22 Genius Space-Saving Hacks for Packing Your Suitcase

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Could flying get any worse?

They cram you in the cabin like so many sardines then have the gall to charge extra for luggage. Well, when you learn these tips, the joke’s on them. That carry-on has plenty of space if you know how to pack right.

Follow these guidelines to save valuable luggage space, prevent wrinkles, and keep your jewelry and cosmetics safe and free of leaks. Forget checking luggage; you’re about to become a suitcase-packing superstar.

1. First things first. Instead of folding your clothes, try this clever pack hack:

2. Rolling clothes is great, but you should still fold heavier and easily wrinkled fabrics.

Your dress shirts won’t stand up to the rolling treatment. Fold stiffer fabric pants and skirts and more wrinkle-prone dress shirts and pack them in the spaces left by rolled clothes. With the proportions right, you can achieve Tetris-level perfection in your suitcase.

3. Choose your clothes wisely.

The first step in packing like a pro is to pick the right outfits. This may limit your fashion choices, but it’s totally worth it to avoid checking a bag.

Scour your wardrobe for cotton, wool, and knit clothes. You want fabric that’s thin and soft; it will resist wrinkles and take up less space. Yoga pants are ideal. They should make entire outfits out of yoga pants.

4. Layer your clothes like a fine lasagna.

Start with a layer of rolled clothes stored like vertical tubes. That’s your best use of space. Then layer folded clothes (those heavier and easily wrinkled fabrics, remember) on top of your rollies.

Woman folding clothes on bed
Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 45 minutes. Wait, no, that’s actual lasagna.

5. Encase your jewelry between two flat layers of plastic wrap.

This will make sure your necklaces don’t get all tangled in transit. Plus, it rearranges accessories in an easily stacked top layer for your luggage lasagna.

6. Keep it fresh.

Things tend to get musty when they’re crammed together in a suitcase.

Freshen up your luggage by throwing a dryer sheet between layers.

7. Pack your dressier fabrics in plastic.

Dry-cleaning bags are great for dress slacks and shirts. Put your fancy clothes in the dry-cleaning bag before you fold them. Something about the plastic wrapping seems to prevent wrinkles and creases from forming.

We’re not sure about the physics behind it, but it’s always worked for us. Plus, this way you can pack your shoes without putting tread marks on your nicest white dress shirt.

8. Alternatively, cover your shoes with a shower cap.

The other way to keep shoe dust off your clothes is to place your kicks sole down in a shower cap. That’ll protect everything else in your suitcase from tread marks.

Added bonus: Rinse out the shower cap, let it dry, and use it to protect your perm on vacation.

9. Sunglasses cases are your friend.

Even if you no longer own the original shades that came in that sunglasses case, you can still put that clamshell to good use. It’s a great place to store your charger cables.

Ray-Ban sunglasses and case sitting on glass table
Austin Paquette on Unsplash

Sunglasses cases are small enough that your cables don’t have room to get all tangled. It’s one way to defeat the tendency of cords to immediately twist into knots of spaghetti the moment you turn your back. How do they do that, anyway?

10. Only bring the quantities of skincare products that you need.

You don’t have to pack the whole tub of lotion. Try filling straws with the creams, ointments, lotions, and unguents that you’ll need for the duration of your trip. Fold and tape the ends shut.

You’ll save a ton of space this way, and it’s kind of cute to squeeze out a dollop of BB cream from a cut-up straw.

11. We just figured out why the dry-cleaning bags prevent wrinkles.

It’s not magic after all. Even if you don’t pack your fancy clothes in dry-cleaning bags before you fold them, it’s worthwhile to lay one of these large sheets of plastic between each layer of clothes.

The trick is a dry-cleaning bag’s slippery surface. They keep clothes sliding around so that creases don’t have time to set. We’re glad we finally got to the bottom of that mystery.

12. Pack your socks in their natural environment.

Stuff your socks in your spare shoes. There’s no reason to take up extra space with them.

Fun, colorful socks hanging from outdoor clothesline
Nick Page on Unsplash

Besides, they’re used to being inside of shoes. That’s where they’re most comfortable, anyway.

13. Do like your mother told you and fold your underwear.

Underwear is one item of clothing that’s most compact when it’s folded, not rolled. Just fold it neatly in little squares and tile the inside of your suitcase.

14. Pack your bobby pins in an old Tic Tac box.

Bobby pins used to be the bane of our suitcase. They ended up everywhere. We’d be picking them out of our underwear. We’d feel them in our shoes. Disaster.

Prevent this annoyance by sticking all your bobby pins in an old Tic Tac box. It’s like those containers are tailor-made for bobby pins. You can even tap them to dispense one pin at a time. It’s great.

15. If you pack a razor, cover the business end with a binder clip.

It’s better than accidentally carving up your underwear.

Those large binder clips fit conveniently over most razors, and they’re easy to get on and off.

16. Don’t pack a whole tube of toothpaste.

Just squirt some in an empty bottle of eye drops.

Squished tube of toothepaste
Jung Ho Park on Unsplash

You could always buy a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, but why spend the money when you’ve got tons of the stuff at home already?

17. Pack your cotton swabs in an old pill bottle.

Some people can’t travel without tons of cotton swabs. We’ve never asked these people what they need all those swabs for, but we’ve found them in the bathroom trash later, and they were definitely used.

Point being, it’s way more efficient to pack a small pill bottle than it is to bring the whole box of cotton swabs. Plus, this way you won’t get your swabs all bent and broken. It’s a win–win.

18. Pack earrings and rings in a pill case.

It can be hard to keep track of your smaller jewelry. Pill cases are a perfect solution.

You can keep each item in its own little compartment, which prevents dangling earrings from getting all tangled together. Don’t bring a bulky jewelry box. The whole point is to save space, remember? 

19. As another alternative to a bulky jewelry case, stick your stud earrings through buttons to keep them together.

You don’t want those stud backs loose in your luggage. Attach earrings to buttons to keep all the parts together if you don’t have a pill case.

20. Pack just the right amount of foundation in an old contact lens case.

When you’re just travelling for a few days, you don’t need an entire bottle of foundation. Fill both sides of an old (and recently scrubbed) contact case with makeup to bring a travel-sized portion.

You can even fill one side with foundation and the other with concealer or any other creamy cosmetic. Just bring what you need and save space in your luggage.

21. If you do have to pack a glass bottle (of, say, perfume), pack it inside a pair of socks.

Nothing’s worse than dousing your entire trip’s worth of clothes with perfume. Socks will protect glass bottles from breakage, and you have to bring them anyway.

Pink silk sheet encompassing glass perfume bottle
Siora Photography on Unsplash

This technique solves two problems at once.

22. Pick the right suitcase.

Choose a suitcase that gives you the most possible space without going over the standard airline limit for carry-ons.

We suggest a lightweight clamshell with a hard exterior.

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