What does it mean to travel, have your life in a suitcase, bring everything you own with you at all times? It means that you need to learn how to pack a suitcase accordingly.

No one travels with travel trunks anymore.  There are no porters, sherpas or man servants to carry your luggage for you. So whether you are a business traveler, a backpacker or a first-class frequent flier, the following packing tips will be useful.

How to Pack a Suitcase – Tip 1 to Pack Your Bags: Travel Light

This is the #1 tip on how to pack a suitcase, and the most important one. The greatest one I could ever give you: bring as little as you possibly can with you. At all costs.

There are things that you need to carry with you wherever you go and whatever the time frame.

Where are you heading? Confirm and double-check the weather and the time of the year. What are the possibilities? Check the monthly averages well in advance, and check the forecast.

Note: Did you know that there’s such a thing as “Travel Pants“? Check out Savored Journey’s guide!

How to Pack a Suitcase – Tip 2 to Pack Your Bags: Carry-On Only

How to Pack a Suitcase - Plus, with a small bag, the tuk-tuk ride to the airport is much more comfortable!
Plus, with a small bag, the tuk-tuk ride to the airport is much more comfortable!

I understand that this might be difficult.

I also understand that the weight of the suitcase will probably exceed the limitations set by the airlines. And I am aware that business travelers have one or two suits to fit in the luggage, so not everyone can fit everything in to a carry-on. I am also aware that this might be close to impossible when travelling to a cold-weather destination.

But keep in mind that airlines are losing luggage at alarming rate, more and more airlines charge extra as soon as you have luggage (any luggage, one bag is extra, everything’s extra, sometimes even water is extra!) and once you’re at destination, retrieving your luggage from the carousel can take up to an hour. All of that should encourage you to give this tip on how to pack a suitcase a shot. Try to make it look like your carry-on is super-light, and get on with everything you own! (Plus, in some countries, getting out of the airport before everyone else is extremely helpful when trying to negotiate a taxi fare – but that’s a matter for another article.)

Remember: you can always get your clothes washed at the hotel. And you can always buy some more wherever you go: chances are it will be cheaper there.

Note: This technique on how to pack a suitcase is good for trips of 5 days or more.


– 1 pair of shorts
– 1 bathing suit – even when going where it’s not needed
– 1 pair of comfortable jeans
– 3 t-shirts
– 1 warm shirt (hooded sweatshirt or polar fleece)
– 1 windbreaker (the windbreaker could be a lifesaver (figuratively) in case of extreme rain or unexpected cold, and they pack well)
– Your favourite sunglasses
– 5 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks (dry socks are very, very important)
– flip-flops (more on that later)
– 1 pair of shoes
– 1 small foldable day bag (because you’ll be leaving everything else at the hotel)

You’ll obviously be wearing one set of clothes and your shoes. The rest will most likely fit in any carry-on bag.

Oh, one more tip on how to pack a suitcase: don’t fold your clothes, roll them as tight as you can! You’ll save so much room!

Note: Check out this packing guide of carry-on items by ArzoTravels!

Tip 3 to Pack Your Bags: Always, Always Wear Warm Clothes on the Plane

How to Pack a Suitcase - It's better to be comfortably warm while watching a sunrise from your seat
It’s better to be comfortably warm while watching a sunrise from your seat

The air is inevitably cold in planes. Long rides at 19 degrees Celsius without a warm shirt can be torture.

Tip 4 to Pack Your Bags: Take an Empty Water bottle Through Security

You can fill it up later on at the gate. The majority of airports have drinking water fountains there.

Note: Travelling with a toddler? Check out MeldrumsOnTheMove’s packing tips!

Tip 5 to Pack Your Bags: Your Smartphone is the Most Important Thing You Can Bring With You

This topic needs a post of its own. Click here to read my opinion on travelling with smartphones.

Tip 6 to Pack Your Bags: Don’t Lose Track of Your Passport

Small pouches that fit between your belly and your underwear are sold everywhere and are designed for you to keep everything you need to keep in the safest place you can imagine: your private parts.

Inside these pouches, you should pack the following:

– Your passport in a waterproof case
– Extra travel credit cards (in the passport, inside the waterproof case)
– A small amount of cash ($100 in American currency is fine. Put it in the waterproof case, of course!)

That’s it!

I repeat, don’t leave your passport anywhere. The hotel staff know how to open the safe that’s in your room. Don’t leave it at the front desk. Don’t leave it as a deposit when you rent a car or a motorbike. Don’t leave it with anyone before going white river rafting or swimming in the ocean – remember, that’s why it’s in a waterproof case!

