Are you ready to learn how to pack like a pro? I'm going to show you how to pack a suitcase that saves you money!
Going on a trip is usually very exciting. However, packing for your trip is typically a little stressful. Most people don’t know how to pack a suitcase in an efficient way. I’m sharing my best tips and tricks for how to pack a suitcase that saves you money, to give you a little help for your next trip.
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When it comes to packing a Suitcase... Sometimes Less is More
In hindsight, I never thought much about the amount of stuff I packed in my suitcase. Let’s just say… people would look at me like I was crazy when I would roll up with a HUGE suitcase for two overnights.
The truth is, I didn’t know how to pack a suitcase. Previously, my packing motto was, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”. To say I was an over-packer is a severe understatement!
My Suitcase Packing Ah-Ha Moment...
In the past I considered the cost of my checked baggage to simply be “part of the vacation budget”. Since I started travel blogging, I have been traveling a LOT more.
Now that I was one of “those” frequent travelers, I had to pack a suitcase more often. This meant that I needed to get serious and really learn the best way to pack a suitcase to maximize efficiency.
More travels = more money. Therefore, I started looking for tips and tricks to save money while I travel. I realized at the end of one year I’ll save hundreds of dollars by learning to pack my suitcase more efficiently. That’s the cost of a weekend getaway or an extra excursion during a trip! Most importantly, now I’m excited to share with you everything I learned about how to pack a suitcase that saves you money.
Wait, what... I can save HUNDREDS of dollars if I learn to pack a suitcase better?!
First, packing your luggage efficiently so you only have a carry-on bag will save you SOOO much money over checking a bag. Many airlines are charging $30.00 EACH WAY to check your bag. That means, with two travelers the cost of checking your bags could be $120.00 per trip. That money could be spent on one more really cool adventure tour for your trip! Imagine how much you would save if you eliminated the checked baggage fee for 4-5 family members. *Cha-ching*
Suitcase Packing 101: First things first...
Make sure you check your airlines’ baggage fees BEFORE you book. It’s a factor in the purchase price because some airlines look like they have cheap flights, but then they charge hefty fees for carry-on luggage. (*cough* a/k/a Spirit Airlines *cough*) On the other hand, airlines like Southwest don’t charge anything for checked bags. So if you’re flying Southwest then pack to your heart’s content and don’t worry about trying to fit it all into a carry-on bag! Keep these things in mind while you are searching for flights.
As for all the airlines in between… they typically allow carry-on baggage for free and that’s where you can save some serious money. Above all, it’s a good idea to make sure you check on the size requirements so you know what is acceptable for your flight.
But wait there's more...
I recently found out about a GENIUS TRAVEL HACK. Here’s an example of how it works… Let’s say you want to fly from Los Angeles CA to Atlanta GA. (Sidebar: I live in Georgia. If you’re going there then you have to read All the Fun Things to do in Atlanta, GA and maybe you will see me around!)
So, If you try to book a flight from LA to Atlanta, it can cost $200.00 for example. BUT if you book the flight from LA to Washington DC (with a layover in Atlanta) it’s only $130.00. That’s a nice savings! That means, you book the one-way flight to DC, but you GET OFF at the layover in Atlanta.
The only way this works is if you are using carry-on luggage, because your checked bag would end up at the final destination. Yikes! With this travel hack, you save money on the flight AND you save money on your luggage.
Now it's time to REDUCE YOUR BAGGAGE!
TMI: Single life has been very interesting. Sometimes I look at a guy and think, “Oh dear, he has a LOT of baggage”. I’ve managed to find guys that emotionally have two checked bags, one carry-on, AND a personal item. You don’t want to be that person in the dating world OR in the travel world! Let’s face it, everyone has some baggage. Life Goals: let’s work on keeping our baggage to a minimum.
There are only two things in life that I collect. In my post 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions, I shared that I collect Christmas Ornaments when I travel.
The second thing I “collect” is clothing. I LOVE making different outfits with my clothes. It’s my only creative outlet these days.
That means it doesn’t come naturally to me to minimize my clothing options when I travel. The struggle is real… but the savings and simplicity are real too, so let’s get after it!
Help! I don't even know what I NEED to pack!
Another reason why the thought of packing is so overwhelming to so many people is because they don’t know where to start.
What EXACTLY do you need to bring on your trip? Well, lucky for you… There’s an app for that! I’ve found a few travel packing apps out there. Some are free and some require a purchase. I’m going to share with you the free one that I like best. It is called Packing List Checklist.
The things I liked best about this app are the layout and the lists. It comes with “suggested items” for different tasks. Basically, you start a list. Then you click on the activities that apply to your trip. For example, Beach, Hiking, Snow Sports, etc. This gives you a number of suggested items to pack, but you can also add your own items to the list. After you’ve packed the item, you simply check it off of the list.
There’s also a “to-do” list section. That is for helping you to remember things you have to do before your trip, like take out the garbage for example. This app helps to relieve that stressful feeling that you forgot something.
