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Use These Travel Tips to Optimize Your Suitcase
Packing for a trip or a move can often feel like a daunting task. This need not be the case if you approach your packing with a plan! Whether you are jetting off for a long weekend, traveling abroad for an extended period, or moving across the country, these tips can help make the task at hand much easier.
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Travel Packing Tips
The secret to a great packing job is space optimization. Packing in such a way as to utilize every inch of your suitcase, carry-on, or duffel bag can make a huge difference. As we all know, paying luggage fees when flying is never a thrill and minimizing the number of bags you have to deal with is always a welcome outcome!
Whether you’re looking for information on how to pack clothes in a suitcase, how to pack a duffel bag to maximize space, or general travel packing tips and tricks, we've got answers for you! These travel packing organization tips and space-saving packing hacks include insider knowledge and packing tips for travel pros designed to make your life easier. We'll also share some great packing lists tailor-made for specific types of trips.
Best Way to Pack Clothes
First of all, there are three strategies often used when packing clothes for travel: rolling, folding, or bundle packing.
Rolling your clothes can help you save space and prevent wrinkles. If you’re wondering how to pack a lot of clothes in a duffel bag or how to pack a lot of clothes in a small suitcase, rolling is usually the way to go, as this method allows you to fill all the nooks and crannies. It works best for casual clothes and fabrics like denim, knits, and synthetic fabrics.
Remember to keep weight restrictions in mind when using the rolling method for packing your clothes. You will be able to fit more, but your bag will also weigh more. (Learn more about weight restrictions below.)
This video demonstrates how to roll clothing for packing.
You don’t have to choose just one packing style. Folding works best for items such as jeans, button-down shirts, formal dresses, and dress pants, as it can help reduce wrinkles.
Here is a demonstration of how to fold clothes to save space in luggage.
Bundle packing your clothes is an alternative technique in which you neatly wrap smaller clothing items inside of larger ones to create a bundle. This is a good method if you’re traveling with a suitcase or a flat-laying bag or you want to organize pre-planned outfits.
Watch this video to see how bundle packing is done.
How to Pack a Suitcase Efficiently
Here are some tips on how to pack a suitcase to maximize space:
- First, lay out everything you intend to pack. This will make it easier to see what items are essential and which to add only if you have room. Utilize multi-functional items to cut down on the amount of stuff you need to bring while still being prepared for anything. (For shorter trips where you don’t need as much space, it may be wise to group your items by outfit.)
- For non-clothing items, such as toiletries, jewelry, or medication, a separate travel case is your best bet. These items can also be packed in smaller packing cubes or boxes that help to maximize space.
- Put hard items at the bottom of the bag, such as shoes, travel cases, and toiletries. (One favorite hack of travel pros is using the inside of your shoes for extra packing space!)
- Next, place rolled or folded clothing and soft items on top.
- Put any small items, such as undergarments or socks, in the bag last. Place them between folded or rolled clothing, or against the sides of your bag.
- Take advantage of outside pockets or easy-access zipper pockets to store small, frequently used items.
- Do a final edit of all your items before closing your bag. Are you sure you need everything?
PRO TIP! Wear your shoes on the plane that would otherwise take up the most space in your bag so they won’t take up room in your luggage.
Helpful Packing Lists
If you are at a loss about how to pack a suitcase for a week, check out this ultimate what to pack for a week-long trip checklist. And if you're just going away for a short jaunt, this what to pack for a 3-day trip checklist has the answers you need. Lucky enough to be going away for 2 or more weeks? Take a look at this helpful article about how to pack a suitcase for 2 weeks or longer.
Packing Tips for Air Travel
The main goal of strategic packing when it comes to air travel is to minimize fees and charges for excess bags and overweight luggage. Because every airline is different, these two charts from Upgraded Points that outline fees and restrictions on popular domestic and international airlines are invaluable:
- Carry-On Luggage Size Chart for 58 Major Airlines
- Checked Luggage Size Chart and Allowances for 60+ Airlines
After reviewing the applicable charts, take a moment to review this list of items that are forbidden on airplanes. Once you've determined the parameters and restrictions for your airline's luggage requirements, it's time to get packing!
How to Pack Luggage for International Travel
The space-saving tips for luggage that we reviewed in the previous section are still relevant packing tips for air travel. But international travel requires more documentation, such as passports and/or visas and any COVID-19-related documentation required to enter your destination or return to your home country. This documentation could include a vaccine card, COVID-19 test results, proof of insurance, completed health forms, etc.
Pack these documents in your carry-on bag, purse, or wallet to ensure you always have easy access. It may be a smart idea to include some type of security belt for your wallet and other important documentation, such as your passport and visa.
Remember that international travel is a bit different in that there are some items that may be unavailable to you in your destination, such as certain brands of products or foods. You may wish to pack essential products that you won’t be able to replace while abroad.
Be sure to have your doctor prescribe enough medication to last the duration of your trip—plus a buffer period in case there are any unexpected changes to your itinerary.
Also, don't forget to back adapters for your electronic devices when traveling internationally.
PRO TIP! Use our interactive travel restrictions map to see current travel requirements and restrictions for your destination country.
