This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 24th, 2021.
You’ve made the reservations. You’ve booked your flights. You know what to pack for a weekend trip. You’ve even scored the Airbnb with the aspirational jacuzzi. Your next stop? Packing your bag.
Whether you’re taking a weekend jaunt upstate or caravaning across another country, packing can feel tedious and tiresome. Travel, after all, is about wish-fulfillment, growth, and golden hour selfies. And if you’d rather spend the precious days before your trip manifesting Michelin-worthy meals and iconic Instas instead of stressing about your suitcases, you aren’t alone.
But smart, savvy packing can make a huge difference in how you experience your journey—and it’s worth the investment of time and care.
In this step-by-step guide, we’ll take a thorough look at how to pack a suitcase efficiently, so you never have to drag an overstuffed bag over cobblestones or arrive at your remote treehouse hotel just to realize you left your toiletries at home.
What is the Most Efficient Way to Pack a Suitcase?
At its core, packing might seem simple: you take the little things, and you put them in the big thing. But some strange alchemy occurs between the pragmatic demands of the task and the emotional associations that swirl around it.
Packing a suitcase is more than just a chore. It can bring a dozen of fraught decisions, masquerading as a checklist of sandals and slip dresses.
What will make me comfortable? Who will I be? What will I wear?
Thankfully, no matter what your answers might be, there are a few universal tips to follow that will help you streamline the process of packing and soothe your stressed-out spirit.
#1 Select Your Suitcase
The most essential aspect of efficient packing? Your luggage. Whether you’re checking in or carrying on, you’ll want to search for suitcases designed to make your travel as easy, effortless, and chic as you are.
The secret to success? Shape. Even though some hard-sided suitcases, like our rollers at BÉIS, have expandable interiors (to accommodate the ‘fits you find abroad), their durable, structured shells encourage thoughtful packing.
But how do you know what size suits your needs? It helps to spend some time reflecting on your trip. Ask yourself:
- Where am I off to? Am I going on a beach vacay or to a ski chalet?
- How long will I be away?
- Will I have access to laundry?
- How’s the shopping? Will I be taking home a ton of souvenirs?
Certain trips might call for more spacious luggage sets than others. But as a general rule, try to keep your suitcases small when aiming for efficiency. The larger your luggage is, the more you’re likely to pack, especially in checked baggage.
#2 Lay Everything Out, Edit Later
Once you’ve established what you’re packing in, it’s time to decide what exactly it is that you’re packing. Most airlines will charge you additional fees if your bag weighs over 50 pounds, so when it comes to packing a suitcase, just like with close friends and cocktails, it’s all about quality over quantity.1
Begin the process by drafting a packing list that reflects the duration and location of your trip. The New York Times recommends a “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” rule for a weeklong trip,2 essentially:
- 5 sets of underwear and socks
- 4 tops
- 3 bottoms
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 hat
But you can—and should—adjust this list to suit your needs.
Heading to a Bachelorette and expecting big nights out? Plan to pack a few dresses and a pair of strappy sandals.
Sunset hikes on the horizon? Make sure to include a sports bra and sneakers on your list.
With your packing list in hand, you can begin to lay out options. Think big, and then think twice. When you’re looking at potential pieces, consider whether:
- They can be mixed and matched seamlessly
- You’ll feel comfortable wearing them multiple times
- The fabrics resist wrinkles, odors, and stains
To avoid overpacking, lean on neutral, lightweight layers and versatile pieces—think of a silk wrap that goes from coverup to cocktails or a pair of black leggings that can double as loungewear and activewear—and eliminate those items that you’re just not sure about.
If you’ve never felt comfortable in that sweater dress at home, chances are you’re not going to reach for it when you arrive at your destination. The same goes for that pair of pumps that give you blisters every time, as gorgeous as they might be.
#3 Rolling Up, Filling In: How to Pack Like a Pro
Now that you know what you’re packing and what you’re leaving at home for your roommate to borrow, it’s time to master the best way to pack a suitcase and start channeling your inner Marie Kondo.
What’s the most efficient way to pack a suitcase? To optimize for efficiency, experts suggest filling your bag—to the max!—by following some of the tips from our ultimate guide below:
- Rolling up – Rolling soft clean clothes, including t-shirts, knitwear, and jeans, can help prevent wrinkling and maximize suitcase space. If you’re packing stiffer or bulky items like blazers and button-downs, you’ll want to fold carefully instead of rolling. When rolling clothes for packing purposes, place rolled clothing items on the bottom of your suitcase first, and follow with those folded pieces.
