How to Properly Pack a Suitcase

Updated 6/8/2024

Packing a suitcase may seem like a straightforward task. And by now, you have probably packed more suitcases than you’d like. (Even if you like travel, most travelers dread this part.) Properly packing significantly enhances your travel experience. Read: Less stress.

Along with saving space, you also avoid wrinkles so you don’t find yourself ironing. (Although, we always advise bringing a mini steamer.) Weekend family getaway? Extended vacation? Mastering the art of packing can make for a smoother journey. 

This helpful article walks you through packing essentials and personal item tips. We cover it all!

Below, you will find both a quick checklist with additional clever packing tips throughout.

Breakdown of Proper Packing Steps

  1. Planning and Preparation
  2. Choose the Right Suitcase
  3. Organizing Items (including garments, bulky items, accessories, and electronics)
  4. Maximizing Space
  5. Avoiding Wrinkles
  6. Safety and Security
  7. Final Preparations

So that was the fast take on packing. Now, let’s make sure you are ready for your next trip. 

Packing Like a Pro

Whether you are ready to set off or daydreaming, here is the best way to pack a suitcase and prepare for any type of trip.

Planning and Preparation

Before you start packing, it’s essential to create a detailed packing list. This list should include all the essentials you’ll need, such as travel documents, medications, and chargers for your electronic devices. Even a weekend getaway is deserving of some preparation.

Before you start packing, check your airline’s baggage policies to understand size and weight limits. Knowing these restrictions will help you choose the right suitcase and pack, accordingly, avoiding any last-minute surprises and extra fees at the airport. 

Looking for packing checklists? Scroll below.

Choose the Piece of Luggage

Hard-shell? Soft-shell? Duffel bag? Choosing the proper luggage depends on personal choice, length of trip, and type of trip. 

Types of Luggage

  1. Carry-On Bags
    • Small, carry on suitcase designed to fit in the overhead compartment 
    • Great for short trips and perfect in avoiding baggage claim.
  2. Checked Luggage
    • Larger suitcases (you don’t mind riding in cargo)
    • Suitable for longer trips or winter-clothing needs
  3. Duffel Bags
    • Soft-sided bags with a large main compartment.
    • Great for casual trips and weekend getaways
  4. Backpacks
    • Perfect for actual travel necessities you need close by
    • Hiking? Pack in your suitcase 
  5. Garment Bags
    • Excellent choice for clothes that wrinkle easily such as a pair of pants
    • Ideal option for business travelers or more formal fashion
  6. Spinner Suitcases
    • Feature four multi-directional wheels 
    • Available in both carry-on and checked sizes
  7. Hard-Shell Suitcases
    • Popular option that offers extra protection
  8. Soft-Shell Suitcases
    • Made from flexible fabrics like nylon or polyester.
  9. Rolling Duffel Bags
    • Combine the spaciousness of a duffel bag with the convenience of wheels.

Fortunately, there are several brands of luggage. You have plenty of price AND style options to fit your needs (and budget). Finding the right piece of luggage is easier than you may think.

If you’re like us, then it’s safe to assume you will be over-packing. We love fashion – and we love having fashion choices! With a weekend trip, it’s easier to get away with an extra clothing item or two. Who lets extra space go to waste?

Planning a longer trip? You may consider tightening up your style options to reduce the amount of luggage. Although, the Real Housewives always give us luggage envy. They love an airport luggage cart. 

It is important to also take into consideration how you are traveling. Will you be limited in how many pieces of you can bring? For the avid flyer, we are sure we don’t need to say this but just in case…make the most of your carry-on.

Selecting the right suitcase is a crucial step in the packing process. Depending on the length and purpose of your trip, you may choose between a carry-on or a checked bag. A carry-on is perfect for shorter trips and helps you avoid baggage claim, while a checked bag is better suited for longer journeys or when you need to pack bulkier items.

Consider whether a hard-shell suitcase or a soft-shell one fits your needs better. Hard-shells offer better protection for fragile items, while soft-shells can be more flexible in terms of space. Look for suitcases with multiple compartments and sturdy zippers and handles to make packing and carrying easier.

Open luggage open with a beach fedora, wicker purse, rolled clothing and other travel items.

Invest in Packing Accessories

Frequent travelers appreciate packing accessories that make packing and unpacking a cinch! Often, they are a great way to separate items and valuable space.

