As someone who flies fairly often, I’ve gotten used to packing a suitcase. I’ve taken some 38 flights in the last five years, and whether flying to England to live abroad for a year, or heading to D.C. for a weekend-long conference, I always keep a few of the same packing hacks and principles in mind:
- Save as much space as possible.
- Pack things in an order that makes for easy access later.
- Sort things into categories that makes it easy to unpack, or live out of your suitcase.
That said, there are loads of other easy packing hacks that can help you make the most out of a small suitcase. Here are a few of the ones I use most often.
1. Fill your shoes with socks and underwear in a bag to make up for lost space
Shoes take up a lot of space in a suitcase, but they don’t have to. By rolling your underwear and socks into your shoes, you make the most of of your space and your shoes keep their shape. If you’re icky about cross-contamination, put your socks and underwear in a ziplock bag first, squeeze out any air, and then store.
2. Put shoes in a shower cap to prevent them from ruining your clothes
To keep the bottoms of your shoes from getting dirt (and God knows what else!) on your clothes, place them in a shower cap (you can buy a set of 30 for just a few dollars). If you plan on reusing the shower cap, make sure to turn it inside-out first, so the dirt doesn’t get in your hair later.
3. Scan all your important travel documents and send them to yourself
You never know what might happen, and while a scan can’t always take the place of an original travel document, getting replacements is easier if you have the original numbers. Scan your passport, permanent resident card, visa, and any other important travel documents before you leave, and send them to yourself. If you have an iPhone, you can also download the documents and store them in iBooks to have an offline record, as well.
4. Bring a power strip so you only need one converter
I tend to lose my converters, which means that I can’t charge multiple electronics at once when I’m traveling. That is, until I thought to bring an extension cord, so that I only need one converter. It transports easily and makes traveling a lot easier! I use a power strip with USB ports, as well.
5. Roll clothes to save space
My boyfriend is a huge advocate of this method of packing, and I’ll admit that it saves me a ton of space. Rolling your clothes prevents wrinkles and helps consolidate space!
6. Use packing cubes
I found these online and bought two sets in preparation for my move abroad. I’ve been really impressed to find that packing cubes not only help me make the most out of my limited suitcase space, but also make it much easier to retrieve and rearrange things without destroying the order of the rest of the suitcase.
7. Organize jewelry in pill containers
My jewelry tends to get lost or tangled in my suitcase, so I put my necklaces in the extra slots in a pill container. You can also store some basic medicines like pain or allergy medicine in these slots, in case you need something quickly while traveling. This is the pill container shown above.
8. Use Saran wrap to keep delicate chains from tangling
My more delicate necklaces tend to knot in transport, but keeping them between two layers of Saran wrap or clingfilm keeps them from getting tangled in each other.
9. Keep bobby pins in a pill bottle
I saw this one on Pinterest and I’ll admit that it was the cute decorations that first got me, but I later found this trick to be really useful. You can keep bobby pins or hair grips in an old pill bottle; I added a strip of magnetic tape along the rim so that I can pill the pins out easily. Having a case like this has kept me from losing my pins, and makes for easy travel storage.
10. Keep hair ties together on a key ring
This is another hack found on Pinterest, and I like it enough to store my hair ties this way even when I’m home. My hair ties tend to end up all over the place if I don’t keep them together, and a keyring helps me keep track of them. I use this one.
11. Put a large binder clip on a razor head to prevent cutting yourself
I learned this one the hard way: don’t keep a razor open in your bag, because you’re likely to accidentally cut yourself while going through your things. A binder clip will do the trick.
12. Put studs through buttonholes to keep them together when packing jewelry
If you have a tendency to lose small items, a button can keep you from losing your stud earrings. You can also always keep them in a pill container, as above.
13. Use velcro strips to keep cords organized
A few weeks ago, I bought a set of velcro strips to keep my chargers neat and prevent them from tangling. These are also really helpful in travel, because they keep cords compact. I use these.
14. Bring a portable charger so you don’t get stranded while traveling
My phone runs out of battery fairly quickly, so a portable charger is essential for when I travel, so that I’m never without the ability to make an emergency phone call or look something up on my maps app. I have two, and my favorite is this one by MyCharge.
15. Mark your bags as fragile
Whether your bags contain fragile items or not, marking your bags as fragile will help them be treated with the care that they need. It will keep your bags at the top of the pile of luggage, which in turn means they will be brought out sooner at the airport.
16. Bring an empty water bottle with you
You can’t bring bottled water through security, but if you bring an empty bottle with you, you can refill it after getting through the security check-point. This will keep you from buying expensive water at the airport, and will help you stay hydrated on the plane.
17. If entering the US, bring a pen in your carry-on
When entering the US from a foreign country, you will need to fill out a customs form that notes your name, passport number, and flight, as well as any valuables you might be bringing into the country. Flight attendants will pass out this form on your plane, and if you have a pen with you, you can fill it out before landing and save a few minutes at the airport, where the customs line is usually quite long.
18. Use perfumed tissue paper to prevent wrinkling and plane smell
This is a little extravagant, but it helps keep clothes wrinkle-free and smelling fresh. Adding a dryer sheet to your luggage helps prevent that sickly plane smell from getting into your clothes. Alternatively, you can spritz some perfume on a sheet of tissue paper and use it to separate layers in your suitcase, or t0 fold wrinkle-prone items.
19. Put plastic wrap between a bottle and its lid to prevent leaking
It just takes one bottle of conditioner or lotion to ruin your clothes for a whole trip. You can prevent this kind of annoying mistake by placing a square of plastic clingfilm over the neck of your liquid containers, and then screwing the cap back on over it. This way, even if it opens mid-flight, nothing will spill.
These are my favorite tricks for packing a suitcase, and they’ve saved me a lot of time and trouble over the last few years! Did you know any of these tricks already? Which are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!