When it comes to travel, one of the biggest challenges is packing everything you need into a limited amount of space. Whether you’re heading out on a short weekend trip or a longer vacation, maximizing the space in your luggage is key to a stress-free journey. Fortunately, there are plenty of space-saving packing hacks that can help you pack efficiently and make the most of the space available. From using packing cubes to wearing your bulkiest items on the plane, these tips and tricks can help you pack smarter and travel lighter. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most effective space-saving packing hacks for travelers.

Hot air balloons. How to pack a suitcase to maximize space. 
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15 Space Saving Packing Hacks to Maximize Your Suitcase Space

Learning how to maximize your suitcase space can be a game-changer for any traveler. Knowing a few space saving packing hacks will not only help you stay organized and pack more efficiently, but also avoid hefty baggage fees. With the right packing hacks and strategies, you can pack smarter, travel more comfortably, and make the most out of the space available in your suitcase.

Roll Your Clothes Instead of Folding Them

Roll those clothes up tight! It’s one of the oldest space saving packing hacks in the books. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can help you save a lot of space in your luggage. Not only does it create more room, but it also prevents wrinkles. Start by laying your clothing item flat, fold in the sleeves, and then roll it tightly from one end to the other. You can then stack the rolls of clothing in your luggage, creating more space and reducing the likelihood of wrinkles. Don’t be shy with creativity. Sometimes, rolled up clothing can be stuffed in a variety of ways to increase packing efficiency. Sometimes switching up placement can make a world of difference.

Use Packing Cubes for Space Saving Organization

Packing cubes are a simple way to save space in your luggage. Instead of packing your clothes and other items haphazardly into your suitcase, packing cubes help you stay organized and maximize the space available. By separating your items into different cubes, you can easily find what you need without having to rummage through your entire bag. The compressible nature of packing cubes allows you to fit more items into your luggage, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to pack light. Whether you’re heading out on a short weekend trip or a longer vacation, packing cubes are a practical and efficient way to save space in your luggage.

Wear Your Bulkiest Items on the Airplane

Wearing your bulkiest items on the plane is one small space-saving travel hack that can make a major impact in your suitcase. Instead of trying to cram your bulky coat, boots, or sweater into your suitcase, wearing them on the plane can free up a significant amount of space in your luggage. This is especially useful if you’re traveling to a destination with colder weather and need to bring multiple layers of clothing.

Additionally, wearing your bulkiest items on the plane can also help you stay comfortable and warm during your flight. While it might be a bit of a hassle to take off and put on these items during airport security or while boarding the plane, the benefits of saving space and staying comfortable is often well worth the effort.

Get Creative: Every Inch of Space Counts!

Maximizing the space in your suitcase requires a bit of creativity and resourcefulness. One of the best ways to find hidden space is to think outside the box when it comes to packing. For example, stuffing socks or underwear inside shoes or rolling t-shirts to fit them in between other items can create additional space. Utilizing every nook and cranny, including the corners and gaps between larger items, can help maximize space as well. For example, you can fill the narrow gap along the edges of your bag by filling them with smaller items like belts or scarves. With this space saving packing hack, you can find hidden space in your suitcase and pack everything you need for your trip.

Plan Your Outfits in Advance

Planning your outfits in advance to create a travel wardrobe capsule can be a game-changer when it comes to maximizing space in your suitcase. Instead of packing individual pieces that may or may not go together, creating a travel wardrobe capsule means selecting a few versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. This not only helps you pack more efficiently, but it also ensures that you’ll have plenty of options to wear throughout your trip without overpacking.

When choosing pieces for your travel wardrobe capsule, consider selecting items that are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Travel capsules are a space saving hack you can use whether you’re packing a summer or winter wardrobe. By packing a carefully curated selection of clothing, you can make the most of the space in your suitcase and enjoy a stress-free and stylish trip.

