9 Packing Tips to Maximize Luggage Space

Think you can't get enough in that Samsonite? We can help you pack what you need — without worrying about breaking zippers.Read More

Pro tip: Dogs do not generally make for good luggage. (Source: iStock / redonion1515)

Packing is a drag. Even when we look forward to a vacation, we don’t exactly relish the idea of counting pairs of socks and stuffing the last possible pair of pants into a pot-bellied suitcase. Trust us, though: Packing well makes travel — not to mention the time you spend in your chosen destination — smooth as can be. So, take some time to do it well and you’ll be rightly rewarded; all it takes are these nine packing tips.

1: Vacuum-seal casual wear.

Compression bags, or “vacuum-seal” bags, help you reduce the amount of space your clothes take up in your suitcases — simply by rolling them up. Most of these don’t actually come with vacuum sealers; they simply require a little bit of elbow grease. How much space do they save? By some accounts, it cuts the volume to one-third of the original. That’s a lot of valuable space you can use for fidget-spinners and Rubik’s cubes.

2: Roll t-shirts; don’t fold them.

The same principle applies here as it did for #1. When you roll shirts and pants, you can push out more air, which gives you more room to work with. Also, rolled clothing reduces wrinkles; folded clothing, by definition, will always have creases.

3: Plan to use more durable clothing items more than once.

This may seem anathema to those used to washing their clothes every day (or with wardrobes that extend for miles). But the truth is, you can wear a durable pair of jeans for two days without having to wash them (assuming they don’t get stained or dirty). So, pick clothes that are well-built and plan to wear them for a couple of days at least. (Pro tip: Don’t do this with undergarments; these should always be replaced daily.)

Save a day's worth of clothes for your carryon — it’s a nice backup if your luggage is lost or stolen. (Source: iStock / photographer)
Save a day’s worth of clothes for your carryon — it’s a nice backup if your luggage is lost or stolen. (Source: iStock / photographer)

4: Set aside one day’s worth of clothes for your carryon.

Not only does this save you some room in checked luggage, but it ensures you have something to wear if your suitcases are lost by your airline. Keep it simple, of course, to ensure it will all fit in your carryon, but make sure it’s a complete set: underwear, socks, shirt, and pants. You should travel with a coat or sweatshirt, so no need to add that to the carryon mix.

5: Layer when you leave.

Speaking of, try to layer your clothes when you leave so there’s less you have to pack. Yes, you’ll likely be taking some of these layers off and putting them on again as you go from chilly terminal to incubating airplane, but they will serve you well as you travel through different climes. Also, they give you another item to wear when you’re at your destination.

6: Don’t over-pack.

Reality check: You don’t need to pack runway gear for your vacation. Just bring utilitarian clothes that fit and do the job (i.e. keep you warm and dry) and you’ll be set. In other words, you don’t need to have seven of everything just so you have a daily choice of what to wear. Really, you’ll be fine.

Toiletries take up space; buy them when you get to your destination. (Source: iStock / padnpen)
Toiletries take up space; buy them when you get to your destination. (Source: iStock / padnpen)

7: Don’t pack common toiletries; buy them when you arrive.

Some might disagree with us on this, and we admit that it depends on your destination, but largely, you don’t need to pack basic toiletries when you travel. Either your hotel/hostel will have them for you, or you can easily pick them up at a local store. If you’re worried about it, only grab the basics and make sure they are travel-sized.

8: Use all of your luggage compartments.

If you’re anything like us, you tend to forget at least a few of the luggage compartments your suitcases offer. Be sure to make the most of all of these — the ones in the front, for example, are great for accessories like belts and don’t take away from the space in the main luggage compartments. (Quick note, though: These front compartments are usually the most abused by travel, so make sure whatever you stow there is durable.)

9: Make room for souvenirs or clothing you’ll buy on the road.

This isn’t so much a tip for packing in advance as it is saving room for what you’ll need to pack later. You never know what you’ll be bringing back, but it’s likely you’ll be buying something, so make sure you leave room for a souvenir or two. If you need help ensuring you have extra space, grab a small, unused box or an empty egg carton and place it in your luggage. Pack around it, committing only to the space that’s left. Once everything is good to go, remove the box and reshuffle your clothes so that the weight is balanced. You’ll be repacking before you head back, but this will ensure you have some room for that extra something-something.

Got a packing tip we missed? Send us a note at editor@wideworldoftravel.com and we’ll add it to the list!