  1. Packing Cubes. Packing cube are increasingly gaining popularity. And rightfully so! They are pretty much a secret weapon. When not in use, they lay flat and take up little space. When in use, they make a big impact! Use cubes to separate and organize your clothing, shoes, and accessories.
  2. Compression Packing Cube and Bags. Long trip? Winter outerwear needed? Invest in compression bags. They are extreme helpful in packing your bulkiest items such as your Moncler puffer or ski pants.
  3. Shoe Bags. As professional cleaners, we cringe thinking about shoe bottoms. So keep your pairs of shoes away from your travel clothing! Keep shoes organized and away from your beautiful silk dress.
  4. Toiletry Bags. The toiletry bag isn’t a travel staple for no reason. It’s the perfect catch-all for your toiletries and cosmetics. Invest in a good one that offers leak protection. No surprises on your next trip!
  5. Laundry Bags. If you have limited space, consider bringing laundry bags. It’s an easy way to separate your dirty clothes from your clean clothes. 
  6. Travel Bottles. Similar to toiletry bags, choose guaranteed leak-proof containers. If flying, they must be compliant with airline liquid restrictions.
  7. Luggage Straps. Many skip the ever-useful luggage straps. If you have a stop-over, take the extra step to secure your suitcase to prevent accident opening during any mishandling. It is also an easy way to identify your luggage rounding the carousel!
  8. Luggage Tags. Along with your trip’s information, personal luggage tags are a great way to ensure your suitcase is tied to your contact information. Make it cute – and it’s an easy to identify your luggage.
  9. Portable Luggage Scale. Fly a lot! You must invest in a portable luggage scale. They are affordable and oh-so-helpful! Avoid surprises and check the weight of all luggage prior to your airport arrival.
  10. Travel Pillows. If you’re a fan of 90-day Fiancé, you know that travel pillows are the way to go for international travel or really any travel at all. They are compact, packable, and comfortable!
  11. Travel Blanket. Your personal travel blanket is perfect for any outing – flights or road trips!
  12. Luggage Locks. Frequent flyer? Then, we don’t even need to tell you how valuable is to have luggage logs. Choose TSA-approved options for easy airport security checks.
  13. Electronic Organizers. Whether your travel is for business or leisure, electronic organizers are a great way to keep chargers and cables all in one place. Prevent tangling and allow for easy access.
  14. Wrinkle-Release Spray. While a wrinkle-release spray can be a real game changer, we always advise reading the instructions first. It’s also ideal to test an area. Some fabrics may not like the ingredients. We lean towards a mini steamer. (There are fashion precautions for this as well.

Now, you’re ready to start thinking fashion.

Research the weather.

Research the weather ahead of time. It is important to have a good idea of the average temperature – and be aware of any possible weather events. Weather surprises can truly make or break a trip.

By knowing the weather, your itinerary (see below) is easier to determine. And by having a helpful trip ‘guide’, you have a better understanding of what kind of outfits needed.


Does your destination’s weather report give you the green light for a lot of pool time? If so, you will want to bring several swimsuits.  Don’t forget complimentary cover-up options too! Oh, then the coordinating beach sandals. We could go on and on. (And that’s how we end up overpacking!)

Bathing suits should be properly cleaned, rinsed, and dried between uses. Additionally, they should be allowed time to restore their original shape. If you have ever brought one suit on a shore getaway, you may have had the unfortunate discovery of what we are getting at. Keep your bathing trunks and bikinis elasticity intact.

Updated weather report showing some potential gloomy days ahead? You may want to leave a little room for a trench coat or some other protective outerwear.

Review your itinerary.

Even if you plan on packing light, you want to be prepared. Spontaneity is the spice of life! The most casual getaways can end up with one amazing meal at a fine eating establishment. And you are going to wish you picked your favorite or cocktail dress.

Knowing your itinerary helps you pack appropriately for the activities you have planned. You can bring the right clothes, footwear, and gear for specific events, whether it’s business meetings, hiking, or beach outings. This ensures you have everything you need and prevents overpacking.

 Typical situations to consider:

  • travel time
  • day activities
  • dinner plans
  • beach days
  • workout sessions

Select a color palette. We love this tip. Although it is not the easiest to adhere to, it helps a lot! Plus, you don’t need to completely commit to it. Simply keep a color scheme in mind when choosing pieces of clothing and accessories.

To keep it simply, pull a lot of neutrals from your wardrobe. Then, you can add some pops of color in either items or statement pieces. This way, you can mix-and-match without the stress. Have you ever woken up and not wanted to wear that dress? With a vacation capsule collection, say goodbye to forced fashion!