Pack Travel-Sized Toiletries

Instead of bringing full-sized toiletries, opt for travel-sized versions. Many toiletry brands and beauty products come in a travel or trial size containers. Honestly, those trial sizes and samples will often be plenty. For example, my makeup bag during a trip is often primarily samples from stores like Ulta or Sephora. At Ulta, you can ask for a sample size foundation and they will gladly give you one. That tiny bottle takes up virtually no space and will get you through at least a week. This will not only save space but also lighten your load and keep TSA happy.

Shampoo and conditioner can almost always be skipped unless you require a certain type or brand. If your hotel doesn’t provide basic toiletries, you can also buy those as well as other items like shaving cream and toothpaste at your destination.

Save Space with Compression Bags

Compression bags are a useful tool when packing a suitcase, as they allow you to pack more efficiently and make the most of the available space in your luggage. The bags work by allowing you to remove excess air from your clothes, compressing them into a smaller size. This can be a lifesaver when traveling with bulky items such as sweaters or coats. The main advantage of using compression bags is that they can significantly reduce the amount of space your clothes take up in your suitcase. This will allow you to pack more items or leave extra space for souvenirs.

However, compression bags also have some drawbacks to consider. Packing this way can make it more difficult to locate specific items within your luggage, as you will need to unpack and repack the bags to access different items. Using compression bags can actually lead to overpacking your luggage, causing you to exceed weight limits and incur additional fees. Compression bags can be a helpful packing tool as long as you use them wisely and consider the potential drawbacks.

Travel Pouches for Electronics and Cables

Using pouches to organize electronics and charging cables can be a useful strategy when traveling. It allows you to keep all of your devices and accessories organized and easy to access. Travel pouches can be particularly helpful for organizing smaller items such as chargers, earbuds, and memory cards that can easily get lost in a larger bag. By keeping everything in a designated pouch, you can quickly and easily locate the item you need. I generally keep this pouch in my purse or a place that I can easily access. I don’t want to be digging into the depths of my bag when I’m looking for my charger in the airport or on a plane.

Cable and electronics organizers can also help prevent tangles by keeping them neatly coiled and separated from other items. This will also help save you time and frustration while traveling. It might be a small packing hack, but when you place all your electronics and cables in a compact space, you’ll free up room for other essentials. When you’re working on saving space, every little bit helps.

Bring Multi-Purpose Items

Packing multi-purpose items when you travel is important if you want to save space and pack lighter. Multi-purpose items are versatile and can serve multiple functions, reducing the need to pack additional items. For example, a sarong can be used as a beach cover-up, a scarf, or a picnic blanket. Similarly, a small backpack can be used as a daypack as well as a personal item for flights. By packing multi-purpose items, you can significantly reduce the number of individual items you need to bring, making it easier to pack efficiently and travel with a lighter load.

There are many multi-purpose travel items that can help you save space and pack lighter for your travels. Here are some examples:

  1. Sarong: A sarong can be used as a beach cover-up, a scarf, or a blanket.
  2. Reusable Water Bottle: A reusable water bottle can be filled up at fountains or taps to save money and reduce waste. It can also be used as a hot water bottle or as a container for snacks or small items.
  3. Bandana: A bandana can serve multiple purposes. You can wear it as a headband, neck scarf, or even as a mask in a pinch.
  4. Convertible Clothing: Convertible clothing items like a dress that can be worn as a skirt, a top, or a dress. Pants with zip-off legs that can be converted into shorts can be incredibly useful when traveling to destinations with varying weather conditions.
  5. Travel Towels: Travel towels are lightweight, compact, and dry quickly. They are ideal when you are staying somewhere and want to explore nearby beaches. They can also come in handy if you stay in a hostel or somewhere that doesn’t provide extra towels.

Use a Luggage Scale

A luggage scale is a useful tool to have when you’re packing for a trip, especially if you want to avoid any last-minute stress at the airport. It is an easy way to ensure your luggage stays within weight limits set by airlines. More importantly, it helps you avoid excess baggage fees. Those can get costly in a hurry and eat into your travel budget. With the weight limits varying among airlines, a luggage scale ensures that you are within the allowable weight limits before arriving at the airport. Nobody wants to be at the airport rearranging or removing items from luggage to comply with weight restrictions. If you think it doesn’t happen, think again. I see it all the time and guess what? Nobody is happy about it, especially not the people in line.

