The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase
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:
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:
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
Allow us to help. Here are 14 packing tips to save you from Breaking Bag.
1) Make a list 📝
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”.
💡Top Tip: Whatever you think you need, halve it
2) Packing cubes 🟦
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.
💡Top 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.
3) Packing folders 👔
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.
💡Top Tip: You can fit up to 10 collared shirts inside a packing folder
4) Rolling and rubber bands 🗞
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.
💡Top 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 👞
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
💡Top 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 🧴
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.
💡Top Tip: If you want to prepare before you go to the airport, you can buy travel packs of 100ml bottles like these
7) Put cling film on caps 🔝
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.
💡Top 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 👀
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.
💡Top 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 💎
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
💡Top Tip: Ziplock bags are awesome, but when it comes to jewellery, don't just check them in there. You'll be untangling for hours.
10) Earrings in buttons 👂🏼
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.
💡Top 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!
11) E-reader, not books 📚
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.
💡Top 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 🛄
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.
💡Top 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 🏋🏽♀️
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.
💡Top 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 📏
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.
💡Top 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
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