Planning a vacation can be easy, but packing is so hard! This can be especially true if you’re headed to a destination you’ve never been to before. There are several factors that should determine what you pack and how much you pack, such as the length of your stay. You should also consider who you’re packing for, create or research a packing list, get the right suitcases, and think about what you’ll need to have as you participate in any planned activities on your vacation.
If you’re in the midst of packing or just about to start, we’ve got some of the best tips that can help you pack a suitcase like a pro. This guide will come in handy whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or with the love of your life!
Tips for packing for a vacation:
1. Consider who you’re packing for
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Are you packing for yourself, your significant other, your kids, your parents, or a friend? This is an important question you should answer before deciding on a packing strategy. A useful strategy to use when packing for a couple’s vacation is packing items that belong to both of you in each suitcase you will be bringing along. This can be a lifesaver if any of your bags are lost or delayed.
If you’re traveling with a group of friends, you may be able to share certain items, like some toiletries and beach towels, instead of packing multiples, particularly if you’ll be sharing a villa or staying at the same resort. This goes for families as well. There are also items that all-inclusive resorts usually provide that you won’t need to bring along.
2. Research packing lists
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You can create your own packing list ahead of a vacation, but there’s really no need to. There are many packing lists available online that can help make the packing process a lot less stressful. The purpose of a vacation packing list is to determine what you need to pack for a specific destination or occasion and in what quantities. Packing lists help you avoid overpacking, and help to fill in the gaps so you don’t forget any of the essentials.
Packing lists are especially useful for busy parents who have to pack for themselves and their kids. You may find quite a few really helpful items on a packing list, including some items you never even considered!
Expert tip: Take a look at our list of toddler toys to take on a beach vacation if you’ll be traveling with little ones. Packing lists like these can help speed up the packing process!
3. Don’t take a suitcase that’s bigger than you need
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While it might be tempting to throw whatever comes to mind in the largest suitcase you have, this can lead to more problems than it’s worth. Using a suitcase that’s too large can result in you packing way more than you need, and possibly having to pay the airline more for overweight bags. Consider how long you’ll be traveling and use a suitcase of the appropriate size, so you won’t be tempted to fit in all those unnecessary extras.
Don’t get a suitcase that’s too small either! You’ll spend more time stressing about what will be able to fit and what won’t than actually packing. The best thing to do is to decide what you need to pack first, then select the smallest suitcase that can fit all of those items. You can also leave a little room for any souvenirs you might pick up during your travels. Your best bet is using that same ol’ trusted piece of luggage that usually fits everything for your trip – the one that has never let you down! If that is not possible, go for something new of a similar size.
Expert tip: If you’re really not sure what size suitcase you might need, gather all the items recommended by a packing list and use them as a guide for the size of your suitcase!
4. Check what’s available at your resort
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Before you start packing, check what’s included with your resort. All-inclusive resorts tend to have more inclusions in the rooms, which means you can take more things off your packing list and pack a little lighter. Things like towels (including beach towels) are usually included with all-inclusive resorts, so you won’t need to bring them. Shampoo, body lotion, soap, and even toothbrushes are often included as well. You can ask about these inclusions during your booking process or check the resort’s website if you’re not sure what to expect.
Expert tip: These all-inclusive kid-friendly resorts are stress-free fun zones. All you’ll need to do is start (or finish) packing!
5. Roll and fold your clothes
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Rolling and folding clothes is a tried and tested space saver for packing. Packing in this manner can also help you keep things organized within your suitcase. If you want to roll and fold your clothes with little to no creasing, the general rule is to roll the softer garments and fold the stiffer ones. Things that can be rolled include underwear, t-shirts, jeans, cotton pants, and knitwear as these won’t wrinkle when rolled tight.
Stiffer fabrics include dress pants, starched cotton shirts, blazers, and skirts. It will be best to fold these neatly. For a warm-weather destination where you’ll be packing items that are mostly light and soft, you might find yourself doing more rolling. Even so, there is still the opportunity to wear fancier clothing that might need to be packed differently, such as outfits for dining and evening wear. Fold these items carefully before placing them into your suitcase.
