Travel Packing 101: A Personal Guide on How to Maximize Your Suitcase Space

October 7, 2018

 

Hellooooo, friends!

 

I'm so excited to share this post with you guys. I've been knee-deep in school work (that senior year grind) but had to put some time aside to write this one for you guys as on my Instagram stories a lot of you voted that you'd love some tips and tricks on how to pack for traveling + how to plan outfits to make the most out of your suitcase space!

 

I'm heading to New York City this week with my boyfriend and I'm sooooo excited. Last year I spent a month studying at NYU and living on my own in the city and I'm not quite sure anyone knows how excited I am to go back and visit the city that never sleeps once again.

 

I've traveled a lot already this year, so I have my fair share of advice on the do's and don'ts of packing. I don't know about you, but I tend to be that type of person who very heavily over-packs...and for no reason at all. I'm always caught up in the thought that I don't have enough options for outfits, or don't have enough pajamas to wear or tanks to wear for layering, not enough jeans or cardi's--all of that jazz. It gets to me and is my worst enemy when packing.

 

So whether you're the over-packer like me, or the modest under-packer (never bringing enough and/or always finding yourself stuck without some items you meant to bring but forgot{anything like this}), here is Travel Packing 101: my personal guide to all things packing for any vacations you may have planned or are in the process of planning; no matter how big or small your getaway may be, this one's for you.

 

Roll your clothes 

 

Rolling your clothes is c r u c i a l to maximizing the space in your suitcase. I promise you if you don't already use this packing technique, you will for the rest of your life after you try it. Not only does this act as wrinkle protection (can I get a thank God Hallelujah because there is NOTHING worse than getting to your destination and finding that all of your clothes are wrinkled), but this will also take up so much less space compared to just folding your clothes regular and throwing them in the suitcase!!!!!

 

I want to emphasize this so much because it really is one of the key aspects of maximizing that suitcase space (hence why this is first on my personal packing guide). 


From experience, rolling your clothes will take up half the amount of space that just folding regularly would. To some, rolling the clothes rather than folding may seem like it would make the items bulkier (as folding clothes essentially makes them flat), but rolling the garments actually makes them smaller because everything is sort of bundled up. Think of it like a pizza compared to a calzone. It's basically the same exact ingredients, except the pizza is a heck of a lot bigger than the calzone. 

 

 

Plan your outfits in advance

 

Planning your outfits in advance may be a given to some, but I promise, promise, PROMISE you, this will be far more beneficial than just throwing some things in your suitcase that you think will look good together then calling it a day. Planning your daily and nightly outfits in advance will not only preserve space for other items, but you'll also have a general idea of what you'll be wearing on certain days of your vacation--especially if you have activities and events already planned.

 

One way I go about this is pulling out everything I think I want to bring with to wear. So, say I bought an item to wear with my planned vacation specifically in mind, I'll pull that out (and then of course whatever else I think would be cute for that certain vaca).

 

Then, I take a look at what I have pulled from my wardrobe, and start styling. If I'm travelling for five nights and four days (which is the duration of my upcoming trip to NYC), I will typically tend to style 6-8 outfits from the pieces I'd like to bring with or that I think would look good.

 

From those 6-8 outfits, I'll narrow it down to the exact amount of days I'll be traveling. So in this case, four days, four day-time outfits (if you're a fan of day-and-night outfit changes like me, we'll get to that in a sec). Once I've got my selections narrowed down, I usually tend to take a look at each outfit side-by-side to see if any of them are similar in anyway and if I can eliminate some pieces and wear certain ones for multiple outfits. So for example, if two of my outfits have ripped skinny jeans for pants, then I'll compare the two jeans and go with whatever option I like better and wear those jeans for both outfits. This way, I'm saving room in my suitcase and killing two birds with one stone. If I have two different pairs of tan booties for two different outfits, I'll choose whichever I like best and only bring one. 

 

Another thing I'll do during this stage of the packing process is take a look at what type of style each outfit is conveying. Are they all casual? Are some too formal? You have to keep in mind what you're traveling for, whether it's business, personal, just for fun, etc., you don't want to feel too over-dressed, but you also don't want to feel too under-dressed, and you want to feel like you. If I feel as though one outfit seems out of place compared to the others, then I'll take a look back at the others I've sort of discarded (those that didn't make the final cut), and see if they're more fitting for the occasion. 


Now, if you're like me and like to change outfits from daytime to night, this can get a little tricky in making the most out of your suitcase space, obviously because you'll want to bring more. What I tend to do about this is really look at the pants I've got planned to bring first. Are they really only a daytime casual look? Or can they be worked into a more chic and sleek nighttime look? Black jeans are great versatile pieces for incorporating them into both day and evening looks, and so I always tend to bring a pair of them along on every vacation. I'll then (depending on if the pants are suitable for both day and night) take a look at the shirts that didn't make the cut and see if they work as evening tops, or else I'll revert back to my closet and go from there. I usually tend to plan on bringing 2-3 different night time looks. 

