How to Pack a Suitcase that Saves You Money

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 well. I’m going to help you feel more comfortable about packing your suitcase for your trip by sharing tips and tricks for how to pack a suitcase that saves you money. 

Row of Packed Suitcases

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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. That is to say… people would look at me like I was crazy when I would roll up with a HUGE suitcase for just two overnights.

Overpacked Suitcase
Overpacked Suitcase

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”.  Therefore, 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.

As a result, I had to pack a lot more often. So I needed to get serious and really learn how to pack a suitcase well 

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 that 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. For instance, with two travelers the cost of checking your bags would be $120.00 per trip. That can be the same amount of money as your rental car! Imagine how much you would save if you eliminated the checked baggage fee for a family of 4. 🤑 *Cha-ching*

Packed Suitcases on luggage rack

Suitcase Packing 101: First things first...

REMEMBER:

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 large fees for carry-on luggage. (*cough* 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 hearts content! 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, make sure you check on the size requirements so you know what is acceptable for your flight.

Plane Interior for Carry On Suitcase

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. (Side bar: I LOVE Georgia. If you’re going there then you have to read 10 Unforgettable Things to See and Do in Savannah, GA.) 

So, If you try to book a flight from LA to Atlanta then 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! Therefore, you book the one way flight to DC, but you GET OFF at the layover in Atlanta.

REMEMBER:

The only way this works is if you have 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.

Man with Suitcases on his Back

Now it's time to REDUCE YOUR BAGGAGE!

TMI: Single life has been very interesting. Sometimes I look at a guy and think, “Yikes, 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. 😉

Airfare Ad Pack a Suitcase

Confession:

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.

Therefore, it’s not natural for 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!

How to pack a suitcase packing app

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 Capusle 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 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.

Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life

Typically I need to pack a dressy heel 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.

TIP:

In Europe you do a TON of walking. For our 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.       

Black Adidas Sneakers

White Adidas Sneakers

Blue Adidas Sneakers

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, 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

White Adidas Sneakers

Black Leather Boots

Black Heel Shoes

Black Pants

Red Leggings

Black Pants

Print Tee Shirt

Black Sweater

Stripped Sweater

Red and Black Tank tops

Black and White Hounds tooth scarf

White Long Sleeve Shirt

EXAMPLE:

Here’s a quick example of something similar to what I recently packed for a long weekend trip. My base for this trip was black and white. My secondary color was 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 packed black dress shoes and white sneakers in my bag. Next, I packed black pants, red leggings, and black dress pants. For tops I packed a print tee shirt, black sweater, print sweater, and a white sweater. Also, I had tank tops and leggings for layering and a black and white scarf. REMEMBER: You don’t want to pack bulky items in your suitcase to stay warm. You want to be able to layer for warmth. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

In my suitcase that’s a total of 2 pairs of shoes, 3 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. Specifically, Pinterest is full of great ideas to help you better understand this concept.

How to pack a suitcase, roll your clothes

Now that your capsule wardrobe is ready, let's learn about ... How to Fold Your Clothing

By now you have probably heard that 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 Packing on YouTube. I love this video, shown below, because it shows you EXACTLY how to roll all of your clothing. 👇

REMEMBER:

Fill in ALL of the empty spaces. For example, you can store all of your rolled socks into your shoes. It will help to keep the shape of your shoes and it will utilize every square inch 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 your luggage. Clearly this would include your shoes. Putting the big 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 that Saves You Money with Packing Cubes
How to Pack a Suitcase that saves you money with packing cubes

How to Pack a Suitcase with Packing Cubes and Compression Cubes

In my post Excellent Gift Ideas for Travelers I included packing compression cubes as a great gift idea. My children bought them for me and I LOVE them. This tip is the game changer for the 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 organization 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. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Packing cubes are used to organize your items BUT compression cubes are used to organize AND save space. I prefer these compression cubes below because they are multipurpose because they are super cute, durable, and multifunctional. That is to say, they have a handle so you can also use them as a travel bag to carry your things… like to the beach, for example.  

Pack a Suitcase Packing Cubes

Pack a Suitcase Compression Packing Cubes

OTHER BENEFITS OF USING PACKING CUBES:

When I’m packing up to go home I like that I can keep my dirty clothes and clean clothes separated with my cubes. I use the small cube for my undergarments and then I pair outfits into the larger cubes. Depending on the trip I might have a “Day 1 Cube” that I can grab as soon as I get to my destination to change and get going quickly. 

Additionally I 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. Most importantly, I still have those items, 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.    

How to Pack a Suitcase Toiletry Rules

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 weeks 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.)

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! 

Pack a Suitcase with TSA Approved Toiletry Bag

Pack a Suitcase with TSA Approved Toiletry Bag

TIP:

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 blush or foundation with another purchase, I will set that aside to save for a trip. 

REMEMBER:

There are some typical liquid products that you can also obtain in a solid form. For example, the company Lush gives out samples of bar shampoo, bar body wash, and toothpaste tablets. All of these products lather up when you add water. As a result, they are PERFECT for traveling because they don’t count as liquids.  

Most importantly, the main issue with TSA is the liquids so that’s where you have to keep it 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. 

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? The best practice is to make sure you pack one outfit into your personal item luggage.  You can even have that outfit packed into a 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 our first day of our 4 day trip was spent Ubering around trying to find bathing suits, 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. 

Laying on Beach with Coat on

Lesson Learned:

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. Most importantly, I didn’t want to start problem solving that 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.

How to pack a suitcase so There's always room for souvenirs

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 have 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! 

How to Pack a Suitcase with Suitcase Expansion

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. I really NEED this luggage in my life!! 

Agoda Ad Pack a Suitcase

TIP:

Agoda has some great deals right now. So click the link above 👆 to book your trip and then start packing your suitcase like a boss! 😉

Where to Next?

Above all, I sincerely hope that I have 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 and wander to the next town!

Pack a Suitcase Wander to the Next Town Sign

How to Pack a Suitcase Ad

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. So… which packing tip did you find to be the most helpful? Comment below. 

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