Very few people travel without packing a suitcase or carry-on, even for short trips. Living out of your suitcase, by necessity, limits what you can pack and what you can access at your destination. Some people seem to know how to keep a suitcase organized naturally, but for most of us, staying organized while traveling is a learned skill. Below are some suggestions for staying organized during travel or at your destination.
How to Keep Suitcases Organized on Vacation
You can divide the need for organized bags into two categories. During the trip, you need easy access to travel documents, electronics, and other items you need en route. Once you arrive, your suitcase should be organized enough to either live out of it or quickly unpack.
Staying Organized on the Move
Your time at airports, on planes, or on the ride to your cruise ship goes smoother with a little preparation. Here are some ideas to help you stay organized while traveling.
1. Use a Travel Document Organizer
Travel requires a certain amount of documentation. Depending on where you’re heading, you may need a passport, visa, health and insurance cards, and Covid-19 vaccine card, not to mention foreign currency and credit cards. True, many airlines now allow you to check in and board digitally using your phone app, but it’s still wise to carry paper documents as a backup in case you cannot access your phone or the app doesn’t load properly.
We recommend keeping all documents organized in a travel document, such as the Travelpro® Essentials™ Leather Passport Cover or the Travelpro® Essentials™ Security Neck Pouch. Failing this, assign an outer pocket of your carry-on as a document holder. It’s less convenient, but you’ll know where everything is.
2. Keep Your Electronics Cables Close to Hand
We travel with an increasing amount of electronics. At a minimum, you’ll have your phone, but you may also want access to a tablet, iPad, or Kindle as you travel. Choose a carry-on with dedicated space to protect your electronics, like the Maxlite® 5 Carry-On Rolling Underseat Bag, and keep your charging cables and USB cords in their own bag or carry-on pocket. Nowadays, you can also keep electronics powered with charging ports built directly into your bag. The Travelpro® Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner is an excellent example of such luggage.
3. Use Toiletry Bags
The Travelpro® Essentials™ Split Case Toiletry Bag keeps your toiletries, medication, and other essentials in one place. Some carry-on luggage offer TSA compliant toiletry bags like the Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner that make it easy to recover if TSA officers want to check it. The TSA has particular rules on how much liquid you can pack in a toiletry bag, so learn How to Pack Your Toiletries for Travel.
4. Use Packing Cubes
Whether you’re packing carry-on or checked luggage, packing cubes help you organize your suitcase. Assign each cube its contents (t-shirts, underwear, pants, etc.), and you’ll have no difficulty finding what you need at your destination. Shoe bags are another helpful accessory and help keep potentially dirty shoes away from your other packing.
5. Use the Bundle Method
You can pack a carry-on bag with enough clothing for a 60-day stay if you use the bundle method, a layering and folding method that allows you to maximize your carry-on space. You can learn the bundle method by watching this 8-minute video.
Staying Organized at Your Hotel
Once you reach your destination, you have a choice. You can live out of your suitcase or unpack everything. Both are good choices but require slightly different tactics:
Living out of Your Suitcase
- As much as possible, arrange your clothing so you can access the items you’ll need first.
- Pack a laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate from clean clothes
- Pack a “capsule wardrobe,” where each item matches two or more other items.
- Pack a small container of wrinkle remover to smooth out clothing.
Unpacking at the Hotel
- Unpack as soon as possible to make the room feel like home.
- Replicate how you organize your clothes at home as much as possible. If socks and underwear always go in the top drawer of your dresser, do the same in your hotel.
- Use the hotel room safe for your important documents and possessions, so you know exactly where they are.
- Designate an area of the room as an electronics center for storing and recharging tablets and phones. You may want to pack a portable power strip for this area.
- Store your suitcase in the closet out of sight.
Packing up before Returning Home
Packing clothing before returning home is pretty much the same as packing for your trip: use the same packing cubes for the same type of clothes, and put all dirty clothing into your laundry organizer. Use the same packing list you created at home to ensure you have everything you arrived with.
If you’ve bought souvenirs or mementos from your trip, take them out of their original packaging and wrap them in several layers of clothing. This may seem counterintuitive, but packaging includes dead space that takes up room in your luggage. You can mail clothing and souvenirs home from most destinations if you prefer.
We hope this helped you understand how to stay organized on your vacation. Have fun, and remember to store your luggage carefully when you get home.