Ultimately, a luggage scale is a small investment that can make a big difference in your travel experience. It will help you plan and pack more efficiently, allowing you to prioritize what you really need for your trip and avoid overpacking. This will inevitably save you time, money and unnecessary hassle. When you know the weight of your luggage before you leave, you can adjust and reorganize as necessary to make sure you’re traveling as comfortably and conveniently as possible. It might not necessarily help with saving space, but it is still one of the best overall packing hacks.

Use your Personal Item Wisely

When flying, most airlines allow you to bring a personal item in addition to your carry-on luggage. This can include items such as a backpack or purse. To make the most of this allowance, choose a personal item that will help to maximize your carry-on suitcase. For example, I typically use a tote or backpack as my personal item. I can fit more inside, add extra space, and still bring a small crossbody that I can toss inside while boarding. There are several ways you can make wise use of your personal item to your advantage. Instead of simply using it to carry your wallet, phone, and other small items, consider packing it strategically to make the most of the space.

Store one of your extra layers, such as a sweater or cardigan in your personal item. This serves a dual purpose. Besides saving space in your suitcase, it’s nice to have something handy if you get cold on board. You can also use it to store a book or e-reader, earbuds, and your cable organizer, so that you don’t have to dig through your carry-on bag when you need your charger. Additionally, it’s smart to use your personal item to store any medications or other essentials that you may need during the flight. By packing your personal item wisely, you can free up space in your carry-on bag and make your travel experience more comfortable. Just make sure to check with your airline to ensure that your personal item meets their size and weight requirements.

Check Accommodations for Laundry Facilities

When you’re traveling, doing laundry can be a great way to pack lighter and save space in your luggage. There are several options for doing laundry while traveling, depending on your budget and preferences. One option is to check your accommodations for laundry services or facilities. Many hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals offer laundry services or have on-site laundry facilities that guests can use. You can also check if there is a nearby laundromat or dry-cleaning shop. Some may even offer drop-off or pick-up services, so you don’t have to wait. However, if you like to engage with locals, going to a laundromat can be a fun and unique experience.

Another option for budget-conscious travelers is to bring along travel-size laundry packets that can be used to wash clothes in the sink or bathtub. Just fill the sink with warm water and add a small amount of laundry detergent. Place your clothes in the sink and gently agitate them to help remove dirt. Let your clothes soak in the soapy water for a few minutes before rinsing them thoroughly with clean water. Be sure to wring out any excess water from your clothes before hanging them to dry.

Many hotel rooms have clotheslines in the shower, but you can also drape them over the shower rod or the towel warmer. If they are hanging over the floor, place a towel underneath to avoid a slippery mess. If you’re camping or traveling in in an RV, you can hang a simple travel clothesline that comes with clips. For delicate items, you can also consider using travel-sized stain remover or wrinkle release spray to keep your clothes looking fresh and clean.

Eliminate Unnecessary Items

This is one of the most obvious space saving packing hacks, but also one of the most difficult. When packing for a trip, it can be tempting to bring along every item or piece of clothing you think you might want or need. However, this will only lead to an overstuffed suitcase half full of things that won’t get worn. To avoid this, take some time to go through your packing list and eliminate any items or clothing you don’t really need. Consider the climate and culture of your destination as well as the activities you want to do and pack accordingly. If you’re unsure about an item, ask yourself one simple question. “Am I 100% sure I will wear this?” If the answer is no, leave it at home.

Being more thoughtful and intentional with your choices when packing is a practical space-saving hack that allows you to maximize your suitcase. By taking the time to carefully consider each item and clothing piece you plan to bring, you can make wiser choices and avoid overpacked and cluttered luggage. This approach encourages you to be more mindful of what you truly need for your trip instead of packing of unnecessary items “just in case.”

