Taylor Brown

Packing Like a Pro: How to Make the Most of Your Suitcase

Admittedly, packing is the least exciting thing about taking a vacation. The process of packing becomes even less appealing when facing threats like wrinkled clothing and unpredictable weather. If done wrong, you could be looking at overweight baggage fees, messy spills, damaged items, or multiple trips to the drugstore.
While packing a suitcase may seem simple enough, there are actually a number of ways to go about it. In fact, how a person packs can depend on his or her itinerary, budget, and destination. However, according to travel industry experts, some packing strategies are better than others. With that being said, here are a few of the top tips and methods for packing efficiently and effectively.


Choosing the Right Bag

It is important to keep in mind that the “right” bag is different for everyone and for every trip. Whereas a bag may be appropriate for one trip, it may be troublesome and bulky for another. If your bag doesn’t fit your needs, you could be sabotaging your trip from the start. Fortunately, there are many types of luggage available - backpacks, satchels, totes, weekenders, duffels, and rolling suitcases, just to name a few.
Always keep airline size and weight limits in mind when choosing your bag(s). This is especially crucial, given that suitcases can vary widely in price, size, material (e.g., hard or soft shell), and design (e.g., two vs. four wheels). Remember, every pound counts! To save space, avoid bags with a lot of interior compartments or features. Instead, opt for bags that expand or have exterior pockets.


Bear in mind that you do not need a big collection of luggage to travel. This is often excessive and expensive. Instead, stick to a few reliable pieces that you can use over and over again. For the frequent traveler, a sturdy bag with a generous warranty is likely to withstand years of wear-and-tear. For the occasional traveler, a mid-range bag with a limited warranty may be more suitable.

Determining What to Pack

After selecting a bag to use, the next step is to decide what items should be put inside it. If you are unsure of where to start, consider practicing the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule. This is the simplest packing tip to follow and covers a week’s worth of outfits. Here’s what to pack:
  • 1 hat
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 3 pairs of pants, shorts, or skirts
  • 4 shirts
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 6 sets of underwear


Of course, this list can be modified to match both your needs and the duration of the trip. Do not hesitate to throw in a swimsuit, jacket, or dress if the trip calls for it. However, be careful not to fall into the ‘just in case I need it’ trap. This could lead to an overstuffed bag that will be tricky to repack once it’s time to head home.
Bonus Tip: If you still find yourself overpacking, try choosing interchangeable and multitasking pieces that can be worn multiple ways. Not only will this provide you the versatility to mix and match items, but it will also allow you to create more outfits with less.



How to Pack: Tried and True Methods

While everyone has their own ‘packing personality’, packing should always be an easy, organized, and stress-free activity. Below are a few of the best packing methods to maximize space, keep things clean, and cut down on wrinkles.

The Rolling  Method (No Rubber Bands Necessary)

Yes, travelers do swear by this method! Rolling your clothes not only helps you to fit more into your bag, but it also helps to reduce wrinkles. This method is particularly effective for softer and casual garments such as jeans, cotton pants, t-shirts, knitwear and sweaters. When rolled tightly, these items are less likely to wrinkle.

The Cube Method

If using a larger bag or suitcase, packing cubes can help you to keep things organized and easy to access. Not only are they conveniently shaped, allowing you to pack without wasting space in between, but they can separate different types of clothing and toiletries (perfect for partners sharing a suitcase).

Separating Dirty Laundry

To prevent mixing soiled and clean clothing, simply use a separate bag for laundry (e.g., drawstring pouches, compression bags, or resealable plastic bags). Forgot to bring one? Check your hotel room for any unused trash bags (these are simple and free to use).
Bonus Tip: I have found that plastic bags also work well for keeping shoes, along with accompanying dirt and germs, apart from other (clean) belongings. If possible, set your shoes along the sides of your bag. Due to their odd shapes and heels, they will take up the most space.

The Takeaway

When it comes to packing a suitcase, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, there are a multitude of ways to do it! Just how effective these methods are, depends greatly on the types of items you pack.
With that being said, it is important to pick a method, or a combination of methods, that suit your needs and preferences. Although only a few methods have been mentioned here, there are many more worth trying. So if you haven’t already, book that trip and start packing!


Allianz Travel Insurance (n.d.). 12 Pro Tips for Packing Your Suitcase Smarter.
Briggs and Riley Travelware (2021). How to Pack a Suitcase: 5 of the Best Packing Methods We Stand Behind.
Mettler, L. (2019). How to Pack a Suitcase: 16 Tips and Expert Tricks for Perfectly Packed Luggage. U.S. News & World Report.
O’Rourke, T. (2019). Foolproof Hacks for Packing Your Suitcase Efficiently Every Time. Real Simple.
Our Travel Mix (n.d.). The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase to Maximize Space.
Peters, S. & Phillips, L. (2018). 5 Brilliant Items That Make Packing Easier. Real Simple.
Saporita, N. (2019). 14 Genius Packing Tips to Help You Travel Like a Pro. Good Housekeeping Institute.
Schlichter, S. (2018). How to Pack a Suitcase: The Ultimate Guide. Smarter Travel.
The GentleManual (2020). What Does Your Bag Say About You? Ties.com.
Vora, S. & Higgins, M. (n.d.). How to Pack a Suitcase. The New York Times.
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