Best Tip for How to Pack a Suitcase That Saves You Money: The Capsule Wardrobe
Have you ever heard of something called a “capsule wardrobe”? I learned about this term last year. My friend Tracy from findyourdazzle.com wrote a great post called “What is a Capsule Wardrobe? And Why You Need One.” Please check it out to learn more about how beneficial it can be for you.
Basically, a capsule wardrobe is a limited group of clothes that you can mix and match in order to create several different outfits. The above Pinterest image from “Just Posted” shows a PERFECT EXAMPLE of how it works!
Typically you will have some basic clothing as your staple items. Then you add some accent pieces to keep it interesting and updated. You can find more examples of this concept on my Pinterest board about fashion. Utilizing the capsule wardrobe concept when you pack will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Are you excited? Get excited!
Step 1) Pick a Base Color
First, you need to pick a base color. This will be either black, white, gray, navy, or brown. I have to do this because shoes take up a ton of space so I want to limit the number of shoes I pack. Usually, I allow for 3 pairs. Two are packed and one is on me when I’m flying.
Typically I need to pack a dressy pair of high heels and a casual flat pair. Then I will wear my bulkiest pair of shoes on the flight. In the winter that will be a pair of boots, and in the summer it will be sneakers.
In Europe you do a TON of walking. For my trip to Paris, I bought Adidas Pure Boost Sneakers. I like them because they are very unassuming and they are super comfortable to walk in for miles. These are the only sneakers I have found that are comfortable AND I can wear them with my nicer clothing without it looking weird.
Step 2) Pick a Secondary Color
Now that you have your base color picked it’s time to figure out what to mix and match. So this is when I pick a secondary color. You will want to have the secondary color item in a variety of clothing options. For example, a long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, a few pairs of pants, shorts, etc. Again, you just need a few pieces so you can mix and match them with your base items to create a variety of different looks.
Example of a Capsule Wardrobe for your Suitcase
Here’s a quick example of something similar to what I would pack for a weekend trip to see the fall foliage in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. My base for this trip is black and white. My secondary color is red.
So that means I would wear my tall black boots on the plane, leggings, and a heavy white sweater with a tank top underneath. (Those were my bulky items.)
Then, I pack black dress shoes and white sneakers in my bag. Next, I pack black pants, red leggings, and black dress pants. For tops I pack a print tee shirt, black sweater, print sweater, and a white sweater. Also, I add tank tops and leggings for layering and a black and white scarf. REMEMBER: The important thing is you don’t want to pack bulky items. You want to be able to add layers for warmth.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
In my suitcase that’s a total of 2 pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of pants, and 4 tops. Then, I had 1 tank top, pajamas, and small accessories. It doesn’t sound like much but with those items I have the ability to mix and match everything into AT LEAST 10 different outfits. All you have to do is add/subtract layers and accessories to create different looks. Depending on how you pair the clothing, you can dress it up or down. Luckily, Pinterest is full of great ideas to help you better understand this concept.
Now that your capsule wardrobe is ready, let's learn about ... How to Fold Your Clothing
By now you have probably heard about the packing method where people roll their clothing when they pack. This is beneficial for two reasons. First, it takes up less space. Second, it helps to prevent wrinkles.
I found an excellent video 6 Amazingly Compact Ways to Fold Clothes for Efficient Packing on YouTube. I love this video, shown below because it shows you EXACTLY how to roll all of your clothing to create extra space.
Fill in ALL of the empty spaces. For example, you can store all of your rolled socks in your shoes. It will help to keep the shape of your shoes and it will utilize every square inch of storage space inside your suitcase.
Once you have everything folded, it’s time to load up your suitcase.
First, you start with the biggest and heaviest items and anchor them on the bottom of the suitcase. Clearly, this would include your shoes. Putting the larger items in first shows you how much room you have left for your clothing and toiletries. Also, it prevents your suitcase from toppling over while you travel.
How to Pack a Suitcase with Packing Cubes and Compression Cubes
In my post Excellent Gift Ideas for Travelers I included compression bags, called packing cubes, as a great gift idea. My children bought them for me and I LOVE them. This game changer is one of the best packing tips on how to pack a suitcase to save you money.
Not familiar with packing/compression cubes? They come in different sizes and colors. The ones I own have expanders in them. That means you can change the size of them OR you can use them as compression cubes.
If you are using the expanded version for organizing then you just roll up your clothes, place them into the cube, zip it, and place into your suitcase.
If you’re using them as compression cubes here’s how they work. First, fold and place your clothes into the cube. (You don’t have to roll them when you’re using the compression feature.) Then, you zip it closed with the main zipper. Lastly, you zip the expanding zipper closed to compress some of the air out and save packing space.
The awesome YouTube video above, called How to Pack a Suitcase to Maximize Space, has a great demonstration of how to properly use compression cubes. They are pretty similar to traditional vacuum bags.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
You can use packing cubes to organize your items BUT compression cubes are used to organize AND save space. I prefer these compression cubes below because they give me the most options for my suitcase space. They are multipurpose because they are super cute, durable, and multifunctional. That’s because they have a handle so you can also use them as a tote bag to carry your things… like to the beach, for example.
