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17 Best Suitcase Packing Tips for Travel

Living out of a suitcase doesn’t have to be all wrinkles and chaos. Nor should you need to hire a Sherpa to slog your luggage through an airport. That’s precisely why we’ve pulled together this comprehensive list of suitcase packing tips for travel.

Here the 17 Best Suitcase Packing Tips for Travel. Never pack the same way again!

In this article we cover:

  • Learn the suitcase packing rules
  • How to adopt a “Pack Lighter” mentality
  • How to pack smarter
  • Clothes folding tips
  • How to minimize wrinkles when packing your suitcase
  • Luggage suggestions for better packing
  • Tech gear to pack
  • Getting your toiletry game on point
  • And much more

It’s funny right? Get your suitcase packed correctly and your mind can focus on what really matters on your trip. Maybe it’s a vacation with that special someone or maybe it’s another work trip. Learning how to pack your suitcase correctly can make a big difference in the quality of trip you have.

So, stop worrying about what you packed or didn’t pack and learn the best packing tips for travel. When you use the practical and useful travel packing tips and tricks we teach you here you can start to travel more efficiently and stay focused on enjoying your trip.

Best Suitcase Packing Tips for Air Travel

Some folks suggest creating a packing list (perhaps like the one pictured below) and that’s fine. However, I’ve found that over time as you build up your packing muscles a packing list will simply not be necessary.

If you want to create a list, great, but once you start using the travel packing tips we share here you will find packing your suitcase becoming second nature to you. So, without any further ado, here are the 17 suitcase packing tips for travel that you need to know.

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Suitcase Packing Tip #1: Learn Your Airline’s Baggage Policies, TSA Rules and other packing restrictions!

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We start at the beginning. Your first packing tip is simple: learn.

Learn the airline baggage policies. Learn the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules on what you can bring and not bring and how you can bring it with you.

If you are an experienced traveler you can skip this packing tip because you’ve probably already accumulated the necessary knowledge to start packing the right way. But, if you are a newb it pays to do your homework.

For example, the TSA restricts the size of liquids you can carry on to a plane with you when traveling. Pack the wrong bottle of hairspray in your carry on and you’re gonna be pissed at the airport.

Airlines also limit the size of suitcases for both carry on or checked bags and many (most, really!) are going to charge you to check a bag (Southwest Airlines is an exception). Some airlines, like Spirit, have a weird way of dealing with baggage (and fees in general).

Thus, you’ve got to do some research before you pack to make sure you’ve got the basics under control. Here’s a few places to start your search:

Note: I linked to just a few airlines to give you the gist of it. Every airline will have fairly detailed policies about what you can and can’t bring and how you have to bring it (e.g. how do I travel with my drone on say, United?). Just go their website check it out.

Packing Tips #2: Always pack light – you need far less than you think you do

Inexperienced travelers often think they need to bring much more than they really need to. Extra clothes, excessive toiletries, and so on. This often forces them to into a larger suitcase causing them to have to check their bag (which is a big no-no according to the #1 Travel Hack of All Time!).

Less is More!

The truth is by traveling light you can move more efficiently. No need to check bags (which causes delays on the start and end of your trip while you wait for your bags). Plus you run the risk of them being lost which definitely makes for a less than fun trip.

That’s why learning how to pack light is the most important of all the suitcase packing tips for travel.

So skip the extra pair of socks, those larger toiletries (and don’t forget to buy in bulk!), and anything else that you don’t absolutely need.

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Packing Tips for Travel #3: Get Great Luggage (preferably a spinner)

For years I used sub-par luggage, always opting for the cheapest 2-wheeled carryon I could find. But their inferior quality led to frequent replacement after heavy use.

Frankly, this is one of the more important packing tips for travel. You need good luggage – there’s no two ways about it!

I finally made the switch to a quality “spinner-style” suitcase a few years back. I have never regretted it. A quality suitcase will last longer and be more useful for you during your trips.

I personally use the TravelPro Crew 11 21″ model (see price) – and I can say without hesitation that I recommend this suitcase to any serious traveler. You can read my review of it here.

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If a pricier TravelPro is not your cup of tea, there are many other good options available.

I also prefer a soft-side carryon versus a hard-sided suitcase because it has a little more “give” if I ever need to squeeze it into the overhead bin in a tight spot. With a hardside piece of luggage, you ain’t squeezing anything! And it’s lighter!

Packing Tips for Travel #4: Get a good backpack (Or fancy laptop purse)

For many years I used a rolling briefcase (you know, the ones with the extendable handle and slot for your laptop). But after spending some significant time in New Year City I quickly realized rolling anything in the City was insanity.

