21 tips on how to organize your travel bag

1-Type of Suitcase

The choice of the type of suitcase to take on your trip is very important. For example, in my trip around the World in backpacker mode, I brought a suitcase with the normal dimensions required for low-cost, troley-type whith two wheels, but it had shoulder straps and could be used as a backpack. More versatile, it does not exist! Check out my post on “how to choose your travel bag”.

2-Make a list

Making a list before packing is important for three reasons. First of all, so you do not forget anything important to the trip. Secondly, because it becomes easier to distinguish the essentials of the accessory. Thirdly, because in the next trips, you will evaluate this list and add something missing or remove unnecessary items.

3- Minimize clothing / footwear

How often does it happen that we take the suitcase full of clothes and then we do not use half of it on the trip? If the trip is short for up to 1 week, it is important to see the weather forecasts just before the trip and only take the essential clothing for those days, depending on the type of trip (beach, cruise, city, mountain, etc). If the trip is long, you should consider the possibility of washing clothes during the trip (or by yourself in the accommodation, or in a laundry) and thus avoid taking too much clothes. Your back will thank you! If your trip is a trip around the world (as was mine), it is important to have very versatile clothing and in small quantity: beachwear, sportswear for adventure / sport, formal clothing for any occasion , and one or two warm clothes for colder climates. About footwear, whether on a short trip or a long trip I advise 3 pairs: slippers, comfortable sneakers and a more formal shoe. Together, they fit in all situations.

4-Put a shower cap around your shoes to protect youIn addition to protecting your footwear, it prevents you from filing your clothes when your shoes are not completely clean.

5- Cut the packaging of medicines into small pieces and label / photograph

Especially on long-term trips, where you have to take a large quantity of medicines for various situations, cut the packaging of medicines into small pieces and put them all in a plastic organizer box, as well as being easier to organize and save a lot space, protects your medicines. Do not forget to photograph the instructions of the medicines and their expiration dates, so you do not have to take them with you (taking up more space). Check my post “What medications take when traveling?”

6 – Hygiene articles in small packages of less than 100 ml

Here, you can save a lot of space. If the trip is short, small packages are enough for the entire trip. If the trip is long, always try to use small packages of shampoo, toothpaste, shower gel, etc. In addition, if you want to carry your suitcase as carry-on luggage, liquids above 100ml are not allowed.

7-Food reinforcements in energy bars / cereals

About food reinforcements, I advise you to take it a small bag aside. For me, the most appropriate are cereal / energy bars. Firstly because in the case of waiting at the airport, the food here is quite expensive. Secondly because they are quite practical: small in size, and usually because they are packed, they are easy to maintain in good hygienic conditions. Some, more complete, can even replace an entire meal.

8 – Take only essential technology

Nowadays, technology occupies a significant part of the traveler’s bag. Either by the apparatus itself or by the chargers. I advise you to take only the technology that is indispensable for the trip.

In the case of short travel, a reasonably-priced smartphone with a good camera with sufficient space available, and the major travel applications required  and a powerbank, are technology enough  and takes up less space in your suitcase.

 In case that photography is your hobby, the situation becomes more complicated. There are some quality compact cameras with a considerable zoom, which take up less space. If you take the picture a little more seriously, and have a semi-professional camera, I’d advise only a more versatile lens with a sufficient zoom range for what you want. To save photos I recommend two solutions: either save online on platforms such as icloud or dropbox, or, in the case of cameras, equate the purchase of memory cards with high storage, as they occupy almost no space. However, in case of longer trips and the pictures taken are really important, I advise you to make a copy of these photos online or on a small compact external disk.

9 – Carry a small bag / backpack

This small bag is very important to always have at hand, especially if your suitcase is sent to the basement of the plane. Sometimes the trip is long, there may be delays or stops, and there are articles that you will have to keep with you at all times. Depending on the airline, it could be a small bag, or even a backpack. In this bag / backpack you should carry: mobile phone with charger and powerbank; documentation; money; energy bars; most important (or valuable) articles; a change of underwear; toothpaste and toothbrush and roll on.

10- Take digital books

Although I like reading a lot, I do not recommend taking physical books for travel, as they have several disadvantages. First of all, they take up a lot of space in the suitcase. Secondly, they are usually heavy. Thirdly, when you finish your book and still travelling, you will have to carry the book until the end of the trip. I advise you to take digital books on your phone or tablet, or to make your readings when you return from the trip (while traveling there are so many things to do …).

11- Use the inside space of your shoes as storage (socks, etc.)

It is a very practical way of saving space and maintaining the normal shape of your footwear.

12- Put glass containers in a sock

If you carry an expensive perfume that you do not want to miss while traveling, this is a good solution.

13 – Putting the biggest and heaviest clothes in the bottom of the suitcase

If you do so, when you need to take anything out of the suitcase, it’s a lot easier.

14 – Have a small plastic bag only for liquids and always put on the top of the bag

If you are going to travel with your suitcase as board baggage, you will usually be asked to do so. If it is already done, you save time and do not need to organize your suitcase again every time you check in at the airport.

15 – Leave the socks and underwear to the end

Socks and underwear easily fill the empty spaces of the suitcase. So they should be left to the end.

16 – Close suitcases and purses with padlocks

In some countries, this security measure is crucial, especially if the suitcase goes to the basement, and if it will travel in other means of transport like boat, bus, etc., and the bag will be out of your visual range. Choose a TSA lock (or a suitcase with TSA padlock included), which in case it has to be opened by the police with a master key, does not need to be broken.

17 – Use a  passport / money hiden bag next to the body

Also for security reasons, in some places that you consider more insecure, a small and discreet purse to carry money and more important documents can save you from very complicated situations.

18 – Place the chargers in a eyewear bag

Placing the chargers in a pair of eyewear bags  will protect it against damage and find them easily in your suitcase.

19- Put in rolls the clothes that do not want to see crumpled 

Making rolls with your clothes that crumbles more easily is a good solution. The other clothes you may choose to make rolls or fold it in a traditional way.

20- Take a plastic bag to separate dirty clothes from clean ones

It is essential that your washed clothes do not get dirty or get stale in contact with each other a plastic bag is the solution

21 – Weigh the suitcase (if necessary)

In some airlines, it is not essential, it is critical! If the weight is greater than the defined weight, it can mean unexpected expenses.

Pedro Vargas

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