Tips & Tricks: How To Pack a Suitcase Well

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Lee)

A well-packed suitcase has its advantages when you travel. Avoiding surcharges for being over the weight limit, clothing that unpacks with as few wrinkles as possible, and a little extra room leftover to bring something fun home with you are just a few of the perks.

The key to packing is really in the planning stages. Figure out exactly what you’re going to need, gather it up, size it up, then come up with your plan of action. There are a few guidelines to stick to, but as long as you know how to play Tetris, you’ll do alright.


1. If you’re a list person, start making a list of your wardrobe for each day of your trip. Try to plan outfits that can be double duty (pants/skirts can be worn with more than one shirt) and try, as difficult as it might be, to limit yourself to three pair of shoes: dress shoes, casual shoes, and gym shoes.

A tip for those of us who plan well, then arrive and just “aren’t feeling” any of the clothing we packed: try to pack color-coordinating separates so you can mix and match if need be.

2. Pull all the listed items and lay them out on your bed in like piles: pants, dresses, jackets, casual/comfy, shoes, and so on. Then, gather up any accessories, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items that are to be packed in the suitcase.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

3. The first layer on the bottom of your suitcase should be reserved for rolled items like jeans, bulky sweaters, workout clothing, and shoes (if you have shoes that shouldn’t be squished, leave them off to the side and add them in as you pack the remaining layers). Roll the items, making sure not to roll in any wrinkles, and tightly line them around the edges of your suitcase; this will keep them from moving around as your bag is transported.

4. To keep your shoes from getting smashed while on the bottom, fill them with anything from socks to jewelry and accessories. Never pack fine jewelry in your checked baggage- always wear it for safekeeping.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

5. Layering clothing items together and wrapping them up into one bundle can save on space if you’ve got a lot to pack. I like to do this with dresses so that when I’m unpacking, I can grab one bundle and bring it with me to the closet to hang.

6. Add in rolled t-shirts and undergarments along the sides of the suitcase and bundled garments in the center.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

7. Once your wardrobe is packed (with the exception of clothing that easily wrinkles- leave that out until the last layer), size up the odds and ends that still need to fit into the suitcase. I like to layer shoes the same way they might come out of the shoe box, unless space is really tight- then just work them into space as you find it. It really is a good idea to travel with your shoes in a shoe bag to keep the other items in your suitcase clean. If you don’t have a shoe bag, a plastic bag from the grocery store works just fine.

Items like toiletry bags, books, and accessories can be worked into gaps along the edges, or laid flat on top to even out the layer. Try not to let smaller items like accessories or chargers lay loose in your bag- tuck them into shoes if at all possible.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

8. Depending on the time of day you’re traveling, it can be a nice idea to pack your pajamas or other comfy clothing on the top layer. After a long day of travel, there’s nothing better than arriving in your hotel room and promptly changing out of your travel clothing into something cozy.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

9. The last layer should be reserved for the folded items that are easily wrinkled. Adding a drying cleaning bag underneath this layer (or around it) can help the items to move around slightly, preventing wrinkles.

Another handy item to throw in your suitcase: compression bags. They are especially helpful if you’re the type of packer who requires an extra set of hands to get your suitcase closed for your return trip. Stick all your dirty laundry in the compression bags, let the excess air out, and ta-da! Room for all the souvenir snow globes your heart desires.