Step by Step Guide: How to Pack a Suitcase in 29 Minutes

Breeze Leonard Avatar

Packing isn’t my favorite part of taking a vacation–it’s just another thing that has to be done. The less time I can spend packing my bags, the better! That is why I always follow this easy step-by-step packing process that helps me get all my bags ready to go in less than 30 minutes.

Whether you’re planning a camping trip, family ski vacation or heading out on a cruise, this list of packing tips and tricks will have you packed quickly and ready for your next adventure. And because I frequently travel with teens who pack their own bags, I always print multiple copies of the packing list PDF (included for free below) to give to them as well.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! The first step you’ll want to take, in packing quickly for your next vacation, begins now!

It’s All About Being Prepared

Let’s walk through the steps I take when packing and how I’m able to do it so quickly. These steps start when I unpack from my previous vacation.

My Best and Most Important Packing Tip

When I unpack my suitcase after a trip, I print out a fresh copy of the included packing list PDF and put it inside my empty suitcase. I do this for each member of the family as well. Having a checklist is the easiest way for everyone in the family to stay organized and reduce the risk of forgetting something.

Get in a habit of doing this and you will be amazed at how fast you’re able to get the entire family packed.

Some Things Should Never be Unpacked

Next, I have a toiletry travel bag that’s always packed and ready to go. I use refillable bottles for shampoo, conditioner and mouthwash. After each trip, I refill them so my toiletry bag is ready for the next adventure.

I have a printable list that I keep in my toiletry bag to easily identify anything I’m missing. I also make a list of current medications that anyone in our family is taking so that I won’t forget to pack them.

Keeping a stash of travel-sized personal items — lotion, toothpaste, lip balm and moisturizer — is helpful too.

Another item that never leaves my suitcase? My handy travel umbrella for unexpected downpours.

SheBuysTravel Tip: When you receive make-up samples, save the travel-size containers they come in and use those for packing. Also, keep extra Ziploc plastic bags handy inside your toiletry bag just in case they’re needed.

When you unpack from a trip, print a new packing list so it will be there the next time you pack for a trip.
When you unpack from a trip, print a new packing list so it will be there the next time you pack for a trip. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

Use Packing Cubes

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using packing cubes. They are the key to keeping your suitcase organized.

Bonus: We find that we can fit more into each suitcase because we use packing cubes.

This has been especially helpful when packing kids’ suitcases. I use one cube for clothes and another for shoes and the list goes on. This has saved my sanity! I also love that when we get to our hotel room we can just slide the cubes into the hotel drawers. They are great for keeping your clothes neatly folded too.

If you don’t want to buy packing cubes, here are some tips for using Ziploc bags to pack your kids’ stuff.

Use packing cubes to keep your suitcase organized

Packing Printables Save The Day

Here are 3 packing pdfs that will save the day when it comes time to pack in a hurry!

Packing list pdf to print and use each time you travel Toiletry Packing List pdf you can print. Electronics Packing List pdf that you can print

Specialty Packing Lists

Some trips require you to pack more than the basics. Here are the packing lists you need for those special family vacations.

Family ski trip packing list

Family beach vacation packing list

Camping trip packing list (this one definitely takes longer than 29 minutes!)

Mexico packing list

Family cruise vacation packing list

Four season guide to packing for Iceland

Read More: All of our Family Vacation Packing Lists

Don’t Forget These Important Things

Every travel experience is different, so you must be prepared to tweak your suitcase each time to include the essentials for your current trip. This packing tip is a checklist of things you shouldn’t forget and things you want to check before you leave.

  • Check your passports. Make sure no one’s passport expires within 6 months of your trip. If it does, read our advice on what to do if your passport doesn’t arrive in time.
  • Share your emergency contact info. If you are traveling with a group, make sure everyone in the group has each other’s information. This should include an emergency contact and a list of birthdates and allergies.
  • Weigh your luggage. When flying, always weigh your luggage at home before arriving at the airport. If possible travel with carry-on luggage only.
  • Check the details. If you’re flying, double-check that the name on your airline reservation matches your drivers license or passport. (Also note that you will need a Real ID starting in October 2021.)
  • Check the car seat laws for your destination. Did you know that car seat laws are different in each state? Be sure to research this before your trip. Our favorite travel booster seats are the Bubble Bums. They are easy to inflate when it’s time to use them and they fold small enough that you can easily stick them in a kid’s backpack or even your purse.
  • Back up your devices. Make sure your photos are backed up in case your device gets lost/stolen. Check out this valuable information on how to prepare your devices before traveling.
  • Pack a car charger. If you’re renting a car at your destination, you’ll want to have the right cable for plugging into the car.
  • Plan for your return. It’s good practice to make sure bills are paid for a couple of weeks after you plan to return home. You never know when the unexpected might happen and you aren’t able to return home when you had planned.
  • Put a penny in the freezer. Read here to find out why.

More Packing Tips 

How to pack for long-term travel

Complete carry-on packing list

Packing a capsule wardrobe for carry-on travel

Breeze Leonard is a travel enthusiast and the affiliate manager for SheBuysTravel. A marketing and advertising specialist, she is also a social media strategist and travel writer, with several years’ experience writing for digital media. A Texan born and raised, Breeze left a corporate career to fulfill her passion for seeing the world with her three little girls. Their adventures have taken them across the globe, spanning visits to favorite Caribbean isles and motoring cross-country in an RV through some of America’s most beloved national parks. She believes that no adventure is too small and that every memory made, good or bad, is part of the family’s story.
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One response

  1. I’m glad you explained that if you use packing cubes it makes it super easy to unpack once you get to the hotel. My husband and I want to book lodging for a relaxing vacation soon since we both need to get away from the stress of our jobs for a bit. My suitcase is usually a mess after I pack, so I’m pretty excited to try your advice and see how convenient it’ll make things!