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15 Tips to Pack a Suitcase for Vacation

open suitcase with t-shirt and glasses

One of the unpleasant things about taking an awesome vacation is packing a suitcase.

What makes packing a suitcase for vacation challenging is that it’s something that we only do once every three to six months.

So let’s break down what you need to do and what you’ll need to pack a suitcase efficiently.
What I’m going to do is give you the answer in bullet points. Then I’m going to elaborate in more detail.

And if you don’t have some of the packing tools I’m going to mention, I’ll have links to our affiliate partner where you can get them at an awesome price.

In view of that, how do you pack a suitcase for vacation?

What to Keep In Mind When Packing a Suitcase for Vacation

  • Use packing cubes
  • Pack a carry-on bag with at least one change of clothes
  • Roll underwear before packing into suitcase
  • Fold clothes that wrinkle like cotton, linen, and wool
  • Roll socks and slide them into shoes
  • Use shoe bags for shoes
  • Put toiletries like sunscreen, lotion, toothpaste, etc. in water resistant travel cubes
  • Don’t pack liquid items larger than 3.4 ounces
  • Put medicines in a dedicated bag
  • Use a durable garment bag for suits and dresses
  • Have a dedicated bag for dirty or soiled laundry
  • Purchase a suitcase with built-in charger for electronics
  • Have a carrying case for passports and important documents
  • Get a durable suitcase with 4 wheels
  • Use a backpack to carry items for tours and excursions

Now that you know what to do, let’s talk about them in more detail.

Use Packing Cubes

towels rolled into packing cube
Sponsored: Travelpro® Essentials MaxAccess Cubes Large Organizer

While it isn’t necessary to use packing cubes, they can come in very handy.

The first thing to understand when purchasing packing cubes is that they come in varying sizes. The different size packing cubes makes it easier to organize your items.

These packing cubes are going to show up later in our list. So I thought we’d make them the first thing to know when packing for a vacation.

Pack a Carry-on With At Least One Change of Clothes

open, empty suitcase
Sponsored: Maxlite® 5 21″ Expandable Carry-On Spinner

When we go on vacation, we want to be as comfortable and stress-free as possible. So the temptation might be to pack everything into one bag to make things easier.

And as long as everything goes according to plan, that’s great.

The problem comes when problems arise – specifically problems relating to your luggage.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that your vacation requires you to get on a plane. After checking your bags, you expect to pick them up on the carousel when you depart the plane.

But what happens when you’re the last person waiting for luggage and your bags don’t show? Even worse, you discover your bags went west when your flight went east?

Not only don’t you have your vacation items for your trip, you now have no change of clothes!

That’s why I’m recommending to you to pack a carry-on. In this carry-on you should bring at least one change of clothes in the chance that your luggage goes missing.

Included in this carry-on should be a toothbrush and toothpaste. You’ll probably want to bring any other toiletries that will be extra (read: overpriced) at your vacation destination.

Roll Your Underwear

This is something I’ve been doing for a few years now.

Rolling your underwear when packing it in your suitcase can decrease the amount of space it takes up in your luggage.

I know, it sounds crazy. You’d think that keeping them folded flat would allow you to pack more. But give it a try. You’ll see that you’ll be able to fit more underwear in a smaller space.

Fold Clothes That Wrinkle

I’m honestly not trying to insult your intelligence with this one. Of course, you’re going to fold your clothes before packing.

The reason I included this item is because clothes that wrinkle tend to be the ones we want to look our best in. For those clothes, the first thought might be to put in them a garment bag.

And if that’s where you think they should go, by all means, put them in a garment bag.

But if these clothes wrinkle easily, there’s a chance that they may not stay pristine after the airline gets through with them.

So my recommendation is to fold them, put them into the suitcase first, then pack the rest.

Why?

By folding clothes that wrinkle they’ll stay in the same shape as you folded them once you open your luggage.

And by putting them in the suitcase first, the other items in the suitcase will have the effect of pressing them.

So your clothes that could potentially be wrinkled will now leave your luggage looking pressed and fresh.

Roll Socks, Put them In Shoes

When I learned about this trick, my mind was blown! I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of this on my own.

I’m tall – about 7 feet (give or take an inch). So my socks are longer than the average human. It also means my feet are big.

Rolling my socks and sliding them into my shoes saves me a TON of space!

Think about it: You already have to pack shoes. Rolling your socks and putting them into your shoes means you have space in your suitcase for items other than socks.

Try it. It seems like it’s no big deal. But after you’ve done it once, you’ll do it all the time after that.

Put Toiletries Into Water Resistant Travel Cubes

3 water resistant packing cubes
Sponsored: 3 Pack Roadtrip Large Water-Resistant Packing Cubes

I told you travel cubes would come up again. And this is a good place to talk about them.

Water resistant travel cubes are good for things like mouthwash, perfume, lotions, and other things that could ruin your clothes if they leaked out.

So not only do you get the organizational benefits of packing toiletries into travel cubes, you compartmentalize any damage to your other items should any of them accidentally leak out.

Use Shoe Bags for Shoes

two shoe bags used for travel
Sponsored: Travelpro® Essentials™ Shoe Bags 2 Pack

We don’t have to spend too much time on this one. But it needs to be said.

Unless you’re the type to buy new shoes for every trip, you’re likely going to wear the shoes you already have and have worn other places.

And that could get you thinking, “What was that I stepped on yesterday?”

It was probably nothing. But do you really want that touching your nice clothes you are going to place onto your skin?

Ewww!!!

So do yourself a favor and get some shoe bags for your shoes. This way everything stays fresh.

Don’t Pack Liquids Larger Than 3.4 Ounces

If you’re driving to your vacation destination, then you don’t have to concern yourself with this one.

