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Travel Tips

How to Pack the Perfect Suitcase in 6 Easy Steps

You might think you know how to pack a suitcase, but do you really? If you’re used to just throwing in your stuff, maybe with some basic folding, and then zippering it shut and heading off, you could use some pointers. Here, six steps to packing the perfect bag.

1. Pick your bag

First thing’s first: choose your bag. Think realistically about the length of your trip, the types of clothing and other items you’ll need to bring, and go with the smallest bag you can get by with—you don’t want to lug around a half-empty suitcase, or worse, pack a bunch of stuff you don’t need just because there’s room. After you’ve nailed down the size you want, consider extra options: do you want the expandable option of a soft bag, or would you rather your fragile items be protected by a hard shell? How about a front pocket for a tablet or book? Do you want 360-degree spinner wheels? (Okay, spoiler alert, you definitely want spinner wheels.) Figure out the qualities most important to you, and then get shopping.

 

2. Pack shoes first

Since shoes are typically the heaviest and bulkiest items in your bag, arrange them at the bottom of the suitcase—otherwise, it’ll likely tip over on you every time you let go. Rather than putting them in direct contact with your clothes (yuck), place them in shoe pouches to keep everything clean. Pro tip: if you’re in a pinch, you can also use recycled plastic grocery bags or a hotel shower cap around the soles. Bringing sneakers? Throw in some shoe deodorizer bags, too—the last thing you want is to discover your whole bag smells when you get to your destination.

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3. Roll clothes and condense thicker items into compression packing cubes

For lightweight items like t-shirts and shorts, use the rolling method—that is, smooth out wrinkles, fold in sleeves and other parts that stick out, and then tightly roll in a uniform shape until the item is compact. For bulkier items, like sweaters, consider investing in compression packing cubes. Using a double zipper method, they squeeze out extra air to create a thinner rectangle for packing.

 

4. Consolidate toiletries

In checked luggage, group all of your toiletries into a hanging bag. Not only do hanging bags fold up for compactness, they are also easy to use once you get to your destination. For a carry-on, you’ll likely want two bags: one for non-liquid toiletries and one quart-sized, TSA-approved bag to fit all your minis. (Just remember, you can only bring containers of 3.4 ounces or smaller on board).

RELATED: 18 Essentials You Should NEVER Forget to Pack

 

5. Find hidden spaces for assorted items

Now that all your shoes, clothes, and toiletries are stowed away, it’s time to squeeze in smaller items that’ll fit in the cracks and crevices between bulkier items. You can roll socks and underwear into these areas, pad fragile accessories like sunglasses in between soft layers of clothes, and fit any odd-shaped gear on top. To keep everything organized, use small bags and pouches for trinkets that could get lost in the shuffle.

 

6. Put on the finishing touches

Once everything’s zipped up, it’s time for the final details. Be sure to fill out a luggage tag with your contact information and place it securely on a bag handle in case it goes missing—to that end, you might also want to buy a luggage tracker device, like the Tile Mate, which will help you locate a lost bag. If you’re worried your suitcase looks like everyone else’s, use a distinctive luggage tag that’s easy to recognize, or tie a colorful ribbon on top. You can also purchase a TSA-approved luggage lock to secure your belongings for extra safety. Finally, after the bag’s all ready to go, take out a trusty digital luggage scale and weigh that baby—checked luggage usually has to be under 50 pounds, though it can depend on the airline. Bon voyage!

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