Tips for the Best Way to Pack a Suitcase

You might be thinking, what does the Roaming Historian know about the best way to pack a suitcase? Doesn’t she just need a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and then a leather jacket, bull whip, and fedora for when she turns into her villain-fighting alter ego? Although I do dream of uncovering lost treasures while fending off scoundrels, this roaming historian dresses to go from historical site to fine restaurant and packs to cover a lot of distance with little encumbrance.

Having once had my luggage misplaced (I had traveled to four countries before my bag and I were reunited), I learned that (a) I didn’t need all the stuff I packed and (b) the best way to pack a suitcase. Today, I travel the globe knowing that if my checked suitcase and I are departed that I will live comfortably with what I brought in my carry on. Let’s face it, I only check a suitcase so that I have a bag to put my shopping spree treasures in anyway. Here are some of my best packing tips.

Packing Tips:

  1. Make a travel checklist. I keep a standard travel packing list of things I always need that details all my toiletries, electronics, clothes, and miscellany. I pack my travel checklist in my carry on and then consult it before leaving the hotel to make sure that I don’t leave anything behind. Here’s a sample travel packing list that you can print and customize for your next adventure: Travel Packing List
  2. Invest in packing cubes. Packing cubes are an essential part of my best way to pack a suitcase. They do a great job of organizing your clothes and keeping them away from other items. I also pack my shoes in a cloth bag for another added layer of protection. I pack clothes that don’t easily show stains and can be worn in different combinations. Jeans and black pants can go with a variety of different tops. For women, sleeveless tops don’t take up much room and can be combined with a cardigan for warmth. I doubt that anyone will notice that you’re wearing the same cardigan if the tops underneath vary. On my travel packing list, I list what I plan to wear each day accounting for special events and inclement weather. By listing out my clothing combinations, I only take what I need. Bonus packing tip: only pack clothes that you like to be photographed in.
  3. Bring smaller sizes of all your toiletries. People use toothpaste, shampoo, soap, contact lens cleaner, etc. all over the world. Pack a small size of your favorite. If you run out, there is likely to be a pharmacy selling that item near you. Don’t, however, assume that deodorant is the same in other countries as it is in the States. Make sure that you take this if you like a certain kind. You can see from my travel packing list that I take lots of products on vacation, but since I use small sizes I only need two small toiletry bags (or one bigger one).
  4. Bring along deluxe samples of beauty products. I’m a woman of a certain age that loves her face lotions and potions. However, I don’t carry them all with me. I use either the small size that comes with a gift with purchase, or I scoop out some from home and place it in those little sample containers they give you at a deluxe beauty store. When purchasing my full-size goodies, I always ask for a sample which I can then use for travel.
  5. To roll or fold? I find that rolling tends to leave my clothes with fewer wrinkles, but uses more space so I do a hybrid—roll tops and fold pants.
  6. Pack a foldable tote bag with a zipper. If you purchase souvenirs, you will want to have a big tote bag. I use one that is only about 6 inches square and less than an inch thick when folded, but that opens up to hold a vast amount of treasures. It’s roomy enough to hold many souvenirs and my regular purse so that I technically have only one personal item (a carry on and a personal item are allowed on many U.S. carriers).
  7. Bring a travel lock. Despite your careful planning, if the overhead bins are full when you board the plane you will be asked to check your carry on bag. Having a travel lock ensures that your valuables will be kept safe. A bonus—that travel lock can be used on your bag in your hotel as a makeshift lock box.

I made a video so that you can all see how I packed a carry on for a week to attend a conference in chilly weather. I’ve watched a lot of popular videos on the best way to pack a suitcase and find that many only showed how to pack clothes. Who travels without toiletries, electronics, umbrellas, & extra shoes?! My video gives packing tips and shows how to pack: 3 sweaters, 6 tops, 3 pairs pants, 2 sleeping tops, boots, an umbrella, a camera, toiletries, a hair iron, make-up, beauty products, starch spray, and more.

Although my bag somewhat resembles that of Mary Poppins’ (in that you’ll wonder how I keep pulling things out), it’s not too heavy. I carry a lightweight (6 pounds),hard-sided, 20-inch bag that resembles a trunk when opened and can expand to give me an extra two inches of depth on the way home. I use my travel packing list to make sure to bring just what I need so that my bag isn’t too heavy to lift into the overhead bin. I also carry a bungee-cord with me, so that I can attach my tote bag securely to my luggage and roll around cobblestone streets or airports with ease. I hope these packing tips help show you the best way to pack a suitcase and that you get loads of use from my travel packing list. Happy travels!

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