 

So in total, for my five night and four day stay, I'll have four daytime outfits, and two-to-three nighttime outfits; that makes a grand total of 6-7 outfits for the entire vacation. And though these outfits were planned in advance, I have room to change them/mix and match them once I arrive to my destination if needed.

 

Minimize the amount of shoes you bring

 

I kid you not, I am that person that brings 83053723 pairs of shoes with me on vacations and ends up wearing the same two pairs the entire time. DON'T BE THAT PERSON. It causes unnecessary stress and also takes up way too much space in your suitcase that could've been allotted to other and more important items. 

 

Honestly, I would say if you can, minimize the shoes to two pairs only if your trip is around the length of mine (five nights, four days). I know, you're probably thinking how can I only bring two pairs if I'm bringing 5-7 outfits? But I promise you, you'll thank me. And no, this does not include the shoes you wear to the airport (though it could), which totals to three pairs for the entire trip (you know, because those shoes will most likely never see the inside of your bag, as they'll be on your feet).

 

This part of the guide goes hand-in-hand with planning your outfits in advance and analyzing which outfits have similar pieces that could be worn for multiple outfits. Like I said before, if you have two pairs of tan shoes planned, eliminate one of those and only bring one! If you have two pairs of sandals, or two pairs of boots, see which pair works best with each outfit and choose only one...are you getting the hang of this now?! 

 

Another great way to eliminate the amount of shoes you're bringing is to go with neutral tones. Black shoes primarily go with anything, same with tan. But if you have this brand new pair of super cute leopard print booties, do those go with everything that you're planning to bring? Maximizing the space in your suitcase by minimizing the amount of shoes you are bringing can really be a struggle, but it's worth it. Find a consistent color throughout each of your planned outfits and decide which neutral colored shoe would go best with each of them.

 

Check the weather in advance-- and do it continuously!

 

If you were to ask anyone, I've been non-stop talk about the weather in NYC for the days I'll be there. I've been keeping a keen eye on it, as this too goes hand-in-hand with planning outfits in advance.

 

For me, traveling from MN to NYC, I'm not really expecting much of a drastic difference in temperature or anything like that because both MN and NY are primarily on the same seasonal schedule. But if you're traveling from somewhere up North and are currently experiencing fall weather, to somewhere like down South where it's hot almost always, you're going to want to be aware of that because it'll change the way you plan your outfits and change your sense of mind for your vacation wardrobe. And vice versa, if you're down South and currently enjoying the sun and 80 degree weather, but heading up North somewhere, you'll maybe want to take a look at your warmer and cozier pieces and layers. 


When it comes to how far in advance you should check the weather, I would honestly say begin checking four weeks in advance. AccuWeather has a extended forecast feature where you can see the weather weeks and weeks in advance. Granted, it will fluctuate, but you'll have a general idea from the get-go on what's in store. 

 

Checking the weather in advance will save you the stress of not knowing what type of clothes to bring and also maximize your suitcase space by minimizing the amount of clothes you bring because you'll know exactly what to plan for!

 

Use your carry-on bag for toiletries, makeup and bulkier clothing items

 

Another way to make the most out of your suitcase space is to use your carry-on bag for toiletries, makeup, and bulkier clothing items. By doing so, you're allowing for your suitcase to be in main possession of the most of your clothes and basically nothing else...which is okay!

 

Keeping your makeup and toiletries with you in your carry-on bag will allow for easy-access if they're needed while you're on the plane (or train, or car, whatever you may be traveling by), and this also avoids any of your makeup palettes breaking or shattering. If these items were in your suitcase, they have the potential to break or shatter because almost always suitcases are just thrown around and thrown on top of one another. 

 

Keeping your toiletries in your carry-on bag avoids any potential spillage from say your shampoo or conditioner or face wash...basically any liquid serum you bring alone to pamper yourself. As I said before, the majority of the time suitcases are just thrown around and so that could lead to your toiletries popping, cracking, or breaking open from force or pressure. And not only would that suck to clean up, but that also puts your clothes at risk of getting stuff all over them. Putting your toiletries in your carry-on avoids all of these risks and also allots more space in your suitcase. One thing to keep in mind though (especially if you're traveling by plane) is that you can only have travel-sized liquids (3.4 ounces) and they all have to fit in a gallon sized bag.

 

Keeping your bulkier clothing items in your carry-on bag along with your makeup and toiletries is a great way to maximize your suitcase space because you're ridding it of too much space being taken up by one item and just using a different bag for them. Bulkier items include (but not limited to, depending on your personal style), chunky sweaters or cardigan's, jackets, and shoes. 

 

One last bonus tip I have for you guys is downloading a packing list. At some point in time, some luggage that I was gifted came with a notepad which was full of the same packing list that I could use for many different trips and it has been such a life changer ever since then. BY using a packing list, you can have access to it on your phone or hard copy and can bring it with you on your vacation. This way, you know exactly what you came with and know if you're missing anything when you're packing up to head home.

 

You can find tons of packing lists on Canva or Pinterest and I'll link a few below that you can just screenshot straight from this post to use!