OTHER BENEFITS OF USING PACKING CUBES:
I use the small cube for my undergarments and then I pair outfits into the larger cubes so they are ready to go. Depending on the trip I might have a “Day 1 Cube” as easy access that I can grab as soon as I get to the hotel room to change and get going quickly.
I also might have a “Just in Case Cube” with things I don’t plan on using but had to bring, just in case I needed it. That way I still have those items with me, but they are not in my way. When you have everything organized in your cubes it makes it so easy to find what you are looking for without rustling through your ENTIRE suitcase.
When I’m packing up to go home I like that I can keep my dirty clothes and clean clothes separated in my cubes.
How to Pack a Carry-On Suitcase with Toiletries
The most obvious tip for toiletries is to use travel-sized items. Clearly, that one is a given. What I also like to do is save items when they are almost empty and then use them for travel. For example, when I have a week’s worth left of a product I will save it in my travel items rather than use it up and open a new one. Then, I will pack that almost empty item when I travel. That way I can use the rest of it up on the trip and throw away the container. (The less I have to bring back, the more room I have for souvenirs on the return trip home.)
Ideally, you should invest in some refillable travel size containers like the TSA-compliant ones below. However, another option is to take home the small travel size containers they offer at the hotel, dump out the cheap stuff, and fill that small container with your favorite product for next time. The hotel containers are a perfect size!
I like to set aside free trial samples I get with purchases and use them when I travel. For instance, if I get a trial size makeup or beauty product with another purchase, I will set that aside to save for a trip.
There are some typical liquid products that you can also obtain in a solid form. For example, the company Lush gives samples of bar shampoo, bar body wash, and toothpaste tablets. All of these products lather up when you add water. That makes them PERFECT for traveling because they don’t count as liquids.
The main issue with TSA is the liquids so that’s where you have to keep your toiletry bag to a minimum. Currently, the requirements are: containers must be 3.4 ounces or less, and ALL of your liquids must fit into a clear 1 quart container. Make sure you put the liquids into a plastic bag and away from any electronic devices, just to be safe.
Checked Luggage Suitcase Packing Tips
Okay, I get it. Sometimes you have to check a bag possibly because you are going on a longer trip or because you have a large family. Fortunately, I have a few important tips to share with you about checked baggage.
First, have you ever had your luggage lost or delayed? As a general rule of thumb, the best thing to do is to make sure you pack one outfit into your personal item luggage. You can even have that outfit packed into a small packing cube so it doesn’t take up much space.
Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way. It was a snowy January in Pennsylvania and a sunny January in Orlando Florida. After our luggage got lost, the airline gave me $50.00 to buy some clothing until our suitcase arrived. That means the first day of our 4-day trip was spent Ubering around trying to find a bathing suit, sunscreen, etc. It was less than ideal to waste so much time because it was such a short trip. We could’ve been better prepared.
When we took our trip to Rome we had 3 checked bags and two layovers. Obviously, that made me very nervous about possibly losing some luggage. The last thing I wanted was to start problem solving a big issue in Europe.
So here’s what I decided to do… I had each of us pack one outfit into each other’s checked bag. That way if 1 or 2 of the bags didn’t make it, we would all still have something to wear at least for one day. Luckily, nothing got lost or delayed, but I was less stressed knowing that we had prepared well just in case.
What if you forgot to Leave Room in your Suitcase for Souvenirs???
At this point, you have learned all about how to pack a suitcase to save you money. Presumably, with all that money you saved you will want to buy extra souvenirs!
But, what if you don’t even have a little room for souvenirs in your checked bag? Are you ready to have your mind blown?!?
Here’s a compromise for you…. PURCHASE EXPANDABLE LUGGAGE. First, on the way to your destination you can use it as a carry on. Then, on the way home you can open up the expander and fit all of your souvenirs inside. Therefore, you only pay to check the bag one way.
In other words, you still get half of the savings from checking the bag both ways, and you get cute souvenirs. Winning!
This awesome luggage pictured above easily transforms from a carry on to a checked bag. It is excellent quality, has a beautiful design, and is water resistant. This would have been so helpful when we took our Christmas trip to Nashville Tennessee because I had gifts to pack on the way there. Sometimes you only need the extra room to bring items, one way and this is the best suitcase for that type of situation. I really NEED this luggage in my life!!
Where to Next?
Above all, I sincerely hope that this ultimate guide to packing has helped you to feel more confident with packing your suitcase.
Well… now that you have all of the tools to set you up for success, pack a suitcase, a duffel bag, or any piece of luggage and wander to the next town!
If you liked the post “How to Pack a Suitcase That Saves You Money”, then you might also like Top 5 Things you Need to Know when Finding a Hotel.
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LET’S CONNECT: I’ve shared several tips on how to pack a suitcase that saves you money. Which packing tip did you find to be the most helpful? Comment below.