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How to Pack an Organized Suitcase When You Travel

I always try to pack an organized suitcase every time I travel so that my trip goes more smoothly and I don’t forget anything, and today I’m walking you through the method behind my organized packing!

How to Pack an Organized Suitcase

This past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Seattle, Washington with Delta Faucet to tour the HGTV Dream Home— pinch me!! It was a blast, but it was a super quick trip, so I made a conscious effort to be organized in my packing to make sure my fast turnaround times went smoothly!

Since I know many people will be traveling for the upcoming holidays, I thought I’d share a few of the things that were most helpful for me when I was attempting to pack an organized suitcase! 🙂

How to Pack an Organized Suitcase When You Travel

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1. Make a list.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

I am always more organized when I go in with a plan, so I like to create a list of everything I want to bring with me on my trip. I have done this several different ways in the past. I’m currently liking to make my packing list in Evernote because I always have access to it on my computer and my phone.

woman looking at Evernote on her phone in an organized home office

The list syncs between the two devices, so I can easily add items as I think of them and then use whatever device is most convenient when I’m packing. This also allows me to save a digital copy of my list for future trips.

Sometimes there’s nothing quite like pen and paper, though, so I also have a printable packing list that I’ve used to pack as well.

For me, the type of trip I’m taking determines how I organize my packing list. If I’m going on a shorter trip with detailed itinerary like I did this weekend, I will plan out specific outfits for each activity and write them on my list.

If I’m going on a longer trip or a vacation with more laid back itinerary, I will organize my list by types of clothing– I list all of my shirts, then all of my shorts, then all of my bathing suits, etc. Your brain may work totally differently than mine! Make the type of list that makes the most sense to YOU, but definitely have a plan going into your packing.

Along with listing the clothes, toiletries, and other items I want to bring, I am always sure to designate the “last minute” items on my list. These are things like makeup and phone chargers that I will need to use right before we leave, so I want to make sure I don’t forget to pack them up before I go!

2. Grab your packing pieces.

Once I have made my list, I gather all of the packing pieces I’ll need. My suitcase is nothing fancy (I have this set.), but I do like that the one side zips up to hold my items in place.

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I also use these packing cubes to help separate the different types of items I’m taking with me so my suitcase stays neat and tidy.

Finally, I have this travel toiletry bag that I’ve brought on every trip with me for 15 years! They still make one that is almost exactly the same, and it is a huge help when it comes to staying organized while I’m traveling.

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3. Pack up the toiletry bag.

My toiletry bag is fairly easy to pack up because I leave it stocked with a bunch of the basic items I take with me every time I travel: travel sized shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, razor, nail file, and makeup remover wipes are in the bag at all times. Things that I worry about spilling, like shampoo and conditioner, I keep in plastic bags within my toiletry bag. I reuse the same bags over and over unless something actually spills in them.

Since so many of my items stay in the bag, I only have to add in a few items like my straightener, my makeup and a mirror, my toothbrush, and other trip-specific toiletries like sunscreen or bug spray. Depending on personal preferences, you could keep more items or less items stocked in the bag and ready to go.

I always pack my toiletry bag in the zippered portion of my suitcase so that it can be held more firmly in place.

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4. Fill the packing cubes.

Next it’s time to fill up my packing cubes! The way I pack my cubes depends on the way I organized my packing list. If it’s a short trip with a specific itinerary and I have specific outfits planned, I keep similar types of outfits together in a cube.

For the trip I took this past weekend, for example, I packed my nicer outfits for evening dinners in one cube, and the more casual outfits for during the day in another cube. Since undergarments can generally go with any outfit, I put them all in a separate cube together. Pajamas and loungewear or workout clothes also went in a separate cube together.

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If it’s a trip or vacation with a non-specific itinerary, I will pack the cubes by type of clothing item, so tops in one cube, shorts in another, etc.

A note on shoes: For my shorter trip this past weekend, I wanted to pack on the lighter side, so I planned my outfits around one pair of shoes, which was the pair I wore on the plane as well. I also took a pair of flip flops to wear just around in the hotel, which you can see in the video in the cube with my PJs in the shot where all of the cubes are sitting open on the bench.

On longer trips where I need more pairs, I will have a separate cube just for shoes. I can often stack that cube underneath another one, or if I really run out of room, I will move up to my larger suitcase. (The one shown here is the smaller of the two in my set.)

How you sort your items, again, depends on personal preference and how your brain works. Do whatever will help YOU stay organized on your trip.

5. Make a plan for laundry.

I always try to have a plan for dealing with dirty laundry while I’m on my trip. If possible, I like to unload my clothes into drawers when I arrive at my destination and designate one of my larger packing cubes for laundry.

If unpacking the cubes isn’t possible and I need to use the cubes to hold my clothes while on the trip, I try to have an extra cube (which folds flat and takes up virtually no space) along for laundry.

