The Best Packing Tips (for When You are Actually Packing)

You’ve read list after list of what to pack, but what about how to pack? We all dread trying to fit our entire wardrobe into a suitcase that seems to have shrunk since the last time we used it. Then, once you get to your destination, it’s a puzzle to dig through your bag for tonight’s outfit while keeping clothes organized and wrinkle free. We’ve already covered how to pack your carry-on and our favorite weekender bags, so now we’re here to help with some insider tips and a few great products that will make packing your luggage a breeze. You might even be able to squeeze that last minute pair of shoes into your suitcase! Ready, set, go!


How to pick luggage:

Source: Southern Curls and Pearls (shop the luggage here)

Choosing the type of luggage to bring with you varies based on destination and travel style. If you’re headed out of town for an extended vacation, it’s important to consider how heavy the suitcase is when empty. Some can weigh more than 10 pounds, and if the airline only allows a maximum of 50, it takes away from precious packing pounds! Weigh your current suitcase (while empty!) on a bathroom scale to see where you start. Then you can gauge how much and how heavy to pack inside. And if you’re in the market for new luggage, look for brands with the label “lightweight.” Our favorites range from four to eight pounds.

For shorter weekend trips with just a carry-on, make sure the dimensions of your suitcase fit within airline regulations, especially if you have it expanded to its maximum size. Budget airlines tend to have stricter requirements, and flight attendants are known for asking to measure your luggage in their metal crate prior to boarding to ensure it will fit in the overhead compartment.

If you’re traveling true backpacker style and hopping from city to city, consider investing in a pack that is easy to carry up and down stairs as you weave through subway tunnels and train stations. Osprey and Deuter both make great options designed specifically for women, and they come in various sizes (measured in liters). Head to your local REI or outdoor sporting goods store to try them on and see which fits the couture of your back and body frame comfortably. You can even load each with beanbags at the store to see how they will feel when packed to the brim.


The art of packing:

Source: Brit+Co

Now that you have your luggage, lay all clothes, accessories, and essentials out for review. And now comes the hardest part: Put half back in your closet. Expert packers say to pack in outfits—two tops for every bottom, neutrals that mix and match, and only two or three pairs of shoes. Tip: Tieks ballerina flats are our favorite travel shoe for any occasion. They come in a rainbow of colors and are designed to wear from day to night, made with comfort features, and a flexible sole that can fold up to fit in your purse!

Set aside your heaviest shoes and bulkiest outfit or outerwear (or any items that are wrinkle-prone) to wear on the plane. Next, start packing by stuffing your shoes with socks, underwear, and belts, and use a shower cap or plastic bag to cover the dirty soles before you layer in the bottom. Then, instead of folding, roll! Sweaters and pants go first, between the wheels of the bag, followed by light layers including knits, wool, and cotton. Once you’re left with formal wear and more structured items, switch to folding. Plastic dry cleaner bags or tissue paper can be reused to layer between dress items to keep them from getting creased.

For a little extra folding love, we like Eagle Creek’s twist on a garment bag—it helps you stay organized and winkle free on-the-go. They also make great compression bags that come in various sizes, which simply need to be squeezed down, then zip locked shut. These are a great option for longer trips because they remove excess air from bulky clothes. And they also make great storage solutions for dirty laundry during your trip.


The final touches:

Source: Style Me Pretty

So now all of your clothes made it into the luggage, but what about last minute odds and ends that you don’t quite know what to do with? Toiletries are the first challenge. Start by protecting them from exploding in your bag by cutting a small square of plastic wrap, unscrewing the cap, and placing it over the bottle opening before screwing back on the lid. If you’re using reusable plastic bottles for your favorite products, make sure to only fill them three-quarters full since the cargo area is not pressurized and liquids expand in-flight. Travel size is a must-have and look for combination products (sunscreen + foundation + moisturizer all in one).



For last minute Advil, your favorite stud earrings, and even iPod earbuds, REI has small plastic containers of all sizes that fit in the nooks and crannies of your bag. If you have several wires, chargers, or headphones, try putting them in an old sunglasses case to keep you organized.

Last but not least, what will you do to pass the time while you’re en route? Our favorite trick is to pick up a Read and Return book at the airport, and then dropping it off at a participating bookstore once you reach your destination—and you get 50% of your money back!



What are your tips and tricks for the packing process?


This post was originally published on April 12, 2016

  • Maria Tarar

    Some very useful tips!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Hope you learned something!

  • Packing for travel is seriously my favorite thing! Great tips here.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      What is your favorite tip to share? Thanks for reading! xo

      • So many favorite tips! One that I don’t see often is that if you want to make travel an important part of your lifestyle, keep that in mind whenever you go shopping. Invest in the best quality gear and clothing you can afford in lightweight materials that last longer and travel well (silk, merino wool, down etc.). They cost a little more upfront but worth it in the long run when you can pack lighter or leave more room for souvenirs.

  • Terra

    Great article, and just in time for our big trip! Thank you!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Where are you headed? Thanks for reading! xo

  • The Rose Gold luggage? OMG! Adding to the wish list. Love it!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Me too! Christmas can’t come soon enough!

