How to Pack Clothes in a Suitcase

Three Parts:Choosing What to BringMaking it All FitStaying Organized

Packing a suitcase for a trip is part art and part science. You can't bring everything, so a little planning helps to negotiate the stress and make sure you'll have everything you need for a trip. Learn to make the right decisions about what to bring, how to keep it organized, and how to make it all fit.

Part 1
Choosing What to Bring

  1. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 1
    Pick versatile clothing items. When you're packing a suitcase, you can't afford to take your whole wardrobe, so be judicious. You want to be able to include the most useful and reusable clothes for a short period of time on your trip. Bring only items that you'll be able to wear a few times without needing to worry about washing them, or looking like you're unkempt.
    • For example, you'll probably want to bring a jacket that is suitable for most weathers instead of bringing one for rain, one for cold weather, and others for various purposes. Bring clothes that can be worn for most occasions.
    • If you can, try to only bring one pair of shoes. Taking extra shoes tends to take up too much space and can cram your suitcase. When in doubt, go with a good pair of sturdy all-purpose shoes.
  2. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 2
    Bring plenty of underclothes. Wherever you're going, and for whatever length of stay, you need enough socks and underwear for each day of your trip. You can always get away with re-wearing a t-shirt if you can't do a wash, so you need to make sure you've got enough underclothes to cover the entire trip.
    • If you're going somewhere long term, it's usually a good idea to bring at least five or seven pair of socks and underwear to keep yourself from having to find laundry facilities more often than every week.
  3. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 3
    Consider the weather. You might not need to bring any heavy fleeces for your beach trip, but then again, the Atlantic coast gets awfully cold in winter. What kind of weather are you likely to encounter on your trip? Research the typical weather and bring clothes accordingly.
    • It's always good to have layers, even if you're expecting good weather. You don't want to get caught in unexpected downpours and have no clothes to prepare for it.
  4. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 4
    Find out about special occasions to plan for. Packing to go to a wedding is obvious–you're going to need some nice clothes. But what about a family reunion? A vacation? Will it all be shorts and sandals, or will you need something nice for an evening out? Make sure you plan ahead and know about any pre-planned formal events that will require a certain quality of items.
    • A good sweater is a versatile choice. It can help keep you warm in the event of cold weather, and can look formal enough for a nicely dressed evening, plus it's way more portable than a full suit or another dress.
  5. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 5
    Don't forget the toiletries. Pack all of your bathroom essentials into one toiletry bag, preferably something with a hook that you could hang on the towel bar. It's also sometimes desirable to use a waterproof bag for toiletries, so nothing gets wet in transit.
    • If you think that your bottles of shampoo might leak, just tape the cap individual bottles, then remove it when you arrive.
    • If your vacation is between one to two weeks long, don't bring those huge toothpaste squeezers. Opt for the travel size. If you use an electric toothbrush, small ones can also be purchased in most stores.

Part 2
Making it All Fit

  1. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 6
    Choose an appropriately sized suitcase. The best suitcases for packing clothes should be lighter and with plenty of space for all the items you'll need. Older or traditionally hard cases are extremely limited in capacity and can be quite heavy. Thinner material suitcases can fit more items that it seems, because material stretches. If you've got a rolling suitcase, all the better for your back.
  2. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 7
    Work in layers. One excellent way of saving space and organizing at the same time is to think of your bag in terms of different layers. Lay down a layer of heavier rolled items, like jeans, sweaters, and light jackets, packing them in as tightly as they'll go. This not only minimizes wasted space, it also prevents the rolls from coming undone during transit.
    • If you have any fragile items that aren't being brought as carry-on, place them in the center of the bag on top of the heavy-roll layer to protect the items from breakage.
  3. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 8
    Keep creased items folded neatly. On top of the bottom layer of heavy items, place delicate or formal items that need to remain folded. This will allow easier access to them upon arrival for unfolding and hanging. You can also place these items in a dry cleaner bag to help prevent wrinkling, if necessary.
  4. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 9
    Roll items that aren't necessary to fold. The next layer should consist of lighter rolled items like t-shirts and undergarments, tightly packed to prevent unrolling. This is typically the best way to get these items to fit in the bag, since it's not necessary for them to remain creased. Rolling helps to keep these items compact and easy to pack. It also helps to nest the items in at the last minute, if necessary.
  5. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 10
    Fill space with small items. Any additional lightweight item like underwear, belts, socks, and other smaller items should then be crammed into any available nook or cranny to help stabilize the packing. If it doesn't matter if it gets crammed, cram it.
    • Your shoes are excellent opportunities to nest items in unused space. Always make use of additional zippers, sacks, and little nooks in your particular suitcase to get the most space out of it.
  6. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 11
    Put your toiletries on top. Put your toiletry bag on top of the clothes, then simply close the suitcase lid and you're done. If you can't get the zipper to close, it's important to avoid struggling and risking ripping the fabric or breaking the zipper. Use pressure to force the lid down as far as possible, if necessary, but if it won't go, it won't go. Don't force it and risk having to go buy a new suitcase at the last minute.
  7. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 12
    Keep an eye on your baggage weight limit. Check with your airline for baggage and weight limits before packing to make sure you don't have a crisis at the airport, if you're flying. Some airlines will allow you to check two bags for free under a certain weight, while most only allow for one checked bag under a certain weight. Some airlines charge for checking any baggage and there are additional fees for excess weight.
    • It's also a good idea to check carry on restrictions. TSA has limited all passengers to one carry-on item and one personal item, which can include a purse, small backpack, camera bag or book bag. You typically do not have to pay for carry on.

Part 3
Staying Organized

  1. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 13
    Pack the most commonly used items on top. If you're going to be living out of your suitcase for a while, it's a good idea to make the most important items, or the most useful items easily accessible so that you can get them quickly without having to unpack everything. What's most important for your trip will likely depend on you and your trip, so plan accordingly for yourself.
  2. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 14
    Consider packing into themed mesh bags. Some travelers like to use mesh or netted bags to keep all your things in place in certain groups. For example, you could pack all your pajamas, underwear, and miscellaneous things in one mesh bag. Then you can have another for your shirts, and another for your pants. This keeps everything organized and easy to find, as well as easy to repack when it comes time.
  3. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 15
    Consider grouping by outfit. If you're feeling particularly type-A, it's also possible to plan out your individual outfits to keep them packed by day. If you're a planner, go ahead and figure out what you'd like to wear for each day of the trip and pack the pants and the shirts you're going to wear, rolled up together, or included in the same mesh bag. When the time comes, you can unroll the outfit or the bag and your'e ready to go.
  4. Image titled Pack Clothes in a Suitcase Step 16
    Bring a place for dirty clothes. Bring an extra mesh bag for laundry, to help keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes. This way you don't have to wash the clothes yourself on your trip, or you can have them all corralled in one place if you do have to make a trip to the laundromat.

Article Info

Categories: Travel Packing