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15 Tips That'll Help You Pack a Suitcase Perfectly

No more overstuffed bags!

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

It's the most universal problem: if you're anything like me, you're rushing to start packing for a big adventure (from ski trips and road trips to your standard vacations). Before you know it, the bag is overstuffed, and you don't even have half the things you need. Sound familiar? Well, never fear because packing quickly and intelligently is easier than it sounds. You have to rely on a few basic rules while simultaneously taking into consideration a few unique factors, like the length of your trip, the type of clothes you need, and the specific dimensions of your bag. There are a few items you'll never want to be without and a bunch you probably don't need.

Still sounds impossible? Keep scrolling because we're about to teach you how to pack a suitcase perfectly every single time.

Roll Up Your Thin Clothes

This one's a no-brainer at this point, but fold your thinner items (shirts, dresses, underwear, PJs, and so on) into thirds, tightly roll them up, and layer the bottom of your suitcase with them. You can also pack them around bulkier, harder-to-pack items like shoes or a jacket as your suitcase starts to fill up. Bulkier items can be harder to roll and they might take up less space folded, so just experiment.

Use Cubes or Bags

When you've got a bunch of small items (like bras and underwear), the best way to ensure your own organization is to buy a small cube or bag, roll the items, and pack all of them into the cube. This accomplishes several things: Now you're more organized and you can identify all your clothes of a particular type, and it's easier to pack and layer square shapes than it is to pack individual clothes.

Make the Most of Your Bag Compartments

Depending on the shape and structure of your bag, you may have a separate top section or mesh compartments. Bulkier items or hard-to-pack items can go here—for example, the top sleeve of my suitcase is reserved for my toiletries, and the inner mesh compartment is where all my shoes go. Make use of the whole bag as you pack.

Bulky Items Go In Strategically

Obviously, before you add your chunkiest boots, ask yourself if you really need them (or if a shorter, lighter option will work just as well). Make sure you have room in your suitcase, and see how you can pack around it. Stuff socks into your boots so you're maximizing the space you have—and as a bonus, it'll help the boots retain their shape.

Pack Multifunctional Items

It might be tempting to pack the one statement piece you've been dying to wear for a special occasion (and, depending on the type of trip, this might be exactly what you need!). But if this is a multi-day trip where a number of outfits will be required, pack items like a white tee and cardigan that will work in multiple contexts: A tee works over a bathing suit, with a maxi skirt, and under a blazer or coat, for example. Instead of packing three pairs of boots, pack one pair of boots that'll go with everything you're planning to wear. Instead of pajamas, pack sweatpants and a sweatshirt that'll double as casual-wear.

When in Doubt, Essentials First

I've fallen into the trap of packing all my frilliest dresses for a warm-weather vacation...and then spent the entire trip wishing I was in denim shorts and a cami. To use the same example, a white tee is rarely an item that won't work in some context during your trip (even to the most formal work event, you might still want to change for after-hours drinks).

Think About the Layering Opportunities Ahead of Time

Remember: If you're traveling by plane or train, the cabin can get quite cold, so pack an outer layer. Once you get to your destination, you might be faced with a multitude of temps (air conditioning or heat when you're inside, the opposite when you outside), so plan your outfits to be layerable. Pack a cardigan and blazer, and have some thinner knits to go underneath as well as at least one sweater.

Put Plastic Between Your Clothes (or Wrap Them)

If you've got plastic cling wrap or the kind of plastic bags, they give you at the dry cleaners, put some down between the layers in your bag—it helps reduce wrinkles and keeps zippers from snagging on your nice clothes. If you've got an item that's truly delicate, wrap the whole thing in plastic so that it doesn't get damaged.

Leave Some Room

Even if you're not planning on buying a single thing, you're not going to be putting your items back in your suitcase with the same methodical planning at the end of your trip. (Cut to me shoving in all my dirty clothes and slamming my bag shut.) It's tempting to pack your suitcase to the brim but resist the temptation. You'll thank me.

Pack an Extra Bag (or Two)

As you wear your clothes, separate them by throwing them into a paper bag you've brought (this will also make packing at the end of your trip easier). If this is the type of trip where you're buying things, throw them into a tote (which you also brought—so clever!) that you can throw over your shoulder on the trip home. Assuming, of course, there's no more room in your suitcase.

Write Out a List of Your Packed Clothes

This will not only help you understand the gaps and redundancies in your wardrobe, but it'll also help you prioritize more of the aforementioned multifunctional items. If you're bringing a mini and jeans, pick a top that'll work with both. You can also break out your packing list by day or event so that you'll know you have clothes for your whole trip.

Separate Out the Most Important Items

For me, that's my retainer, glasses, contacts case, and wallet: All of it goes into the purse I carry instead of my carry-on. If all my bags go missing, I still have the most essential items. If you have a pharmacy nearby where you're staying, great, but if not, make sure that your list of essentials includes things like contact solution, a bar of soap, and whatever else you need the first night of your stay.

Don't Forget Snacks

Anticipate that you might run into delays on your trip. Do you have a water bottle and something to munch on? (Even if everything runs smoothly, you might still want snacks, and you definitely want to stay hydrated.) Make sure all these goodies are also in your purse. Also, if you want snacks during your trip and you might not be able to buy them at your destination, pack extra.

Think Practically About Your Trip

Will you be spending most of your time on the beach? Don't pack a formal dress. Planning on taking a bunch of photos? Skip the super-casual sweatpants. The best way to streamline is to look at your wardrobe and eliminate the "Oh, but I might wear this!" items. Stick to the items you know you'll wear, and save the aspirational pieces if you have room.

Pack a Wrinkle/Static Cling Remover and a De-Linter

Learn from my mistakes—every time I travel, I inevitably bring an item that sticks to my legs from static buildup. (Another pro tip: Pack clothes that don't wrinkle or carry static!) A de-linter will eliminate any annoying fuzz that develops on your nice clothes, and a wrinkle-remover will do in a pinch if you don't have time to break out your iron.

You got this. Happy traveling!

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