Graphic proper packing checklist

Toiletry Packing List

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  2. Shampoo, Conditioner, Comb/Brush and Hair Products
  3. Body Wash and Deodorant
  4. Razor and Shaving Cream
  5. Skincare Products
  6. Makeup and Makeup Remover
  7. Medications and First Aid

Clothing Packing List

  1. The Basics: T-shirts, layering tops, casual pants, and jeans (as needed) should always make the list. Neutrals and a few fun colors to mix it up a bit. Heading somewhere full of sun? Still advising you to include a few light layers. 
  2. Pants/Shorts/Skirts/Dresses: While you may plan on keeping it casual, it is nice to have a few structured garments with you. 
  3. Undergarments and Socks: We cannot stress this enough. Always overpack these types of items. They don’t take up a lot of room – and they are always welcome as an extra. Extreme heat? You may end up taking a couple of showers. You’ll also wish you had that laundry bag for dirty clothes as well!
  4. Sleepwear: Longer the trip, the more options you may wish to have.
  5. Swimwear and Cover-ups: Keep it cute or keep it basic. Just be sure to bring a few options since swimsuits need breaks in between.
  6. Outerwear: Light raincoat, heavier jacket, cardigan, …be sure to bring a just-in-case jacket. Anyone else hear their mother?
  7. Formal Wear: Keeping it casual is fun, BUT there is something to be said about dressing up. Never be caught without the right attire. Throw in a suit or fancy dress.
  8. Footwear: Ladies, always bring a pair of flats. Even if you will never wear them out, they will save you from being barefoot on a hotel floor. (But have you ever spent a day in ballet flats? Life-changing.) Don’t forget a dressy pair as well!
  9. Accessories: Accessories include items such as: handbags, sunglasses, hats, bright scarves, belts, jewelry and other complimentary pieces. This is typically where we tend to overpack. No judgment here. We get it.

Time to Pack

So we’re ready to pack! While  a hard-shell suitcase provides structure and protection, they are often heavy and bulkier. Make sure the suitcase is the appropriate size for your trip to avoid overpacking. There are all types of trips, but these tips can be applied to all of them.

Clothing Preparation

If possible, select wrinkle-resistant fabrics but don’t limit your wardrobe on this. Fabrics like knits, wool, and synthetic blends are less likely to wrinkle, making them ideal for travel. Properly launder and dry your clothes according to their care instructions. Remove clothes from the dryer promptly and fold them neatly to minimize wrinkles before packing.

Packing Techniques

Rolling clothes is an effective technique to save space and minimize wrinkles. Roll items like t-shirts, jeans, and casual dresses tightly. Smooth out any wrinkles as you go. This method not only reduces creases but also maximizes space in your suitcase.

For more formal attire, careful folding using tissue paper is advisable. Place tissue paper inside and outside the folded item to reduce friction and prevent wrinkles. This technique works well for shirts, blouses, and other delicate garments. Although, garment bags are best!

When packing delicate items, use garment bags to keep them protected. Suits, dresses, and other formal attire should be laid on top of other packed items to minimize pressure and creases. This ensures your delicate clothing remains wrinkle-free during transit.

The bundling technique involves wrapping your clothes around a core item, such as a packing cube filled with smaller items. This method minimizes hard folds and distributes pressure evenly, reducing the likelihood of wrinkles.

Strategic Placement

Strategically placing items in your suitcase can also help prevent wrinkles. Place heaviest items like a pair of shoes and toiletries at the bottom of the suitcase to create a stable base. Stuff shoes with socks or smaller items to maximize space and maintain their shape.

Flat packing larger items like jackets or blazers across the suitcase is another effective strategy. Fold these items minimally and let the ends hang over the edges of the suitcase. Fold them back in as you add other items, ensuring they remain wrinkle-free.

Final Touches

Use accessory bags to pack items like belts, ties, and jewelry separately. Place these pouches in gaps or along the edges of the suitcase to utilize all available space without adding pressure to your clothes.

Avoid overpacking to ensure your clothes are not overly compressed. Leave some space in your suitcase to prevent pressure on your garments. Use compression bags carefully to avoid over-compressing and causing wrinkles.

Close your suitcase carefully, ensuring clothes are not overly compressed. Use TSA-approved locks to secure your suitcase and keep your belongings safe.

Upon Arrival

Unpack your suitcase as soon as possible to let your clothes breathe and reduce wrinkles. Hang up dresses, suits, and other formal wear immediately to help them retain their shape.

Using steam to remove wrinkles is an effective method. Hang your clothes in the bathroom during a hot shower to let steam naturally release wrinkles. If necessary, use a portable steamer or iron provided by the hotel.

Ready for Your Next Trip?

Properly requires thoughtful preparation and strategic techniques. Ensure your belongings arrive at your destination in excellent condition.

By following a detailed packing checklist, selecting the right suitcase, organizing your items efficiently, and employing methods to minimize wrinkles, you can transform your travel experience.  As you implement these tips and refine your packing skills, you’ll find that a well-packed suitcase can significantly take the stress out packing and unpacking! Here’s to hassle-free packing and many successful adventures ahead!

Be sure to visit your favorite couture cleaners before your trip. Make sure cleaning and alterations are completed well before take-off time. And when you get back, schedule your post-vacation pick-up.

Hallak Cleaners is here for you

Because your wardrobe and home deserve the very best