How to Pack a Perfect Suitcase

It's a thing of beauty.
You know how everybody has one really weird skill that they have totally mastered? Mine is packing a suitcase. It's not that I'm a constant traveler or anything; it's just that I have deeply studied the topic and perfected my technique, because...well, I like being organized in all things I guess.

I read a book about 10 years ago called "Smart Packing for Today's Traveler" that got me started on this road to Unbelievable Packing Cleverness. Since then, I've whittled it down to a science.

The suitcase I'm featuring here is a Samsonite Hardside Fiero 24-inch Spinner, but I can pack almost this much stuff in their hardside 20-inch spinner. After years of trying different types of suitcases, I am now utterly devoted to hardside luggage. It's feather-light, has more cavity space (Samsonite's suitcases are basically ALL cavity space,) and can stand up to being tossed, loaded, and stacked on flights like a pro.

However, my packing tips will work in softside luggage as well, so no worries if that is what you have.

First, Figure Out Your Travel Outfit

You need to figure out your travel outfit before you pack so that you'll know what jeans, shoes, and sweater/jacket you're taking on your trip, and you can plan the rest of your wardrobe accordingly. (I usually try to wear jeans and my bulkiest shoes so I don't have to pack them.) I tend to avoid flips or sandals if I'm flying, because I don't like to have cold feet in over-airconditioned planes or airports. So if the weather's warm, I usually wear tennis shoes; if it's cold weather, Uggs.

I also always take a cardigan or hoodie, even in summer. Something warm but not too bulky so I can stuff it in my carryon if need be.

First Layer in the Suitcase, Clothing Side

First layer
First layer in the bottom of your suitcase is for rolled-up socks, underwear, belts, irregularly shaped items (like my bathing suit in this pic,) and shoes. You line these things up between the bracing supports in the bottom of the suitcase to cut down on wasted space. I like to wrap each shoe in a separate plastic bag because it's easier to fit separate shoes in the suitcase than a pair bagged together. (I bag my shoes like this because it grosses me out to have the soles of my shoes touching my clean clothes, but you might not have that phobia.)

Second Layer, Clothing Side

Second layer
In this 24-inch spinner, I have plenty of room for my big comfy slippers (separately bagged and stacked on top of my other shoes,) my foldable yoga mat, a shopping tote, and my back care items (a trochanter belt and a neck roll for exercises.) These items form the second layer. The idea is to get your things as level as possible for your clothing layers. Anything you're taking with you that isn't clothes is a candidate for this layer (extra hats, purses, notebooks, etc.) I've also stuffed some extra empty plastic bags around the edges here--those are for dirty laundry or whatever else I might need a bag for.

(BTW, I probably wouldn't have room for the slippers and the back care stuff in my 20-inch spinner, but I have packed the yoga mat in it before.)

Clothing Layer

Pants part 1

Okay, so you take your pants--jeans, joggers, leggings, or whatever--and fold them in half longways, then line up the waistbands with the top edge of the suitcase and drape them over the other edge as in the above photo. You may only be able to do one pair each way rather than having two side by side, but that's fine.
Pants part 2
Then you take another pair of pants (or two pair as above) and lay them the opposite way, with waistband(s) lined up with bottom edge, legs draped over the top edge as in this photo.
Rolled tees and tops, started
Now you're going to roll all of your other clothing and place it like so, on top of the pants. T-shirts, hoodies, pajamas, etc. go here. The neater you roll your things, the less wrinkled they will be when you arrive. (I wasn't that careful in this packing session because I'm going to Huntington Beach for another Healing Vacation, and I'm mostly just lounging around in yoga wear while I'm there.)

When you finish, your rolled clothes will look something like this:
Now you take the legs of your pants and lay them over the rolled clothes. This arrangement keeps pants more free of wrinkles than any other packing method I know of, unless you roll with an old-school hanging bag. You don't, do you???

Now your clothes side should look like this:
Pants folded over the rolled tees and tops

Toiletries and Self-Care Items

I need a lot of Self-Care stuff.
On the other (zippered netting) side of my Samsonite hardside spinners, I am able to pack an enormous amount of toiletries, vitamins, supplements, makeup and hair things, etc. I have a huge collection of Esteé Lauder gift cosmetic bags of all different shapes and sizes, and I fit them more or less like a Tetris puzzle on this side of my suitcase. (The big orange one actually holds my Waterpik unit and electric toothbrush, believe it or not.) I also use gallon-size Ziplocs for certain items, just depending upon what I can fit where.

So That's It

All strapped in and zipped up, your Samsonite would look like this. Ahh, the perfection! The organization! The feeling like you're ready for anything!

Now in case you're wondering what goes in my carryon bag (if you're nosy like me)--here is a hot insider's pic:
I hate my driver's license photo. They have a new rule in Colorado that you can't smile. I'm not kidding.
In my new Dooney & Bourke bag that I bought because it's just the right size for my laptop, I have my already-seasoned instant oatmeal (airport breakfast=hot cup of water with lid from Starbucks and the contents of this baggie); my laptop and charger, extra flash drive, phone charger, and headphones; my Caribbean Jewel-themed business cards; my wallet; tissues, glasses, and my see-through bag of lip stuff, ibuprofen, hair bands, mints, hand sanitizer, mascara, and lotion.

So there you go! Perfectly packed, à la Jayla.

I'm basically Travel Barbie.


  1. Nicely done! One of my guilty pleasures is voyeuristic peeks into how people pack suitcases, or what they carry in their handbags. :D


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