The Ultimate Guide to Organising Your Travel Luggage – Pro Tips

Organising items into suitcase

There are two types of traveller and you can tell them apart by the state of their luggage – one will be super neat and organised, while the other will be expecting far too much from one zipper by cramming a big, messy pile of “necessities” into a small space.

This guide will teach any kind of traveller how to organise luggage to maximise use of space, reduce the amount of weight to carry, keep precious items and documents safe and handy at all times, plus, keep your mind free to focus on your adventures.

To get the most out of your limited luggage space, there are a few things you need to consider before you start packing. If you’ve got that covered, skip to "How to Pack".  

  1. What Kind of Luggage is Best?

    It’s never been easier to cross the many and varied terrains of our planet. In the jet-setting, budget airline, credit card rewards points, and the end-of-season-sale era of travel, it’s unsurprising that we are also completely spoiled for choice when choosing which kind of luggage to use. Even budget brands offer quality and usefulness that didn’t exist decades or even a few years ago.

    So, in addition to clever use of space, quality, weight and size, the choice of luggage also hinges on:

    - Where you are heading
    - How long you’ll be on the road
    - Your personal style (are you willing and able to carry all your stuff on your back or are wheels essential?)

    The choice will be slightly different for everyone. The only non-negotiable requirements are that it should be light-weight, the correct size (especially for hand luggage) and well-made.

    For more information on choosing the right kind of luggage for you, see our Guide to Buying Luggage.

  2. Know Your Destination

    Before you gather all your things together, you need to know what to expect from your destination at the time of year you are travelling.

    Consider things like the weather - will it be boiling hot, freezing cold or frequently raining? The terrain – will it be hilly, sandy, muddy?

    Also, consider the activities you’ll be doing – are you going on hikes, relaxing on the beach or going out to dinner? Are you going for business or leisure?

    A quick Google search can seriously cut down on the amount of non-essentials you bring. As much as possible, you want to avoid lugging things you never even used around for your whole trip.  

    Remember, if you arrive at your destination expecting sunshine and get unseasonally cold weather, you can always buy a jacket at your destination. 

  3. Make a List (and stick to it)

    Once you know what to typically expect from your destination, you can take a few minutes to write a list personalised for you and your upcoming trip. Writing a list not only ensures that you don’t forget important things, but it also stops you from being tempted to throw in random just-in-case things that you’re unlikely to need and will just end up begrudgingly carrying around. 

  4. What to Pack

    A super simple yet comprehensive way to ensure that you pack everything you need and nothing you don’t is to bundle your things into categories. Whether business or leisure, this works for any travel.

    On your list, write these categories:

    - Clothes - Toiletries - Travel documents - Electronic items - Medicine

    Now, gather the items that you wish/need to bring using the categories as a guide to both prompt and focus you.

    Once you’ve done this, look at your clothes category and halve what you have. You can probably do this with your toiletries category as well. These two categories more than any other tempt travellers to bring way more than what is necessary. Remember, any unexpected act of nature can be covered by buying the extra item you need at your location. And your face won't fall off if you discontinue your complex skin routine for the length of your trip. 

    Also, when it comes to clothing, buy clothes that are light-weight, easy to clean, easy to fold small and don’t wrinkle. Unless you need to express a specific side of yourself through the medium of fashion, choose plain cotton T-shirts in a few colours - these can be worn casually or dressed up with a dinner jacket. The same goes for shorts, track pants and trousers.

    The only things you should bring in abundance are socks (if wearing shoes every day) and underwear. If you’re unable to do laundry at your destination, you’ll be glad that you at least have a clean pair of undies.

    Pro tip: make sure any liquid items in your hand luggage such as perfume, after-shave, make-up, moisturiser, shampoo or toothpaste come in travel-size packages or are decanted into 100 ml travel bottles.

    If you’re struggling to make a start on your packing, our free, downloadable list will help you:

    The Ultimate Packing List for Female Travellers
    The Ultimate Packing List for Male Travellers
  1. Make digital copies of documents

    Plane tickets, entry visas, hotel accommodation, passport – have a copy on file as well as hard copies. Your plane tickets, visas and accommodation details may already be stored in your emails, however, make sure to have screenshots on your phone and a good old hard copy in your bag in case you can’t access your emails or your phone dies.

