Save Tons Of Space In Your Luggage With These Game-Changing Packing Hacks

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Whether you aim to reduce your baggage to a single carry-on or save space in your checked bag, everyone wants more room in their luggage. Before you bite the bullet and pay the upcharge for an extra bag, try some of our favorite packing hacks and see if you can make a little more room in the luggage you're already bringing.


When planning your once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it's easy to get caught up in the "what ifs" like, "What if I want to go to a restaurant that requires a jacket?" "What if I need my sunglasses on the beach?" or "What if I want to change my socks and underwear 4-6 times a day?" The best thing you can do to save space in your luggage is only to pack what you really need — but then what?

If you think you've already narrowed the items you want to bring down to the essentials but still need more space, these packing hacks might save the day. If all else fails, you can always try sitting on your luggage and yanking the zipper until it closes again!

Roll, don't fold

Unfortunately, just pulling your clothes out of the dryer and tossing them into your suitcase is not the best method for packing efficiently. The best way to fold your clothes to place in your luggage is a hotly debated topic, but empty space is the enemy of efficient packing. A good, tight roll compresses all the air from your clothing, making it take up less space. The tricky part is getting your roll tight enough.


Just rolling your clothes into a tube doesn't remove much air, so it won't save much space. Instead, learn how to do the ranger roll, also known as the army roll, which members of the U.S. military commonly use for packing bags. To use this for a shirt, fold the sleeves in, roll the bottom a few inches inside out, and fold it into thirds. Then, starting at the neckline, tightly roll the shirt up. When you reach the end, take the folded-over part and pull it over the roll, holding the tight bundle in place.

Ditch packing cubes for vacuum seal bags

Packing cubes are a packing staple, making your clothes into an easier-to-stack and pack shape while keeping you more organized than simply rolling up your socks and shoving them into any available space. They don't necessarily give you more room in your luggage, though. While they sort your stuff, they don't make it any smaller — and if you don't pack them tight enough, they might seem more like another item you have to make space for. One solution is compression packing cubes, which use combinations of zippers and straps to squeeze your clothes, making them smaller physically.


For even more space, upgrade to vacuum seal bags. You may know them as the storage solution that turns your biggest, fluffiest comforter into a flat plastic sheet on your shelf in the summertime, and it can do the same thing for the clothes in your suitcase. Exactly how much room you save will depend on how much air is trapped in your clothes (for instance, a down coat will compress a lot more than a pair of jeans), but brands like Spacesaver claim that their vacuum storage bags will open about 80% more space. Just be aware that you'll have to reseal them before packing up and heading home and that if TSA agents spot anything suspicious inside them, they will open them up like any other bag.


Transform large products into tiny toiletries

While clothes might take up the bulk of your luggage, don't forget to save space on your toiletries! There's no need to buy empty travel containers, which might be too bulky. Some travelers get creative by recycling unconventional containers to hold their products. One ingenious strategy is to fill empty contact lens cases with lotions and liquid cosmetics. Another is to melt down a piece of a stick deodorant and pour it into an empty lip balm tube. As demonstrated by the YouTube channel CandleScience, it's possible to melt down large bars of soap and pour them into molds to make cute and practical travel-size ones.


Some travelers use a more scientific method to find exactly what size they should make their new shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, body washes, and moisturizers. As described by one Redditor in a subreddit devoted to traveling with only one bag, the best strategy is to measure. For instance, every time you wash your face, you can place the bottle on a food scale and see how many grams the weight goes down after each use. After a few days, you should have an average that you can multiply by the days of your trip to ensure your new container has only what you need.

Plan to wash your clothes

One of the most common pieces of advice for packing light is to bring a few basic clothing pieces that pair well together so that you can mix and match them to create different outfits. This can be tricky if you plan to be away from home for more than a week, though, as you'll soon run out of clean garments. The solution? Wash them. Many hotels have a full laundry service or a washer and dryer that you can use while you're there, but you can also follow Rick Steves' hotel laundry advice and plan to wash dirty clothes by hand in your room.


A whole bottle of detergent takes up a lot of space, but you can probably make room for a small box of laundry detergent sheets — though that might not even be necessary. Soak and scrub your clothes in your sink and rinse them in fresh water. Don't worry if the result isn't perfect. In an interview with Insider, Steves stated, "I use the shampoo that comes in the hotel room ... you don't need to have the high standards that you have at home. If you get a step to 65% clean, that's dang good when you're on the road."

Keep your shoes out of your luggage

Shoes are among the top offenders when it comes to items that take up a lot of space in luggage. A popular solution for the main compartment of your luggage is to put small items, like socks or phone chargers, inside your packed shoes so that the space isn't wasted. However, there is an even better option: don't put your shoes in your luggage in the first place.


One easy fix is to clip shoes to the outside of your backpack. Special clips and holsters make this easier, but a simple carabiner will work. A strict airline might take issue with the size, but according to one flight attendant on Reddit, many people use this technique every day without issue. The staff's only real concern is whether or not the swinging shoes are in danger of hitting another passenger while you make your way to your seat.

Another slightly sneakier strategy that has been tested by travel TikTokers is to grab a bag from the duty-free shop and toss your shoes in before boarding. While some conscientious flight attendants may take a look inside, it seems that most will let anything in the shopping bag slide. As noted by one flight attendant in an interview with Express, for some airlines, "If you come on board with one piece of luggage ... and a duty-free bag with some of your belongings, no one will say anything."