Two extra quick tips on how to pack a suitcase:

Bring many photocopies of your passport with you in your day bag – if anyone asks to see it, take the copies out, not the original.

If you absolutely must leave your passport somewhere, bury it in your bag in the deepest pouch you can find. Then, make sure you don’t tip off anyone about the fact that your passport is in there. Don’t tell the clerk “keep an eye on my bag, it’s got my passport in it.” When you put it in your bag, try to make sure no one sees you putting it in there.

There is no reason to be paranoid about your passport. Just be clever.


How to Pack a Suitcase – Tip 7 to Pack Your Bags: Keep Toiletries to a Minimum

I’m looking at you, ladies.

I understand that it might be difficult to leave everything behind, but try to bring only the essentials.

Here’s my personal list:

– Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, suntan lotion (all travel-sized), bar of soap, hair clipper, towel.

That’s it, you ask?

Not quite.

Remember tip #2 on how to pack a suitcase: I mentioned the need to bring flip-flops. They serve a dual purpose. Of course they can be worn at the beach or even during the day, but they also are mandatory in showers. Hotel (or worse, hostel) showers see many, many feet in the course of a lifetime. One bad set of toes can spoil the fun for all the other ones to come. Athlete’s foot is not fun – and it’s the least worrisome of all the possible medical problems that can arise from shared showers.

How to Pack a Suitcase – Tip 8 to Pack Your Bags: Bring Earplugs

Don’t forget your earplugs. You’ll be extremely glad you have them with you. If you forget them, here’s what willhappen:

  • You’ll want to sleep on the plane and the noise of the engines will keep you awake.
  • You’ll want to sleep on the bus and your neighbors will disrupt you.
  • You’ll want to sleep on the train and the noise of the wheels hitting the rails is going to keep you stirring.
  • You’ll want to sleep at the hotel but the AC will be extremely loud and you’ll spend a sleepless night tossing and turning in your bed.
  • You’ll be renting the most wonderful cabin in the woods and the birds will wake you up every morning at sunrise.

Tip 9 to Pack Your Bags: Don’t Forget Your Medications

During my long and frequent travels, I have met people who didn’t know their own medical history. I have also met people who thought that vaccines are bad for them. And I’ve met very unlucky people that didn’t prepare for the worst.

Before travelling, always check the Canadian government’s website. It has health advisories that need to be respected. Always get all of your vaccines.

Here are the medical supplies I carry with me at all times when traveling:

Bismuth subsalicylate in tablets or caplets (it’s only available in Canada, the USA and England. They have saved my day countless times)
– Extra-strong ibuprofen  (no one likes being hungover, plus ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory, which can be useful in case of injury)
– Antacids
– Generic antibiotics (you need a prescription for them, ask your doctor)
Loperamide (it’s very powerful, be careful how you use it)
Dimenhydrinate caplets (once again, you’ll be thankful you planned ahead when you’ll need them)
– A tube of antibiotic ointment
– Sleep aid pills (spending 20 hours on a bus or 15 hours on a plane can be painful without them)

Don’t rely on other people for your health and safety. If you have medical allergies, bring an epipen with you. If you’re hypoglycemic, make sure you have your supply of sugar with you at all times. If you have very bad eyesight, bring a backup in case your glasses break. If you have to carry prescription medication with you, make sure you have a copy of the prescription.

Another quick tip: learn how to check for bed bugs and do so whenever you enter a new hotel room, no matter how much you’ve paid for the room!

 Tip 10 to Pack Your Bags: No Jewelry

If you travel without jewelry, you don’t need to worry about pickpockets and other burglars.

  •  Don’t wear any expensive jewelry – no gold bracelets, no platinum necklaces, no diamond rings, no emerald earrings – this isn’t a hip-hop concert!
  • Don’t put your wallet in the back pockets of your jeans. But of course, you already knew that.
  • Make sure your day bag is always zipped up and that important things are in a second or third pouch inside your bag. If pickpockets can get through the first zipper, they won’t be able to open a second and a third one to get to your wallet.
  • Always carry a small padlock, preferably a code padlock, not a key padlock. Whenever you want to use a locker, don’t use the padlock provided, use your own and check the hinges!
  • Something’s fishy? Take all the loose things that might be around – smartphone, loose change, etc. – put them in your front pockets and keep your hands in your pockets, then keep calm and carry on. Don’t show fear or panic. Don’t be aggressive.

Do you have any travel tips to share? Tell us about them in the comments.