Travel Hack: How to Pack a Suitcase Like a Pro

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The holiday season is a busy time for those of us who don’t live where our friends or family do. If we’re fortunate enough, we’ll be packing up and doing some traveling to spend quality time with those we love. Whether by bus, car, train, or plane, travel can be stressful. This is especially the case when you have huge suitcases to lug around or pay for to be checked.

But what if you were a total pro on how to pack a suitcase? All you’d need is a small carryon and a backpack—no extra cost and no sore arms. Learn how to achieve this in just six easy steps!

Step 1: Make a Detailed Packing List

suitcase packing list for travel

My Winter Break packing list!

If you start out by listing out everything you need to pack a suitcase, the packing process will go smoothly. You don’t want to think you’re finished only to remember you really wanted to bring your sparkly heels for the New Year’s Eve party you’re attending and now you have to smash them into your luggage, effectively getting glitter all over your clothes. On the flip side, you can eliminate items you don’t actually need to take. Your suitcase will be lighter and you will have more room for the essentials. Make sure this list is detailed. Don’t just say “shirts;” instead, write down how many shirts you need to take. That way, you can more effectively budget the space in your suitcase.

Step 2: Organize all your Items

packing for a vacation

The messy part of packing

This is when things get a little messy. Take all the clothes and other items you need to take with you and lay them out on the floor. Create piles for shirts, dresses, pants, technology, books, etc. This is your second chance to edit what you’re bringing with you. Does it look like you have too many things for your one week trip? If you’re planning on bringing half your closet with you, then that’s probably too many clothes. Sometimes, you have to visually see everything to realize this.

A second benefit of laying everything out is that you are less likely to forget something. Double check your list with what you see in front of you and make sure everything is accounted for.

Also, organizing your items will make packing your suitcase much easier. And this leads us to Step 3…

Step 3: Start with Your Shoes

how to pack a suitcase for vacationFill in the bottom of your suitcase with your shoes and other solid, non-bendable items. This will help avoid getting dirt and shoe smell all over your clothes! It will also create little pockets of space in which you can put underwear, more socks, and other small items.

shoes with socks in them

Store socks inside your shoes!

Extra Pro Tip: Use your shoes as extra storage! Roll up your socks and put them inside your shoes. This works especially well with boots and sneakers.

Step 4: Double Package Toiletries

Whether you’re taking travel-sized bottles of shampoo or a regular-sized bottle of face wash, it’s important to double package your toiletries. First, take a Ziploc bag or saran wrap and secure it over the top of the bottle. If the lid comes loose of the bottle cracks, then this first layer will probably prohibit any further leaking. Then, take all your toiletries and put them in a plastic bag together. If they any liquid does leak enough to break through the first seal, at least they’ll just leak on each other.

Step 5: Roll—Don’t Fold—Your Shirts

Rolling your clothes saves space and avoids wrinkles. Not all clothes roll well, though. Most shirts can easily be rolled, as can some dresses and skirts. Try to roll as many clothing items as possible to conserve space in your suitcase.

If you don’t know how to roll your clothes properly, here are step-by-step pictures:

how to roll a shirt to pack a suitcase

After you’ve rolled all your shirts, pack them into your suitcase. If you have only one side of the suitcase into which you can put items, make these the next layer. If your suitcase is two-sided, put them on the bottom of the side without your shoes.

Step 6: Fold Bottoms and Lay Them on Top

how to pack a suitcase

Fold your pants, shorts, and whatever dresses and skirts that you couldn’t roll. These clothes will make the final layer on top of everything else in your suitcase.

Step 7: Utilize Every Pocket and Corner

Now that your suitcase is nearly filled to the brim, make sure there are no unused corners or pockets. If you have any underwear or socks left over, they can be stuffed into almost any small open area. Bras are great to put in corners because the cups match the contour. You don’t want to overstuff your suitcase, though, because it’s likely you’ll buy something on your trip and you’ll need the extra room. Fill your suitcase almost to full capacity, but not quite all the way there.


If you pack a suitcase this way, you are sure to be traveling like a pro!

Do you have any travel hacks or packing tips? Share them in the comments below.

How to Pack Like a Pro

  • Ourfamilyworld

    These are helpful tips. Making a packing list is very important.

    • Lexi Bollis

      I agree, I never pack for a trip without one! Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed.

  • Sharon Thompson Voiland

    I love those compacting bags. The model I get is just a zipper and sit on them – zip when it is flat. I flatten them by standing on a bread board on top of them. At the last moment, I zip. This way they are perfectly flat and can be stacked by size, tucking small items in between. I don’t travel much, but when I do it’s usually to a cold location, so the last item I pack is a jacket in a space bag placed near the zipper by the handle. All I have to do is unzip a short space, grab the jacket, and I don’t freeze on the way to he car rental station.

    • Lexi Bollis

      Using a space bag for your coat is so smart! Thanks for sharing a great tip. Carry-on size bags are really the best, they’re so easy to wheel around! Thank you for reading :)

  • Robin Rue

    I always make a list. I start the week before I leave and add/subtract things as I go!

  • Rachel Mouton

    Wow! What great tips! You really packed a lot in a small space and it’s all so neat :)

  • Rolling my clothes is always my number 1 packing tip! It is such a space-saver! I also always pack my shoes in a plastic bag to make sure they don’t get a clothes dirty.

  • My first thing to do when I packed my things was my detailed packing list and its count. It is very important to have a record of the things you have.

  • Annemarie LeBlanc

    I’ve seen a video like this before but I like how you detailed it in this post. I will have to make a list too, so I don’t forget anything. We have an upcoming trip in a month or so and I’m bookmarking this post for reference. Thanks!

  • Tiana Harris

    We always use packing cubes to keep everything organzied. Using a showercap for shoes is my favorite hack!

  • I can swear on the packing list and on rolling the clothes. This practice saves me so much time and space in my luggage. Since I’ve started writing packing lists I never forget anything at home and I also control the overpacking. :)

  • Nice tips! I usually bring an extra plastic/garbage bag to separate clean and dirty clothing during travelling. Agree with your rolling clothes hack. It’s the best hack for travelers.

  • Thank you for this! I am TERRIBLE at packing. We’re going to Disney World in March so I’ll keep this post in mind.

  • I roll my shirts as well, it’s saves so much space!!! My family didn’t want to believe me at first until they’ve tried it themselves. These are all so savvy!

  • Always use empty spaces, like your shoes! Great tips. Thank you for sharing these. They’ll definitely come in handy when we make our trip to see family this spring.