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Packing a Suitcase: Handy Tips

Step one:  remove cat from suitcase

Step one: remove cat from suitcase

Step One: For Cat Owners

Remove cat from suitcase or duffel bag!

Note that this step may have to be repeated several times!

Hahaha—hard to be cross with them; they are so darned cute about it!

Suitcase or Duffel Bag?

When I pack, it doesn't matter whether I'm using a suitcase or a duffel bag—I pretty much pack the same way for both.

My father was in the Navy, and all of their clothing and gear had to fit into their sea-bags, which is just a Navy term for a duffel bag. These bags were stuffed full. My dad had a saying he got from those days, if something was going to be a tight fit. He'd say, "Just like my Navy sea-bag—when it's full, you put the rest in."

Being the military, you'd better believe their clothes had better not come out wrinkled, either! He was a past master at packing and using every inch of space, so I learned from the best.

The main trick I learned was this: do not fold your clothing items—roll them! Folds guarantee wrinkles. Rolled clothing comes out wrinkle-free, or at least much, much less wrinkled than folded clothes.

At every fold, there will be a crease or wrinkle when the clothes are unpacked

At every fold, there will be a crease or wrinkle when the clothes are unpacked

There are no creases but one up the center of the back as if ironed, when rolling clothes, and it's really not that noticeable

There are no creases but one up the center of the back as if ironed, when rolling clothes, and it's really not that noticeable

How Do You Pack Shoes in a Suitcase?

Old socks. I am serious. Save some "holey" socks aside for the purpose. Keep them stored inside the suitcase so they don't end up in the rag bin or tossed out with the trash.

When packing, slide the shoes inside the socks. Not only do the socks corral the shoes and any small items you may stash inside; they also, more importantly, serve to keep the rest of the clothing clean.

Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination to find a dirty smudge on a shirt that began the journey nice and clean.

Then, lay them in the suitcase as they originally come to you in their shoe box—heel-to-toe, and tops together for best space management.

Use the shoes as the bottom layer, laid on their sides.

The Bottom Layer

"Bagged" shoes in position in suitcase

"Bagged" shoes in position in suitcase

Use All the Space

Whether I'm going camping, or going visiting for a few days, my personal preference is the duffel bag. Because it has no rigidity, you can stuff-cram it full much easier than you can a suitcase. Also, the duffel itself is very flexible, and can be 'crunched' into awkwardly sized and shaped spaces, unlike even a soft-sided suitcase.

However, the same tricks work no matter which piece of luggage you decide to use.

One thing we always do is use all the space that would otherwise be wasted, and here, the shoes come in handy. You can put your small items such as toothpaste, deodorant, and the like inside the shoes. (For extra security in case of leaks, first seal them in plastic baggies.) Mind you, this probably only works if you are driving to your destination, what with all the lists of items forbidden on airplanes these days. You can also stuff underwear into shoes if you have a really big packing job.

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In a suitcase, use the little pockets around the edges to corral your undies and toiletries. It's easier to pack the toiletries scattered about than trying to find room to stuff in a separate travel kit, unless it's a very tiny kit.

The more space you can conserve, the fewer bags you'll need to carry, and that's fewer things to keep track of.

Dual-Purpose Packing

Don't waste the space inside the shoes

Don't waste the space inside the shoes

Special Tips

  • Never put any prescription medications in your checked-through luggage. Keep them with you at all times. Then, if your luggage goes astray, you won't be without your necessary medication.
  • Put your name and address on the inside lid of your suitcase, as well as on any luggage tag. In case of the luggage breaking open, or the tag coming off, your belongings can be returned to you.
  • When using a luggage tag to mark your bags, be sure to use the type that conceals your address under a part of the tag, so that you are not instantly advertising that you are away from home to any unscrupulous baggage handlers or snoopy bypassers.

Use Small Sizes

Another way to pack efficiently and conserve space is to use small sizes of your toiletries. The little hotel-sized sopas are better used this way than just stashed as "souveniers." Then,if you happen to forget and leave them behind, you're not out anything.

When you're getting ready for your trip, hit the sample-sized bins at your local drugstore, convenience store or dollar store. True, you might not find your usual brands, but it's only for a few days. These tiny sizes are perfect for stuffing into shoes as I suggested above, and again, if you don't bring them home, you're not out of pocket for full-sized bulky containers of shampoo or what-have-you.

If you are traveling by air, and find these items on the "do not fly" list, simply purchase them at your destination. Most major cities will have a good-sized store near your accommodations offering these trial sizes. If you are staying with relatives, go ahead and buy your full size, and leave them behind for your hosts when you return home.

Time To Relax

Now that you have everything corralled in as little space as possible, you'll have fewer bags to pack and lug with you. This means less to keep track of, and quicker check-in at airline counters.

It also means less fighting to fit luggage into your car for driving trips.

That's extra time you can use to begin the de-stressing process on your way to your destination.

© 2012 Liz Elias


Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on July 19, 2020:

Thanks, Abby; glad you found a useful tidbit here. ;-)

Abby Slutsky from America on July 19, 2020:

I love your idea of packing shoes in old socks. I never thought of doing that. I am more of a suitcase girl for packing though. Thanks for a great article.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 23, 2018:

Thanks Mari! LOL Yes, cats do have a way of wrapping themselves into all aspects of our lives. ;-)

Mari S Adkins from Lexington on June 22, 2018:

Thank you for including the steps about the cat. I'd have been lost without those. Very thorough.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on August 28, 2012:

Hello, catalinafr,

I'm glad you found a useful tidbit and liked the article. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

catalinafr on August 28, 2012:

Interesting idea with old socks! I'll definitely try it during my next "packing experience" ;) Thanks for great hub!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 27, 2012:

Hi there, Webscapeseo,

Thanks very much for your comment; I'm pleased you found the article useful to you. Have fun on your next trip.

