Ever found yourself rooting through your suitcase, tossing clothes and gadgets haphazardly around your hotel room in search of that one shirt you really want to wear? Or shown up at the airport with a suitcase that exceeds your airline’s weight limit, leaving you shifting your stuff from one bag to another in front of a line of impatient fellow passengers?
How to Pack Efficiently
If problems like these sound familiar, chances are you need a few lessons in how to pack efficiently. That means packing light, maximizing your suitcase space, and staying organized during your trip.
We’ve identified eight products that will help you in the eternal quest for more efficient packing.
These old reliables are the ultimate tool for travelers who like to stay organized. Instead of having all your clothes and other items scattered around your suitcase willy-nilly, you can divide them into zippered compartments—larger ones for shirts and pants, medium ones for shoes, and smaller ones for socks and undies. Couples or families who share a single large suitcase can buy packing cubes in different colors so they know which cubes are whose.
Garment folders serve a similar purpose as packing cubes but with a different design. These let you enclose a neatly folded stack of clothes, with the added benefit of compression. We like those from Eagle Creek, available in a variety of sizes (including large and small).
Compression bags—also called compression sacks—are a godsend for travelers who never seem to have enough room in their suitcase. The bags allow you to squeeze tons of clothes into a small space by removing all the air, freeing up space while keeping things organized. We’ve even seen people use these on bulky items such as winter coats and even pillows! (Caution: Keep an eye on the weight of your suitcase when using compression bags. With all your newfound space, it’s easy to go overboard.)
Note: The poor man’s compression sack is a simple zip-top plastic bag, which comes in a variety of sizes (1 gallon, 3 gallons, 10 gallons, even 20 gallons). Roll or fold your clothes, place them in the bag, and then flatten to remove as much air as you can.
Daily Pill Organizer
Daily pill organizers are a must for travelers who take multiple medications and/or supplements a day, but did you know you can also use them for jewelry? Keep necklaces, bracelets, and earrings in their own separate compartments, and you’ll avoid having to spend mornings at your hotel unsnarling silver chains.
We like this option.
Avoid losing your keys or your cell phone in the depths of your purse by adding an organizer to your bag. With various compartments and pockets, these organizers ensure that you’ll always have what you need close at hand. As a bonus, you can easily pick up the organizer and put it into a different bag if you want to change purses between trips.
One important aspect of packing efficiently is staying well within your airline’s weight limit. Digital luggage scales are inexpensive—especially as compared to baggage fees!—and easy to use. When weighing your suitcase, be sure to allow yourself a little margin for error just in case the airport scale is calibrated a little differently (and to save a few pounds for any souvenirs you might bring home).
Portable Clothes Washer
Especially for longer journeys, doing laundry in the middle of your trip is the best way to cut down on the clothes you pack. But hotel laundry services are typically expensive, and no one wants to spend a day of their vacation hanging out at a local laundromat watching their underwear spin dry.
For these situations, a waterproof bag that you can use to wash your own clothes may be your most efficient option. (And you’ll even get a little workout, as you need to shake the bag for several minutes to mimic the agitation of a washing machine.) Scrubba and Laundreez make portable clothes washers that weigh less than a pound.
The Right Suitcase
Suitcases with clever compartments or even built-in organizing systems can help keep your things in order throughout your trip. One intriguing option is the ShelfPack, which has shelves that lift up out of the bag to create a mobile closet in your hotel room. There are small zipper compartments on the end of each shelf where you can store additional items.
If you prefer packing cubes to shelves, you might like Oregami luggage, which features three zippered interior compartments that unfold accordion-style from the suitcase. (Check out my Oregami review.)
For a lighter, carry-on-size option, consider this wheeled duffel from eBags, which not only has numerous pockets but also has a removable interior shelf that you can use to divide the main compartment.
For more information, see Choosing the Right Travel Luggage.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 12 Best Travel Gadgets for Any Trip
- The Carry-on Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time
- 7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-On Bag
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.