How to pack a suitcase: The ultimate guide

(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash)

Why is packing so stressful? Is it because you want to take your whole wardrobe with you just in case or because you are limited by airlines’ baggage allowances?

Every time, it’s the same: we promise not to pack 20 different outfits for a week-long vacation but somehow end up once again jumping on the suitcase in desperation since it won’t close.

In this article, we will give you all the best tips on how to pack a suitcase so that you don’t dread the next time it’s time to travel.

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Choose the right suitcase

The first step is making sure you have a suitable suitcase.

As a rule, the bigger it is, the more you’ll be tempted to fill it. If you want to avoid bringing too much stuff, buy a hard-sided suitcase with a structured shell so that you can’t squeeze in any extras.

You should also think about carry-on and checked-in bag restrictions. If you need a bag to check, a durable hardside suitcase is generally preferred, while for carry-on, a softside one might be better.

However, make sure to always check the airlines’ restrictions and your baggage allowance for each flight in advance. And remember that wheels and handles are included in the measurements of your bag.

How to pack a suitcase

Once you’ve chosen your suitcase, it’s time to pack it. Are you wondering where to start? Check out our ultimate packing list so that you don’t forget anything essential.

Now, there are many tips when it comes to packing. You can stick to one or try all. Simply do what works best for you.

Here they are:

The 5-4-3-2-1 rule

Use this rule for a week-long trip. You’ll need:

  • 5 pairs of socks and 5 sets of underwear;
  • 4 tops;
  • 3 bottoms;
  • 2 pairs of shoes;
  • 1 hat.

Of course, adjust this list accordingly. Add a swimsuit, jacket, dress or whatever else you’ll need.

Forget the “just in case” items

Put everything on the bed and think about whether you’ll actually wear and need something or you’re taking it just in case. Then remove it.

Please, mind the gap

Are there gaps in your suitcase? Think how to best shift things and fill them!

Put socks in your shoes. Then lay the shoes together heel to toe and put them in a separate plastic bag at the bottom of your suitcase.

If you’re often wondering, “How do I fit everything in my suitcase?” - and do it neatly too, try some of the following packing methods:

  1. Roll your clothes - arguably, that’s how to pack a suitcase to maximize space and minimize wrinkles as well (depending on the fabric).
  2. Roll and fold - is it better to roll or fold clothes in a suitcase? It depends. Roll softer clothes (like jeans, T-shirts and knitwear) and fold stiffer ones (like skirts and blazers) to avoid wrinkles.
  3. Use packing cubes -  those are smaller bags that help you keep your clothes compact and your outfits ordered.
  4. Use vacuum compression bags - this could save you space and prevent creases.
  5. Make bundles -  carefully wrap each item of clothing around a central core, with smaller items like underwear and T-shirts at the center, and large tailored items like blazers and dresses as the outer layer. Interesting technique, but might be troublesome when you just need to quickly get something from the center of the bundle.
  6. Place clothes you’ll need first at the top - if you want to save time, think what you’ll need immediately once you arrive and open your suitcase, and place it where it’s easier to grab. You can also try arranging your clothes by outfits - Day 1, Day 2, etc. - especially if you don’t plan on moving your items out of the suitcase throughout your holiday.

Your suitcase might not look perfectly organized as in some pictures, but what’s important is to be practical. It’s understandable that if you’re travelling during winter, it will contain more bulky items.

If you want to travel and pack light, check out our tips on what to pack in your carry on bag.

How to pack the rest of your items in your suitcase?

  1. If you need to transport something fragile, use thick, sturdy clothing as padding, and place the item in the center of the suitcase.
  2. For jewelry, you can use plastic pillboxes or a 35-millimeter film container lined with tissue. However, it’s best to simply wear your expensive jewelry or have it in your carry-on bag to reduce the risk of loss or theft.
  3. If you’re packing any toiletries, don’t worry - the rest of your items don’t have to be stain and water resistant. You just need to remember that the storage department on planes is not pressurized, so never fill anything all the way to the top because it will overflow. Of course, it’s best to place your toiletries in a resealable or other plastic bag just in case.

That’s pretty much how to pack a suitcase efficiently.

Another great travel advice is to label your suitcase with your name and mobile phone so that in case it’s lost, it will easily get to you later. However, in case it’s truly lost, you will be owed lost luggage compensation.

How to pack a suitcase: To sum up

So, what is the best way to pack a suitcase? The answer is, there isn’t one to rule them all. It’s a good idea to try them and choose your favourite or simply mix and match different ways of packing to reach the best results for you. It also depends what you’re trying to achieve - to stuff as many clothes as possible or to avoid wrinkling them, for example.

The most important thing is to always check luggage restrictions, including weight limits, so that you avoid baggage fees.

Meanwhile, has there been a problem with your flights in the past 3 years? Check your flight delay compensation. We will help you claim it.

Stay safe!