How to Pack a Suitcase: the Only Guide You'll Ever Need


We’ve created the only guide you’ll ever need to read about how to pack a suitcase. Foolproof tips and step-by-step advice will help you choose what to take and show you how to pack more efficiently, whether you prefer to travel light, want more space in your bag or always seem to take things on holiday that you don’t really need. Follow it and you’ll never make a packing mistake again!

Be prepared

Digitise copies of your ID and travel documents. We recommend saving them to a cloud-based or USB drive, smartphone or tablet (check out the TripIt app). This enables you to ditch some paper and back up important information should anything happen to your luggage. Remember to keep your USB drive separate to your checked-in baggage for safekeeping.

Digitise documents

SEE ALSO: How to Survive a Long Flight

Make a list

Save yourself time and effort on your next trip and make a list that you can refer to and modify according to the destination and purpose of your trip. Yes, there’s an app for that – try the free PackPoint, which lets you customise pre-prepared packing lists based on weather and activities.

Get it together

You’ll need a large space to work in. Gather up everything that needs to fit in your bag and organise it into categories: clothing (separated into shoes, tops, pants, jackets, outerwear, underwear and accessories), toiletries, electronic devices and miscellaneous equipment/gadgets.

Packing a suitcase

Dock your devices

Now, remove any items that can be replaced by another device on this particular trip. For example, if you’re planning to take only happy snaps, you can use a smartphone rather than a heavyweight camera. If you only want to access social media, a tablet or smartphone will do instead of a laptop. And you won’t need a portable speaker if your hotel or Airbnb has a Bluetooth-enabled speaker or stereo dock.

Get charged up

Next, check your chargers – if all of your devices use USB, one compatible charger might be all you need (provided you pack all of the necessary cables). If you are taking your smartphone as your primary device, a small portable battery pack or charging case will ensure it lasts all day.


Tackle your toiletries

If you’re happy to use the toiletries provided at your accommodation, you can easily cull some basic amenities. If you prefer taking your own products, use screw-top containers to decant liquids, gels and creams rather than bringing a full-sized bottle. Pharmacies and supermarkets sell travel-sized versions of everything from dry shampoo and hairspray to toothpaste and deodorant, as well as travel bottles and tubes. You’ll also find the latter at camping supply stores.

Packing toiletries

Cull the clothing

This is the truly tricky bit. The aim here is to halve all of your piles. That’s right – halve (except for underwear!). Plan your outfits to ensure you’re covered for all weather contingencies at your destination/s, plus all of the social situations and activities you’ll be participating in. Also factor in how frequently you might be able to do your laundry.

Still can’t decide?

Versatile items, light layers and a select colour scheme are key. Choose clothing that can be dressed up or down and layers well. It’s best to stick to neutrals (black/white/grey or beige/navy) with one or two complementary accent colours. Be particularly mindful when choosing heavier outerwear and footwear – taking only one jacket, or leaving behind a pair of shoes, will make a big weight difference.

Packing cells

Miscellaneous and more

You may have items such as umbrellas, raincoats, books and pillows in this pile. If you’re desperate to trim down your baggage, consider alternatives or purchasing these items during your trip. For instance, you could buy an umbrella at your destination, pack a disposable poncho, read on your tablet instead of taking a book, or grab a magazine at the airport. Don’t be afraid to bring items that have proven themselves on past trips, though – a neck pillow might be exactly what you need to sleep well on a long-haul flight or lengthy train journey.

Neck Pillow

Pack properly

Now you can begin to pack for maximum efficiency and space-saving (which means you can shop more on your holiday!). Start by placing the heaviest items closest to the bottom of your bag or suitcase (the end with the wheels). Seasoned travellers often swear by packing cells: they come in cube shapes that fit well inside suitcases and have the added benefits of separating your clothing and keeping loose items together (anyone who has had to open their bag for a Customs inspection will understand why this is convenient). Another handy space-saving tip is to tightly roll your clothing instead of folding and stacking it. It’s a good idea to roll up belts so they don’t get crushed and to fold shirts and clothing that crease easily; place these at the top of the case to keep them from getting wrinkled.

Packing clothes

Fill the gaps

Make the most of all the space you have available: fill voids with socks, underwear or T-shirts and stuff your shoes with socks, small fragile items or jewellery (this also helps shoes keep their shape). Protect other fragile items with clothing and pack them in the middle of your bag. Always place anything that might leak or soil your clothing in a zip-lock bag or a couple of knotted plastic bags.

Fill the gaps

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Illustrations: Jon Gregory

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