The Right Way to Pack Your Suitcase: Here's How Many Garments You Really Need to Bring and Where to Put Them

Knowing how to efficiently pack your luggage will help you stay organized from the departure to the return flight.

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Whether it's an overnight trip or a week-long getaway, few things are more exciting than going on vacation. The one downside to any respite? Packing. From shirts and pants to loungewear and shoes, it can feel daunting to find a place for everything in your luggage. Knowing how to pack your suitcase the right way doesn't just give you more room for the items you want to bring on your trip: It also keeps chaos to a minimum when you arrive at your destination.

Let Your Trip Guide Your Packing Decisions

Packing your suitcase correctly begins before any items are put into your bag. Start by asking yourself a few simple questions, like, "What type of trip am I taking?" Pinpointing the intention of your getaway, whether it's a "leisurely vacation to the beach, a trip to explore a city on foot, or a backpacking adventure" will help you decide which garments to bring, as well as how many, says Joanna Wirick, a professional life and home organizer.

You should also consider what the weather will be like and what your packing parameters are—do you have a carry-on and checked luggage or just one or the other? Additionally, ask yourself if there is a place to do laundry during your trip. "This will inform the number of items you need to take," says Wirick.

woman connecting the straps of her full, organized suitcase
Adene Sanchez / GETTY IMAGES

How Many Clothes to Pack

The number of garments you bring will depend on how long of a trip you're taking and what the climate is like, but for a seven day trip, the following recommendations will give you a good sense of what you'll need.


Three bottoms should be enough for a week-long vacation. "Selecting three bottoms that have variety in color and texture ensures each outfit you put together will be fresh throughout the week," says Anna Bauer, organizing expert and owner of Sorted by Anna. Also consider day to night temperature changes when choosing pants for your trip—during the day, shorts might suffice, but if it gets cold in the evening, you'll need longer pants.

Tops, Dresses, and Jackets

Pack about four tops for a seven-day trip. "Select pieces that can be layered or easily re-worn," says Bauer. "And if you're going to a warmer climate, mix in dresses as well."

In the same vein, if you're going somewhere cooler, make sure to bring one jacket to protect you against the elements, as well as tops with various sleeve lengths and thickness—think sweaters, tank tops, button downs, and beyond.


Undergarments are one area of your suitcase where you don't want to be stingy. For seven days, pack eight pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, and two bras. Of course, if you're going somewhere tropical where you plan to primarily wear sandals, you may want to bring fewer socks.


Whether you sleep in t-shirts and sweatpants or complete pajama sets, about two pairs of pajamas will be enough for a weeklong vacation. However, if you're someone who likes slipping into fresh pajamas every night, then you may want to pack extra loungewear, space in your luggage permitting.


Pack two to three pairs of shoes that each serve a different function. "Sneakers for travel days and exploring, sandals that can be worn for the beach and or casual outfits, and one nice sandal or heel for nice outfits," says Bauer.

illustration of clothes and accessories packed in a suitcase
Grace Canaan

How to Pack Your Items

Now that you know which items you're bringing with you on vacation, you can begin the packing process. Think about your suitcase's layout—be intentional about the items you place on the non-roller and roller side for hygienic purposes and a secure fit.

Non-Roller Side

Pants: The roller side is where your main garments will go, like your pants, tops, and pajamas. Place pants at the bottom of your suitcase. "Stack pants on top of each other in alternating directions so that the thicker waistbands are not directly on top of each other," says Bauer.

Tops: Use the rest of this side to pack your tops. These items should be file folded, rather than rolled. "People are pretty divided on this, but trust me, rolling ends up taking up more room and can cause your clothes to become more wrinkled," says Bauer. "You'll want to fold your clothes into thin compact folds, so you save room and avoid wrinkles."

Undergarments: Most suitcases come with a middle section with a mesh compartment—this is where you should keep socks, underwear, bras, and other undergarments. ("If you're using a backpack or weekender bag, you can pack socks into your shoes. Undergarments can be packed in a packing cube or fit tightly on the side of the bag next to your clothing," says Bauer.)

Roller Side

Shoes: Keep your shoes at the bottom of the roller-side of your luggage. "That way if they are dirty it's just going on the luggage and not your clean clothes," says Bauer. "If you have a packing cube, shoe bag, or even a grocery bag, you can place shoes that have dirty soles within them."

Accessories: Keep jewelry in designated bags or packing cubes and stash them above your shoes. "A travel organizer for jewelry is a good option, albeit they can be a tad bulky," says Wirick. "Simple plastic bags can keep jewelry separated and will fit neatly into a toiletries bag." Bigger items—think hats and belts—can be stored loose on the roller side of your luggage.

Toiletries: Keep toiletries, like skin care products and makeup, in packing cubes and place them at the top of this side of your suitcase. "Be realistic about your beauty routine on vacation," says Bauer. If you're not someone who does your hair or wears a lot of makeup on vacation, you can edit out items like a straightener and big eyeshade palette. "Opt for products that pull double duty, like a moisturizer that has SPF," she says.

Dirty Clothes: Don't forget to leave room in your suitcase for dirty clothes, which should be stashed on the roller side of your bag when it's time to come home from your vacation. "We often come back with dirty clothes from vacation and we have a few pieces that are still clean," says Bauer. "Packing a travel-size laundry bag or even a grocery bag helps keep dirty and clean clothes separate, which is a must."

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