Knowing how to pack a suitcase efficiently and effortlessly is probably one of the most desired skills as a fellow traveler. We’ve all been there. Procrastinating until the last minute to pack your luggage, and then getting mad at yourself for forgetting to bring the most important stuff. And the worst thing is that we can’t blame anyone else but us.
And so in this post, I’ll be sharing with you some of the tips and tricks on how to pack a suitcase like a pro! Through trial and error after my few years of solo traveling, I’ve finally “kind of” mastered the art of how to pack a suitcase somewhat like I know what I’m doing. Or at least, I’m good enough that I won’t have to panic about organizing my luggage weeks before departure. And honestly, that’s good enough for me!
1. Make A Packing List + Lay Everything Out
Make A Physical List Of What You Need To Bring
I can’t stress how important this first step is. If you don’t already have a packing list (whether it’s on paper or in your phone) of what you need on your trip. PLEASE MAKE ONE! It’ll save you so much headache. And if you’re not sure what to bring to your travel destination, simply Google “Packing List For Traveling To XXX”. You can use other people’s packing lists as inspiration and also a reminder of what you may need.
With the packing list ready, you can cross the list items out one by one as you double-check your luggage after you’ve finished packing. This way, you won’t cry to yourself as your plane is taking off after realizing you’ve forgotten to bring your favorite silk pillowcase or stuff animal.
Lay Everything Out On The Floor (Or Whatever Flat Surface You Prefer)
Before putting your stuff in the suitcase, it’s quite useful to lay everything out where you can see them. By doing this, you can see there are any duplicates or excessive items. For example, did you bring two lint rollers when you only need one? And do you really need ten pairs of socks on a five-day trip to the Bahamas?
Another helpful exercise is to visualize your outfits for the trip. Pack according to the activities you’ll be doing there. Are you going hiking or to the beach? Do you need backup outfits just in case the weather changes or you accidentally fall on your butt while hiking a muddy trail? Consider and visualize the situations you might be in and pack accordingly. Always bring backup outfits just in case, but don’t go overboard with it (bringing 8 pairs of underwear on a weekend trip….just saying)
Lastly, take a good ten minutes to examine and think about how “essential” your items really are. If you have limited space in your suitcase, this step is extremely important. And trust me, sometimes you don’t even realize how much useless stuff you’re bringing with you until you see them at a full glance.
2. Pack Your Shoes First
Shoes are probably the heaviest and bulkiest things on your packing list, especially if they’re boots or hiking shoes. So for me, I’ve found that placing them at the very bottom of your suitcase (using the Corner Method, which I will explain) can save quite a bit of space. But also, of course, try to experiment with different packing styles in your own way since some suitcases may be built differently.
Also, to save space, try to wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane. They might be a bit uncomfortable in some cases, but you can always change into slipper on the plane. Plus, it’s better than paying the overweight luggage fee!
Use A Plastic Bag Or A Shoe Pouch
I’m a germaphobe, so I can’t imagine the soles of my dirty shoes touching any other parts of my luggage. And honestly, you don’t even have to be a germaphobe to be disgusted by this idea. It’s just common sense, like not wearing your shoes on the bed (*cough cough* people in movies). Anyways, use a plastic bag or shoe pouch to cover your dirty shoes!! I personally prefer using plastic bags because they’re free. But sometimes, for more expensive shoes that I want to protect, I like to use a nice shoe pouch! Just to treat them nicely because they deserve it lol.
For those that have suitcases like mine, where there are two metal frames/skeletons on the bottom. It’s super room-saving to pack your shoes heel-to-toe in the corners to make a square and conserve space.
And if you decide to that packing your shoes first (at the bottom) doesn’t work too well for you. Maybe give this “69 Method” a try! Place the heel of your shoe facing the toe of the other. There’s a reason why new shoes are placed in a box like this. It save space!
3. How To Pack Your Clothes
There are a thousand and one ways of how to pack a suitcase with clothes. Everyone has a method they prefer. But is there a more efficient and space-conserving way to do it? Well, I surely think so. I personally never believed in the use of Packing Cubes until I started backpacking and having to save as much space as I possibly can. But when it comes to packing a suitcase, I like to utilize a combination of the Marie Kondo Folding Method + the Packing Cube Method.
Marie Kondo Method For “Less Important Clothes”
I love Marie Kondo’s Folding method! However, the only con is that your clothes might get a bit wrinkly, and it doesn’t work so great for thick jackets. So I usually only use the Marie Kondo Method on my pajamas, or clothes that won’t get wrinkly no matter how you distort them. And after folding, I like to put my clothes according to their category into different packing cubes or sections of my luggage. So that when I arrive at my destination, I will have a clear idea of where I put everything.
Packing Cubes For “More Important Clothes”
For more “important clothes” like dresses, blouses, denim jackets, and anything that will get super wrinkly. I like to lay them flat on top of each other in packing cubes. Sometimes, you’ll have to fold them once or twice by the sleeves or the bottom of the clothing item. But since they are stacked tightly in packing cubes, you won’t have to worry about them moving around in the luggage and getting messy after being handled by airport personnel.
4. Consolidate Toiletry + Miscellaneous Items
If you can, try to take your electronic items with you on your carry-on luggage. First of all, you don’t want to bear the risk of losing your expensive electronics if your checked luggage gets lost somewhere along the flight. Second of all, we don’t trust how airport people throw our suitcases around. Imagine getting to your destination only to find out that your MacBook has a huge dent on the side. That would ruin your trip for sure! And lastly, you don’t have to worry as much about theft when you keep your essential items by your side.
But if for some reason, you have to put your electronics in the checked luggage. Make sure to first turn the power off in case of possible overheating. Next, make sure that it is placed far away from any liquid items in your suitcase. And lastly, put your electronics in the middle of your suitcase so that there are tons of padding and protection from your clothes on top and bottom.
Organize Your Toiletry Items In The Right Way
If you’re placing toiletry items in your checked bag, make sure to tape up all the openings of liquid bottles. You definitely don’t want your almond skincare oil to explode in your luggage and ruin all your clothes. And for extra protection, you should also place these liquids in plastic or zip-lock bags before placing them down in your suitcase.
The current rule for bringing toiletry items on the plane is that “they are all in individual containers less than 3.4 ounces (100 ml), and they must together all fit in a one-liter clear zip-lock bag“.
Instead of spending extra money every time on travel-size toiletry items from Target. I highly recommend investing in a Travel Bottle Set which I shared in my list of 10 affordable travel must-haves! Especially if you are a fellow backpacker! They save so much space and you could literally reuse them forever. This bottle set comes with a little brush to help you clean the inside of the bottles after you’re done using them which is so great, since sometimes a simple rinse doesn’t really do the trick.
Any Other Miscellaneous Items
Now that your clothes, shoes, and important items are stowed away. Using the concept of packing cubes, try to organize your miscellaneous items in different sections or bags based on their function and categories. How you decide to place them really just depends on your liking. Also, make sure to take advantage of the small cracks and crevices between your bulkier items. Use these small spaces to squeeze in your tinier things. And if you’re afraid of forgetting which bag you placed your sunglasses or re-usable spoon, for example, you can always label your bags using removable print labels that you can find at Home Depot or Amazon.
How To Pack A Suitcase? Just Do It!
I hope this guide of “How To Pack A Suitcase” has been of value to you! Now go on ahead and start packing away! Play some relaxing music and light a nice candle while you’re at it. Make it a relaxing process instead of a stressful one. And most importantly, don’t procrastinate until the last minute! You go this, I believe in you!
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