Webscapeseo from United Kingdom on June 27, 2012:

This is a really useful hub! I often have trouble packing evything I need successfully...not anymore!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 18, 2012:

Hi there, Lisas-thoughts101,

I'm glad you found a nugget or two of useful information in the article. The other advantage to rolling clothes, as I'm sure you've discovered, is that if you are packing a narrow upright duffel, the rolls can be set on end for better visibility when you're looking for a particular item at your destination.

Thanks for the vote! ;-)

Lisas-thoughts101 from Northeast Texas on June 18, 2012:

Thanks for the tips. Voted up. Hadn't thought of placing toiletries in the shoes, what a great idea. I roll and this does a great job of eliminating wrinkles, as you stated. Thanks for the other tips as well.


Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 17, 2012:

Hello, davecurrtis, I'm pleased you found the article useful. Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting.

davecurrtis on June 17, 2012:

These ideas are really creative, every space must definitely put into use. Enjoyed reading this.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 17, 2012:

Hello, vespawoolf,

Thank you very much for the compliment, and I'm happy I was able to add a useful tidbit for you. I appreciate your comment.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 17, 2012:

These are great tips, and I appreciate learning from someone who knows what they're talking about! We also utilize the space inside our shoes while packing, but I'd never thought to stash shoes in old tube socks. Will definitely do it next time, thanks!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on May 21, 2012:

Hi there, kittthedreamer--

Glad I was able to be of service. ;-) I don't mind's the return home to unpacking and all the laundry.. LOL

Thanks for stopping by--always good to see you.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on May 21, 2012:

I think at least once I've shoved things down inside of my shoes while packing...but I forgot about that little trick. Thanks for reminding me!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on April 28, 2012:

Hi, Jessie10,

I'm very happy you found the article to be of such great use to you. Thanks very much for the positive comment. Enjoy your travels!

Jessica Rangel from Lancaster, CA on April 28, 2012:

For someone that likes to travel, especially during the summer, this is a HELPFUL hub! I'm going to bookmark it!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on April 27, 2012:

Hello, 2patricias,

I'm so pleased that you found the article of use, and glad you liked the photo of our pint-sized "terrorist." (She's nearly 9 months old now, but still a tiny wee thing.)

Thank you very much for the votes and the link. Much appreciated, and I hope you enjoy your next trip enormously.

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 27, 2012:

This is brilliant - starting with that cute photo. The advice about putting old socks over your shoes is great - we will definitely try that for the next trip. Voted up, useful, and we'll put up a link from one of our hubs.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on April 13, 2012:

@ Peggy W; LOL--that kitten is a pint-sized terrorist. She's the instigator of the lot, although my large Maine Coon cat also will jump into the suitcase. ;-) Thanks very much for the input--I'm pleased to have been able to offer something useful. Thanks, too, for the votes & share!

@ Susan Ng; Yes, I think the cats do sense that they are going to be left behind, and are making a silent plea to be included. Sometimes, it's a game of musical cats, trying to pack (we have 6 of the darlings). I'm happy you enjoyed the article, and found something you can use.

@ moonlake; Oh, my, you had a naughty kitty on your hands! My mom used to have a double-layer cloth (taffeta, I think) bag to pack her nylons...but that was before pantyhose...I don't think they would have fit in mom's bag..but it was probably thick enough to avert cat attacks. ;-) Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting--I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

moonlake from America on April 13, 2012:

Good Hub. I had a Siamese cat that loved to get in our suitcases. That was when I wore nylons under my jeans and I always put new packages of nylons in my suitcase. When we got to our destination, I put some nylons on from the new package everyone of the nylons in the new packages had holes in them. Our Spencer had bite a hole in all of them.

My Dad was also military and would tell us how to pack and how to hang clothes in our closet.

Voted Up.

Susan Ng Yu on April 13, 2012:

The cat in the suitcase got me laughing. My cats do the same thing. Makes me think that they want to go with me on trips. :)

Might try rolling clothes instead of folding them the next time I travel. Thanks for the tips. :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 13, 2012:

I'm with Marcy on this! Loved the photo and your step #1 suggestion. Cute! Haha! You have offered some really good advice in this hub...some of which I knew and other things I never thought stuffing small items into shoes for maximum usage of space. Voted up, useful and sharing this.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on March 29, 2012:

Hello, alifeofdesign,

Thanks very much! I've had to re-learn how to pack lightly, after years of traveling with my kids and needing to pack everything including the kitchen sink.

I'm glad you were able to find some useful nuggets in my article.

Graham Gifford from New Hamphire on March 29, 2012:

I'm a lite packer and enjoyed a few of your suggestions that I can use on my next trip. With a bit of thought, packing can be rather simple. Thank you for sharing your suggestions (and your father's).

Best Regards,

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on March 29, 2012:

Hi, Marcy--

I'm glad you found the information to be of use, and happy that I was able to provide a chuckle in the bargain. Thanks very much for stopping by and leaving your input.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 29, 2012:

Very helpful information here! I'm always looking for more efficient ways to pack; thanks for these ideas! And I love step #1 - I'm still laughing!

Voted up and useful!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on March 28, 2012:

Hello, retired06--

I am pleased that my article appeared in a timely fashion for you, and that you found it useful. Thanks very much for your comment.

Leona J Atkinson from Oregon, USA on March 28, 2012:

Thanks for this, it was very helpful for me. I am planning a week long trip soon and since I am flying I need to pack very carefully as I only want to take one carry on bag, so your suggestions were very helpful to me !

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