Use a Pillbox for Medication

A pillbox is a compact container designed to organize and store medication. Many people use one at home, but a pillbox can be incredibly useful during travel for reasons beyond just saving space. First, it allows you to pack your medication in a space-saving way. By transferring your pills into a pillbox, you can condense several bottles into a single container. You’ll be surprised how much space you free up in your luggage or purse.

A pillbox can also help you stay organized and on track with your medication regimen while on-the-go, ensuring you don’t miss any doses. Lastly, having your medication in a compact and organized pillbox can make it easier to remember to take your pills at the appropriate times, which is especially important when traveling and your routine may be disrupted.

Make a Packing Checklist!

Packing lists and packing hacks go hand in hand when it comes to saving space. If you want to know how to maximize your suitcase, start with a list of things you will need. A good packing list is probably the number one hack when it comes to saving space. It can help you avoid overpacking while also ensuring that you have everything you need in your suitcase. When you create a list before you start packing, knowing what you need will be clearer. You can see exactly what you need to bring which will help you eliminate the things you can leave behind. I’ll dive more into that in the next section.

My Favorite Travel Size Products

Travel size makeup and skincare products are designed to be more compact and convenient for travel. They are often available in sizes that meet TSA regulations for carry-on luggage, making them ideal for packing in a carry-on bag or for short trips. Travel size products allow you to maintain your skincare and beauty routines while on-the-go, without having to carry bulky or heavy items. Below, you’ll see a few of my favorites. A collection of travel size products is a packing hack that will go a long way toward saving space. Click the button to see more of my favorite products that come in mini containers.

How to Make a Packing List

Packing can be one of the most stressful parts of traveling, but it doesn’t have to be. A good packing list can make all the difference in ensuring that you have everything you need for your trip. To create a comprehensive packing list, consider four simple questions. Once you’ve considered these questions, it’s time to start making your packing list. Start with the essentials, such as clothing, shoes, toiletries, and any necessary medication. Then, add any additional items based on your destination and planned activities. Remember to leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and items you may acquire during your trip.

How to maximize your suitcase space - make a packing list.
Source: Jess Bailey, unsplash

Where are you going?

The first step in creating a packing list is to consider your destination. Different locations may require different types of clothing or gear. It’s important to research your destination ahead of time. For example, if you’re going to a tropical location, you may need to pack lightweight, breathable clothing and sunscreen. If you’re traveling to a city, you may need more formal clothing for dinners or events. It’s also important to consider the culture of your destination, as some countries may have dress codes or customs that should be respected.

What will the weather be like?

The weather can have a huge impact on what you pack for your trip. Check the forecast for your destination and plan accordingly. If you’re going to a cold climate, you’ll need warm layers, a coat, and boots. If you’re traveling during the rainy season, you may need a raincoat or umbrella. Even if you’re going to a warm location, you may want to pack a light jacket or sweater for chilly evenings.

What activities are you planning?

Think about the activities you have planned for your trip and pack accordingly. If you’re planning to hike, you’ll need appropriate footwear and gear, such as a backpack and water bottle. For a trip to the beach, you’ll need a swimsuit, sunscreen, and a hat. If you’re planning to attend a formal event or a special restaurant with a dress code, you’ll want to pack dressier clothing and shoes.

How long is your trip?

The length of your trip will impact how much you need to pack. Consider packing items that can be worn multiple times and versatile clothing items that can be dressed up or down. If you’re traveling for a longer period of time, you may need to do laundry to save space.

Recap of Space Saving Packing Hacks

Packing Essentials for Women

Women have unique needs when it comes to packing. Check out this list of best-selling travel essentials for women that you can order from Amazon. From travel size essentials to space saving organization, you’ll be a packing pro in no time.

Jenna Walker

Jenna Walker is a travel writer from Oklahoma who lives with her husband, two children, and three rescue pets. While out and about in the world, she loves spending time outdoors, exploring local culture, and trying new foods. Jenna knows that, often, we overlook our own backyard. You can also find her stories and guides on the website, The Oklahoma Experience.