Are you going home for holidays? Have a long-distance flight planned? Here's how to pack your suitcase like a pro, including tips on how to pack wine or spirits, and fragile glass ornaments
Travel,  Travel tips

How to pack your suitcase like a pro

Are you travelling for the holidays? Or just planning your next trip away? Follow these tips and pack your suitcase like a pro!

Even if you travel frequently, there is bound to be a least one tip here that is new to you. Will it be tissue paper or shower caps? Read on to find out what I mean.

I am a seasoned long-distance traveller

I have lived in Europe for 18 years. Over that time – and before – I have travelled frequently to Australia and throughout the globe for work. Even Miss M has been to Australia nearly 5 times and she is only four.

I have transported crystal vases, glass jugs, numerous bottles of wine, whisky and gin and various fragile souvenirs and heirlooms. Until now, I have never (touch wood) had anything break or any leakages. My clothes don’t look too shabby when I get there, either. How do I do it? Here are my best tips – from one traveller to another.

How to pack a suitcase like a pro: 1. Choose the right suitcase

Choose the right suitcase

Packing your suitcase like a pro starts with the right suitcase.

Your suitcase should be big enough to fit everything you wish to take. I prefer an expandable suitcase so that I have extra space for things I might want to bring home. With Australia, that is often wine.

However, your suitcase should not be too big. If it is too big, your suitcase contents will move around and risk something breaking. A big suitcase will also encourage you to pack more. This can quickly lead to excess baggage fees.

A hard or soft shell suitcase is a matter of personal preference. I prefer soft shell suitcases, but we have both.

Consider what you are likely to be packing. A suitcase that opens in the middle, like this one is great when travelling for work when you are unlikely to have multiple souvenirs or presents to take or bring home. However, they limit your packing options and often result in objects moving or falling out when you try and shut the suitcase. For recent trips, I have found a suitcase with a lid better, in a fun colour to make it easier to see.

Label the inside of the suitcase with a marker (name and contact number, including country code), just in case the tags come off in transit.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: stuff your shoes to retain their shape and use them to line the sides of the suitcase

Packing shoes

Pack your suitcase like a pro: pack your shoes first.

Use them to line the sides of the suitcase with the soles towards the outside. This will help reinforce the (softshell) suitcase and protect clothes.

Stuff your shoes with socks, underwear, hair elastics and any small breakables. This will help retain the shape of the shoes, protect the breakables and mean that there is unused space in the suitcase.

If the shoes are dirty, put them in a plastic bag. Pro tip: disposable shower caps work wonderfully – just slip them over the soles.

Don’t forget to stuff the space between the shoes and the suitcase, such as around the heels of high heels with anything small.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: pack bulky items, such as jeans and jumpers, first

Bulky items

Jeans and other bulky items such as jumpers can take up a lot of space, but they are also great padding. Pack your suitcase like a pro and lay your jeans and bulky tops at the bottom of the suitcase. This evens up the bottom and reduces contact between any breakables and the extendable handles of the suitcase.

If you have any books, photos, playbills or any other large, flat objects, place them next in the suitcase on top of the bulky objects.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: pad fragile items well with small soft garments

Fragile objects

Pro tip: use padding with your breakables – lots of padding.

Any Mums out there looking to transport wine? Nappies (known as diapers in the US) work wonderfully! Use two to wrap around each bottle. If you don’t have a nappy, wrap the bottle in a plastic bag and seal it with gaffa tape, if possible. Use cardboard bottle holders or sleeves if you can get some (still use the plastic bag). They are often available at wineries. Pack any space between the bottle and the holder.

Pack other fragile objects, such as vases, in a similar fashion. Stuff them with soft clothing, like t-shirts, then wrap them tightly in more soft clothing (avoiding anything with metal buttons). You should make a rather solid brick out of your fragile object and the soft clothing. Depending on your bulky items, you may be able to use one to wrap any fragile object for extra protection.

Similarly, for flatter fragile objects, such as plates, place a thin article of soft clothing inside the plate and place the plate upside down, such as on a book or jeans. Use another article of soft clothing to pad the bottom of the plate.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: iron your clothes and roll those that pieces  that don't need to be kept flat

Clothing

Flatter clothing takes up less space. If you can, iron the clothing you wish to take.

Work out which things are best kept as wrinkle-free as possible. Put these to the side. Put some pyjamas and the outfit you intend to wear on the first day of your trip to the side too.

For all the other clothes (especially soft clothing, including bras without underwire): fold the (ironed) clothing, then roll each piece of clothing to form a thin tube, almost like a cigar. Place these throughout the suitcase, filling up any gaps. Used rolled clothing to stuff the breakables and shoes too.

Pack your suitcase like a pro and avoid wrinkles: Lay any clothing, such as shirts or suits on a flat surface, with the front of the shirt facing down. Place a piece of tissue paper on the back of the shirt then fold the shirt around the paper. This will help prevent creases. Baking or sandwich paper will work too if you don’t have tissue paper.

Underwire bras: fold them in half and place them in the zip pockets of the suitcase lid. Alternatively, lay them flat, such as against the ‘brick’. If you have padded bras, stack them one on top of the other, cup to cup. Place something, such as a pair of socks, in each cup to help maintain the shape.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: tape your toiletry bottles shut to avoid leakages

Toiletries

Pro tip: tape any bottles (or nail polish!) shut with sticky tape. This avoids them coming open and leaking in your bag.

If you have larger or more bottles than will fit in your toiletry bag, place them in a plastic bag inside your case.

Place any toiletries at the bottom of the case. By that, I mean the side that is the bottom when the suitcase is upright (wheel side).

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: put important medication in your hand luggage

Medications

Any essential medication should be in your hand luggage. I find additional medications or vitamins go well in the inside zip pockets of the lid.

Alternatively, place any larger medication or vitamin containers where they fit in the suitcase – they can be good stuffers for sneakers and boots.

Put any liquid medications in a ziplock bag to avoid leaks.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: pack your pajamas and the first outfit you intend to wear at the top of your suitcase so that you don't have to unpack immediately

First outfit and coats

Pack your pajamas and the first outfit that you plan to wear near the top of the suitcase. This means you won’t have to unpack the whole suitcase when you get to your destination.

Lay any suits or coats on top, folded in half. Shut the suitcase – you are all packed!

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: lock and distinguish your suitcase with a ribbon or tag if it is not already easy to recognize

Lock the suitcase

Add a TSA-approved lock to your suitcase for security.

Unless you have an unmistakable suitcase, such as a pattern or a striking colour (like in Barbie pink), add something to distinguish your suitcase from the hoards of black and blue suitcases on the conveyor belt. My favourite suitcase is a standard blue. I like to wrap an unusual ribbon around one handle to be able to easily recognise it.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: pack your hand luggage carefully

Hand luggage

The following articles should go in your hand luggage:

  • Travel documents
  • Any valuables (purse, phone)
  • Basic toiletries (not more than 100mL) – deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush, perfume, hand cream, lip gloss, hand sanitizer
  • Any jewellery of (sentimental or significant monetary) value
  • A change of clothing
  • A lightweight shawl
  • Any medications and basic first aid
  • Electronic devices and charge cables. Note, any cables should not be longer than 1 metre. Be careful with the size of any power banks, too.
  • A book, kindle or magazine
  • Any desired neck pillow, eye mask and/or earplugs
  • Any duty-free products.

Pack you suitcase like a pro for your next trip!

Now that we’ve taken the how out of packing, you just have to work out what you want to pack. Which tip was new to you? Which tip are you definitely going to use on your next flight?

Enjoy your trip sign-off
Are you travelling for the holidays? Check out these tips on how to pack your suitcase like a pro! Deal with shoes, toiletries and breakables with ease.

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