How to Pack a Suitcase: 10+ Tips for Space-Saving Packing

packing electronics

Packing shouldn't be a stressful thing to do. Regardless of what you're packing - a suitcase for a holiday weekend, a long break, for a work trip or moving house, it should be associated with positive events or near-future adventures.

That's why we'll present you with a long list of packing suitcase tips for travelling or any other packing you might need to do in your life. 

First things first.

What is the reason for packing? Is it a vacation? A short or a long business trip? Moving to another city or moving to a country overseas?

How will you travel? By plane, car, bus, train?

What is the luggage space on the vehicle? Is there a size or weight limitation? Are there additional charges?

Will you be bringing back more things, such as souvenirs for friends and family?

So, here are some of our effective tips for packing that take into consideration the duration and purpose of your travels, as well as the means of transportation you’re going to use.

Choose the Right Suitcase for Your Needs to Protect Your Belongings.

Choosing your suitcase poorly may result in damaged items, unforeseen expenses and difficulty carrying it around. Below, we’ll look into the two most common types of suitcases and see what advantages and disadvantages they come with. We’ll give you some examples, so you can decide for yourself which one suits your needs.

Soft-Sided vs Hard-Sided

Here's a table to help you see the difference, the good and the bad sides of the two most common types of suitcases, hard-sided and soft-sided.

Pros1. More pliable and can be stuffed a little bit more if necessary.1.Protects your items better.
2. Won't break easily if hit.2. Easy to clean if dirty.
Cons1. Can soak up unpleasant smells or liquids.1.Can be broken easily if hit.
2. Easy to cut into, and can easily tear if you stuff it too much.2. Doesn't expand or change shape to fit more items.
3. Doesn't provide too much protection for fragile items.3. You can't access a single item without opening the entire suitcase.

How to Pack a Suitcase Efficiently and Maximise Your Space?

To pack a suitcase efficiently, you can try some packing strategies and tips that are widely known. We have listed them as reminders about how you can save space in your suitcase.

Evaluate all items you want to bring and let go of 1/3 of them. Make a list or layout all your clothes and shoes that you wish to take. No matter how many days your trip will be, you will probably need to prepare one outfit for each day. Also, don’t forget to bring appropriate clothing for special occasions, too. Note that it’s a good idea to get clothes that you can mix and match to change your outfits with fewer pieces of clothing. This way, you won't overstuff the suitcase with too many clothes that you won't necessarily need to wear.

Bring two pairs of shoes for different occasions. Don't take more unless you really need to.

Stuff small items - underwear, socks, even toiletries in shoes. Put the shoes at the bottom of the suitcase - toe to heel to save space. This saves space and also protects your shoes from getting crushed and deformed—more tips for packing shoes.

How to Pack Clothes in a Suitcase?

how to pack clothes to save space

Image source: Unsplash

As for the clothing, there are different folding strategies, but some of them are widely debatable as to which one actually saves you more space.

*Keep in mind that some methods might cause your clothes to wrinkle more than others. And shirts with collars should NOT be packed like the rest of your clothes. They should be folded in a way that the collar doesn’t get creased.

Strategy 1. Folding Your Clothes

Folding may not be such a practical or space-saving strategy. However, it is the most fitting one when packing shirts with collars, suits or some types of formal wear.

The problems with folding all the clothes and stacking them on top of each other come from:

If each item is folded a couple of times and becomes thicker, the pile is rising quickly, and you can't stack many items.

When you stack different items (jackets, t-shirts, jeans, pants, skirts, dresses, etc.), they create a deformed and uneven pile of clothing that does not allow for the proper arrangement of the suitcase.

Most of the items will get heavily wrinkled this way.

Strategy 2. Rolling Your Clothes

This appears to be the strategy that people most often use. It definitely saves a lot more space than folding and stacking your clothes. Rolling is suitable for t-shirts, jeans, pyjamas and other light clothing. Knitted blouses, trousers and other clothes that don’t wrinkle can also be rolled without causing any issues.

Rolling clothes allows for filling gaps in the suitcase. You can even pack two t-shirts into one roll.

Strategy 3. Packing in Cubes

Have you heard of packing cubes? Well, it's a method that can help you pack and arrange your suitcase easily, as well as succeed in fitting all (or at least the most) of the things you want to take on your trip. There are special cubes that you can buy online and use to sort and pack all kinds of items - from clothes and toiletries to shoes, medicine, electronics. The cubes are then arranged in the suitcase like a game of Tetris, and you have a neatly organised suitcase.

Strategy 4. Bundling Clothes

This method is suitable for clothes that are prone to wrinkles, as well. Bundling can be done for all sorts of clothes - sweaters, sportswear, jeans, shirts, pyjamas, jackets, etc.

This method consists of bundling clothes on top of each other. Adding the clothes one after another, layering only half of them on top of each other, and each next piece is placed upside down. This is repeated for each new piece of clothing until you decide that it's enough and lay the bundle inside of the suitcase. This creates an even filling of the suitcase, and if there's any space left, other items such as shoes or a bag of toiletries or electronics can be added. Here's a good example from Real Simple

Strategy 5. Compression Bags for Clothing

These are special bags that you can buy when planning a long trip or a move and need to pack many items in a suitcase/duffle bag. How it works is that you can fold or roll your clothes and place 3-4 items per bag, seal the bag and suck out all air from it, so it turns into a compression bag and minimises into a third of the original size.