    A digital copy of your passport stored on your phone and your computer is a must should it ever be lost or stolen.

  2. Hand Luggage

    Before flying anywhere, ensure your hand luggage is the correct size to take on board. Anything in your hand luggage must comply with strict airport security rules. We have a detailed explanation here.

    Aside from following those rules, put anything that you may need on the plane or before you get to your accommodation in your hand luggage for easy access.

    Pro tip: pack your clothes in your hand luggage and put bulky and restricted items (any liquids over 100ml, sharp objects and aerosols) in your checked luggage. That way you won’t be stopped by airport security and if your checked luggage is lost or delayed you will at least have clothes to wear. 

How to Pack

You’ve gathered all the things that you will need from each category. Now it’s time to actually pack!


There’s a little more to folding clothes to ensure maximum use of space for travel than folding clothes just to place in your wardrobe. However, the extra time and effort put in now is well worth the extra space and organisation you get in return.

Firstly, get yourself a set of packing cubes. There is simply no better way to easily separate your clothes from everything else in your luggage. If you need to open your luggage at the airport, not only will your delicates be kept private, but you can lift one cube out much easier than a bunch of individual items.

Now, how to properly fold clothes for travel. There are a few ways to fold clothes, however, the easiest and all-round most effective technique is ranger rolling. With this method, each item is laid out flat and the widest part (bottom of shirts, waist of shorts and trousers) is turned inside-out once, giving you a 10cm flap. You then fold the clothes evenly and roll tightly from the end that does not have the inside-out fold you created. Once you get to the end, the 10cm flap is used to come over and secure your roll. This can be applied to T-shirts, shirts, shorts, trousers, underwear and towels. Once you have everything folded and rolled, place them into your packing cube.

The Art of Manliness provides an excellent, simple guide with images. 

Pro tip: use a separate small packing cube for underwear and socks. This will ensure that you bring sufficient amounts.


Having a specialised bag for your electrical accessories will keep them secure and organised. Not just cables, a small cable organiser will hold portable batteries, wall plugs and adapters. Your hand luggage should have a compartment for a laptop or tablet (if not, invest in one that does). Pack your cable organiser in your hand luggage so you have everything handy just in case you need it.

For a high quality, affordable cable bag, we recommend the Sisma.


Again, go out (or go here) and invest in a good toilet bag. For maximum versatility and convenience, get a hanging toilet bag. If you’re travelling light and packing your toilet bag in your hand luggage, ensure all liquids are packaged or decanted into 100ml bottles.

Pro tip: an alternative to travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles, which are bulky and made of plastic, is a shampoo bar. It’s compact, light, plus good for your hair and the environment.


Keep your digitised documents handy on your phone/laptop/tablet and accessible offline, just in case it’s impossible to connect to the internet.

Keep hard copies in a zip-lock file holder and pack them in your hand luggage for easy accessibility and just in case your checked luggage is delayed or lost.

Bringing it all together

You have your clothes packed into packing cubes and everything else that you’re bringing from your list laid out. The hard work is done, all that’s left to do is place these things in your luggage.

Checked luggage:

Put the heaviest items such as shoes at the bottom, where the wheels are located. Place lighter things, such as toiletries, at the top. Use some of your clothes to wrap around anything fragile and place it securely in the middle of your luggage. Keep breakables away from the sides of your suitcase where it is likely to receive a few blows from baggage handlers.

Clothes that have been folded flat and not ranger rolled should be placed in the non-wheel side of the suitcase. Stack the waist of trousers and shorts alternately so one side isn't higher than the other.

Hand luggage:

As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to pack at least some of your clothes into your hand luggage. Should something unexpected happen to your checked luggage, you’ll at least have something fresh to change into. Also pack your electronic bag, document zip-lock bag and anything else you might want on the plane such as reading material and snacks.

Travel sling bag:

Use it to keep things that are essential to your travel secure and quickly accessible. These things include your passport, money, credit cards, plane/transport tickets, medication, a pen for filling out arrival cards hassle-free, a few band-aids for unexpected blisters, a small hand sanitiser and reading glasses. Because it's small, light and attached to your body where you can see it, sling bags add an extra layer of security for your valuable items. 

The Tomtoc EDC sling bag has been tested by Project Goals and it's a beauty.

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