The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase

Packing for travel can be a nightmare. This guide contains 14 unexpected tricks to help you pack better, faster and happier.

Humans have been using bags for thousands of years.

Look at this one from Ancient Egypt - this would fetch a handsome sum on Depop these days:

Image of a bag originating in Ancient Egypt

From the moment we’re born and our mother unpacks our nappies from her maternity bag, bags are a constant presence in our lives (lunchboxes, backpacks, laptop bags, carry-in bags).

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Why is it then, that we're so BAD at packing? Most of us do it like this:

pack packing GIF

This kind of item-shoving works when you’re a teenager, but by the time you enter the world of adulting, things get serious.

If you don't learn how to pack, you get into all sorts of trouble:

  • Turning up to an important meeting with creased shirt

  • Standing up to give a speech at a wedding in trainers

  • Your bag bursting open in transit, so you lose everything


Schitts Creek Comedy GIF by CBC

Allow us to help. Here are 14 packing tips to save you from Breaking Bag.

1) Make a list ๐Ÿ“

A trick as old as time. Making a packing list is the best way to not overfill a bag. So, get out a scrap of paper, a pen, and start with “Socks - 4x Pairs”.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Whatever you think you need, halve it

2) Packing cubes ๐ŸŸฆ

Packing cubes are the absolute best way to pack for travelling (they're technically cuboids, but that's us being pedantic).

Even if you’re a chaotic packer, Packing Cubes compartmentalise your chaos into small, tidy packets. They prevent wrinkles in your cloths, are both malleable and structured, and make it easier to find things in your suitcase without causing mayhem in the rest of your bag.

Honesty, give them a go. We like these ones from Eagle Creek

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Colour code packing cubes to the contents inside them, so you can get to your things faster. Beach holiday? Put your bathing suit and towel in a blue cube, and your fancy evening shirt and linen trousers in a black cube.

Three packing cubes full of folded clothes



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3) Packing folders ๐Ÿ‘”

Have you ever been to a wedding and turned up with a creased shirt, then ran around the hotel looking for an ironing board? Yes, us too.

Save yourself the trouble and get yourself a packing folder. These usually have a handy, rigid card inside to keep your shirts pristine in transit. This one from Osprey is pretty snazzy.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: You can fit up to 10 collared shirts inside a packing folder

Woman placing folded clothes in a packing folder

4) Rolling and rubber bands ๐Ÿ—ž

Do you usually fold your clothes? Don't! Roll your clothes instead so they take up less space.

Before you chuck them into a packing cube, there's one secret ingredient: The rubber band (or elastic band, depending on where you’re from).

Once you’ve rolled a garment into a cute tight little swiss roll, use two rubber bands (one sideways, and one longways) to keep your hard-rolled work intact for the duration of your journey.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Buy a big pack of multi-coloured rubber bands and use different colour codes. We use red for any dirty laundry…

5) Put stuff in your shoes ๐Ÿ‘ž

OK, before we go any further: If your shoes smell really bad, then just skip this tip altogether. 

Still here? OK. Congratulations on your fragrant tootsies. 

Take your tightly rolled clothes and shove the smallest of them (socks, underwear) into your shoes. This will help ensure your shoes keep their shape and is also a super efficient use of space

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Once your shoes are more stuffed than stuffed olives, place them on top of each other head-to-toe, then secure these with rubber bands. 

6) Re-use travel-size bottles ๐Ÿงด

Don’t be that person who gets stopped at security and has to throw out 5 huge bottles of shampoo.

We all know the rules. 100ml. It’s not hard.

Next time you travel through an airport, buy a handful of ‘travel size’ cosmetics. Rather than throw them away at the end of the trip, keep them and reuse them for your next trip. We have a little drawer at home where we keep ours. 

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: If you want to prepare before you go to the airport, you can buy travel packs of 100ml bottles like these

Travel plastic bag full of toiletry bottles



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7) Put cling film on caps ๐Ÿ”

Little plastic bottles have a knack of leaking all over everything. To prevent this from happening, use cling film underneath the screw top lid.

Despite the obvious drawback that you’ll need to remove the cling film again before you can shower, we think this is worth it.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: To make things even less likely to leak, put them inside a ziplock bag. Then put that ziplock back inside a larger ziplock bag (repeat as many times as needed until you feel safe).

