How to Pack a Suitcase: Tips on Packing for Any Destination

September 6, 2022 (updated April 28, 2023) — Written by

Packing can feel like a beast of a task when you’re staring down the barrel of your suitcase. I feel like I’ve wasted DAYS of my life Googling “how to pack a suitcase” and looking at other people’s tips on packing. Thankfully, I’ve traveled enough in the last year to have some tips to share, including my golden ticket: a capsule travel wardrobe (with a TNK twist, ofc). 

a woman holds up a small bag of evolvh travel sized hair care products and a brush

This post is partially sponsored by EVOLVh, an ethical haircare line that meets ECOCERT requirements, COSMOS requirements, is Soils Association Approved, NaTrue Approved and Global Approved. As always, The New Knew only works with brands who we trust are making the world a better place.

By: Lisa Fennessy


Here’s my problem. I love traveling, I hate packing. I always forget something, I have to pack for multiple people, the process makes me hate all my clothes and the whole thing stresses me way out. To combat the stress of it all, I make lists, research other people’s lists and sometimes I block off an entire day just to pack. It’s a lot. 

But, as a 44-year-old mother of two who travels quite a bit, the best hack I have for simplifying the packing process and reducing stress isn’t something I read about somewhere on the internet. It’s something I came up with myself and it’s pretty GENIUS. You want to know what it is? It’s capsules.

Now, I’m not talking about a traditional wardrobe capsule—that will change every time depending on your destination. I’m talking about keeping a skincare capsule, a personal care capsule and a hair care capsule that you can grab and go as needed. 

What makes these capsules work so well is they are TSA compliant (clear bag + 3.4 oz), so I can use them for any situation including a “carry on only” situation, which we had many of this past year. Over the past 6 months, my husband and I (and sometimes our kids) hit up Turks and Caicos, Florence and Rome, Cape Cod, southern Maine, Beaver Creek Colorado and Orange Beach, Alabama. And I did carry-on only for all of them (!!!), which is truly award-worthy. Here’s how…

RELATED: A simple two-week packing list that all fits in your carry on.

How to pack a suitcase

Use packing cubes 

I thought packing cubes were a total joke…until I used them. 🤣 We bounced around from place to place this past summer on our New England trip and I had to repack my suitcase several times. For the times I got lazy and didn’t use the packing cubes, I couldn’t fit everything in. When I did, I could.

I like these ones, which are both Global Recycle Standard and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified and are made from 16 plastic water bottles. I got the black on black monogram, which I personally think is subtle but super chic. 

Keep a skincare capsule 

I think I dread packing skincare the most because I always feel like I’m going to forget something. I can’t function without a Q-tip and one time I forgot my moisturizer. The absolute worst. Now it’s easy breezy because I keep a small bag stacked with travel size and sample size skincare / personal care for a complete skincare routine, so I just grab and go and I don’t even think twice. You can check out what I included on my 2-week New England vacation here.

Keep a hair care capsule 

The same applies to my hair care. I keep a hair care capsule travel bag with the essentials. (I even have an extra brush.) The only thing I make sure to add outside of this is my hair dryer—which I definitely DO NOT have two of, lol. Here’s what I include: 

EVOLVh’s SuperFinish Polishing Balm – Luckily my all-star fave hair product comes in a travel size. SuperFinish Polishing Balm defrizzes, adds moisture, softness, shine, strength, prevents breakage, splitting AND provides UV and heat protection. I apply this on towel-dried hair before I let it air dry or blow dry it. 

But the best part, and why I love this formula so much, is it does all of this without adding weight or texture to my hair. In some ways, it’s like adding everything and in other ways, it’s like adding nothing. I never leave home without it (read my full review here). 

EVOLVh’s UltraShine Moisturizing Shampoo – Now that I have gray hair, it can be drier at times. I love this shampoo because it strikes the perfect balance between clean hair and moisturized hair. Love the light citrusy grapefruit scent. Plus my husband can use it too. 

EVOLVh’s UltraShine Moisturizing Conditioner – I also bring along its sister the EVOLVh UltraShine Moisturizing Conditioner. My hair is SO LONG right now and this conditioner is a great fit because it’s a lighter, water-based conditioner that works to detangle and moisturize without weighting my hair down.

Save: The code NEWKNEW15 will save you 15% on your first order at EVOLVh.

RELATED: If you haven’t tried EVOLVh in a while, you need to get their shampoo.

Reduce the number of liquids you pack

Now that you’ve got your beauty travel capsule wardrobe, see if you can reduce the number of liquids you need in your carry on. Try bar soap, bar lotion and waterless toothpaste, all of which are typically smaller, won’t spill and have the side benefit of being sustainable. 

RELATED: My current capsule wardrobe: 5 things I can’t stop wearing this season.

a woman stands outside a door carrying a large woven bag

Make your personal item a functional bag 

Most airlines will say you can carry-on one suitcase and one personal item for free. Don’t waste your personal item on a fanny pack or your everyday bag. Instead ante up and swap in your beach tote, weekender bag or activity backpack. This will allow you to take on more items as well as give you the freedom to day trip appropriately. I like this fun tote, which is a HUGE personal item that doubles as a cute beach bag or day tote. 

RELATED: 10 things I wish I knew before traveling to Exuma.

Skip items that will get you pulled over by TSA 

Knowing what you can and can’t carry-on will help you avoid getting pulled over by TSA and save you time. I’ve gotten my bag searched for the following items, which I won’t pack again: a safety razor, razor blades, items that look like razor blades and steak knives (for a wedding present, doh! lol). Also, Nicolle says she’s been stopped for having grilled chicken and sea salt in her carry-on (the hazards of travel with food allergies!), so make note that some food may flag security.

BYO water bottle…and filter

Save your soul and don’t drink the water, coffee or tea on any airplane. Instead bring your own water bottle, fill it up before you board and use a travel water filter to filter your water any time, anywhere. This also comes in so handy when you are staying in a hotel and don’t want to have to buy a bottle of water 16 times a day. 

a woman stands outside with her carry on plus bag

Pick the right carry-on suitcase 

The Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus is the perfect size because it’s the maximum size you can have for a carry-on AND you can fit the most in it when traveling on larger planes. I can fit a week’s worth of clothes and 2 pairs of shoes in without much hassle. Plus it’s sustainable, meaning the shell, handle, vegan leather details, zippers and lining are all made from recycled materials. It’s also carbon neutral. And it also happens to be super cute. I got it in the color Domino Black. 

Don’t throw in last-minute items

Once you’ve nailed down your travel capsule wardrobe (especially skincare, hair care and other personal care items), don’t be tempted to throw in last-minute items. You probably won’t need them and they’ll take up unwanted space. Trust that you’ve planned your “wardrobe” well and you know how to pack a suitcase.

What do you think of my packing tips? What tips can you share?

xo, lisa in cursive

TNK Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TNK uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TNK stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

1 Comment

  1. Reply


    This is an awesome idea! A couple of questions- for skincare in particular, how do you manage items that will go bad? Also, I clicked through and, you’ve got a lot of beauty products for your NE trip -all good stuff but how did you possibly fit all the liquids into one of those little plastic bags you need to fit everything into for the plane???

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