The worst part of traveling is perhaps the stress of waiting to pack until the night before you leave, then not being able to fit all the unnecessary sh*t you (don’t) need into your mom’s old broken suitcase. You know the one. Because why spend $100 on a bigger suitcase when you can just optimize the space within the rickety carry-on your entire family has been using for decades for free?? If this behavior doesn’t apply to you, then maybe you’re not on a budget, or maybe you’re rich and can buy fancy new luggage. But I’m willing to bet $3 (all I got, sorry) that I’m not the only traveler who does this. If you’re anything like me, then you need these helpful packing hacks from travel experts that make organizing your belongings before and during vacay a hell of a lot easier.
1. Bring Fewer Clothes
I know what you’re thinking: DUH. But listen. It’s normal to want to pack 11 shirts, 4 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of pants, and a pair of heels just in case you need any of it on a weekend trip… but hot take: YOU’LL NEVER NEED IT. In the wise words of Greg, 26, who frequently travels between Boston and New York for school and work, “why not just shove less in your suitcase and be happy??” Some people (read: me) are hoarders and over-packers and don’t know how to do that, Greg. THAT’S why.
As much as I hate to admit it, and I don’t even know if it’s humanly possible, two more travel pros confirm this is a solid suggestion. “I only bring two pairs of jeans or pants for every week I’m away. I use the extra space to pack one pajama or lounge outfit which makes any place feel like home, whether they have a plush bathrobe for me or not,” says comedian Sofiya Alexandra, who travels around the world as the co-host of global culture, dating, and sexuality podcast Private Parts Unknown. “We have to bring podcast gear when we travel, which really limits my suitcase space, so I tetris that sh*t in like nobody’s business,” adds Alexandra’s show co-host Courtney Kocak. “Then I focus on bringing super functional clothes—a pair or two of jeans, a pair of yoga pants, and a handful of tops that can be re-worn and layered a bunch of different ways.” Sigh. Mix-matching and re-wearing a few pieces of clothing during your travels might be the move.
2. Don’t Fold Your Clothes
I, a wild woman traveling to four different states this upcoming month (yes, I’m already tired), am a firm believer in rolling all your clothes instead of folding them. Don’t ask me how, but I swear it helps to create more space in your suitcase. Rolling your clothes also reduces the number of wrinkles in them when you’re finally ready to whip ‘em out at your final destination. Win-win. Because who the hell knows how to use the iron in the hotel room closet?
3. Use All The (Secret) Available Space
No matter what size bag you use, there’s always a liiiitttle bit of space left. So find it and fill it! “We often pack things that are awkwardly shaped but don’t always take advantage of the space in or around those objects,” says Amanda, travel blogger at A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. For example, use the space inside boots or sneakers to store socks or accessories that would have otherwise been taking up space in the main part of your suitcase. “And if you’re going to pack a hat that can’t be folded, turn it upside down, and fold/roll some of your items inside it,” she adds. “This helps save space in your bag AND helps your hat keep its shape!” Genius.
4. Bring Travel-Size Essentials
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but don’t pack your full-size toiletries. Save space by stocking up on adorable travel-sized essentials. Just don’t buy the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, because Alexandra has a better idea: “I bring travel-sized toothpaste but refill travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I take the hotel ones and donate them to homeless shelters when I return,” she says. A true hero. Follow suit. Or you can go the bougie route like Kocak: “I usually treat myself to a pre-trip blowout and I use the hotel or communal Airbnb body wash (don’t judge me), so I don’t have to bring any of those toiletries.” As previously discussed, I’ve literally been using my mom’s broken suitcase for decades, so I’m not judging anyone for anything.
5. Use Packing Cubes To Organize Your Bag
Okay, so I’ve never used packing cubes before but so. many. people. swear by them. “They’re great. They’re just different sized zipper compartment square thingies,” says Sam, 27, who travels to Europe with her man on the reg thanks to their company’s generous vacation day policy. Apparently, packing cubes compartmentalize your suitcase and help you organize your belongings so they’re not a totally chaotic mess like mine. They’re cheap too—like $20 on Amazon. “Those clothing bags you can vacuum seal shut save a ton of room, too,” adds Alex, a random dude who apparently travels a lot (into my Instagram DMs).
6. Leave All Your Electronics Home
Fun fact: You don’t need to bring your iPad, iPhone, laptop, camera, Nintendo Switch, and whatever the hell else people use these days on your vacation. Courtnie Nichols, certified travel agent and CEO of TravelBash, a modern travel boutique for curated trips and luxury getaways, suggests being selective with your electronics to save space. Keep your 47 different devices at home where there’s no risk of them getting damaged, stolen, or lost. Unless you’re on a work trip and need all your equipment, she says you really just need to bring your phone, which is literally a camera, internet browser, computer, gaming system, and phone (duh) all in one that can fit in your back pocket.
7. Use A Lingerie Organizer
Even if you’re not bringing ~fancy lingerie~ on your trip, a lingerie organizer can help to contain your underwear, socks, and other little things that usually fall into the abyss of your suitcase in one neat place. “I’ll usually just pack that with undergarments and swimsuits and throw it on top of my other stuff for easy access,” says Dakota Nowicki, founder of Wander Beyond Her, a travel organization that hosts retreats designed to get people out of their comfort zones and into nature. “It keeps all my bras and undies together and has a sealed pouch for dirty stuff. It was a bomb investment.”
8. Wear Your Bulkiest Items On The Plane
Instead of taking up a ton of room in your suitcase with your jacket, hoodie, and boots, just wear them all on the plane. It’s probably going to be cold up there, so you’ll wanna cozy up anyway. Alexandra suggests wearing sneakers on the plane for comfort, then using them as your “walking-around shoes,” and packing a pair of booties for cold weather or sandals/flats for hot weather as your “anything-else shoes.” Oh, and she says, “if you don’t fly in yoga pants, you’re a crazy person.” Agreed.
9. Take Advantage Of That Free Carry-On “Personal Item”
Did you know that all passengers get to bring another little bag on the plane for free? Yup. Take full advantage. “I always have the following in my personal item under the seat: phone charger, tiny hand sanitizer, earplugs, an eye mask for great plane sleep, Advil, mini-mouthwash, book, water bottle, and salve for lips, cuticles, scrapes, and inside your nose, if it gets dry,” says Alexandra. “My favorite packing hack is using a backpack as my personal item and putting my purse inside that, along with everything I might need on the plane (computer, book, etc.),” Kocak adds. #bagception “Plus, I’m ALWAYS cold, so I usually hang on to the airplane blanket from my first flight and stuff it into my backpack for the rest of the trip. It never fails to come in handy, and when I get home, it goes into my dog’s crate as a fresh puppy blanket. Everybody wins!” Yep, we’ve definitely got two travel pros over here. Take notes, friends!
If you have any pro-suitcase packing hacks, drop ‘em below. Because I need them. And if anyone says “stop being cheap and just buy a bigger suitcase/check your luggage!” I will find you and personally show you the current balance in my bank account that proves that’s not an option unless you wanna Venmo me (@morgan-mandriota please). Thanks in advance.
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