8) Use contact lense cases for storage ๐Ÿ‘€

Now we’re getting into the ‘pro level’ packing hacks. Have you ever used contact lenses? No? Doesn’t matter, you can get a contact lense case for a couple of bucks pretty much anywhere.

There are 3 great things about contact cases. They're 1) extremely compact, 2) screw top, 3) completely watertight.

This makes them perfect for storing any thick liquid that you don’t need in huge volumes. We like to put face moisturiser in one, and toothpaste in the other. 

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Label each lid. Otherwise you’ll end up brushing your teeth with moisturiser and moisturising your face with toothpaste. Minty.

9) No jewellery tangles ๐Ÿ’Ž

How many times have you had to fiddle with a necklace to untangle it?

There's 3 ways to make sure you don't waste any time untangling jewellery:

  • Loop necklaces through a straw

  • Lay necklaces down on a sheet of cling film / plastic wrap, then layer another sheet on top. Fold, roll and pack

  • Lay necklaces down on a t-shirt, evenly spaced apart. Tightly roll the t-shirt, then hold it all together with rubber bands

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Ziplock bags are awesome, but when it comes to jewellery, don't just check them in there. You'll be untangling for hours.

Woman holding tangled jewellery

10) Earrings in buttons ๐Ÿ‘‚๐Ÿผ

You that drawer in your house that's full of random old buttons that have fallen off shirts and jackets over the years? Good news - those buttons finally have a use!

Take a pair of earrings, remove the clip at the back, and re-attach it with a button in between. This will keep each pair of earrings neatly together. 

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: use the small box that came with a pair of earrings you bought, remove the cardboard insert, and chuck your freshly buttoned earring in there. Don’t forget to rubber-band it!

Image of two red coat buttons



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11) E-reader, not books ๐Ÿ“š

Books are heay. If you're readingWar and Peace - that will set you back 2.8 pounds (or 13%) of your entire hand luggage allowance.

Packing a Kindle (or any other e-reader) or downloading books to your mobile device could save you a significant amount of weight. We like e-readers because they tend to be easier on your eyes.

This means you can carry multiple books without adding any extra weight, which is great if you devour books on holiday.

Fastest reading speed ever recorded? 80,000 words per minute! True story.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Make sure to download your books at home rather than relying on WiFi or data at the airport or in your destination, which can be unreliable and expensive. 

12) Heavy stuff near the wheels ๐Ÿ›„

It’s simple physics. All objects fall towards the ground due to gravity. 

The problem is that some objects in your luggage will be heavy and sturdy, while others may be light and fragile. The worst thing that could happen is for that glass memento you bought for your inflaws to get broken because you packed badly.

For that reason, it’s best to keep your heaviest, sturdiest items - shoes, toiletry bags, books - at the bottom of the suitcase.

Keeping heavier stuff towards the bottom will also keep your suitcase’s centre of gravity low, which will prevent it from toppling over.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Even if you put your heavy stuff on the bottom, your suitcase may still be tossed around causing any fragile objects to break. If you want to be extra safe, make sure those items are surrounded by something soft on all sides (like clothes)

13) Weigh luggage before leaving ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿฝ‍โ™€๏ธ

Nobody likes paying extra baggage fees, do they?

Most airlines limit your hand luggage allowance to 8-10 kg. Not only that, but they also make a fair amount of money charging for extra luggage, so you’re all but guaranteed to be have to pay if your luggage exceeds the weight limit. 

You may be able to get away with 1kg or 2kg extra, but not much more

Some budget airlines will charge you £12 per kg if they “catch you” at the airport. So, you’re better off paying for extra luggage upfront or making sure you fit within the limit.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: If you travel a lot, it might be worth investing in portable luggage scales like this one. Otherwise, your standard bathroom scales should do fine.

14) Check dimensions for carry on ๐Ÿ“

Hand luggage size restrictions: our archnemesis. 

Annoyingly, restrictions vary from airline to airline. You can find a good article that lists baggage sizes by airline here.

When buying a suitcase, aim for something that’s a few centimetres shorter and narrower than the "standard carry on size', just to be on the safe side.

๐Ÿ’กTop Tip: Most budget airlines now distinguish between small and large cabin bags. A small cabin bag (like a backpack or handbag) is normally included for free, but a large cabin bag (wheelie bag) has to be paid for. 

We hope you found some of these tips helpful

And remember… don’t forget the rubber bands!

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Updated 14th Apr 2023

Written 28th Nov 2022