How To Pack a Suitcase For One, Two, Three Week Trip
Travel Packing Tips: One bag, one backpack is all you really need
I'm packing for a trip so I took some pictures of how to pack a suitcase whether I am going on a one week, two week, three week or longer trip to the Caribbean, China, Canada or Chile or anywhere else, summer or winter.
I need only one small suitcase, and one backpack / daypack for carryons, and a travel purse for my documents, money, etc. If you are not a backpack person, you can use a larger tote bag with travel purse tucked inside.
Carry Ons : These items do NOT go in checked luggage. My travel purse and travel wallet carry my passports, vaccination papers, and travel money. And OTC and presccription medications are also carry ons. Hold tight to the things you really cannot do without, and only pack in checked bags what you can afford to lose. For me, this includes a small makeup bag, and my contact lenses and glasses. You can take small bottles of liquids in one ziploc bag, and your meds in another ziploc bag. Leave valuables (jewellery, watches) at home.
Have a look at how I pack a suitcase, and how I match and coordinate my travel clothes to get the most travel outfit combinations with fewest items of clothing. See travel pants, travel skirts, travel tops for specifics. How I pack my suitcase is likely different from how you pack for a trip, but here is what works for me. If you have a tip to add, please leave a comment below. Cheers!
Before the suitcase, Pack Carryon Backpack and Camera Bag
I got this trusty black backpack from MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op).
To determine the size, I took my camera bag (green color) with me to the store in Toronto.
My camera bag is not a space grabber. It not only holds my camera lenses and filters, and film, etc but it is also roomy enough to pack small items, like souvenirs, pens and notebook and my spare rain poncho.
Update: I no longer need this larger camera bag, as I now use a Canon Digital Camera SX30 with rechargeable battery. It's much lighter, has a great zoom lens which is great for wildlife shots, and I no longer need to carry rolls of film. But my new smaller camera bag fits really well into my backpack, with extra room left for other supplies.
Camera Bag Fits into Bottom of Backpack
When I saw a backpack with the features and price I liked, I opened it up right in the store and set my camera bag in the bottom to make sure it would fit.
This backpack does the job nicely. It's sturdy, with padded straps and roomy enough with many zippered pockets and a water bottle holder on each side.
The only feature it doesn't have that I wish it did are those straps that cinch it in at the middle, for times when you don't have a full pack.
The only time my back pack is fully stuffed is on the flight home, when I've picked up brochures, souvenirs, and little gifts.
Packing for a Trip - My suitcase and travel purse
The white mesh showing in the picture is the inside of my suitcase.
I propped open my travel purse up with a black and white pen to give you some idea of the compartments.
To the far right in the photo, you can see a long pocket and two small ones. The tall pocket holds tickets, passport etc and the small ones hold cell phone, sunglasses, etc.
When the purse itself is zipped up, a flap with a quick release fastener securely covers the top opening of the purse, and both the long pocket and two small ones.
Here are some types travel purses available on Amazon to show the various styles and features.
The one I have is made by Derek Alexander (Amazon pics), not leather, tho. I found mine in a small shop in B.C. Canada.
Packing My Suitcse - First Lay Out Travel clothes
With my suitcase opened, I can tell how much room I have for my clothes.
You see, the trick to packing one bag for a trip of several weeks is to first START with a small suitcase and choose your wardrobe to fit.
If you start with laying out all the clothing you think you'd like to take along then you will be hunting for a very large suitcase, and that defeats the purpose.
In this photo, there is one print top and three neutral pants -- jeans, black travel pants and khakis.
(I am not a skirt wearer, though. If you like, substitute pants for travel skirts.) The only item that will show wrinkles and dirt is the khakis (and in the end, I never wore them once!)
Wear or Carry Matching Jacket - Don't pack in suitcase
Here's the green lightweight jacket I took on this trip, and will likely take on future trips. It matches the tops and the pairs of pants.
This travel jacket has a front zipper and two outside pockets that close with zippers.
As a bonus, this jacket has two roomy inside front vest pockets that are deep enough to hold my passport, tickets, pen and boarding pass.
When I go through airport security or board the plane, or need to fill in my customs forms in flight, these travel documents and pen are all in easy reach.
And since planes are more often chilly than hot, I wear this jacket during the flight.
More Travel Tops in Solid Neutral Colors with Accessories
Note that my jeans are dressier dark wash, not pale blue denim. As well, these jeans are lightweight denim, so they are not too hot and dry quickly.
The white top is Tshirt material with long sleeves, and while it would likely be too warm for a winter resort or tropical holiday, it was perfect for when I wore it here in Canada in Spring (picture on my blog).
I wore this white top only one time. White clothing does show the dirt, so if I pack a white tops for travel, I choose ones that can be rinsed out and dried overnight.
I have white denim jeans that I will pack for a short trip to Florida where I have access to a washer and dryer.
Wash and drip dry white skirts in a lightweight fabric are fine, as long as they are not see through.
White jeans or pants are totally impractical for day trips, etc where you know you will immediately sit in or spill something on them !
The black top top right in picture is a golf shirt with 3/4 sleeves. I wear it a lot at home and like how it fits, and how it holds up under working conditions. It also has a collar, which is really important comfort wise if you will have a strap (camera, backpack) around your neck.
Packing for a trip - Add Lightweight Tops to Layer
When I was packing for this trip, I added a few more lightweight tops in black or white.
Sleeveless tops worked well under the green jacket and dark blue cardigan because they weren't too hot when it was warm, yet added a layer on chilly days.
I also packed a few necklaces in browns and blues that go with all the tops / outfits.
Necklaces and scarves can really change the look of an outfit and they take up so little room when packed in a small plastic baggie in your suitcase or backpack.
About packing good jewellery see Safety page about why to leave your good stuff at home.
How to Pack for a Trip - What Goes in My Suitcase
In this picture there's a blue cottom cardigan added to the mix that goes with all the tops and bottoms and gives me another color pallete.
All told, I think I had about 10 tops to go with the three bottoms (you could take skirts instead of pants; the principle is the same).
Ten times three makes 30 possible combinations / outfits: That is more than enough for any trip.
Some tops are good for cooler weather, and some for hot weather, so you will always be comfortable.
I won't be packing all these things in my suitcase, though. Remember, I will be wearing one of the tops and the jacket and one pair of pants.
How to Pack in Your Suitcase for a Trip
In this last picture, my backpack is top left, and the clothes I will wear on the plane are top right, with my travel purse between them.
In the suitcase (My suitcase is a small RBH lightweight (Amazon pics), in a rusty red), I've folded or rolled the other main clothing items.
I roll only the items that roll easily, and fold the larger ones more prone to wrinkling.
Sandals are put in a plastic bag and tucked into corners on top of the clothes, or even in the backpack on top of my camera bag.
Look at all the spare room on the right side of the bag! There's lots of space for socks etc that can be rolled up tight, as well as for my jammies.
This suitcase also has two large exterior pockets where I pack flat items like tourism brochures that I collect on my travels.
Also pack in your suitcase a few small plastic bags to hold clothing that's wet (swimsuit) or that needs to be washed, so your clean clothes are not soiled.
How I Pack a Suitcase For a trip
Telling you HOW I pack a suitcase, even with pictures, takes a lot longer than if I could just pack it with you :-) But I hope my travel tips can help you pack light no matter how long or how short a trip you are packing for, and whether you are traveling to chilly Patagonia or Canada in winter, or steamy Bangkok and humid Hong Kong!
Have a look at all my travel tips pages for more information. And when you get back, I'd love to hear how your travel packing and clothing choices worked!