Suitcase Packing Tips for Your Road Trip

Most experienced travelers can probably share a few suitcase packing tips. But many of us also feel a little insecure about our packing style. Could we be saving space somehow? Is there a "right" order in which to stick things in the case? Why do clothes still get wrinkled sometimes?

The truth is, there's no single right way to pack a suitcase - but there are a few things you can keep in mind to get the most out of your space and ensure that your cargo will get to your destination in good shape.

Let's explore our best suitcase packing tips item by item:

  • Shoes. Shoes are a little tricky. They take up a lot of room, and there's not much you can do about that. So, try to pack shoes that can serve more than one purpose. For example, you might choose to wear your comfortable, very-broken-in running shoes as your all-day shoes for your drive. That way, you won't have to pack an extra pair of exercise shoes for just in case you decide to go running during your road trip.

    A few other thoughts on shoes: first of all, be sure to fill them with rolled up socks to save space in your case. Second, put each pair of shoes in a plastic bag (the ones you get from the grocery store will do fine) before packing them. And third, always put them on the bottom of the case or bag. They're flat on the bottom anyway, so you might as well.

  • Shirts and pants. Fold them. I'm sorry if that seems obvious almost to the point of being insulting, but it's amazing how often people just bundle things up and fire them into a suitcase. If you really want the tightest fit, consider ironing items, folding them while still hot, and stacking them in the case. You'll fit far more items and have the bonus of really neat-looking clothes when you get there.

  • Bottles. Put plastic bags around any toiletry bottles, too. But before you do that, get some of those little travel bottles and transfer as many of your bathroom items into them as possible. It's amazing how much space you can waste packing an entire king-sized bottle of shampoo. The little travel bottles are dirt cheap at any drugstore and totally worth it.

  • Underwear. This is one item you can wad up and jam into any available space, because guess what? Nobody will see it anyway.

  • Suits. For goodness' sake, don't even try to pack a suit without putting it in one of those clear plastic dry cleaning bags first. I can't tell you how many times I've packed a suit in a garment bag, being perfectly careful not to wrinkle it or pack anything on top of it, only to arrive in my hotel and have a horribly wrinkled suit to deal with.

    Those dry cleaning bags are magic; they somehow keep major wrinkles from forming while the suit is in the garment bag.

A few bonus suitcase packing tips for you: pack all elements of an outfit (such as pants, shirt, and sweatshirt) together so that you won't have to rifle through your entire case each day to get dressed.

Pack the clothes you plan to change into first - whether they're pajamas, a bathing suit, or something else - on top of the case.

Bring a couple extra of those plastic bags you get from grocery shopping. They hardly take up any space, and they can be really handy as laundry bags or whatnot.

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