How to Pack the Perfect Suitcase
Ingenious strategies for traveling light, saving space, and arriving at your destination wrinkle-free and ready for any adventure, presented by Real Simple and Travel + Leisure.
What to Pack
Go light on the clothing. Follow this formula: three tops for every bottom. (Trust us, you can get away with repeating pants or skirts.) As for footwear, limit yourself to sneakers and two pairs of shoes—one casual and one formal.
Choose wrinkle-repellers. Blends containing nylon, Lycra, or polyester can be pulled out of your suitcase relatively unscathed. If you prefer natural fibers, go for wool or stretch cotton. Textured fabrics (ruched jersey, seersucker) and busy prints also help mask fold marks.
Keep tabs on your bag. Use a luggage tracker like LugLoc ($70) to locate your suitcase in the event that it gets lost. Also important: label your bag tag with an e-mail address, rather than a home address, so that you can be more easily contacted in transit.
Prep your carry-on. Layers are essential for chilly airplane cabins. You’ll also want a toothbrush and at least a day’s worth of prescriptions in case your luggage is delayed.
Invest in useful tech gear. The compact Fuse Universal Dual USB adapter has plugs for 150 countries and two built-in USB ports ($16.95). The Mophie Powerstation Plus simultaneously charges multiple gadgets at four times the speed of a standard charger ($80). To make a long flight more bearable, spring for noise-canceling headphones, such as Bose’s QuietComfort 20i earbuds with tangle-free cords ($249.99).
How to Pack
Decide what to roll, and what to fold. If you’re using a duffel, roll everything. Otherwise, reserve that technique for knits (T-shirts, light sweaters) and fold garments that have more structure (blazers and trousers).
Get space-efficient. Packing cubes, like Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Specter Cubes (from $15), keep swimsuits, gym clothes, delicates, and dirty laundry separated. Squeeze out all the air for extra compression.
Use trash bags to fight wrinkles. Here’s how: line the bottom of your luggage with a garbage bag; then, after you’ve packed, add another on top. The slippery surface keeps creases from setting.
Arrange contents strategically. Stash footwear and other heavy items near the wheelbase; this prevents the suitcase from tipping over. Then layer in this order: packing cubes, rolled garments, folded clothes, and bulky sweaters or jackets. Leave crushables for last.
Maximize every nook. Snake belts around the bag’s perimeter. Stuff shoes with socks and fill the molded cups of bras with underwear (this prevents the foam from crinkling). Tuck jewelry and ties (rolled inside out) in a side pocket—you can store earrings in pill cases and string delicate necklaces through drinking straws, taping the clasps to each end.
Pick the bag that’s right for you.
1. Measure your carry-on. Remember these dimensions: 21 by 14 by 9 inches. That size is guaranteed to fit in any overhead bin. We like the hard-sided Quartermaster by Ebby Rane ($825), with built-in carryalls for liquids, tech gear, laundry, and more.
2. Know the full-size-case rules. Four-wheeled hard-sided models are best—they’re least likely to topple. Choose one that has a sturdy handle and butterflies open (for easier packing), like the Herringbone Luxe Hardside Extended Journey Spinner by Hartmann ($399) or the Victorinox Spectra 2.0 ($349.99).