  • I just ordered an Eagle Creek garment folder for my upcoming trip! Thanks for the advice 🙂

    As my my biggest tip: compartmentalize everything! I have tons of pouches in various sizes for socks, undies, bras, electronics chargers, etc. They also are great for storing dirty clothes.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      You’re going to love those bags! They have even saved me when I was organizing my closets at home! Thanks for reading! xo

  • Tanya Wheeless

    One of my fave tips: zip locks, zip locks, zip locks. You can use them to organize small items like panties, scarves and bras and since they’re clear you can easily see what’s stashed where. Also great for separating toiletries and take an extra biggie for that bikini hasn’t quite dried before it’s time to head home.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Good call! I always pack a few in my bag for dirty shoes, wet bathing suits, exploded toiletries. Thanks for reminding me! xo

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Good call! I always pack a few in my bag for dirty shoes, wet bathing suits, exploded toiletries. Thanks for reminding me! xo

  • fuzzball

    The part about putting half the stuff back…she’s correct. You can knock out 2 days, what you wear on the plane is an all day outfit and going home outfit. “Table top” dressing: most often you have to look good from the waist up. At dinner make sure to have a nice top, sweater, or jacket and earrings/necklace.
    My sister and I went to Italy last year for a month…carry on only. Before coming home, we had to buy a suitcase the size of a freight elevator for gifts we bought.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Agreed! I always wear my biggest items on the plane so that I don’t have to pack 🙂 You guys are professionals if you did a month in a carry on! Thanks for reading xo

      • fuzzball

        We learned from our previous trip. OMG. The more you travel the more you learn about packing. White, black and gray T-shirts. Jeans Jeans. Navy blazer a nice Cole-Haan rain jacket with tons of pockets.. After a month it’s easy to throw away underwear and t-shirts. Buy stuff at Target and toss it along the way.

  • These are great tips! I wish I’d read this a few days earlier. I leave tonight for a trip and I weighed my bag this morning at 59.5 lbs! Had to move some things over to my sister’s bag! Lol

    • Jenna Laedtke

      At least you had your sister to back you up! Saved you some cash at the gate 🙂

  • Helen Fu

    Really great tips! As a frequent traveler for work, I learned packing the hard way. Packing cubes are the best for corralling clothes and keeping them tidy. And pack your high heels on the top of the luggage – and stuff the toes with socks or something to help it keep it’s shape. Other shoes can be packed at the bottom, but high heels are easily ruined at the bottom of luggage.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Thanks! These are great additions too! Follow along @jklaedtke xo

  • I’m a huge fan of rolling vs. folding in packing. IMO it helps keep the wrinkles away!

    Always check with where you’re traveling to see what kind of toiletries etc. they have. If they have a blowdryer, shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc. then less things that you have to pack.

    Lastly, think versatility first. Don’t bring shoes, or tops or bottoms that you can’t wear at least a few times. Bonus: Stay at a place near or with laundry facilities and going carry-on only will never be easier!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Yes! Agreed! Especially the laundry tip! Follow along @jklaedtke

  • Mallory S.

    I’ve got a Kate Spade purse that converts from cross body to chic black clutch. It also fits inside my personal carry on for boarding but can keep IDs, money, etc. at my fingertips when walking through the airport.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      I’m going to check out the bag – that sounds like a great item to have on hand. Follow along @jklaedtke xo

  • Spot on with all these tips! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Thanks! Follow along @jklaedtke xo

  • Virginia Pilgrim Ramey

    Love this! I’m such an anxious traveller so I need all the help I can get. The “how to pack your carry-on” link isn’t working for me. Did that post get removed?

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Sorry about that! I’ll let the site team know – below

      follow along @jklaedtke xo!

  • I never travel without my Shelves-To-Go. They’re shelves that collapse to fit in your suitcase, and then you can lift them out and hang them in a closet when you get where you’re going. It’s so much easier to find and organize everything. Plus, repacking is a breeze! I also pack sanitizing wipes for the plane. No more icky tray tables!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Sanitation wipes are a must! Agreed! Follow along @jklaedtke xo!

  • Love these tips – especially the one about the little containers for small odds and ends – that is always my biggest packing struggle, figuring out where to stick those little things so they’re accessible and don’t get lost in the shuffle! Gorgeous photos too, makes me want to go shopping for new luggage! 🙂

    Be Pure Beauty

    Travelistas may enjoy:
    Clean Beauty on the Go: Must-Haves for Your Spring Travels

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Thanks! Follow along @jklaedtke xo!

  • Nicole

    Great article and full of useful tips! I love the advice of leaving half your things you plan to pack at home it is such a true statement! My current quest is for a personal bag to travel with I have a great roller bag but struggle with a lightweight “purse” item for travel

  • T. Thomas

    still using these tips! need to update and talk about packing cubes and living the carryon life! every since I started rolling my clothing into packing cubes, but bags have gotten smaller and smaller. I’ve gone on vacations for 7-10 days using one carryon and a foldable tote. Another tip, pack your shoes in your tote and wear larger shoes on the plane (boots and such)… travel sizes are your friend!