6. Arrange clothing thoughtfully in layers
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Layering isn’t just for fashion! It can be useful for packing as well. Soft, rolled items can be placed on the bottom of your suitcase. Then can come folded items (the things that’ll probably travel better not rolled up). After that, you can add longer items like skirts and pants. Stack these items one on top of the another, and you can alternate waists with hems so that everything fits more snuggly. Lay these longer items out along the length of your suitcase, and drape any leftover fabric into the center. After that, it’s time to fit in collared shirts, and then belts, which can be snaked around the perimeter of the bag to save space.
Expert tip: Are you a supermom looking to spend some much-needed time away to re-energize? How about a momcation? If you’ll miss your little ones just too much, a family beach vacation could be ideal!
7. Put a dry cleaning bag in between layers (and on top)
During the layering process, if you really want to prevent clothing from creasing too much, you can try using a dry-cleaning bag in between each layer of clothing. The smooth and somewhat slippery surface of the dry-cleaning bag can help reduce creasing quite a bit (folded clothes won’t stay in one spot long enough for creases to set). This method will make it easy to access the various layers as well when you’re unpacking. You’ll simply need to pull the ends of the bags up on both sides.
8. Place clothes you’ll need first at the top
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It might sound like something that goes without saying, but you should pack the clothing (or layer) you need first on the top of your suitcase. Unfortunately, things don’t always end up going quite so simply. You will have to make a focused effort to do this if you want to pack efficiently. Packing the items you’ll be using first on top will help you avoid having to empty out your entire suitcase whenever you need something. This will also be a huge time saver when you arrive as you can simply pull out a change of clothing to get something to eat or a swimsuit and shorts for the pool without having to dig through your suitcase! The rest of the unpacking can wait…
9. Have your shoes do some work
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Don’t overlook the fact that there is precious unused space inside some shoes. Shoes can be stuffed with other items if you’re really trying to save some space. Things like socks, sunglasses, and electronic chargers are typical items that travelers might put into shoes, but you should feel free to get creative if you’re really running out of space. Just ensure that whatever you’re placing into shoes isn’t something that can potentially spill inside them. Any liquids or creams should be placed in the appropriate storage bags. Also, clean shoes are best if you’re going to put other items into them.
10. Place shoes into one-gallon-size resealable bags
While packing, it can be helpful to place shoes into a resealable bag as opposed to just placing them into your suitcase with your clean clothes. The one-gallon resealable bags are usually just the right size for this. This is useful especially if you plan on hiking or going on long walks during your vacation. With these activities, your boots or shoes can get dirty and you may not have the time to wash them. Pack a few of these bags in your luggage just in case you want to store other things like damp swimwear, or any other items that you don’t want mixing in with your clean clothing.
Expert tip: If you don’t need these right away, you can pull a few resealable bags out of the box and store them inside a pair of shoes in your suitcase for later.
11. Keep liquids in easy reach
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Airlines are usually pretty strict about their rules pertaining to liquids on flights, so only items that are 3.4 ounces or less can go in your carry-on in a clear quart-sized plastic bag. You should ensure that none of your liquids is in a bottle larger than 3.4oz., even if the bottle isn’t full, and note that passengers can only bring one of these clear bags each. Any liquids on bottles over 3.4 oz. will need to go into your checked luggage. Stick with these guidelines to prevent any potential delays with your flight.
To prevent spills, you can use a sealed plastic bag or a small plastic container to pack any liquids that will be in your checked luggage. Place these at the top or sides of your suitcase where you can reach them easily if you need to.
Expert tip: If you’re traveling with kids or teens, check to make sure they’ve followed the liquid rule during the packing process. You might also be interested in these all-inclusive resorts for families with teenagers.
How to pack jewelry in a suitcase:
If you plan on traveling with expensive jewelry, it may be best to wear some items during your flight (those that are easy to get on and off) or pack them into your carry-on bag to reduce the possibility of them getting lost or stolen. You can take the items off once you get to your resort and store them in your in-room safe. For inexpensive jewelry, you can simply use a seven-day plastic pillbox for space-saving storage, or use 35mm film containers lined with tissue.
How to pack something fragile in your suitcase:
Clothing can be used as padding for fragile items like china, liquor, local bottles, or glassware. You’ll want to place these items in the center of your bag, and ensure there is a protective barrier of soft clothing around them. If you plan on purchasing souvenirs during your trip, this will help you get all your items home in one piece!