I switched to a backpack instead and not only did my City experience improve, my whole travel experience, in general, improved. It was easier to maneuver in the airport, put much less stress on my arms – shifting the weight to the ever so sturdy back and was overall one of the best travel decisions I ever made.

Additionally, using a backpack will give you a little extra room to carry more items that may not have fit in your suitcase (I often carry my running shoes in my backpack).

These days I am using the KnackPack (pictured below) which is a unique backpack that I find pretty good overall. You can read my KnackPack review here.

For many years, however, I used Ogio products (and still do from time to time). My personal fav backpack for travel was the Ogio Metro, pictured below. Read my Ogio Metro review here.

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UNPOPULAR OPINION AHEAD: Skip the organizer cubes…they are stupid (Packing Tips for Travel #5)

For some reason, people have no idea how to pack their luggage correctly. Over packing issues aside, people also can’t layer or fold their clothes correctly. Or they don’t know how to properly live out of their suitcase.

Shacke Pak Packing Cubes

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Enter the packing cube. Which, IMO, is an obnoxious idea designed to help you “stay organized” on your trip. But I say, “how hard is it to find stuff in your bag?” It’s a suitcase, not your entire closet. And hotels provide plastic laundry bags to stow dirty clothes in.

Learn how to pack smarter instead.

Packing cubes simply take up unnecessary space in your bag and add extra weight (sure, it’s only a little bit, but it’s still extra). I know many readers will vehemently disagree with me…and that’s ok. It’s your right to be wrong.

If you simply must use packing cubes consider these:

And be sure to check out our article on best packing cubes overall.

Packing Tips for Air Travel #6: Travel in layers (aka wear it on) – to conserve suitcase space – especially for bulky items

If you still find yourself pressed for space, traveling in layers can buy you a little more room. For example, when traveling someplace cold, wear your heavy coat onto the plane instead of packing it in a suitcase. You can stuff the coat in the overhead bin.

You can also reuse a pair of jeans by re-wearing the jeans you flew out on the plane with one other day on the trip. When possible, always travel in layers to help conserve more space!

Minimize the shoes, too. Those pesky shoes can be the death of your best laid packing plans. As a guy, I try to wear a pair of shoes that works with my outfit for the week. I may also bring a pair of running shoes from time to time. For the ladies, I’ve heard the same thing…bring shoes that work with multiple outfits so you don’t have to pack a pile of shoes.

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Best Suitcase Packing Tip #7: Roll Your Clothes

This is one of the many suitcase packing tips for travel I learned in the Marine Corps. By rolling your clothes (your pants in particular) you can reduce wrinkles when unpacking and conserve space in your suitcase. I often pack socks or underwear around the rolled pants in the bottom of my suitcase. This allows me to get more clothes in the suitcase.

And while it won’t completely eliminate wrinkles it can often mean you can skip ironing and simply use the “shower technique” to get any last minute wrinkles out.

Pro tip: The “Shower Technique” – your hotel shower contains magical properties that can save you the drudgery of pulling your ironing board out. By simply hanging your wrinkled clothes in the bathroom, firing up at hot shower and shutting the door you can “steam” the wrinkles right out of your clothes. Usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes.

Packing Tips for Work Travel (and leisure travel too) #8: Build & Pack a Travel First Aid Kit

Here at the CBoardingGroup we travel for work. That means just about every week we are on the road with millions of other fellow business travelers grinding it out. It also means we get sick from time to time, or get a headache, stomach ache, cut our finger, etc.

The Traveller's First Aid Kit - the savvy road warrior is always prepared 1

This is why we’ve built out a small travel first aid kit that we always pack with us when traveling. Learn more about it in our article: The Traveler’s First Aid Kit.

Get your Toiletry Game Sorted out Correctly which means pack the right toiletries, buy in bulk and pack ’em the right way (Best Packing Tips and Tricks #9)

My wife has an incredible amount of beauty products. Special conditioners, lotions, etc. In my opinion…they are all superfluous…but whatever. :-). I have my less exotic set of toiletries I use when I travel (gel, deodorant, toothpaste, etc).

Whether you are a man or women, make sure you know what the TSA guidelines are for liquids – including toiletries and pack accordingly. Remember, with liquids, if you plan to carry them on the plane with you, they need to less than 3.4oz in size.

It’s very likely you can find your specific toiletries in travel size and if you can’t, then buy a TSA friendly travel bottle to pour your favorite conditioner into…

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I also prefer to buy my travel toiletries in bulk to save money (one of my favorite packing tips!). A regular tube of toothpaste my cost you 2.99, while a travel toothpaste tube might run you .99 for 1/5 of the toothpaste. Save yourself some money and buy them in bulk!