- Filling in – Avoid empty suitcase space like you’d avoid a middle seat. One packing tip is to make sure that you fill every pocket and gap in your bag. Let your shoes steal the show as unused space savers. Assuming they’re clean and have the capacity, you can stuff them with socks, underwear, electronics, and accessories.
- Packing cubes – Seasoned travelers swear by packing cubes to save luggage space, and it’s easy to see why. These lightweight zip-up pouches equal peak organization and allow you to keep your items orderly, especially in the face of lengthy, multiple-destination journeys. There are different compartments for tops, intimates, shoes, and swimwear that move seamlessly from bag to bureau and back again. To save the most space - opt for rolled clothes over folded clothes in your cubes.
Another packing hack? Packing cubes also come in handy for your small items; such as electronics. Coiling your cords neatly and storing them in one compartment can ensure that you’ll spend more time poolside lounging and less time searching for a charger. They can even double as your laundry bag for dirty clothes.
- Pack toiletries – Save time by setting aside a travel toiletry kit (we recommend our spill-proof dopp kit for savvy suitcase and hotel-friendly storage) that meets your many travel needs and will keep you organized, and beautified on the go.
Replenish your toiletry bag as soon as you get home, so it’s always ready for your next adventure. Never again grovel at the front desk for a toothbrush or try to hunt down dry shampoo on safari.
When it comes to packing, focus on lightening your load. Seek out multi-purpose products (like a BB cream with SPF that can act as a moisturizer, sunscreen, and foundation all in one) and make sure that liquids clock in at no larger than the TSA-friendly 3 ounces.3 Keep your toiletries easily accessible at the top of your bag, just in case security wants to sneak a peek at your hand sanitizer.
Another space-saving tool? Your body. If you’re traveling somewhere chilly, you might save crucial extra space by wearing that furry, overstuffed parka on the plane. (As a bonus, it can double as a pillow.)
#4 Handle with Care—Packing Fragile Items and Electronics
One of the most thrilling things about travel? Not everything goes exactly to plan. But for every dinner that turns into a night of tango, there’s a well-meaning wine bottle that explodes in your bag.
Keep your items safe on your journey, no matter what road bumps may emerge, following a few simple guidelines:
- Wrap delicate items in sturdy, soft clothing and keep at the center of your bag
- Store liquor or wine in the bottom center of your bag
- Store jewelry in sturdy plastic boxes (think film containers or pillboxes)
Is the thought of ruining an heirloom piece keeping you up at night? Consider wearing it as you travel. That way, you—and it—will arrive at your destination in style.
When it comes to your tech, protect them with padded and water-resistant cases in the event that they encounter any spillage or sea spray en route.
Pack Smart, Arrive in Style: Efficient Packing Made Chic with BÉIS
Now that you know how to pack your suitcase - you’re ready to travel! Between serene beaches, bustling city streets, and snow-capped mountains, the world contains so much wildness and wonder. No matter how you choose to indulge your wanderlust—backpacking for weeks or weekend-ing away—make your journey as stress-free and streamlined as possible by packing efficiently.
Be sure to go for versatile clothing that resists wrinkles and layers easily, practice a packing technique like rolling, and have your toiletries at the ready. But the most important thing to remember when considering how to pack a suitcase efficiently for travel? Your luggage (checked baggage, carry-on size, or both).
Because, while we can’t predict what awaits you at arrival or which denim shorts you’ll wear again and again, we do know that with chic, durable roller bags, travel accessories, and the packing cube collection from BÉIS, your travels are sure to be as smart as they are stylish with these packing tips. Check out our line of grey suitcases for a chic twist on the standard suitcase color & our other luggage collections today!
Lynn Mettler."How to Pack a Suitcase". Travel US News and World Report. July 22, 2019, https://travel.usnews.com/features/how-to-pack-a-suitcase-16-tips-and-expert-tricks-for-perfectly-packed-luggage
- Shivani Vora and Michelle Higgins. "How to Pack a Suitcase".The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/travel/how-to-pack-a-suitcase
- Theresa O’Rourke. "The Best Way to Pack a Suitcase". Real Simple. Updated August 14, 2019, https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/travel/best-way-pack-suitcase