Vacations should be fun—and that fun shouldn’t wait until you get to your destination to start! Cut the stress of preparation by following these steps to pack your suitcase in the best way.

Step 1: Check the weather and your itinerary.

Will it be cold and rainy? Hot? Are you going to be relaxing, or going to conferences and work dinners? Make sure you’re prepared for whatever you’ll have going on.

Step 2: Lay out what you want to take.

Now put half of it back. You’re not going to need ten outfits for a long weekend getaway. You’ll hardly need four, if you pack right! Since pants and skirts are often bulkier items, pick bottoms that can go with a variety of tops. You’ll be able to mix and match for several days, and you might get away with just two pairs of pants for an entire vacation!

shirts

Step 3: Be honest about what you need.

Are you really going to use the hotel’s gym when you’re on the beach for spring break? If so, congratulations for making everyone else look bad! But if you’re actually going to spend most of your time soaking up the sun, keep those sneakers and spandex at home. Same with dress clothes if you plan on having a casual getaway. Packing things you might need, but more than likely won’t use, just takes away room from your needed items.

Step 4: Roll your clothes.

Rolling shirts, pants, and skirts makes them smaller when packed, which means you can bring more. Fold starched pants or shirts if you have them, and place them against the bottom of the bag so they’ll stay stiff. But everything else can, and should, be rolled!

Step 5: Take advantage of your shoe space.

Packing shoes just takes up a lot of extra room. Make sure you’re taking exactly what you need. You don’t really need a brown pair and a black pair, do you? Flip flops and dress sandals? Pick what you need carefully, and make sure they go with the outfits you’ve already rolled up to pack.

Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes, even if it means you’ll have to sit and retie them after going through airport security—it’ll be worth it for what you save in packing space! For those other pairs of shoes you’re taking—use them as extra storage! Put sunglasses, jewelry, or socks down into the toes of the shoes.

Step 6: Use every pocket available.

Are you using a backpack with a lot of outer pouches, or a suitcase with hidden inner pockets? Make sure you’re using all of this space. Some smaller pockets might seem like they’re useless, but you more than likely have some jewelry or toiletry items that will fit right in. Taking advantage of all the various pockets you might have will free up your inside packing space to ensure you’ll be able to fit your larger items without any trouble.

Step 7: Use plastic bags!

Luggage handlers aren’t aware of what you have packed in your bag, so make sure that any of your toiletry items, like shampoo, shaving cream, and contact solution, are put inside plastic bags. If you’re flying, you’ll have to do this anyway for security reasons. But regardless of how you’re traveling, you never know if your bags will have a harder time of it than you. You don’t want to get to your destination and find that your clothes have all been ruined by your body wash, so pack carefully on the front end.

packedbag

Step 8: Don’t stress.

Remember that most places you visit will have a laundry available, so if you find you’re a few pairs of underpants short, you can wash them. Even if you’re roughing it a bit, you can wash things out and let them air dry. You’ll also be near stores where you can buy anything you forget, so don’t have a heart attack when you can’t find your toothpaste.

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