How to Pack in 5 Minutes

Packing your suitcase could possibly be the worst part of traveling. The process can sometimes take hours, and then you still arrive to your destination with a bunch of clothes that don’t work for the climate you find yourself in.

Plus, you forgot your toothpaste. Again.

What you bring in your suitcase and how you go about packing it can mean the difference between light, easy travel verse lugging around an annoyingly large bag for your entire trip. Seasoned travelers know the difference.

There can be a method to the madness of packing if you just give it a little forethought. You can even pack your entire suitcase in just 5 minutes if you plan it right and prepare yourself ahead of time.

Once you’ve packed this way, you’ll never go back to your old, tedious way of packing again. You can also leave packing to the night before, or even the morning of, without cutting into your precious pre-travel sleep.

Without further ado, here are 7 ways to help you pack your suitcase in just 5 short minutes:

1) Bring Only Bare Essentials

If you are backpacking, “bare essentials” means only bringing a sleeping bag, tarp, dry food, water and one change of light clothes.

If you are spending two weeks in a hot climate like Brazil, wear one pair of shorts and pack one more, or a skirt if you prefer. Same goes for shirts, socks, shoes (or you can just use the pair on your feet), though you may want to bring a couple of pairs of extra underwear.

Lay out everything you need before you start packing. Photo by henribergius.

If you are heading to Sweden in December, wear your big jacket on the plane on top of two sweaters and long-sleeved shirts (you can take layers off and store them in the overhead bin). Wear long johns under your pants, unless you get hot easily.

Wherever you go, take the smallest bathroom essentials that you can find, such as travel toothbrushes, toothpastes, shampoos and conditioners that will last you for the entire trip. Put all of them in one large Ziploc bag.

2) Pile First

Before you start packing, create piles of everything you want to bring along with you on your bed. This should include clothes, toiletries, gadgets, jewelry, books (shoes can go on the floor beside the bed for now) and any other personal belongings.

Pick through your piles with the intention of taking only half of what is there. This way the actual packing will go smoother and take less time, and you’ll end up packing lighter.

Stacking clothes makes packing easier and evens out your suitcase. Photo by 4nitsirk.

3) Pack Two Sets of Clothes for the Weather

No matter where you are going, pack at least one set of clothes for warm weather and one set of clothes for cool weather. Odds are at least one of the days you are traveling will be completely different than the normal temperature for that locale at that time of year.

It’s like the universe’s little joke on the traveler.

And definitely don’t forget that rain jacket.

4) Create Separate Stacks of Clothes

Create a stack for each of category of clothes, separating pants, skirts/dresses and shirts. Put the largest stacks of clothes on the sides of the suitcase and the smaller ones toward the middle.

Next, put your shoes—one on top of the other, if possible—against the other side of the suitcase. If you have a zipper pocket, use it for your bathing suit, underwear and delicates.

Finally, tuck your Ziploc bag of toiletries in an open space or on top of your shoes.

5) Use the Belts

Most suitcases come equipped with belts and clasps. USE them. They can help to separate soft items from hard items and the dirt on the bottoms of shoes from that white T-shirt.

They help to keep everything in place, at least a bit more than if you refuse to use them, and help to close the suitcase if you’ve not kept to the bare essentials rule above.

If your suitcase does not have clasps, create your own with a belt or two from your closet.

6) Keep the Necessities in Your Carry-on

Besides the obvious items that should stay in your carry-on, such as your wallet, passport and autographed photo of Miley Cyrus, bring along a spare set of clothes and basic toiletries.

This is in case your luggage gets lost and you need a day’s, or week’s, worth of the basics to see you through.

Always care an extra pair of necessities in your carry-on. Photo by lululemon athletica.

7) Keep a Travel Drawer

What’s the best way to minimize your packing time before you even start packing? Have a drawer in your house specifically dedicated to things you on take on trips.

This drawer should include your passport, phrasebooks, travel adapters, all of those travel-sized toiletries and travel pillows.

When you get back from a trip, immediately refill bottles and put anything you only use on the road back into the drawer.

Keep a drawer for travel items, including maps, toiletries, and change holders. Photo by zeelicious.

How do you pack your suitcase quickly and thoroughly? What’s your record packing time? Let me know in the comments section below.

If you liked this article, you might also like: 21 Signs You’re a Travel Addict.

Main photo: fit everything you need into your suitcase in just a few minutes by Andrew Currie.

8 thoughts on “How to Pack in 5 Minutes”

  1. Less is better. Remember: If you are a shopper, you need space for your purchases or you may have a hefty fee to pay at the airport. A good rule of thumb is to take only what you can carry without help, even if you will be on the road for a long time.

  2. Pack & ship ahead whatever you can. The cost is often equal to, or less than, the baggage fees & tips. You’ll be able to navigate through customs quicker and travel unencumbered.

  3. Somehow we find that, no matter how well we pack, our suitcases are always fuller on the journey back. Leaving a bit more space than you think you’d need is always a good idea. Also, we try to pack lots of plastic baggies! You never know what you might need. I usually take about an hour to pack my bags but it really depends on where I’m going and how organized I’m feeling…

  4. Never thought about a travel drawer. Genius! Everything else I try to do but always come up a little short. I’ll be more focused the next time I travel. Great post!

  5. I’ve become a pretty fast packer, after so much traveling I pack with closed eyes ;) I love traveling light, just today I’m excited I’m going to Rome for two days and traveling with only my purse!

  6. I like to pack a towel or bubble wrap or empty water bottles in my suitcase – things that can be given away or recycled to make room for tasty foods we like to bring back from destinations. These keep the trip experience going just a little longer.

  7. If I only had five minutes I don’t think I could put together whole backpack. It would be a haphazard toss and pray approach to what actually made it in.

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