Packing is an art of sorts, and if you are wondering how to pack a suitcase, I’m here to tell you how to pack like a professional. Tetris is an art too, and they are very much related. Everything has a reason and a place. Planning is key. Are you ready Ninja packer?
How to Pack A Suitcase
Step One: Plan Your Outfits
Determine how long you will be on the road and write down the days with a morning, noon and night column. Go ahead, be a nerd and make the list. You will not regret it. Or use my Handy Dandy Vandy Packing List. Just print it out and fill it in with the days, the expected weather conditions and your planned outfits. If you can sport the same duds for the whole day, you will certainly save space. If you can use layering pieces to wear items more then once, you will save a lot of space. Simply use the columns you need. You will have your outfits planned and have an idea what size suitcase you will need.
If you are planning for the family, you can print one out for each member of the family or just use one for you and one for the kids. I find that with kids I can write down their initial and then simply shorts or dress or t-shirt. They don’t need quite as much outfit coordination as grown ups do and I use packing cubes to pack them all in one bag. Mad ninja packing skills here.
If you are traveling for more than a week, you may print out or make 2 sheets or plan on doing laundry. We do the latter, and find a laundromat that will do our laundry for a reasonable cost. We drop off in the morning and pick up in the evening. Check ahead to see if there is a laundromat available in the area you are traveling to.
Step Two: Plan Your Accessories, Sundries, Under and Outerwear
Go as lean and mean as you can here without forgetting anything you actually need. Ladies, limit your shoes and purses and jewelry to mix and match. Ideally you should have 2-3 pairs of shoes maximum for a week long trip. You need comfortable shoes for walking, dressier shoes for work or events and a pair of sandals or flip flops for summer travel or beach travel. Finding great shoes that work more than one way is key!
Step Three: Lay Everything Out
You can use a bed if you are packing right away or the dining room table or the floor in the hallway or a corner of your room but the key to really ninja packing moves is to be able to see everything together, make any necessary edits (eliminations) and then know what you need to stuff it all in.
Lay out like things together. Outfits, toiletries and makeup, underwear, outerwear, technology. Be sure to separate liquids that must be put in a separate bag to clear security at the airport if you are carrying on.
The best things in the entire world for packing well are Packing Cubes.
I swoon a little here. I honestly don’t know how I packed without them. I use the eBags packing cubes for everything when we travel and I use them around the house too, to keep cords, my permanent travel toiletries and accessories and bags for the kids to keep stuff to take to restaurants and such. I love them!
Here is the kids’ packing situation for 2 weeks in California. I used a large packing cube for clothes and a small packing cube for socks and undies and I fit all 6 bags in one duffel. This duffel easily sits on top of a suitcase or stuffs into the car. When we get to our destination, the cubes act as drawers for us. There are never enough drawers! We can unpack without really unpacking and slide them under a dresser or bed. Plus, they come in so many colors so everybody knows what is theirs.
Step Three: Choose Your Suitcase
I know the temptation is to bring everything but the kitchen sink, but for the love of luggage, hold yourself back. See above shoe lovers and plan. If you are packing a car, it is not a huge deal, but for an airplane, you’ve got 2 carry ons and then you have to pay big bucks to check unless you are traveling internationally, have status on the airline or are flying first class. If you are traveling with kids on an airplane, it can be worth it to check a bag to make your life easier in the airport and remember, car seats check for free.
I like to have one suitcase that is the maximum carry on size and is expandable as well as one honking big “personal item” that fits all of our accessories, technology and other “stuff”. I carry on my eBags Motherlode TLS Mini 21″ (link to my review) and my Stella and Dot Getaway (which is also expandable). I fit 2 weeks of clothes in that Motherlode for our trip to California! My husband carries on a pack and whatever else I give him. Using a backpack is awesome because it is so easy to carry and you would be surprised how much you can fit in one.
If you do choose to check and are traveling as a family, use a giant bag and make sure to weigh it so you don’t end up emptying your bag all over the airport or paying extra fees. If you don’t have a suitcase scale, you can stand on the scale with and without your bag. Simple subtraction and you have a very close estimate of your bag’s weight. Check your airline for weight restrictions!
Step Four: Time to Pack
This is the point at which I start to pack my cubes up to go in the suitcase, but whether you are using cubes or not, you need to decide to roll or fold. Really good rolling will give you more room in your suitcase, mostly because the rolled items fit so neatly in and take up all that random space. However, rolling it will also make it heavier. This is not an issue for smaller bags, but for those big bags, if you roll all your items and really pack them tight, you may end up over that weight limit. Rolling plus packing cubes will make your bag look like a perfect puzzle. Easy to see things, easy to pack and unpack and those TSA agents won’t rifle though everything and crate havoc in your bag.
Place heaviest items at the bottom of the suitcase or back and bottom of your backpack. Start filling in the spaces with your larger items and fit the smaller items in the empty spots. See, it is like Tetris!
You can use the insides of shoes to store socks and other accessories. I also roll up a pair of socks to put in the cup of my bras to keep the shape. Pack fragile items in the center of your suitcase, but check as few fragile items as possible.
If you are packing toiletries, be sure to have liquids out to be inspected. You might consider a flat toiletry case for extra space saving magic.
I love that feeling when everything is in, I can zip up and then sit on it and zip up the expander too. You can bring plenty of stuff without paying those egregious fees and you will have what you need to enjoy your awesome vacation!
Step Five: Getting Repacked for the Trip Home
Whether you use the plastic laundry bags in hotels or bring your own laundry bag like we do, have a place in your room where you put dirt laundry. When you are repacking you can re-purpose empty space for souvenirs or for your laundry. This is where expandable bags are awesome. Laundry and souvenirs! If we are traveling as a family I use one suitcase for laundry on the way home. Because I use cubes for anything still clean, everybody can easily take any clean clothes and other items to their rooms when we return and I can easily throw the dirties in the wash.
The most important thing is to enjoy your trip, and it is always easier when you know you have what you need and you know where you can find it. Happy packing and more importantly, happy travels! Now That’s Vandy!!!
Win eBags Packing Cubes!!!
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Disclosure: eBags is the Official Luggage of That’s Vandy and #VandyTravels. I am a huge fan of their products and I honestly adore the packing cubes. eBags provided me with the packing cubes over a year ago and we use them all the time. I am a Stella and Dot Consultant so I will get a commission if you purchase the Getaway or other items through my link. I donate a % of every sale to charity.