How to Pack Your Suitcase: 12 Must-Have Travel Essentials

You may think that packing for a trip is simple. Pull the suitcase down from the attic, toss everything in it and go. But do you have all the travel essentials? What happens when you arrive at your destination when you open your suitcase after it’s been tossed around on the journey and all of your clothes are wrinkled, the dirty soles of your shoes have strained your white clothes, you can’t find your hairbrush among the mess and you forgot your toothbrush?

Avoid this dreaded scenario by getting organized before you go with these must-have travel essentials. Not only will this list help you keep the contents of your suitcase organized, but you’ll be feeling confident in the security line knowing that your unmentionables are safe and securely packed away when TSA chooses to dig through your belongings in front of the whole wide world.

Before you even start packing, choose your luggage wisely. Hard cases keep the contents inside protected, while soft bags are more malleable for fitting into the overhead compartment. Roller bags with four spinner wheels make transporting heavy luggage easy (I’ve been using this one for the past few years and love it) while duffel bags with backpack straps (I have a Rick Steve’s Convertible Carry-On) are great if you’ll be trekking to your final destination.

Whether you’re checking a bag or carrying it on, these must-have travel essentials will make packing your suitcase for any trip a breeze.

12 must have travel essentials to pack in your suitcase

12 Must-Have Travel Essentials to Pack in Your Suitcase

1. Packing Cubes

These different-sized, individual bags with zippers fit nicely into your suitcase like a puzzle. Whether you want to organize your clothes by type, occasion, or day, these handy cubes will help you pack more into your suitcase. They protect your clothes from dirty shoe soles or dreaded cosmetic spills and make it easy to unpack everything once you arrive at your destination. Packing cubes can help you find what you need easily without taking everything out of your suitcase and can even act as a laundry bag, shoe bag or a small pool tote for your phone and wallet.

2. Slippers

You may not think of slippers as essential, but they are. And now that you’re using packing cubes, you should have plenty of room for a pair! If you’re staying at a hotel, slippers protect your feet from the hotel room carpet and or for a quick run down the hall to the ice machine. And if you’re visiting family or friends, they’ll keep your feet cozy while you enjoy slow mornings and coffee together.

3. Compact Umbrella

The weather can be unpredictable, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Just like you store an extra umbrella in your car, keep a compact, lightweight travel umbrella in your suitcase. You may not always need it, but when you do, you’ll be forever grateful.

4. Earplugs

Whether you need to block out the noisy city streets outside your hotel window or find relief from your travel partner’s snoring, a good set of earplugs can help you get a goodnight sleep and feel fully refreshed in the morning.

5. Pill Case

Maintaining good health while traveling is key so don’t fall out of your routine. Keep your daily meds and vitamins organized while on the go with this handy little pill case.

6. Luggage Tag

Whether your checking a bag or carrying it on, always make sure your suitcase has a luggage tag with clear contact information in case it gets lost.

7. Packing List

Besides your shoes and clothes, most of the items you pack for a trip never change (think toothbrush, comb, makeup, etc.). Make a detailed packing list and save it somewhere where you can easily reference it for every trip – as a digital document on your desktop or tucked into a pocket of your suitcase – so you’ll never forget your toothbrush again.

8. Travel Jewelry Organizer

Besides your shoes and clothes, most of the items you pack for a trip never change (think toothbrush, comb, makeup, etc.). Make a detailed packing list and save it somewhere where you can easily reference it for every trip – as a digital document on your desktop or tucked into a pocket of your suitcase – so you’ll never forget your toothbrush again.

9. Mini Travel Steamer

Say goodbye to the mysterious hotel iron and pack a mini travel steamer to remove the wrinkles out of your clothes after you unpack. It’s lightweight, easy to use and gets the job done much faster than an iron. It’s also perfect for when you’re staying with a friend or at a vacation rental where access to an iron is a question mark.

10. Makeup Bag

You don’t need to bring your whole makeup collection with you on a trip. Pick and choose the essentials (along with a few disposable makeup sponges and cotton swabs) and toss them into a small bag that you can easily find and access throughout your trip.

11. Toiletry Bag

Your toiletry bag should include everything from essential personal hygiene items to your favorite lotions and potions. Use leakproof cosmetic containers to transport small, travel-sized amounts of hair and skincare products. Pack a small emergency kit with first aid bandages, hand sanitizer and pain reliever, and quick fix items like a nail file, stain remover, and sewing kit. Toss it all into a waterproof toiletry bag that can withstand bathroom moisture.

12. Heat Resistant Curling Iron Case

Ever needed to pack your curling iron immediately after you use it, but it’s still hot? This carrying case (which fits any curling wand, flat iron, etc.) is made of heat-resistant neoprene to protect the other items in your suitcase from the heat. It also has a second pocket which is perfect for a hairbrush or comb.


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