If, however, you are flying, then you should definitely not pack liquids that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces.

It doesn’t matter what it is – from mouthwash to water.

When you go through the security screening, the TSA will take any container larger than 3.4 ounces. And they won’t care what is in it or why you have it.

So play it safe and only bring travel size containers with you. If possible, leave those items home and purchase them when you reach your destination.

Read this post to see what things the TSA will allow on an airplane. Some of them are really funny!

Put Medicines in a Dedicated Bag

bag with makeup
Sponsored: Travelpro® Essentials™ Split Case Toiletry Bag

Here’s another reason to get packing cubes.

Your medication is probably the most important thing you’ll pack for vacation. So you want to make sure you can easily find it.

That’s why I recommend that you pack your medication in a dedicated packing cube. Then put that packing cube in your carry-on. This way it’s with you at all times. Even if the airline loses your luggage.

Use a Durable Garment Bag for Dress Clothes

open garment bag with clothes in it
Sponsored: Platinum® Magna™ 2 Carry-on Rolling Garment Bag

It’s probably a given that you’ll want to dress up at least one day while on vacation. And the last thing you’ll want is for your fancy clothes to be wrinkled.

Now, you could go into Target or Wal-Mart and get an inexpensive garment bag. But remember, the people handling your garment bag aren’t going to be concerned with what’s in it.

Even if the handlers treat your garment bag well, the machines it will pass through won’t.

That’s why I recommend you spend a little more money on a durable garment bag for these important items.

I’ve found scuffs and other damage on my luggage that wasn’t there when I handed it over to the airline.

Don’t put your trust in the airline with your nice clothes.

Have a Dedicated Laundry Bag

square bag with clear strip showing contents
Sponsored: Crew™ VersaPack™ Laundry Organizer (Global Size Compatible)

Once again, packing cubes come to the rescue!

Aside from keeping your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes, having a dedicated laundry bag will actually make your vacation more enjoyable.

Why?

Because with a dedicated laundry bag (preferably a large packing cube), you can place your dirty clothes in the packing cube when you take them off.

Then, when it’s time to leave, you simply put the packing cube into your luggage and off you go!

Convenient, right?

Purchase a Suitcase with Built-in Electronics Charger

suitcase with usb cable attached
Sponsored: Platinum® Elite Business Plus Carry-On Expandable Hardside Spinner

This one isn’t a necessity like the other items I mentioned. It’s a “nice-to-have”. But you might view it as a necessity after I explain.

Everyone today is concerned about privacy. And a favorite way for thieves to steal your data is by using charging terminals at the airport.

You see, what these thieves do is replace the charging terminal with a device that pulls your data from your phone when you begin charging.

You won’t know the difference. Your phone will have gone from dead to usable. So from your perspective, everything is good.

But what they’ve done is started downloading your files while you were powering up.

Want to see how it works?

Take your phone charging cable, plug it into your phone. Then plug the other end into the USB port on your computer.

Open up File Manager on your computer or the app you use to view your files.

You’ll see another drive that wasn’t there before. With your phone plugged in, you can transfer files between your phone and your computer.

And this is exactly what scammers can do when you use charging stations at the airport.

To protect yourself from this I highly recommend you buy a suitcase that allows you to charge your electronics. This way, you protect yourself from the potential of getting your data stolen just because you were running low on power.

Have a Carrying Case for Passports

passport and credit cards in a holder
Sponsored: Travelpro® Essentials™ Leather Passport Cover

If you are traveling domestically, this isn’t really a concern.

On the other hand, if you will be traveling to a place that requires you to have a passport. You’ll want to keep reading.

Having a case for your passport will make it easier to get through security lines. It will make the chances of losing it or getting mixed in with other items less likely.

And because of COVID, you’ll need to have your vaccination document with you as well. Not to mention any other documentation/ID you’ll need to carry.

For these reasons I recommend getting a carrying case for your passport.

These are small enough to be convenient and fit into your carry-on bag.

Get a Durable Suitcase With 4 Wheels

3 suitcases increasing in size
Sponsored: Platinum® Elite 21/25/29 – Luggage Set

We’ve already talked about how brutally the airline treats your luggage during our discussion about garment bags.

So purchasing a durable suitcase would definitely be a good idea.

But not just any suitcase. You want one with 4 wheels that can go in any direction.

Depending on which airports you’ll be passing through, you’ll be really glad you purchased luggage with 4 wheels.

For example, if you’ve ever been through Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, you know you’ll be pulling that bag for a long time. And you could be standing in security lines for quite a bit.

For those reasons and more, you’ll appreciate having luggage that rolls easily no matter which direction you pull it.

Use a Backpack for Tours and Excursions

blue backpack
Sponsored: Crew™ Executive Choice™ 3 Medium Top Load Backpack

I saved this one for last because it’s not really “necessary”. But it can make your vacation a little more enjoyable.

When you go on a tour or an excursion, there’s a good chance you’ll be away from civilization for the duration.

Using a backpack for tours and excursions can be a good idea to carry things like extra water, cameras, water shoes, identification, and other things that you might need.

I know ladies sometimes like to carry a large handbag for things like these. But using a backpack will free your hands and arms to enjoy the environment you’re exploring.

Have an Awesome Vacation!

Hopefully you found value in these tips.

I’m sure some of them you were already aware of. Perhaps some others are new. Either way, I wanted to give you something useful to take away with you.

If you need any of the items mentioned, you can find them at our affiliate partner Travel Pro. If you do make a purchase from one of our links, we do get a modest commission.

The reason we recommend Travel Pro is because travel bags is all they do. Travel Pro makes quality items designed to last you a long time.

So take a look through the store. I assure you, you’ll find items useful that we didn’t talk about here.

Then pack your things and head out to have an awesome vacation!

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