Suitcase packing tips and tricks

Buying a lightweight suitcase usually makes great sense until you try to pack. Then reality hits and you realize it takes some skill to pack in a limited space. For those of us who remember lugging around huge, unwieldy suitcases filled to the brim with everything we could possibly need, the idea of packing in a small space can be daunting. The more I discover innovative ways to pack in a small space, the more excited I become. I look forward to setting off with my small, highly organized suitcase to visit my sister in France or my two siblings in the UK – no more shoulder or back strain for me!

It helps to have a detailed packing list when deciding what to take with you.  I have discovered the benefit of using one drawn up by an experienced traveler who knows exactly what to pack through trial and error. If you are a woman traveling on your own, you will find some great packing lists and many other tips given by Leyla Giray Alyanak on her webiste

Your clothes

rolled clothing

According to author, Kathleen Ameche, who wrote The Woman Road Warrior, you will probably need two pairs of jeans or slacks, five shirts and one skirt for every five days. I don’t wear skirts so I include some leggings instead.

  • pack two tops for every bottom.  Say, for example, you take a pair of jeans and some slacks, you can wear them on alternate days with varying tops, jackets or scarves.
  • rather take simple clothes and use accessories cleverly.
  • you can’t go wrong with including a pair of black leggings as they’re easy to wash and dry and go with just about anything.
  • a sarong is another lightweight item that can  be used in many different ways.
  • choose wrinkle-resistant fabrics that dry quickly like nylon and micro-fibers.
  •  roll your clothes instead of folding them.
  • if you want your clothes to stay rolled, that’s where packing cubes come in handy. If you buy four cubes, you can use one for tops, one for bottoms, one for underwear and one for evening clothes. The packing cubes come in different sizes and can be organized according to the weight of the clothing.

Your shoes


Shoes are bulky and take up room so the fewer you can take with you the better. Most people find they can’t get away with less than three pairs. Consider taking a casual sandal, comfy walking shoes and a more formal shoe for evening wear.  Wear the heaviest ones and pack the other two.

  • pair sandals with rubber bands to keep them together and compressed.
  • put shoes into a shower cap or some other type of protective bag (a large resealable bag will work) and then place them along the sides of the suitcase.
  • because shoes take up space, don’t waste the space inside them. Store socks inside them and you can even put other small essentials and fiddly bits like an electronics charger inside the socks.

Your toiletries

Toiletries have a way of taking up lots of space. Go through your daily routine and take note of what you use. Pack only that and nothing else – eliminate all those ‘just in case’ items. There is no magic ‘one-size fits all’ list here so pack what you personally feel you cannot do without.

If you are flying with a carry-on, check out the current regulations for liquids. For example, the current 3-1-1 liquids rule allows you to take a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, pastes and creams through the checkpoint. Each item is limited to 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters.

Toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, facial products, sunscreen – the list of liquids you may need is a long one. It helps to take products that can do more than one job such as baby oil that’s great for removing mascara and moisturizing or a tinted moisturizer that also works as a foundation.

Travelon 1 quart bagYou may be able to find a solid version of a toiletry so you won’t have to worry about leaks or too many liquids to put in your 1-quart bag.  For example, go with a bar of body soap instead of a shower gel.

I prefer to use a durable toiletry bag instead of a Ziploc bag (as some people suggestion). The TSA compliant Travelon Wet Dry 1 Quart Bag  (amazon)  keeps your liquids organized in a clear, easy to screen zippered pouch and it has a second compartment for non-liquids.  It includes three 2 oz. reusable bottles, two 0.50 oz. jars and one 1.2oz bottle with an atomizer.

When filling containers with liquids, an important tip to remember is not to fill them all the way to the top or they may overflow.

Your Jewelry

It’s best to leave items of great monetary or emotional value at home when you travel. Stick with some neutral pieces like a small pendant, stud earrings and a bracelet that will work with multiple outfits and then throw in some statement pieces as well.

Various websites offer the idea of preventing your jewelry from tangling by using clingfilm. Glad’s Press ‘n Seal appears to work best.

jewelry storage

From Huffington Post come the following tips:

Store small pieces of jewelry in a seven day plastic pillbox.

jewelry in pill box

String delicate necklaces through a straw to prevent tangling.

jewelry through straw

From Buzzfeed comes the idea of putting earrings through the holes of a button to keep a pair together.

earrings through button

… and a few more tips

Wrap fragile items inside another more protective item. A glass perfume bottle, for example, can be slipped inside a sock.

A good stash of Ziploc bags comes in handy for all the other fiddly bits like phone chargers, adaptors and headphones.

One important rule of thumb is to keep all the heavy items stored towards the wheels.

If you don’t think it’s possible for you to fit all that you need into a lightweight carry-on, former Bond Girl and frequent traveler Rachel Grant will convince you otherwise and inspire you as to what is possible. The video below I found on shows how she manages to pack 100 items into a small suitcase.


I can’t wait to try out all these tips and tricks myself. I am sure that they will reform my packing style and hopefully transform me into that super-organized traveler I have always wanted to be. If these tips have helped you or if you have any others to share, please leave your comments below.

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