How to pack dirty laundry:
It is almost impossible to return from a vacation with no dirty laundry. Unless you want everything else in your luggage to smell by the time you arrive home, you should separate the clean clothes from items that have already been worn. You can use old shopping bags to do this, or you can invest in something created specifically for this purpose. Packing cubes can be useful for separating dirty clothing items. Fold them flat when you’re headed out, and fill them up for the trip back home. Resealable bags work well for shoes and wet swimwear.
How to pack toiletries and other beauty products in a suitcase:
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It is easy to overpack toiletries and beauty products, especially if you’re going somewhere you haven’t been before or you’re going on vacation with your significant other. When packing these items, try to get travel-sized products that will last for your entire trip. Smaller-sized products will be easier to pack and more manageable if there is a spill. You should also ensure your products are tightly sealed and not in too tight a space in your luggage.
Keep in mind that resorts usually provide some toiletry items, so you may not need to pack many of them. Use a resealable bag to pack your cosmetics, another for hair products, and a separate one for skincare products. These bags can easily fit into a zippered outside (or inside) pocket or in the side corners of your suitcase.
Expert tip: If you want to pack less, try bringing along products with 2-in-1 capabilities, like shampoo and conditioner, and wipes that can be used on your face and hands.
Think outside the bag
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Don’t forget about the other things you will need to bring with you, aside from what you’ll be packing in your suitcase. Use your carry-on to store things like passports, travel documents, cash, and medication. It is not recommended to put these items in your checked luggage since delays are possible. A change of clothing and a toothbrush can be included in your carry-on as well.
A carry-on bag is also helpful if you’re short on space and need to fit an item of clothing or something small. Whatever the item is, if you’ll need it right away when you arrive at your destination, it’s a good idea to throw it into your carry-on or even wear it. Unless of course, it’s a gown or a suit, which would be super uncomfortable!
Expert tip: Keep security protocols in mind when choosing what you’ll travel in. The best shoes for traveling are those that can be easily removed when going through security. This goes for outerwear as well.
FAQs about how to pack a suitcase:
Is it better to roll or fold clothes in a suitcase?
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While rolling can help you fit more clothing into your suitcase, the final decision on whether to roll or fold depends on the material of the item. Softer garments will be easier to roll, while stiffer ones can just be folded. Underwear and t-shirts fall in the category of soft clothing and can be rolled to save space. Stiffer fabrics include dress pants and skirts, and these can be folded so that they don’t get too wrinkled in your luggage.
How long does it take to pack a suitcase for vacation?
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With proper planning, you can pack your suitcase like a pro in less than 30 minutes. If you’re packing without a plan, it can take a couple of hours or more to pack your suitcase. For quicker and more focused packing, get organized. If you can’t find the items you want to pack due to a messy house, it is guaranteed to take much longer to pack. In the days leading up to your trip, it can help to do some organizing so that you’ll be able to find what you need when you’re ready to pack. It will also feel amazing to come home to a clean and organized house once your vacation is done.
Expert tip: A packing list is absolutely worth it when you’re going on vacation. If you have difficulty deciding what to bring or you’re going to a new destination, your packing list will help you zero in on the things that you really need.
How long before your trip should you pack your suitcase?
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Plan what you want to pack a few weeks ahead of your trip, but don’t pack your suitcase until a few days before. During the planning process, you will have time to find things and even stock up on any items that you might not have. As for actually packing, it is best not to do this too far ahead of your travels because doing so can lead to more stress and anxiety about your trip. Furthermore, if you pack weeks ahead, you will likely find yourself constantly removing and replacing items. You might even start throwing things into your suitcase that you didn’t need at all. A few days is usually sufficient for packing!
Vacations are even better when packing your suitcase is stress-free!
How and when you pack your suitcase for your vacation is very important. Don’t pack too early or too late, avoid overpacking, and pay attention to the placement of your items so that they’re in wearable condition when you arrive at your destination. Long before you pack for your vacation, you’ll have to decide where to stay in your destination of choice. For a sunny, island experience in the Caribbean, an all-inclusive would be best. This is especially true if you’re hoping for inclusions that can help you pack less overall.
Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos have a host of quality inclusions that you’ll love! These include the toiletries that will make packing your suitcase easier, as well as unlimited food, drinks, and entertainment that will help make your vacation much more exciting!