Here are few bulk toiletries that I use:

After getting your mind around the toiletry rules and your specific toiletries you need to figure out how to transport them. I always do this:

  1. Store them in a 1 quart ziploc bag like this
  2. Store the bag in some sort of travel toiletry bag like this
  3. Store that bag in a trashbag or grocery bag

I hate leaks. And if you have ever had a bottle of hair gel explode on you in the middle of a trip it can be a real downer to realize you are likely tossing everything you got it on. Hence why I like to toss my toiletry bag in trashbag or grocery bag before I pack it in my suitcase or backpack.

For the ladies, it might be worth buying a travel makeup/beauty kit such as these:

For the fellas consider these:

Techie Packing Tips (#10) Pack the right electronic and techie gear

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Chargers, headphones, and other techie gear can make the difference in having a good trip or a great trip. Always pack good techie gear! Here’s a list of must-have travel gadgets and tech gear to bring with you:

  • Good headphones (preferably wireless):
  • Backup headphones (preferably wired):
  • Phone
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • Chargers (cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc)
  • Portable Charger
  • Removable AC Vent Magnetic Cell Phone Holder
  • International Travel Adapter (only bring when traveling internationally)
  • Cord Organizer

I recommend investing in high-quality headphones. You are going to spend lots of time in planes, airports and in a hotel and watching a few shows on your phone or tablet can help pass the time. Good headphones can improve that experience even more. Currently I am using the Beats Solo 3 Headphones, but there are many great headphone brands out there.

One of the packing tricks I’ve had to rely on more than a time or two is bringing a set of backup wired headphones (ear bud style) in case your main headphones break or lose power mid-flight.

Optionally, and this will vary by trip, you may need to bring an international travel adapter with you to make sure you can charge your devices in areas that have different power grid systems.

Bring an International Power Adapter

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Also, buy a backup portable power charger. Nothing worse than your phone or tablet dying mid flight or struggling to find a free plug at the airport. I invested in an Anker PowerCore 20100 (review here, pic below) and it’s been a game changer for me:

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One of my secret packing tips is bringing a magnetic cell phone car mount (see pic, below) that clips on to the air vents of my rental car. It’s small enough to not take up too much room in my backpack and allows me to more easily navigate when I am driving to my destination.

I currently use the WizGear AC Mount, below and have great results with it. You can read my review of it here.

WizGear Phone Mount (Check the Price)

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The last packing tip related to techie gear involves storing and transporting all of the cords. If you’ve ever pulled a spaghetti mess of tangled cords out of your backpack you know what I mean. A cord organizer, like below, can help you keep the chaos to a minimum and I highly recommend travelers pack a cord organizer!

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Packing Tips for Travel #11: Pack your suitcase in layers by the days you will be wearing them

By layering your clothes you can live right out of suitcase and save a little time! I know a lot of folks who fully unpack their suitcase after checking into to the hotel. Not me…I may remove an item or two, but for the most part I leave items right in the suitcase. Saving me time and hassle.

In case it’s not clear, this suitcase packing tip involves organizing your clothing by outfit (at least your tops and bottoms) and then packing them together – in layers – based on the days of of week.

Best Packing Tips for Air Travel #12: Learn how to avoid wrinkles when packing

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I made the switch to wrinkle free clothing several years ago. Not all wrinkle free clothing is truly 100% wrinkle free, but it has improved significantly in recent years. In many cases, you may not need to iron your clothes at all if you’ve carefully chosen your clothes and packed them correctly.

For example, I made the switch to a specific brand of Haggar Wrinkle Free dress pants a few years ago and I never (and I do mean never) have to iron them (especially when I roll them versus folding them).

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Dress shirts can be a little trickier, but by leaving them on the hangar, with the dry cleaning bag over them and then stowing them in a garment bag you can dramatically reduce the wrinkles.

Alternatively if you learn how to fold them a little better it can reduce the chances of you needing deal with wrinkles. Since folks often struggle with folding their dress shirts you might consider a shirt folding guide:

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Another interesting packing trick I’ve learned involves the use of tissues paper to prevent wrinkles. This video explains it best:

Pro tip: As noted earlier, use the “Shower Technique” to de-wrinkle without ironing. Your hotel shower contains magical properties that can save you the drudgery of pulling your ironing board out. By simply hanging your wrinkled clothes in the bathroom, firing up at hot shower and shutting the door you can “steam” the wrinkles right out of your clothes. Usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes.

Packing Tips #13: Use the empty spaces in your suitcase

No matter how good you pack there is going to be some empty space in your suitcase. This can be filled with some of your clothing items to help you pack around more bulky items.

For example, after I pack my shoes and jeans I will stuff underwear and socks around them filling up the gaps left by the larger items. This helps me make better use of the space in my suitcase.

