dryer sheets to avoid having that "weird clothes smell" in your suitcase. This dryer sheet is made with plant-based softening agents that can keep your garments clean and fresh while keeping the environment safe.

TIP #17 - Always keep a change of clothes in your carry on

Pack a change of clothes and undies in your carry-on just in case the airline loses your luggage or if you accidentally spilled a drink on your clothes and you need to change. Either way, this is the only "just in case" scenario that you can let off the hook when it comes to packing.

TIP #18 - Invest in a set of Clear Packing Cubes

You can fold and roll all day long but organizing your suitcase won’t be the same without packing cubes! Sure, folding is good, rolling is better, but folding and rolling clothes and then storing them inside packing cubes is simply the best way to stay organized on the go. 

Here are your options:

✔️ Starter Set - When it comes to organizing carry-on luggage, the Starter Set gets it done. This packing cube set includes 1 each of our 4 packing cube sizes. It will revolutionize the way you think about packing.

Turquoise Starter Set in a carry-on suitcase

✔️ Complete Bundle - A clear packing cube set perfect for organizing larger, checked suitcase. This is a match made in heaven for families or couples sharing a suitcase. It includes 2 each of our 4 packing cube sizes plus a few extras like a laundry bag, a shoe bag and a folding board set.

Complete bundle in green

TIP #19  - Place the items you might need on top 

Airport security requires passengers to take out any gadgets or liquids from their suitcase. Make sure that your TSA Approved toiletry bag, snacks, meds, documents, and other essentials are not buried underneath all your things or you’re going to have a really hard time looking for them when you’re there. It would be much better if you put them on top of all your other items and just pack them securely again once you get past  the security screening process. 

Here are the items that you need to put in an easy access place:

TSA Approved Toiletry Bag

✓ Snacks

✓ Travel Medicine Kit

✓ Important Travel Documents

✓ Laptop & other Heavier Gadgets

✓ Phone, Charger, and Powerbank

TIP #20 - Keep your travel documents in one place

Make sure your passport, boarding pass, IDs, itinerary, and other important travel documents are secured in one easy access place. You will be needing them frequently especially when you’re at the airport passing through security checkpoints. Avoid misplacing them by keeping them all in a separate storage or safe space in your carry-on bag.

Pro Tip: Save photos of your print out tickets, passport, itineraries, and other documents in your phone just in case.

TIP #21 - Pack a TSA Approved Toiletry Bag

TSA Approved toiletry bag

Packing a carry on only? You should know the TSA Liquids Rule by now. All liquids (including creams, gels and aerosols) should be under 3.4 oz and placed in a quart size bag. Want to learn more? Check this blog post!

Instead of having your precious full-size perfume or shampoo confiscated, better use travel size bottles to store your toiletries, hygiene kit, and other liquid essentials. Then organize them all conveniently in this TSA approved toiletry bag.

Pro Tip: Remember those sample size products they hand out at the store or in hotel rooms? Keep them! It’s a great way to try other brands of products or use the small liquid containers for free.

TIP #22 - Have a separate pouch for your ‘solid' toiletries 

If you’re not a fan of packing liquids, you can always opt for solid toiletries. Keep them in a separate clear pouch and keep your mind off TSA liquids rule. Bring your solid soap, deodorant stick, shampoo bar, mouthwash tabs, and other travel size essentials without the sticky mess.

TIP #23 - Bring a backpack as a personal item (if your airline allows it)

Clear cubes, suitcase, and a backpack for travel

Most US airlines allow passengers to bring a personal item (aside from your carry on). It can be a laptop bag, purse or our personal favorite, a backpack! It’s super handy especially for items that you might need on the go like your passport, smartphone, earphones, etc. 

If you’re traveling international, check with your airline if a personal item is allowed. Some airlines like EasyJet, Emirates, Jet Airways, don’t allow it.

TIP #24 - Bring an empty water bottle.

It’s important to know you can't bring any containers with liquids that exceed 3.4oz or 100ml through security. The best you can do is to bring an empty water bottle that you can fill at the airport after getting through the security checkpoint.

TIP #25  - Pack gadgets in between garments

Packing gadgets and other essentials using clear cubes

Make sure your electronics are protected before packing them in your suitcase. There are padded sleeves you can purchase for your laptop, tablet, camera, etc. You can also sandwich them in between clothes and other bulky clothing items to avoid having it damaged or broken during the trip. 

Pro Tip: Never pack electronics in your checked luggage. It might get stolen or damaged when mishandled by airport staff.

TIP #26 - Bring a power strip instead of multiple adapters

Save up some space for more important things by packing a power strip instead of bringing loads of adapters. Power strips have multiple USB ports and outlets that allow you to plug in several devices at the same time. It also has a power surge protector against spikes and fluctuations for safety. Pack it along with your chargers and other wires in a separate cord bag.

TIP #27 - Ditch the thick guide books

You can access guidebooks and download travel apps online through your mobile phone or tablet. It may take up a bit of space in your device’s memory but it will definitely not take up any space in your luggage. Be sure to download or save them on your phone in PDF format before leaving. You can check out some free travel guides here.

TIP #28 - Hide emergency / spare cash in your suitcase’s random pockets

Don't keep your money in one place. Have some back up. Hide cash in different pockets or areas in your luggage. You can also stash some in your spare socks and put them inside your unused shoes. That way, if you get pickpocketed or if you lose your wallet, you’ll have some emergency backup cash up your sleeve.

TIP #29  - Pack heavier items at the bottom of the suitcase

Complete bundle in a checked in luggage

Place your shoes, books, gadgets, and other heavier items at the end of your suitcase. They should be close to where the wheels of the suitcase are. You don’t want to make the mistake of packing them near the handle and when the suitcase stands, it will make a mess inside. This hack will help your bag stay in place and avoid a messy party inside your luggage.

TIP #30 - Don’t stuff your suitcase full

It’s hard not to shop for souvenirs or other “great finds” items during your trip. So always leave some extra space for the things you might want to bring home with you or those that you want to buy for your family and friends. 

Pro Tip: Leaving out space for shopping items may cause your clothes and other travel items to shift, crumple or break inside your suitcase. Fill empty spaces with dry cleaner bags or crumpled newspaper and replace them later with souvenirs from your trip.

TIP #31 - Think tetris when packing

Lady packing starter set in a carry-on suitcase

Packing your suitcase is similar to playing a game of tetris. You just need to have the right items placed strategically in your luggage so not even an inch of space is wasted. This will allow you to think creatively on what to pack in those extra spaces in your suitcase.

TIP #32 - Use name tags for your suitcase

If you have a suitcase that looks like everybody else’s, you’re gonna have a hard time during luggage claim. However, even when you’re bringing a carry-on, it wouldn’t hurt to be ready and sure, just in case. Having a name tag with your contact information on your suitcase can save you a lot of trouble if unprecedented things happen.

Hard-shell suitcase for travel

TIP #33 - Secure suitcase with a
TSA approved luggage lock

If there’s a “just in case” moment you should tolerate, it should be for safety. Make sure you secure your luggage with a TSA approved luggage lock so you’ll have peace of mind during the entire trip. You’ll never know what will happen along the way so it’s best to keep your essentials protected, just in case!

We hope somehow we’ve changed the way you perceive packing with these travel packing tips and tricks for your suitcase. It’ll take some time to get used to but the important thing is to start now! Find the joy in packing for all your travels with this guide. Happy packing and safe travels!

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