Traveling should be exciting, fun, and refreshing. But packing can be stressful, and luggage can turn into a hindrance. Packing the wrong items, not arranging them properly, or not thinking ahead and holding onto unnecessary stuff can all add weight to your baggage.

Utilizing space and developing efficiency may seem like a daunting task, but these nine tips on how to pack a suitcase will help alleviate your woes. Luggage should help you enjoy your trips, not cause more problems. So let’s look at these tricks and get packing!

1. Preparation to Packing is Key

Write down or go over in your head some primary points of the trip. Start with how many days you’ll be at your destination and what the atmosphere will be. Are you going hiking? To the beach? Are you going out to any formal restaurants, or will it all be casual?

 Like studying, it does little good to cram the night before! This can lead to you forgetting to pack essential items, while non-essentials can find their way into your suitcase. Take some days in advance so you can address your needs with a stress-free mind.

2. Use a Suitcase with Less Interior Pockets and More Exterior Pockets

Exterior pockets are your best friend for quick-access items—lotion, maps, sunglasses, gum — your expanded list of necessities. You shouldn’t cram anything you will need to quickly access into the bulk of your suitcase when packing. You don’t want to unpack your bag so you can clip your nails!

 These items also take up space you’d need inside the bag for things you’ll use less often, or larger items that you may need more in the long run, such as shirts or pants. Everything should have a home.

3. Purchase a Separate Toiletry Bag

Keeping toiletries in a separate bag prevents a bunch of little bottles from roaming free in your suitcase. It also is a safeguard against loose caps or exploding bottles that could ruin your clothes. 

 If you are bringing only a carry-on, this is a great item to place in an exterior pocket, as you will need to remove it during the security process easily.

 Most toiletries bags are waterproof to protect the rest of your clothes. Don’t forget that they also have strict guidelines such as size and amount, as per TSA regulations. In a pinch, you can use a resealable sandwich bag. But something reusable, like a zippered bag, is more reliable.

4. Buy a Portable Luggage Scale

Weight plays a big part in traveling by plane. Most airlines designate that each checked bag must be under fifty pounds. That fifty-pound limit gets met quickly, and you shouldn’t rely on the bathroom scale. Not to mention your luggage may have a different weight on the way home due to things like souvenirs.

 A portable luggage scale lets you weigh your luggage to and from your home and saves you hefty overweight fees.

5. Bring a Separate Bag for Dirty Laundry

Unless you’re planning to have all of your items laundered at a hotel, you’ll want a separate bag for dirty clothes. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something that can hold enough and keep your used items away from your fresh ones.

 Planning to keep dirty laundry in separate pockets or sections of luggage can destroy your efficiency. You should be able to accommodate dirty laundry with some light rearranging, not leaving dead space that you could use for something else.

6. Suitcase Size Matters

Since most airlines have a specific weight limit for your luggage, don’t use a large suitcase that will tempt you to go over that limit. Pack your clothes as tightly and neatly as possible. A frequent method is to roll clothing so that its shape is compact and versatile.

 Try opting for a lighter weight suitcase that won’t take up some of your weight allowance. You want the weight to go towards your essentials, not what’s carrying them. 

 Stick to your plan and try to remember how much you need throughout a day. It’s not much. 

7. Use an Expandable Suitcase

An expandable suitcase can mentally help you keep your packing to a minimum. However, if you are running low on space, then an expanding bag can accommodate this. 

 Expanding suitcases vary with their original size and how much they expand. Versatility is one of the most valuable traits of any item when you travel, from clothing to luggage. Aim for maximum efficiency by utilizing the unexpanded case, but an expander can relieve unnecessary stress.

8. Wear your Bulkiest Clothing and Largest Footwear on the Plane

Let’s not forget that you, yourself, are a form of storage. When traveling there and back from your destination, wear your heaviest clothing. Most airlines keep the cabins cool, so you shouldn’t be sweltering on board and may even be more comfortable.

 Even if you aren’t wearing an item, like a jacket, try to attach it to you in some form. You’re likely to save yourself some valuable inches inside your suitcase without having to sacrifice essentials.

9. Never Pack it to "Just Check It"

A carry-on is your freebie luggage item, and you should take full advantage of that benefit. Checking bags can be pricey and become increasingly expensive the more you check.

 Aim to fit as much as possible in your carry-on. If it’s a large item, such as a particular pair of thick shoes or a 700-page hardcover novel, consider its importance for that trip. Vacations, even international ones, are relatively short, and you can do without many items.

It likely goes without saying, but never risk packing valuables in your checked luggage. If it has to travel with you, it has to stay with you.

Get Packin’! 

Packing is more than just throwing everything you own in a bag. It’s a skill that takes some time to develop as you recognize your needs and what to prioritize when you travel. These tips will help you learn how to pack a suitcase by utilizing space well, minimizing weight, and maximizing your efficiency for everything you need to enjoy a stress-free trip.

Looking for even more packing tips? Check out this article for further packing knowledge: Morning News.