If it’s a long trip and there will be a ton of laundry, our family usually designates one person’s suitcase for alllllll of the laundry. No matter which method we use, the goal is that at the end of the trip, all of the clean clothes are in one spot and all of the dirty clothes are in another spot so that when we get home, it’s easy to throw the dirty clothes in the washing machine and put away the clean clothes in our drawers.

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Depending on the destination and resources available, my favorite laundry situation was when we went on vacation this past summer and had a washer and dryer right in the little place where we stayed. I was able to wash everything before we left, and came home with suitcases full of clean clothes that I could just unload right back into our drawers and closets.

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So that’s my packing system! Going in with a plan and being intentional about the way I pack helps my trip go more smoothly, and my scatterbrained self can be confident that I’m not forgetting anything!

Organized packing also makes transitioning back home much easier, so when I managed to stay organized with my packing, I’m always thanking myself at the end of the trip.

For more ideas for staying organized while you travel, see these posts:

Free Printable Packing List for Organized Travel

Free Travel Plans Printable

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Preschoolers

[Psssttt… Don’t miss our top 100 tips for organizing every single room in your house!]

I know there are several different ways to pack effectively for trips and vacations, so I’d love to hear your strategies and tips in the comments!

Have a wonderful week!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

35 Comments

  1. Yes, I LOVE packing cubes! They have made packing and unpacking a zillion times easier than before. I pack also some S hooks and, depending on available closet space at the destination, I use hangers for bigger clothing items such as jacket, pants and shirts; and S hooks to hang the packing cubes with smaller items in them, such as socks and undergarments. This saves time and helps ensure cleanliness of my garments (because I’ve read some horror stories about hotels that looked clean but were not). Dirty clothes go in a drawstring bag that hangs on the bathroom door hook or in the closet on an S hook.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      That S-hook tip just blew my mind! Thanks so much for sharing, Jean! So awesome! Hope you’re having a wonderful week!

      ~Abby =)

      1. Thanks, Abby. ‘Hope your week is very blessed also.

  2. Hi Abby,

    I got the feeling from your post that you must check your baggage, based on putting your toiletries inside the zippered compartment. Do you every do carry-on, and if so, what is your packing strategy for that? I never check baggage, not even when I did a 15 day trip last summer, and I’m always looking for ideas to make carry-on more efficient. Thanks!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Wow, that it talent, lol! I almost always check a bag, so I’m not much help with tips for just carrying on. :-/ I would say being really strategic about your outfits, kind of like a mini capsule, would be helpful so you could get away with bringing less items, and I would probably rely more on the toiletries and supplies that they provide at the hotel rather than bringing most of my own. If you packed for 15 days in a carry on, I’m sure you should be the one giving me tips, though! 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful holiday, Lin!

      ~Abby =)

  3. Michelle Johnson says:

    Terrific post! I need to get some of those packing cubes now!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I LOVE them! Hope you do, too! Have a great evening, Michelle! <3

      ~Abby =)

  4. If we’re driving to our vacation destination and spending more than a couple days there, I throw a pop-up mesh hamper in the car. It collapses flat for travel, and we can use our packing cubes to organize our clean clothes for the duration of our trip. When we leave for home, I fold the dirty clothes & pack into one suitcase, and leave clean clothes in the packing cubes.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Love it! Sounds like a great system, Melissa! Thanks for sharing! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. Isabel Freitas says:

    I absolutely love this system! I need to get those packing cubes! We’re traveling in 3 days and I don’t know what looks worse… if it’s my house or my suitcases.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      You will LOVE them! They make packing so much easier! 🙂 Enjoy your trip!!

      ~Abby =)

  6. Jacquelyn says:

    I have been trying to figure out more organized ways of packing a suitcase for a few years now. I have definitely improved and have managed to minimize the items I travel with, but I think I need to eventually get a set of those travel packing cubes!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I love them! They’re the best! 🙂 Hope you’re having a great week, Jacquelyn!

      ~Abby =)

  7. Karen Rodgers says:

    Thank you. I thought I was organized but after reading your post I need help; Lol
    Great helpful information that all travelers should read.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Karen! Have a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  8. We used packing cubes for the first time last summer on our vacation to London…it made traveling, especially going through airport security, SO much easier, and our clothing came home neat and wrinkle-free. We now use packing cubes for every trip, be it overnight, a weekend or something longer.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aren’t they amazing?!? I love them!!

      ~Abby =)

  9. Is your suitcase in the video a carry on size or larger? Those packing cubes fit perfectly!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Leigh! It is bigger than a carryon size, but it is the smaller of the two in my set. I definitely couldn’t carry it on, though! Thanks for stopping by! <3

      ~Abby =)

  10. What a fun trip you must have had!!! We love watching HGTV. ? Love the idea of using packing cubes! I pack in a similar way, just without the cubes… it makes it so much less stressful. Thanks for the tips! Merry Christmas!! ??

