One of the most inconvenient and challenging parts of traveling is packing. It’s hard to find the best way to pack a suitcase to maximize space, but it is a necessity. Otherwise, you have to bring more luggage with you, an approach that is both cumbersome and, if you have to pay baggage fees, potentially expensive.
Luckily, it is possible to optimize space in luggage. By using the most space efficient packing techniques, you can reduce your need for extra bags, all while still being able to bring everything you’d like. If you don’t know where to begin, here is a look at how to pack a suitcase to maximize space.
How to Pack a Suitcase to Maximize Space
1. Only Pack What You Actually Need
When you’re looking for the best way to pack a suitcase, start by only taking what you genuinely need. Plan every single outfit, limiting the number of pieces you need for each one. Additionally, try to make use of as few pairs of shoes as possible and choose attire that works with the same set of accessories.
If possible, explore whether you can do laundry during your trip. If that’s an option, you can reduce your packing list even further.
Your goal should be to reduce what you have to pack; it really is the most important space saving packing hack. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t properly prepare. Review your activity list, check the local weather, and take what you need; just leave any excess at home.
2. Compress with SpaceSaver Travel Roll Up Bags
If you’re looking for the best way to pack a suitcase, SpaceSaver bags are the way to go. Many clothing items, especially bulky ones like sweaters and coats, contain a lot of air. By compressing fluffier pieces, they take up less room. As a result, you can fit more items into your suitcase.
Begin by selecting the right size SpaceSaver bags for your luggage dimensions. Fill up the bag, seal it, and then use a vacuum or the free hand pump to remove the excess air, shrinking down the clothing. Once compressed, you can place the SpaceSaver bag right in your suitcase.
You can even stack several bags on top of each other, allowing you to maximize your luggage and keep the contents organized. Plus, as an added bonus, the SpaceSaver bags repel water and other spills. They give your clothing an extra layer of protection, making it safer to have items like toiletries in with your clothes.
3. Roll Your Remaining Clothing
If you’re trying to figure out how to fold clothes to save space in luggage, the answer is not to fold. In most cases, rolling any clothing you don’t need to compress is the way to go. Each item will take up less room, allowing you to squeeze more into your bag.
Additionally, you can create clear layers in your luggage. If your suitcase is lying down, place the rolls in vertically. This could make items easier to find once you arrive at your destination, as you can see the ends sticking up.
4. Fill Voids with Underwear
After you’ve placed all of your rolled clothes, you may still have some small voids between items. If so, then fill those gaps with the underwear you want to bring. Like clothing, these small items can be rolled, but it can usually be folded as well. As a result, each piece is highly adaptable, allowing it to be positioned inside of any small spaces that you can’t fill otherwise.
It’s also smart to use underwear and socks to fill the cups of any bras you’re taking. It helps the cups maintain their shape while also ensuring you are using the most efficient way to pack a suitcase.
5. Stuff Shoes with Socks or Toiletries
If you need to bring extra shoes with you, don’t let the space inside of them go to waste. Instead, consider using them as sock storage, allowing you to fit more into your bag.
Alternatively, if you don’t need all of your toiletries in one place, you could place those in shoes as well. Since shoes have some structure, they can provide a degree of protection to breakable or squishable containers.
Just make sure to place your toiletries in plastic bags first, reducing the chances of any leaks getting into your shoes. If you’re worried about the soles of your shoes dirtying other items, just cover them with shower caps. That way, the walking surfaces won’t touch your clothing.
6. Pair Down Your Toiletry Sizes
Even if you don’t have to worry about toiletry size limits during your trip, consider shrinking or eliminating as many of them as possible. If you’re staying at hotels, call ahead and ask which free toiletries are provided. That way, if you can use their shampoo, conditioner, or other supplies, you know you don’t have to pack your own.
Otherwise, make sure to get travel-sized bottles. You can get empty, TSA-approved sizes at many big box stores, allowing you to pack your preferred products.
If you need only a few dabs of something - like eye cream, concealer, or even toothpaste - consider placing a small amount inside a contact lens case. That way, you can bring what you need in the tiniest possible container.
7. Put Small Jewelry in Pill Cases
Travel jewelry holders can be a bit bulky. Luckily, pill holders can be a streamlined alternative. You can fit several pairs of stud earrings in a single “day.” Then, you can fill other days with dangly ones, ensuring they don’t get tangled up together.
It’s even possible to keep necklaces straight in pill containers. Just cut up the stick from a cotton swab, ensuring it fits in the pill case. Then, wrap the necklace around the stick, decreasing the odds that it will tangle in transit.
8. Or Use Press-and-Seal Plastic Wrap for Accessories
Alternatively, you can use press-and-seal plastic wrap to separate jewelry. With this approach, you can organize your pieces on a sheet, then use a second sheet on top. Press between each item to create individual compartments, ensuring nothing gets tangled. Then, lay the sealed sheets flat on top of your other stuff.
Necklaces can also be strung through drinking straws first, then placed between sheets of press-and-seal plastic wrap. This takes tangle prevention to a new level without taking up much space.
9. Wear Your Bulkiest Items
If you need to bring a big coat with you, putting it in your bag isn’t ideal if you’re working with a single suitcase or trying to figure out how to maximize space in your backpack when packing for a long trip. While you can certainly compress it with a SpaceSaver bag, there’s also an alternative; wear your coat while you travel.
Usually, this option is best if it's going to be cooler while you’re on the move. While you might have to carry it if you get a bit warm, that’s typically a small inconvenience.
Other Suitcase Packing Tips
Sometimes, it isn’t all about getting as much stuff into your bag as possible. There are other points to consider, like how easy it is to find critical items and move your suitcase around.
When you pack, make sure to put the heaviest items near the bottom. If the weighty pieces are closer to the wheels, your luggage won’t be top-heavy, reducing the odds that it will tip over or become challenging to maneuver.
If you want to organize your electronic cables while traveling, start by using sandwich ties to keep them wrapped tight. Then, place them into a sunglasses cases, preferably one with a strong closure, like a zipper. Not only will the container be easy to spot, but it also simplifies packing the chargers.
Additionally, whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to pack. Ideally, you want to complete a trial run well before you are supposed to hit the road. That way, you can figure out if you’ll have any space issues, need to purchase items (like SpaceSaver bags) to compress bulky pieces, or take other steps.
Finally, if there’s a decent chance you’ll bring home souvenirs, then you want to make sure you’ll have room. When you initially pack your suitcase during your practice run, use a small box or container to mimic how much space you’d like to dedicate. If the only souvenirs you plan to return with are t-shirts, then use a few extra shirts for your dry run, allowing them to serve as stand-ins.
Ultimately, by following all of the tips above, you can find the best way to pack a suitcase to maximize space and make sure it will handle your needs. That way, you won’t find yourself suddenly having to make a tough choice about what to leave behind. Instead, you’ll be fully prepared, allowing you to move forward on your journey and make the most of your time on the road.