5 Packing Tips To Help You Pack Like A Pro This Summer


Traveler's Toolbox  

A traveler standing in a French train station with his backpack on.
Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon

There are two types of travelers in this world: those who see packing as an integral part—the first step if you will of any trip—and then others who view dumping their dresser drawer into a dusty, burrowed suitcase mere minutes before leaving as a more than sufficient way to pack for a vacation.

In my 20s, I was the latter, packing was a necessary evil to get the show on the road. As I got older, though, and my trips ran longer than 72-hours, my packing strategy evolved, and I began to value the freedom that came with an organized suitcase and minimal load. Here are five of my favorite packing tips that are perfect for your upcoming summer travels.

Carry your toiletries in your carry-on

It may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to prevent messy leaks in your suitcase is to bring your toiletry bag with you into the cabin. Baggage handlers have a reputation of not playing nicely with luggage, and when that happens, it can cause the liquid containers in your bag to leak or, even worse, burst. Beyond that, though, there’s another culprit in the plane’s cargo hold, which can cause your toiletries to leak. Any guesses? Well, if you said unpressurized air, then you’d be correct. Yep, the pressurized cabin will actually help keep your liquids in their proper place.

Bonus tip: If any of your toiletries feature a pump dispenser, put a piece of cardboard between the pump top and the bottle to lock the pump and its contents in place.

Pack your sun hat in three easy steps

Whether you take your favorite sun hat with your or by one locally, which is a great way to support the local economy, there’s going to be a time when you have to pack it. Simply fill the hat with your underwear and socks to padded it and protect its shape, and place it in your suitcase like you’re wearing it on your head. Next, place some rolled clothing around the brim. Now put the remainder of your clothing around and over the hat.

Roll me away

A Tom Bihn Tri-Star with packing cubes.
Our packing system for shorter trips, in which we utilize the rolling technique and packing cubes. Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon

While there are certainly more than two ways to fill a suitcase, the “roll” and “interlock” methods are by far the most popular packing techniques. Generally speaking, it’s best to roll your clothes if you’re using a duffle or backpack, and to interlock your garments for suitcases. With that said, though, we use the rolling technique for each of these bags and it works great, especially when coupled with packing cubes. For example, in the picture above, I’m using two Tom Bihn packing cubes–one for my t-shirts and boxers and the other, a backpack cube (this also double as a day pack), for my heavier items.

We have found that rolling our clothes is an easy, space-saving way to pack both light and heavy clothing, including jeans and dress pants. To fold a t-shirt, for example, you’ll want to place the shirt on a flat surface face down, and then fold in the sleeves. Now start to roll up from the bottom hem, making sure to smooth out the wrinkles as you go, which will help to ensure that none get folded in. If you rolled the shirt correctly, then the collar will should be on the outside of the roll.

Bonus tip: Place delicate clothing items on top of t-shirts, tissue paper or even a plastic dry-cleaning bag before rolling.

A sewing kit is worth its weight in gold

Before I met my girlfriend, Beth, I never thought about traveling with a sewing kit. Then, on our first big trip out, I watched how she easily repaired rips and tears as we crossed the European continent with her trusty Dollar Store sewing kit. In addition to being extremely cheap (you can also easily make your own too), sewing kit’s weigh nothing and can help you avoid repair or replacement costs, which can be especially high at hotels. Plus, during WWII, the sewing kit was standard issue for US Army soldiers, so if that isn’t proof of its importance then I don’t know why what is.

These shoes are made for more than walking

A hitchhiker sits by his red hartmann suitcase on his way to New York City, New York.
Photo Credit: Bethany Salvon

Empty shoes equal wasted space. Shoes are the perfect spot for socks, underwear and those unmentionables you’d like to keep from the prying eyes of custom officers. After filling your shoes, separate them from your clothing by placing each one into separate bags, plastic grocery bags work great, but you can also by specific shoe bags too. By keeping your shoes separate from one another, you’ll have more flexibility when it comes to positioning them in your suitcase.

We love hearing about all the different ways people pack. So if you have a tip or technique, let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Randy Kalp

Randy Kalp is a semi-intrepid journalist traveling the world and missing his 7-pound hound. His stories have appeared in Men’s Health, GAdventures’ The Looptail, the San Diego Uptown News, Coast News and San Diego Reader. You can read about Randy’s latest adventures on his award-winning travel blog and follow him on his social networks (below) and Pinterest.


  • A few more tips:
    When travelling on foreign trips, I find it easier to use zip-lock bags to keep my foreign currency separate. While on the plane, just drop your domestic currency into an empty bag, store it securely and bring out the bag with your foreign currency. This eliminates the hazard of flashing a lot of money around or searching through your luggage, while standing in a busy airport. Zip-lock bags are also a good thing for organizing receipts when doing a lot of business travel.

    In addition, I use large zip-lock bags to contain and separate my toiletries. This prevents a messy shampoo incident in your suitcase and avoids the hassle of going through security with the limitations on liquid volumes in carry-on luggage.

  • If you put ur underwear in a ziplock bag and squish the air out (easiest if you kneel on the bag), they are not only kept together but take up less space. 🙂

  • I have a bag which lives on the shelf next to my perpetually packed toiletries bag. In the second bag I have a disposable plastic poncho, a metal camping spork, a cork screw, and charging cables for my electronic gadgets. (Unfortunately, my phone and e – reader require separate chargers.) It didn’t cost much to have a second set and now I am less likely to forget them. I also travel with my own insulated “coffee” mug with a lid and a deck of playing cards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *