10 Ways to Pack Checked Baggage Better!

Packing a bag for a trip is a skill and an art. You want to pack everything you are going to need in the smallest space possible. Although my experience packing for trips involves preparing to go overseas for months at a time, I think the same principles apply to shorter trips as well.

1. Select the bag to fit your needs and length of trip: There are so many different kinds of luggage; choose whatever will work best for you and your trip. When we did a whirlwind trip through Italy and stayed 1-2 nights in each city, we packed everything we needed in a backpack to have more freedom to move from place to place without worrying about storing luggage. For shorter, more stationary trips, a small roll-aboard will probably work fine.

We love our Lojel! On Amazon

 For the last year and a half, we have been traveling to different overseas locations and staying for months at a time. For this kind of travel, we LOVE our hard-sided bags! We have two large suitcases with the 4-wheel swivel design. My husband can manage both of these suitcases and his work duffel bag at the same time while I manage the toddler/stroller/car seat. We have noticed that the hard-sided suitcases are very durable and fit so many more items than typical fabric luggage. We have a hard time staying under the 40 or 50 lb. limit, but with status our luggage can be up to 70 lbs. and ours typically run between 60-65 lbs. per bag. We have a zipper closure on one suitcase with an expander, and a latch closure with lock on the other one. So far, I think we like the latch closure better as it makes the bag much easier to maneuver through the airport. It was also way more expensive, and does not have the expanding capability of the zipper bag.

2. Choose your clothing by setting out complete outfits: When planning what to wear, try to choose pieces that can be mixed and matched to create several different outfits. Think about what activities are going to be involved in your trip and pack accordingly. I typically pack for comfort first, with one or two dressier options. Lay out all the outfits you need for your trip complete with under clothing, socks, and any accessories. For trips longer than one week, just pack 4-6 outfits depending on space and plan on a trip to the laundromat/sink washing sometime during the trip. It just doesn’t make sense to pack more clothing than that- especially if it’s winter! Pick fabrics that don’t require much care and do not wrinkle easily and it will greatly simplify your life!

I don’t go anywhere without my favorite running/walking shoes…
Mizuno Wave Inspires!

3. Pick 2-3 pairs of shoes that will work for the entire trip: I am a naturally low maintenance person, and constant travel has made me even more low maintenance. My go-to shoes for my role as traveler/adventurer/stay-at-hotel mother include running shoes, casual sneakers, and dressy church shoes if it is colder/winter and we have church close by. In summer, I pack running shoes, Chaco’s for water adventures, and leather sandals for anything more fancy. If weight of the bag is an issue, wear the heaviest shoes on the airplane and pack the lighter pairs.

4. Choose 1-2 accessories and 1 piece of outerwear: Fun scarves or jewelry can spruce up basic outfits. Typically I pack one piece of outerwear in the suitcase and wear another on the plane if we’re going somewhere cold, or just pack one piece if we are going to a warmer place. This is an area where you can easily go overboard and pack too much if you’re not careful.

Favorite toiletry bags here!

5. Pare down toiletries and primping items to a minimum: Most hotels have hair dryers; you can check online beforehand to make sure, so don’t pack one! Some higher end hotels even have flat irons and other items for rent, so check into that as well. For a short trip, buy travel size containers for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. if you are picky about products. For longer trips to destinations with questionable product availability, I take full bottles of my favorite shampoo and conditioner- make sure to tape the tops and wrap them in plastic bags to cut down on the damage if a bottle leaks during transit. Go through your make-up bag and
bring only what you are going to use every day. Again, I am super low maintenance so I only bring my favorite eye shadow and mascara- and only wear them maybe once per week.

 My other go-to toiletries are a good face moisturizer/SPF, a small round brush, and lots and lots of deodorant. Deodorant just does not exist in the same way in other countries! For women, the only feminine hygiene products available widely in Asia were pads, so if tampons are your product of choice, bring enough for the entire trip! I limit myself on toiletries to a LL Bean travel toiletry bag, plus bigger bottles of shampoo/conditioner/lotion packed separately for longer trips. These bags hold everything you could possibly need and pack well in the suitcase. To the right are all the different sizes of toiletry bags offered. My husband and I have a large bag each, and I typically carry all of my son’s toiletries in my bag as well. These bags keep everything organized and conveniently hang up to keep counters clear and important stuff out of the reach of curious little people!

All of my clothes and my son’s clothes take up half of
one side of a large suitcase using the rolling method

6. Use roll-up space bags for bulky items: As a perpetual traveler, I NEED my contoured pillow in order to sleep well, save my neck and survive from day to day. The only way we have the room to pack pillows is with space bags. We also pack a familiar toddler-sized fleece blanket for our son everywhere we go, and use a space bag for this and his stuffed animal of choice. I even space bag my memory foam travel pillow before I stuff it in my backpack so I can fit more into this carry-on bag. Make sure to purchase the bags that can be rolled and are meant for travel. There are others that are supposed to be used only with a vacuum, which won’t do you much good when you’re packing to come back home!

7. Roll Clothing into compact cylinders to save space: Some bulky fleece jackets and jeans are hard to roll, but for everything else, rolling is the way to go! We typically roll 80-90% of our clothing, and I can typically fit all of my clothes and my toddler son’s clothes for an entire trip into 1/3 of a large suitcase. We try to set a bottom layer of rolled clothes, and then built from there. Any extra bulky items or things that need to be folded a certain way, we lay flat on top of the bed of rolled clothes.

My collection of odd shaped items- laundry bag fits inside duct tape, diaper
disposal bags inside of shoes, etc.

8. Play tetris with any remaining odd-shaped items: Try packing large and irregularly shaped items first and then filling in the spaces with smaller items. We always pack some books, coloring pages, and other things for our son while we are overseas, and we stack all of those on top of each other in a corner of the suitcase. My son got a neat train track kit that is rather large, but is a carrying case with tons of space inside. We can fill up the inside with all sorts of oddly shaped toys and cars without cluttering the suitcase with toys.

Ours looks kind of like this. Beware, parents of
toddler boys! My son is convinced that this is a
crane and he plays with it all the time!


 9.Pack items you need first on top: Perhaps this is intuitive, but it requires you to think through what you are going to do on your trip. Are you going to be opening your suitcase for the first time in the evening and want PJs and a toothbrush first? Are you landing mid-day and want to hit the pool right away? Be sure to pack swimsuits in an accessible location. There’s nothing worse than ruining your packing job the first day fishing for something buried deep in the suitcase!

10. Use a luggage scale: If you want to avoid oversize baggage fees or that awkward scene at the airport where you are opening your bag and shifting things to carry-on luggage at the check-in counter, luggage scales are great! They are super small and easy to pack, and save money and airport headaches. We don’t go anywhere without one! Especially if we are flying a discount airline domestically with lower cut-offs for oversize luggage, the scale saves us every time!

Packing is a necessary evil, but a great pack job can set you up for a much easier travel experience and more fun at your destination! Pack smart!

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