This way, you can stack a lot of these compression bags in the suitcase and save space. Tip: this method is FANTASTIC for bulky items like jackets, sweatshirts or activewear.

Depending on what type of clothing and other items you need to take with you for your trip, you can use a combination of these packing methods so that you can use space to maximum efficiency.

How to Pack a Suitcase With Winter Clothes

Winter sweaters and sweatshirts take up more than half of a suitcase. Anyone, who travels often, will tell you that. Still, you can try and avoid packing bulky items. And instead of packing three thick sweaters or sweatshirts, you can pack thinner long-sleeved shirts and thinner cardigans and t-shirts, which you can combine and, this way, still keep warm in layers of clothing.

The advantage of doing so is that you'll be able to pack more clothes and at the same time have more choice with your outfits.

How to Pack a Small Suitcase?

  • 1 through 3 days
    When you're going away for a couple of days, you won't need to pack a lot of things. Going on a short trip usually means bringing only the essentials with you. Or in other words, you should consider taking just enough clothing and underwear to get you through, as well as your documents, money, possibly your laptop, phone and a charger and some toiletries. On rare occasions, some additional things might be needed like an extra pair of shoes or special clothing (swimsuit or formal clothes) if the trip involves an occasion that requires appropriate wear.
    To sum up, you'll need to pack a small suitcase with a couple of essential items for a 3-day trip.
  • More than 3 days
    For a longer trip, you should consider a couple of things. The more days you'll be away, the more things you'll need to take with you. Then you might need to think well about the type of suitcase that you have. There are some suitcases that are better than others, with respect to the person who does the packing and carrying. Aside from the size, an important role also plays in the material of the suitcase. There are soft-sided and hard-sided suitcases, with or without wheels, with a short or extendable handle.

How to Pack for a Holiday?

world's map with many pins

Image source: Unsplash

The size and the weight of the suitcase matter, depending on the type of means of transportation you’ll be using. When travelling by car, you’ve got some flexibility, whereas hopping on a plane entails some luggage restrictions. You should take that into account and calculate what you need to take and how you are going to pack your stuff.

When you need to plan a holiday, especially if it's for longer than just a weekend, you should carefully consider what you have to bring. Most people tend to overpack because they want to be prepared "just in case they need something". And they pack and pack, and they bring two suitcases full of things they don't use after all.

If you are staying in a hotel, do you really need to bring your iron? Hotels usually offer laundry and ironing services, so your clothes will be wrinkle-free without you having to drag your iron with you.

Shower toiletries, towels, flip-flops, bathing suits even can be bought when you arrive at your holiday destination.

How to Pack a Suitcase for Airline Travel?

Packing smart means taking everything you need and not having to pay extra at the airport or be forced to leave something behind. Usually, you'll be able to find detailed luggage allowance information on the airline's website. If there happens to be no information about that, you can always call and ask so that you can go prepared.

Important note! Airlines always include protruding parts of your suitcase in the allowed size - handles, wheels, additional pockets will be considered when measuring your luggage. You might want to measure and weigh your suitcase before packing and going to the airport.

You can also check out the airline's list of forbidden items and comply with the regulations, so you can avoid getting into trouble.

In your hold luggage, you can pack:

  • Clothes and shoes
  • Work-related documents or other things
  • Hobby-related items if you're going on a vacation
  • Toiletries
  • Necessary items like - umbrella, a raincoat, etc. (although if you want to save space, these items can be bought if needed at your destination)

In your handbag pack:

  • Valuables
  • Phone and charger
  • Documents
  • Prescribed medications (if you take any)
  • Other essential to you items that are allowed by the airline company

*It's important to have most of the things you need in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.

How to Pack Light?

The key to packing light is, of course, not packing your entire wardrobe in a suitcase! However, if you are going on a long trip and wish to take clothes for each day of the week, it won't be considered light packing. Some tips for packing light when it comes to clothes are:

  • You would do best if while planning your trip, you can figure out a way to get your clothes laundered during your stay.
  • Get clothes that you can easily mix and match, so you still don't repeat an outfit, but at least you can wear three different tops with one pair of jeans.
  • Some, not to say most travel bloggers will tell you to wear your bulkiest items instead of packing them. Which makes sense, until you have to change clothes and still need to pack your bulkiest items in your suitcase. So, it would be best if you try to limit the amount of bulky and thick clothes or shoes.
  • If you're easily tempted and prefer to fill in the unused space in your suitcase if you have any left, a helpful trick can be to get a smaller suitcase than you actually need, so you are motivated to stick to only taking the bare necessities and nothing more.

Overall, after reading these tips about packing a suitcase efficiently, we hope you take away the advice and manage to pack your luggage expertly the next time you're travelling. Here's a clip from Howdini with the above-mentioned tips, plus some other ones.

Learn how to pack and safely store clothes.
Read more packing tips for moving a house.
How to pack efficiently for a long trip?


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