How to Pack (and Fold) Like a Pro

·3-min read
Photo credit: Kathrin Ziegler - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kathrin Ziegler - Getty Images

Traveling is fun, but the process to get out the door isn't always smooth sailing. It takes a great strategy (and admittedly, determination) to learn how to pack a suitcase right. Whether you're a last-minute packer or keep an extensive checklist of everything you need to bring, finding a successful way to fit in your favorite items is a bit of a hassle. Bulky sweatshirts. Clunky, dirty shoes. Not to mention, how do you bring your whole skincare routine?! If you're tired of sitting on top of your frantically packed carry-on, read on to learn how Janelle Cohen, professional organizer and founder of "Straighten Up By Janelle," shares her secrets for packing and folding clothes, including which clever space savers will transform the way you travel.

With her transformative tips, you'll be ditching your checked bags for a sleek, organized carry-on in no time. Below, we included products vetted by Cohen and our team for the best trip ever.

How to Pack Your Suitcase:

  1. It's all about the file fold. Use a packing cube to arrange your clothes as they help you save a lot of space because they're modular. You're also able to see everything you're bringing. "Think of packing cubes like Tetris, it's a puzzle, but the cubes ensure everything fits," says Cohen.

  2. When packing toiletries, hone in on what you actually use and place them inside reusable bags or Cadence capsules (if you don't want to bring the full-sized product). Your skin will thank you for these eco-friendly space savers.

  3. Organize your toiletries in a clear cosmetic case so you have what you love and can see if you're missing anything before you go!

  4. Protect your clothes from your favorite shoes by keeping the latter in shoe bags.

  5. Fold bulky items into a compact shape by file folding.

  6. Love traveling with a hat? Keep a hat clip attached to your carry-on so it doesn't get crushed inside your suitcase.

  7. When you get to your destination, no need to undo your efficient packing from the day before. Take the packing cubes out of your suitcase, unzip, and set each into the drawers. Your hard work won't be lost!

Cohen's advice: "Pack realistically and shop with purpose. Organizing is all about having the right amount of items for the space that you have. If you're at 100% capacity—you won't be able to maintain it."

Bonus Tips to Straighten Up Your Suitcase:

Photo credit: House Beautiful
Photo credit: House Beautiful
  • Check the weather before you pack.

  • Don't change your identity on vacation (i.e., pack things you will wear).

  • If there's an item in your closet that you constantly skip over, it might be time to let it go.

  • Try clothes on ahead of time.

  • Take note of the activities you will participate in.

  • Pack with a color scheme to mix and match items.

  • Organize your packing cubes by event: athleisure, pool wear, dinner, etc.

Suddenly have the urge to flip your closet with a file fold system? Cohen told House Beautiful exclusively that she is releasing, "The Folding Book" in April 2022. The coffee table book will cover how to fold everything (seriously, everything) with a step-by-step guide, photos, and space-saving tips neatly packed in one. "Start organizing by doing one little thing, maybe a 10-minute task. Don't take on a huge project right away, but instead make your goals realistic to knock them off your list," says Cohen.

Planning your next vacation? Shop the packing lifesavers below!

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