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Travel Packing Tips: How to Fit the Most Stuff into Your Suitcase

April 10, 2013

Overstuffed Suitcase

Between checked-bag fees and full overhead compartments, packing only one suitcase per family member makes sense these days. But you still want to bring all your stuff, right? Savvy travelers know how to fit the maximum amount of clothing, toiletries, and everything else into that one suitcase. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way.

Use Packing Cubes


How did anyone ever pack before packing cubes were invented? These lightweight rectangles allow you to organize everything in your suitcase and they perform some serious space management magic. Try packing eight shirts, two pairs of pants, and other sundries into your suitcase without a packing cube. Then try it again with one. Voila! No magic words necessary—just sit back and behold all the room you now have for more stuff. Plus, the cubes come in all kinds of colors so the serious organizer can categorize by article of clothing or family member.

Roll Your Clothes


There’s actually a debate about whether rolling versus folding takes up more space in a suitcase. We swear by rolling—especially when using a packing cube. By folding then rolling your clothes to fit those cubes, you’ll be able to see everything in each compartment which means you’ll spend less time rooting around in your suitcase and more time enjoying your vacation.

An added bonus to rolling is that you’ll have fewer creases that have to be ironed out.

Find a Soft-Sided Suitcase


A long, long time ago all suitcases were hard-sided and we could stuff them and stuff them until they burst. Literally—usually all over baggage claim. Then luggage companies started selling soft-sided suitcases and we travelers realized we could often push those bags well beyond design limits. Plus, soft-sided suitcases are easier to shape and reshape until you can shove them into an overhead compartment.

Hard-sided suitcases are making a comeback, but don’t be fooled. For maximum capacity, select a soft bag.

Utilize Unexpected Spaces


It’s an old trick, but we often forget that stuffing rolled socks into shoes helps your shoes retain their shape and makes best use of the space you have. Or run your belt along the inside edge of the suitcase instead of rolling it up. Other unexpected spaces are being created by luggage companies that are getting smarter about maximizing space when they design their products.

Look for a pouch on the inside of the lid which can be a great place to put toiletries. And if your luggage has an organizer built in, use that to sort out some of the items that would usually clutter your purse and put a packing cube or your 3-1-1 bag (the one that holds all your liquids) in there instead so it’s easy to get to at security.

Let Kids Carry their Own


By the time kids can walk, they can wheel a small suitcase and will likely enjoy it. Because kids want so much to be like Mom and Dad, letting your child carry their own clothes not only frees up space in your suitcase, it builds confidence. Let your child pick out a small rolling bag that suits his or her personality.

Pack the Right Things


This isn’t strictly a way to fit more clothes into your suitcase; rather it’s a way to get more out of the things you do pack. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stick to one color palette. It doesn’t matter if you prefer neutrals or bright colors, if your suitcase is filled with only colors that coordinate, you can mix and match (and bring fewer pairs of pants).
  • Pack lightweight, washable clothes. If you’re planning two nights in Denali or anywhere else, there are lots of travel clothes that are specifically designed to be easy to wash in your hotel room and dry overnight. This means you can pack fewer of them.
  • Travel sizes work. You really can get a travel-sized anything these days. If you can’t find it at your local drugstore, try a site like 3Floz.com.

How do you get the most out of your suitcase? Share your packing tips in the comments.

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