    1. justagirlabby says:

      The packing cubes are a game changer! I love them! 🙂 So glad it was helpful for you! Have a wonderful Christmas! <3

      ~Abby =)

  11. MamaMurrey says:

    Zip-top bags are my inexpensive alternative to packing cubes. They don’t last as long, but I usually have them around the house anyway. On my trip last weekend, with three young children, I packed the children’s outfits in gallon-size storage bags, which I labeled by day of the week, with notes about any hanging clothes to go with each outfit.

    Enroute we were rear-ended and pushed into the vehicle in front of us. Our vehicle was totaled, and we had to switch luggage among various vehicles for the remainder of the trip. All the flotsam and jetsam of a car trip with children was thrown together and rearranged more than once.

    With my brain frazzled from the wreck, hassle with rental vehicles and insurance, and starting the search for a replacement vehicle, I was so grateful I had packed clothes in such an organized way. The bags and the notes took all the guesswork out of getting three very wiggly children dressed for each day and event.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Oh my word! So glad you are all ok! What an adventure! I also have use ziplocs in the past for the boys! They work so great and make the whole process of them getting ready so much easier! Praying that all the hassles of your accident are behind you and you can enjoy the holidays! Hugs! <3

      ~Abby =)

  12. Tiffany Bush says:

    I keep a standard packing list on the computer in excel – one tab for each member of the family and an extra one for general family things and a last minute to-do list like petsitters, turn down A/C. For every trip I just update the quantity of each item needed and can also add notes to the bottom so that everyone knows the weather forecast and any special events they need to prepare for. It has helped ease the burden of packing for our family of six as the kids were able to follow it since they could read and I can then easily double check their packing without having to stop and think about it.

    1. justagirlabby says:

      LOVE this idea! Such a great system… you go girl! Have an awesome week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  13. Jamie Hannah says:

    Hi Abbey, Thank you for providing some awesome information on your website. You have truly inspired my daughter and I to create an e-book and we are considering buying your course titled Boss Book. However, I am concerned that I may not have a suitable- existing platform to market an e-book as I do not currently have a blog or a website. I am a Career Manager with over 25 years of demonstrated success in Recruiting and Job Placement. I’ve helped thousands of people go to work over the last almost 30 years. I’d like to use that experience and write an e-book but I am concerned about marketing my product with out a blog- following. What is your recommendation for me?

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Hi, Jamie! Book Boss was definitely designed for people who are selling their product on their own site. I think some of the ideas could still be helpful if you plan to sell on Amazon or something like that, but much of the information is geared that way because that’s what we do. You could start a blog and build up a small but dedicated audience who you know are interested in your eBook topic (by offering freebies that are about your same topic in exchange for their email address, etc) and then launch your eBook to that audience. We know people who have had very successful launches with an email list of only 300 people. You could also sell your product on Amazon like I mentioned. The drawback to that is that you have less control because it’s on their site and you don’t get their email address on your list as potential customers for future launches. All things to consider. Hope this helped! Wishing you the best with your eBook. So exciting! <3

      ~Abby =)

      1. Jamie Hannah says:

        Abby, thank you for your quick reply to my question. The information you shared with me was helpful. I will definitely purchase Book Boss. In addition, after reading some of your material, I can totally see the value to incorporating blogging into my overall business strategy so I will most likely purchase your e-course on that as well.

        I will keep you abreast of my progress as I go along and I would like to stay in touch with you. I was wondering if you would mentor me through this exciting yet scary journey? I believe that I could benefit greatly from your guidance.

        Thanks again.

        Jamie

        1. justagirlabby says:

          Hi, Jamie! So glad it was helpful! Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the overwhelming number of requests we receive, we aren’t able to provide personal blog coaching. If you do end up purchasing the Building a Framework course, there is a Facebook group that goes along with it where you can ask all your questions and receive support and answers from fellow bloggers (including Donnie and I). I think it could be a very helpful resource for you. Of course, feel free to email us with specific questions. We do our best to get to as many of those as we can. Wishing you the best on your blogging journey. Have a great weekend!

          ~Abby =)

  14. I have an electronics bag for travel. In it I keep each kind of charger for my devices, extra wall plug, a charger with an extension cord that can charge multiple devices, ear buds. I can also squeeze in all my devices. It is slightly bigger than my iPad. My charging cords are long. We travel a great deal and hotels are not always set up with enough plugs or in locations that are convenient.
    We drive most places. When we do fly it is usually carry on. My liquid toiletries are at the barest minimum. I rely on the hotel for shampoo and etc. or bring non liquid versions. Generally, I have no issues.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing, Debbie!

      ~Abby =)

  15. Liche Cavazos says:

    Thanks for the tips. Where did you purchase your ALD pink toiletry bag? I love the compartments in it.

  16. Abby, I clicked on the link for the packing cubes and they are not available. Do you have a recommendation for another set?
    Thanks!

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