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I’ve written before about the benefits of packing carry-on only and shared some great tips to get you started here. If you’re still trying to figure out the best way to pack a suitcase, I’m sharing my detailed step by step today. I fit everything my husband and I will need for a 1-week vacation into one carry-on and one personal item. Don’t believe me? Check it out below!
1. Make your list
Make sure you list any important medication or any items you use as a part of your daily routine. Don’t focus too much on which clothes to pack, unless you know you have a special occasion to attend. We’ll get to that later.
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2. Lay everything out on your bed
or desk, couch, floor, wherever you prefer. Check for any duplicates or missing items. You don’t want to get to the end and think you’re finished packing only to realize you forgot something important.
Pictured here are all my clothes, toiletries, and entertainment items for our 1-week vacation. Not pictured: my husband’s clothes, which will also be packed into this suitcase. I place toiletries and chargers into small pouches (upper right) for easy packing. Money, passports, and itineraries are in the travel wallet (bottom middle). Don’t forget adapters if traveling abroad! I use this one from Amazon.
For my outfits, I’ve been careful to think about outfit combinations by using coordinating colors. I also planned ahead for tricky fall (or spring!) weather by bringing layering pieces. I’ve packed:
- 2 solid colored t-shirts
- striped long sleeve shirt
- 2 3/4 length blouses
- chambray button up
- denim jacket
- denim shorts
- green pants
- black flats
All these shirts can be mixed with either pair of pants or layered for extra warmth. I could have even packed one less blouse and still not repeated outfits. Now, choose the clothes you’re going to wear on the plane; these should be your heaviest or bulkiest items. I chose my jean jacket, sneakers, jean shorts, and dark gray top. Set these items aside and…
3. Start Packing!
Now that you’ve got all your things, it’s time to start putting it all into your suitcase.
Place clothes into packing cubes
Start with shirts first, then fill in the gaps with underwear or socks.
Finally lay other larger items on top, like thicker shirts or pants and zip. Here I’ve rolled my thinner shirts and then placed by chambray button up on top.
Repeat for more cubes if necessary
Now I use my medium sized packing cube for my husband’s shirts and my extra clothes.
There’s a lot of extra room, so I add my pants before layering in more socks and underwear before layering Matt’s pants on top last.
Start putting everything in your bag
Put shoes in first, near the wheels of the suitcase. Next, put in the packing cubes. Rotate the packing cubes to find the best fit for your bag
Place smaller pouches on top and place smaller items in any gaps. These smaller pouches are great for keeping accessories, chargers, toiletries, or any other small items you need to pack.
Here we’ve got enough room left to place my denim jacket on top instead of wearing it on the plane. I’ve still got lots of space in the outer pocket of my suitcase and near where I placed my hat and adapter at the bottom of the bag.
4. Personal Items
I recommend bringing a large purse or medium-sized backpack as your personal item. Make sure it’s small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you on the plane.
We’ve packed light enough to only bring a big purse, but if I was going to bring my laptop or my husband had more clothes to pack we would bring a backpack as well. I through in a couple of notebooks last second so I could continue to do some work on the road.
Make sure you keep your entertainment items, chargers, and travel documents handy. I always pack a refillable water bottle on vacations, too. Just make sure it’s completely empty before you go through security.
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