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La Jolla Mom

20 Suitcase Packing Hacks for the Next Time You Travel

Avoid unnecessary baggage fees and hassle by packing luggage efficiently

BY La Jolla Mom
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Studies show that 81% of Americans think they’re pretty good at packing luggage. 

Yet, are you guilty of shoving your toiletries into the side pockets or sitting on your suitcase to force it to shut? If so, there’s an easier way. In fact, there are many ways to pack well and keep your sanity at the same time.

Today, we’re sharing a list of 20 travel packing hacks that will transform the way you prepare for your next trip. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s take off.

1. Use Packing Cubes

Unlike some packing tools, these aren’t a flash-in-the-pan gimmick. We’ve been using them for years.

Packing cubes serve a very real and practical purpose and as soon as you invest in a few, you’ll wonder how you ever traveled without them.

Use them to help organize the items inside of your luggage, sorting by clothing type, color, or a range of other categories. This way, you don’t have to dig through piles of clothes every day, wrinkling them in the process.

Packing cubes also keep your clothes from touching the floor as you unpack, and they’re great for storing your gear in dresser drawers when you arrive.

We use eBags packing cubes in various sizes. They have consistent five-star reviews and I suspect it’s because they’re good quality, allow air circulation, and the zippers are easy to open and close.

Tip: Use different color packing cubes for each member of the family. This helps keep everyone’s belongings separate.


2. Pack an Extra Change of Clothes in Your Carry-On in a Ziploc

This is a tip that is handy especially for those flying with kids. Spill happen and bags get lost so an extra change of clothes in your carry-on can’t hurt.

Place your clothing in Ziploc bags and fold them as flat as possible. Before you seal each bag, force out as much air as possible.

If a glass of orange juice gets up-ended on you mid-flight (which has happened to me) put the soaked clothes in the Ziploc and seal it up. You’ll be grateful for these bags if you get stuck with dirty diapers or just need a place to put some trash.


3. Roll Your Clothes

The Marie Kondo method of rolling clothes does work when packing your suitcase. But do you know how to roll clothes properly? You can actually do it and take up even more space than packing flat.

The video below explains how to fold socks, underwear, and shirts in one fo the most efficient ways we’ve seen yet.


4. Use a Hotel Shower Cap to Cover Dirty Shoes and Wet Bathing Suits

Going somewhere that will put a little mud on your soles? It sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to forget to bring a shoe bag. However, you can’t just throw your clay-stained sneakers in the same bag as your fancy dinner clothes.

If you didn’t bring a proper storage bag, don’t worry. Use the hotel shower cap sitting beside the complimentary soap and shampoo.

Hotel shower cap hacks don’t stop there. You can tie them around electronics to keep them dry or protect them from the sand at the beach.

Want to hit the pool one last time before checking out? Toss the wet bathing suit into a shower cap and tie it up tightly to prevent other clothes from getting wet.


5. Stash Items in Shoes

Pressed for space in your luggage? Take a look inside of your shoes! Yes, they eat up a lot of room, but you have to pack them, so you might as well make them as efficient as possible.

This is a great place to stash smaller, more fragile items (like perfume bottles) to keep them protected during the flight. 


6. Help Shoes Pull Double-Duty

Speaking of shoes, do you really need to pack several different pairs for your trip? Or, is it necessary to buy a new pair for a short vacation?

If possible, consider downsizing your footwear collection to save room in your luggage and make it as light as possible. One way to do so? Invest in high-quality insoles.

You can slip these in your formal loafers or flats, and suddenly, they’re more comfortable for everyday wear. 


7. Put Plastic Wrap Under Toiletry Lids

Anyone who’s ever opened a bottle of lotion after a flight knows. The increase in air pressure can cause plastic bottles to swell, resulting in an explosion and creating a gigantic, liquid mess. 

To help prevent this from happening, take off the toiletry lid, place a layer of plastic wrap under each lid, and screw the lid back on. This helps prevent the material from moving and expanding during your flight, saving your clothes and the rest of the gear inside your suitcase.

And, you can save the plastic wrap. We have also taped lids shut with strong packing tape, however, it’s easier to reuse plastic wrap than tape when you need to pack up and head home.


8. Keep Your Belt in Your Collar

Going on a professional work trip or traveling somewhere fancy? To keep your collar stiff, slip your belt inside.

This saves space in your bag and keeps your formal wear from getting smashed under heavier items. If you do a lot of business travel, you can also invest in convenient collar stays.


9. Make Your Suitcase Memorable

There’s nothing like the sinking feeling in your gut as you see hundreds of bags pass through the conveyor belt and you still haven’t spotted yours. 

That’s why it’s helpful to make yours unique. From personalized details to a colorful accessory, make it as easy as possible to find your bag and prevent others from mistaking it as theirs among a sea of black and brown options. 

