It’s very simple to pack a suitcase ineffectively, leading to a difficult and more stressful trip. However, it’s just as easy to pack smart to help your trip run as smooth as possible.

At Cheap Flights Alert, we stay on top of everything travel (in addition to the cheapest flights, of course). This article shares a few tips on how to pack a suitcase when traveling! Whether you’re checking luggage or only bringing a carry on suitcase, these eleven tips should help you consolidate.

11 Tips for Easy and Effective Suitcase Packing

Tips to help you pack perfectly for your next trip

Tip #1: Use a Lightweight, Small Suitcase

Just because you’re bringing a checked bag, doesn’t mean you should use the biggest bag possible. Huge checked bags beg you to fill them up. Fifty pounds might be the limit, but do you really want to lug this enormous suitcase around a foreign city or country?

Purchasing a smaller suitcase forces you to consolidate and doesn’t let you squeeze in those extra things you think you need. Also, take into account the weight of the suitcase itself. Hard suitcases protect your items, but weigh much more. If you’re simply bringing clothes and other non-damageable items, consider a soft suitcase.

Tip #2: Pack Necessities & Valuables in Carry On Luggage

Sadly, checked luggage can get lost or even stolen from airports. It’s a good idea to keep your necessities and valuable items in a carry on bag.

  • Passport and other important documents
  • Laptop, chargers, and other electronics
  • A couple changes of clothes (include pajamas)
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Sentimental items
  • Small bag of toiletries (toothbrush and anything else you may need for an overnight stay in case luggage is lost)

Tip #3: Roll Your Clothes

The rolling clothes trick helps keep your suitcase organized throughout your trip and give you better access to what you’re looking for. It also maximizes space and helps prevent wrinkles.

Tip #4: Weigh Your Luggage Before Getting to the Airport

Use a luggage scale or a plain old bathroom scale to weigh your luggage– both will do the trick. This will help you avoid overweight baggage fees. It’s easy to underestimate how much your bags weigh!

This tip is especially important for carry on luggage! If it exceeds the limit, you’ll have to check it and put it at risk. So be sure to remove heavy items and store them in your carry-on.

Tip #5: Leave Some Room

Odds are, you’ll probably end up with some souvenirs (especially if you’re traveling to a different country). Many foreign countries have especially incredible markets! For example, markets in Thailand or Manilla are huge and incredible with very inexpensive prices.

On another note, countries like Thailand and Bali sell clothes for very cheap. You don’t have to pack every cute tank top you own - odds are you’ll come with five more. This is why leaving room is an important tip for how to pack a suitcase.

Tip #6: Wear Your Heaviest Clothes

Heavy clothes like jackets, thick pants, and sneakers can take up a huge chunk of your suitcase. Instead, you can simply wear them on your flight (planes get cold anyways).

Tip #7: Don’t Bring Your MacBook

In this day and age, it’s not a surprise if you need to do some remote work on your trip. If this is the case, it might be worth the investment to purchase an inexpensive and small laptop (or tablet with a pairable keyboard).

Not only is it lighter and easier to carry around, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your $1000+ MacBook is safe at home.

Tip #8: Don’t Bring Your Keys

Unless you find an airport parking deal using a website like Parking Access, then it might be a good idea to leave your keys (or at least a spare set of keys) at home in a lockbox or with neighbors. It would be terrible to lose them on your trip!

Tip #9: How to Pack a Suit in a Suitcase

If you’re traveling for a business trip (or just want to look good on vacation), you might not know the most effective way to pack your suits! This helpful visual guide shares how to pack your suit and gives a tip on how to avoid wrinkles.

Tip #10: Use Travel Containers

It might be tempting to bring your huge bottle of favorite shampoo, but you don’t need the entire bottle unless you’re staying for months. You can purchase toiletries when you get to your destination or purchase travel containers to bring your favorites in.

Tip #11: Make Laptop & Liquids Easily Accessible

This one is a little straightforward, but easy to forget in the process of packing. Make sure your laptop, toiletries, medications, and anything else TSA might want to see is easily accessible!

How to Pack a Carry On

If you’re just bringing a carry on bag, many of the above tips are even more important. You’ll quickly find that you can’t fit everything you wanted to bring.

When picking outfits to pack, it’s a good idea to pick one or two basic bottoms that will match with a variety of tops. Roll your clothes and wear your heaviest items on the flight!

When might you skip checked bags?

  • If you plan to take flights to other countries (unless you’re fine with paying extra fees)

  • When you don’t want to carry large, extra luggage around

  • When your flight doesn’t include them

  • Shorter trips

  • Business trips

Domestic & International Travel Packing List

This article wouldn’t be complete without a packing checklist!

Obviously, your suitcase will look different depending on what type of trip you’re taking as well as how long you’re staying. Sunscreen and a bikini will probably be on your list of things to pack for vacation, while a suit and your work laptop might be essentials of a business trip.

Basic bottoms (1–2 pair)Shorts & Tops
Tops (4–5 that match your bottoms)Pajamas
Shoes (1–2 pairs that match outfits)Swimwear (1–2 sets)
Fitness outfitShoes (1–3 pairs, one for walking)
PajamasSun hat
Underwear and socksPurse / Fanny pack
Laptop, tablet, headphonesJewelry / Belt / Other accessories
Chargers for all electronicsToothbrush & toiletries
Business cardsSmall makeup bag
Vitamins / medicationsHeadphones
Toothbrush & toiletriesPhone / Camera / Chargers
Small makeup bagCash and cards
Hair brushSunscreen
NotebookInsect repellant
Sticky notesBandages / First aid kit
Writing utensilsVitamins & medications
Any work documents you may needGlasses / Sunglasses
Envelopes for expense receiptsReading material for flight
Reading material for flightLuggage lock
Small umbrellaJump rope (easy for travel workouts)
Cash and cardsWater purifier
GlassesSnack bars
Luggage lockVoltage converter (foreign countries)
Jump rope (easy for travel workouts)
Snack bars
Voltage converter (foreign countries)

Bottom Line

We hope these eleven travel tips helped you improve your suitcase packing skills! In reality, how to pack a suitcase isn’t difficult as long as you’re able to let go of the desire to bring everything you own.