What to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag for Your Flight
The first step when packing your carry-on is to review the TSA guidelines for carry-on luggage. Then review current TSA travel restrictions due to COVID.
PRO TIP! Remember to follow the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on luggage. This means you may pack 3.4 ounce (100 ml) or smaller containers in 1 quart-sized, clear, resealable bag. One bag is permitted per passenger.
You will be required to wear an approved mask upon entering the airport until you depart the airport at your final destination. Having an extra mask or two in your carry-on is a solid idea!
What to pack in carry-on vs checked luggage:
- Any "must-haves" that you may want or need on the flight, such as medication, books, tablets, headphones, neck pillows, eye masks, ear plugs, snacks, gum
- Any essentials you would need if your checked luggage were to be lost, stolen, or delayed, such as medication, backup contacts and contact solution, etc.
- All necessary documentation, money, and credit cards
- A fresh change of clothes, toothpaste, and a toothbrush in case your flight is delayed
When you know what to pack in a carry-on bag for a flight, you can rest assured that you will be prepared for any upheaval that affects your itinerary.
How to Pack a Carry-On for a Week
Here are some additional packing tips for carry-on luggage if you’re traveling without any checked luggage:
- Choose clothing items that serve dual purposes.
- Bring clothes that are dark in color that can be dressed up to wear in the evenings.
- Pack clothes that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on your shoes and accessories.
- Pack a travel-sized bottle of Febreze to refresh your fabrics (and a fabric pen!) so you can wear clothes more than once.
- Be sure that all cosmetics and toiletries are travel-size or have been transferred to TSA-approved containers.
If you are wondering what to pack in a carry-on for a teenager, follow the tips above, add any desired technology, address any medical needs such as retainers or medication, and bring any schoolwork that has been assigned. We also recommend that you download movies and shows to a smartphone or tablet to keep them occupied during the flight.
Tips for Packing for a Long Vacation
Let's take a look at some tips for packing for a long vacation and how to pack a suitcase for a month. The first thing to consider when taking an extended trip is what you should bring vs. what can be purchased at your destination.
- Toiletries are one category of items that can be purchased on arrival, with the added bonus of not having to worry about TSA size requirements when packing.
- Portable hotspots are a great way to stay connected while keeping data and roaming costs in check.
- Security or money belts are an effective way to keep your money and documents safe.
- Versatile clothes are a must. Separates are a great way to keep your wardrobe fresh while minimizing packing requirements.
- Pack a smaller bag or backpack to utilize when taking day trips.
- Remember all chargers necessary for your devices along with adapters where needed.
Packing Tips for Road Trips
The best thing about road trips is the flexibility you have when it comes to bringing along your favorite stuff. Whether you are going solo or traveling with a friend or two, these packing tips for road trips will keep your preparations to a minimum.
There are several fun things to pack for a road trip, such as:
- Books of classic travel games, like Mad Libs
- Self-created playlists
- Maps of off-the-beaten track places to check out
- A cooler full of snacks and drinks
Some solo road trip essentials include:
- AAA membership card
- Portable hotspot to keep in touch with friends and family back home
- A travel journal
What to bring on a road trip with family can feel like a serious conundrum, as you want to consider things to bring on a road trip to keep you entertained.
Your family may love:
- Games and coloring books
- Electronic devices such as tablets and e-readers with downloaded books, movies, and TV shows
- Snacks and drinks
- Guidebooks to learn about historical stops you'll make along the way
Check out this handy family road trip packing list printable for your convenience.
Packing Tips for a Beach Vacation
These packing tips for a beach vacation will make your time away even more enjoyable:
- Include double duty coverups and beach towels/blankets (or leave the beach towels at home if your accommodations have beach towels you can borrow).
- Bring a beach bag so you can comfortably carry your items to the beach.
- Pack an insulated tumbler you can take to the beach so your ice won’t melt.
- Use a guidebook to rent gear instead of bringing your own.
- Use sunscreen that includes bug repellant.
- Don't forget your beach reading or journal.
Packing Clothes for Moving
Whether you are moving across town or across the country, these packing clothes for moving hacks can make the process much easier:
- Don't forget to leave some outfits unpacked for the period before you move and when you get to your new home.
- The best packing tips for moving cover two important, and different, scenarios:
- How to pack clothes for moving long distances – If you are hiring a moving company, the best hack of all is to have them take care of the packing for you! When this isn't possible, keep the following in mind: wardrobe boxes are a great way to keep clothes organized without needing as many boxes. Be sure to label everything clearly. Packing clothes by person is another easy way to stay organized.
- How to pack clothes for shipping – Remember that you will be paying by weight, so get rid of or donate items you don't use or need. Roll clothes to fit more inside boxes and utilize wardrobe boxes as needed.
Be Sure to Explore These Related Resources:
- How to Pack a Suitcase More Efficiently
- Top 50 Travel Websites to Prepare for Your Dream Trip
- 21 Tips for Staying Safe While Traveling
- Don't Let Jet Lag Ruin Your Vacation Travel
- Delayed or Canceled Flight? Here Is What to Do
- Is Travel Insurance Really Worth It?
- Should I Get Travel Health Insurance for My Trip Abroad?
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