Best Packing Tips #14: Skip packing these items on your trip

There’s always a few things we should AVOID packing in our suitcase and they can be a little tempting. Here’s a few items I tend to avoid:

  • Heavy shoes – things like boots are heavy and take up lots of space. Opt for more durable tennis shoes instead.
  • Lots of extra shoes – in general, try to limit the amount of shoes your bring. My female travelers have told me this can be a challenge in matching outfits together and so they often solve it by coordinating their outfits toward one or two sets of shoes to help limit space and help them pack their suitcase a little better.
  • Towels – there’s no need to pack a towel. Pretty much anywhere you are going has towels. Hotels, resorts, etc, all have towels. Save the pace.
  • Silverware – it might be tempting to throw a spork or something in your bag. That’s silly. Any airport or hotel will have these utensils.
  • Extra Jeans – remember you can re-wear jeans so save the space and limit the amount of jeans you bring (besides, they are heavy!).

Packing Tips for Travel #15: Consider packing these specialty items to make your trip better

  • Collapsible Travel Water Bottle – I’ve started to come around to this and have been carrying a collapsible travel water bottle with me for a while now to help me stay hydrated. I recommend the Nomader (review here).
  • Plastic Baggies / Trash Bag – I like to bring some extra baggies with me. Usually to store my vitamins or pills in. But they can be helpful for other things too. A trash bag can be helpful for storing your workout clothes in as well. Alternatively, most hotels have a laundry bag you can grab out of the closet.
  • Earplugs – snoring passengers!? Hotel sex in the room next to you!?!
  • Backup headphones – mentioned earlier, but let me remind you again. Bring a backup!
  • Kleenex – I can’t recommend this enough. Grab a small travel-size container of tissues. You will thank me later.

Suitcase Packing Tips #16: Label Your Suitcase & Get a Luggage Strap

If you are checking your bag be sure to get a luggage tag to identify it as yours and include a business card or some contact information in case your bag gets lost. We are big fans of the Ovener Silicone Luggage Tag (pictured below) which is pretty durable and brightly colored.

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If you’ve ever watched 200 black suitcases go by you at the baggage claim and tried to recall which bag is yours..oh wait, that one’s not mine, you might consider a brightly colored luggae strap. The Darller Luggage Strap Set (pictured below) is one of the most popular luggage straps on Amazon.

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Best Packing Tips for Travel #17: Weigh your Luggage

One final packing tip to consider deals with the weight of your luggage. If you are checking a bag you will need to adhere to your airline’s weight limitations. In most cases this is 50 lbs.

If you’ve been packing correctly and following the other suitcase packing tips we’ve covered earlier you should be fine…but if you are not…or perhaps you are heading away for a long period of time it’s possible your bag may be sneaking up on the weight limit.

And you don’t want to get hit with a heavy bag fee from the airline. For example, Delta can charge you $150.00 for a bag over their weight limit. Ouch!

Instead, weigh your luggage. One simple way is to simply use the scale you probably have in your bathroom but are afraid to get on yourself (haha). This can be a little tricky sometimes depending on your bag size.

Another option is to get a luggage scale. One of the most popular travel accessories on Amazon is the Etekcity Digital Hanging Luggage Scale (pictured below). This affordable travel accessory can be used to make sure your bag is under the limit. Or you could just pack less…

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Bonus Packing Tip: Packing Tips for Kids (we don’t got ’em, but we know who does)

Are you traveling with your kids??? If so, I am sorry. 🙂

So, while we don’t talk a lot about kids travel, here’s a great (I do mean great!) video with packing tips for kids travel that might help you along:

Final Thoughts on the Best Packing Tips and Tricks

Ok, so there you have it! 17 Great Suitcase Packing Tips for Travel that every traveler needs to know about! We hope these packing tips and tricks have been helpful as you plan your next trip. When used, these tips can help you travel a little smarter and will make your trip far more enjoyable and less stress free. Trust us…we travel every week!

What are your favorite packing tips? Join the conversation and share your best packing tips with us on social media, or leave us a comment, below.

Follow us on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

By the way, if you are interested in more travel tips, travel advice, travel product reviews and more be sure to check out some of our other great content:

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1 comment on “17 Best Suitcase Packing Tips for Travel

  1. Lara S.

    Wear your heaviest shoes on the plane.

    For women- a long-sleeved business dress is easier to pack than a full suit with pants, blouse, and jacket. I reocmmend M.M. La Fleur for tailored, but comfortable, women’s business dresses that pack well. They will tell you whether a dress is travel ready, good for short or tall people, etc.

    I used the Nomader bottle for awhile but found it too hard to roll up. I found a portable bottle that collapses (like a travel dog bowl), accordion style, into a flat disk. It is much easier to use and is a lot smaller when collapsed. It was about $25 from Duluth Trading Co.

    I too bring two pairs of headphones- wireless, over ear for the plane and wired ear buds for working out.

    Reply

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