We own Rimowa luggage (this is my favorite piece) and one of the brand’s mottos is to let your suitcase tell your story. That’s why we have travel stickers from places we’ve been on the outside of our luggage.


10. Leave Space for Souveniers

If you stuff your suitcase full before you even leave home, where do you expect to stash all of the souvenirs you collect during your trip?

There are two ways to make room. First, you can simply leave extra space inside of your bag. I fill the space with bubble wrap, which is useful if whatever we want to bring home is fragile.

Or, you can bring older clothing items that you don’t mind leaving behind. Wear the clothes during your trip and plan to donate them before you leave your destination. 


11. Pack Dryer Sheets

Before you zip your bag shut, place a dryer sheet or two between each layer of clothes.

This keeps them smelling like new and it’s much easier than packing an entire bottle of fabric freshener.

Dryer sheets inside of shoes prevent the rest of your suitcase from smelling like feet.

At your destination, dryer sheets can help deodorize stinky trash cans and even help remove sand off of your body before entering the hotel room.


12. Stash Cords in a Sunglasses Case

Even if you’re heading to stormy Seattle, remember to bring along an extra sunglasses case.

Why? These are ideal for stashing your phone chargers and headphones. The hard outer shell keeps them from getting smashed or tangled up with the rest of your gear. We’ve used them to bring home small, fragile souvenirs and even seashells.


13. Buy a Luggage Scale

Don’t begin your trip with a surprise upcharge because your suitcase is over the 50-pound limit. Especially if you’re an avid traveler, it’s smart to invest in a handheld luggage scale.

This way, you know exactly how much your bags weigh before you leave home.


14. Pack Socks in Your Hat

You don’t want to pull your favorite hat out of your suitcase only to find that it’s smashed beyond repair.

To help it keep its shape (and save valuable space), stash a few pairs of socks inside of it.


15. Use Dry Cleaning Bags

Repurpose bags that your dry cleaner gives you.

You can use these to pack your wrinkle-prone clothing items. While they might not keep every pressed piece completely smooth, they can help separate them from the rest of your clothes and prevent them from getting tousled.


16. Buy TSA-Approved Bottles

Don’t risk having to toss your favorite lotions or cosmetics because they were slightly over the 3.4-ounce limit.

Save yourself the heartache by buying inexpensive TSA-approved travel bottles. Many already come in a clear case to make it easier to pass through security.

Label the contents on each one before you leave, and you’re one step closer to a stress-free takeoff.


17. Store Tiny Jewelry in a Pill Organizer or Contact Lens Case

To keep your earrings within reach (and keep them together), store them inside a plastic pill organizer and close each lid tightly.

This is also a great spot to stash other fragile jewelry items, including dainty bracelets and brooches. 

If you’re a contact lens wearer, you might have a ton of extra contact lens cases that come with bottles of solution. Save a few and use them to store earrings. You can even put small dabs of facial lotion or similar inside of them versus taking an entire container with you.


18. Remember Your Water Bottle

Don’t forget to bring along a reusable water bottle. Bring your favorite from home or look into a collapsible one that can help save space.

You can fill it as soon as you pass security, and keep it nearby to stay hydrated during a long flight. It’s also handy to keep on hand during your trip, especially if you’re traveling with kids.


19. Create a Toiletry Grab Bag

The eBags Pack-it-Flat Toiletry Kit is a travel game-changer and a GREAT gift for travelers.

To make packing as quick as possible, keep a pre-packed toiletry grab bag at home. I have an eBags Pack-It-Flat bag for shorter trips (save space in a carry-on because it’s flat) that is always packed and a larger Muji toiletry bag for long haul trips.

Stock your grab bag full of your favorites (all poured inside of those aforementioned TSA-approved bottles, if necessary). This takes the guesswork out of the process and helps you speed things along.

If you don’t travel that often, make sure to mark the expiration date on each bottle so you’ll know when it’s time to replace them. 

Tip: When you first make your toiletry grab bag, write up its contents on a personalized packing list at the same time and tuck it inside. Check it quickly before you go in case you ran out of something and forgot to replace it.


20. Wear or Carry Your Heaviest Gear

Heading to Colorado in the wintertime? You’ll be hard-pressed to fit much else in your bag if you try to stuff that oversized down jacket in there. 

Give yourself more room and ease the shoulder strain by wearing it on the plane. You’ll free up space inside your luggage and reduce the weight of your bags, which can also save you money at check-in.

Besides, you can easily shed the extra layer on the plane to use your jacket as a pillow or put it in the overhead compartment. If your bulkiest shoes, in my case, usually tennis shoes, are comfortable enough to navigate airports, wear them.

Travel Packing Hacks Save Time, Money and Stress

Regardless of whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you don’t want to spend your trip worrying about the contents of your bag. 

These travel packing hacks are designed to ease the burden of preparing for your trip, so you can enjoy it to the fullest extent once it begins.

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