Packing a Perfect Suitcase


Do you constantly add more clothes to your already full suitcase when you travel? Do you add an extra pair of jeans because you fear that one pair just might get soiled while on the plane? Do you bring three pairs of shoes when two will do?

When my friend Elizabeth, from Styling By Elizabeth, roomed with me last summer, I was so impressed with how she fit her clothes, shoes, accessories and toiletries into her 21-inch carry-on suitcase, that I asked her to teach me some tricks.

No more extra-large suitcases for me. No. No. No. I am determined to travel with less and not strain my back like the last time and wind up with muscles in need of physical repair.

I went out and bought a 21-inch suitcase for under $100 and asked Elizabeth to stop by and teach me how to pack.

First, recycle plastic bags and tissue paper from any shopping spree. You’ll need these items for better packing. “Only use white tissue paper as colored paper can run onto clothing if it gets wet,” Elizabeth cautioned. (Now that you’ll be recycling, doesn’t this make you feel better about going shopping?)

Select the outfits you’ll need for your trip. If it is a conference, look at the activities. If it is a vacation, determine what you’ll be doing each day. “Plan down to the detail,” said Elizabeth. “It’s all about the outfits. Mix and match different pieces as much as possible and use accessories to change things up.” (Regarding outfits, Elizabeth went through my closet and picked out a combination of clothes in colors and styles that worked well together. She limited the number of pants to three—including the one I will be wearing—for a long weekend and selected tops that I could layer based on the weather. She suggested I wear my leather moto jacket  on the plane with a tee underneath. This way, I can stay warm in the air and take the jacket off when I arrive at my sunny destination—plus a leather jacket is much too heavy to pack.

Put your shoes at the bottom of your suitcase between the handle bars. If you have a rolling suitcase, it may have grooves on one side between the handles. If so, tuck your shoes in there so the empty space doesn’t go to waste. Cover shoes in plastic bags if you prefer they not touch your clothes. 

Fold your outfits together with tissue paper between each item. Make sure the tissue paper covers the item. For example, Elizabeth packed my sleeveless dress with my oblong scarf. She suggested I wear earrings and a bracelet—no necklace—and use my leather jacket as a cover-up if I get cold in the hotel or outside during the evening.

Put each complete folded outfit into a plastic bag. If you use larger, rectangular bags, put multiple outfits into the bag and layer them across the suitcase. If needed, sit on the bag to squeeze out the excess air before placing it in the suitcase.

Put your accessories and toiletries in zip-top bags. “You don’t need fancy makeup cases,” said Elizabeth. “They take up too much room. With clear plastic bags you can see all your makeup and toiletries more easily, and they are malleable.” She showed me how easily the plastic bags fit into one of the side compartments, leaving another compartment for my lingerie. (If you’re carrying your suitcase on board a plane, make sure you follow the regulations for packing liquids in a carry-on.)

Leave some spare room. We were almost done packing and my suitcase still had breathing room. “That’s good,” said Elizabeth. “You should always leave a little room for any shopping you may do when you are traveling.” 

Wow-o-wow! What an amazing and quick way to pack for a trip. “You truly are a packing magician,” I told Elizabeth.

This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.

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