Packing Tips for a Well-Organized Suitcase

Travel these days has a lot of potential pitfalls, whether it’s a delayed flight, a long security line, or an issue with your reservations. You have no control over some of these situations; you’ll just have to hope for the best and adapt a Zen travel mantra. However, one of the things you can control is how organized and well-packed your suitcase is! Last-minute packing, over-packing, missing several necessities, having stuff leak, difficulty finding things in your suitcase? We’ve got these and many other issues covered with this list of packing tips to keep your suitcase well-organized.

Before You Pack

  • Make a packing list. Consider your destination and purpose—are you spending a week on a beach in Hawaii, two weeks biking in Europe, or five days at a work conference?
  • To streamline your wardrobe, use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 packing rule. Assume there is a place to do laundry or have it serviced. If visualization is helpful to you, lay out everything you want to bring on your bed—then cut it down by half. Put together outfits on the bed; even better if pieces go with more than one outfit.

Clothing and Shoes

  • Plan to wear your heaviest items on the plane. Items like boots, a heavy coat, or a bulky sweater—these take up a lot of precious real estate (and weight!) in your suitcase.
  • Rock ‘n’ roll, baby. The roll method makes the most of your suitcase space and minimizes creases. Lay your shirt face-down, fold in and flatten the sleeves, then roll from the bottom up. Lay your pants with legs together and roll from the waist down. If you really want to save space, use these amazing compression bags. Certain items—blazers, starched dress shirts, a cocktail dress—should be folded carefully or placed separately in a garment bag.
  • Roll your underwear as well; use these to fill in any gaps between clothing. Bras with underwire or molded cups should be stacked and laid flat together.
  • Fill your shoe cavities with socks, tights, or folded stockings (in a Ziploc), then put the shoes heel to toe (even high heels). Place them in a plastic bag to keep your clothes from getting dirty.


  • If you are keeping toiletries in your carry-on bag, upgrade your Ziploc to a TSA-compliant clear quart-size bag. Always bring necessities (e.g., medications, hearing aid batteries) on the plane with you.
  • Frequent fliers should fill leakproof travel containers with favorites—but only ¾ full, so they don’t explode on the plane. Keep these in a toiletry bag just for travel; this will save you from needing to pack toiletries every time you’re jetting off.
  • For toiletries going in your suitcase, group similar products in sealed resealable bags. For instance: one for cosmetics, one for hair products, one for sunblock and mosquito repellent.
  • If you’ve got a bin full of mini beauty and cosmetic samples, now is a great time to throw a bunch in a Ziploc and try them out—they’re pre-sealed and meet TSA rules!


  • Jewelry that is very valuable or irreplaceable should be worn during your trip—don’t chance it getting lost or stolen with your luggage. Inexpensive items can be stored in a plastic pillbox or a jewelry roll.
  • Scarves can be folded. Better yet, bring it on the plane to keep the chills away. Belts can be snaked around the perimeter of your suitcase.

Let’s Pack!

  • Place the heaviest items such as shoes or books at the bottom of your suitcase.
  • Fill the rest of the bottom layer with the rolled clothes. Fill any gaps with your rolled underwear or socks and jewelry roll.
  • If you have any folded items, layer these next. If you’ve got a few sealed bags with toiletries, layer these flat in between a few folded items. Any stacked bras can go on top of these, as well as folded scarves.
  • Extra tip: If you know you’re heading straight to a meeting or a nice dinner from the airport or train station, pack the outfit you’ll need on top. This saves you from needing to dig through your suitcase at your destination. Conversely, if you’re arriving late and plan to hit the sack as soon as you get there, put your PJs on top!

A Few More Suitcase Hacks

  • Pop a sachet or dryer sheet in your suitcase to keep it—and your clothes—from smelling musty.
  • Keep a couple of hotel laundry bags in a side pocket to stash your dirties in. This way they don’t mix with your clean clothes, and you can keep them (and your suitcase) off the hotel room floor.
  • If wet swimsuits will be on your return trip, pack a few gallon Ziplocs to keep them in so they don’t get your clothes and suitcase wet.
  • Planning to do some serious shopping on this trip? Pack a duffel or tote that folds flat, so you’ve got a spare bag to bring home your goods.
  • Keep a Ziploc in a side pocket with a stain-remover stick for clothes, a packet of disinfecting wipes, and a mini travel sewing kit—takes up a tiny amount of space but can really save the day.
These tips should help you establish a packing system that works for your style of travel. It won’t make everything hassle-free, but it will certainly keep you saner once you get to your destination. No more running to the drugstore to get forgotten toiletries or going on vacation with too many clothes but no real outfits. Bon voyage!

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