Often when packing for a trip, I start in a very good manner and following the best techiniques available.

Once I am kind of done with the basics, I start noticing little things that are missing: my agenda, the battery charger, the set of keys, that extra pair of socks that may be useful at the end, etc.

When it is time to unpack or use any of the items, the problem starts:

  • Did I put the agenda next to the shoes or, instead, in the little pocket of the bag?
  • Weren't the socks just underneath the umbrella?
  • etc.

This leads to unpacking most of the suitcase until I find the item and all the beautiful order is lost.

So I wonder: how do you people keep track of where are the little items in the suitcase so that you can directly access them instead of just trying to guess where did you place them in the last moment? Maybe tracking it with a paper?

  • 1
    I use different coloured packing cubes, so even when things get jumbled they stay organised Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:09
  • 2
    If I am leaving USA, there is no solution. TSA always opens my bags, scrambles everything, and usually breaks something.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 1:35
  • 1
    I assume that I start noticing little things that are missing is when you are packing. That's your 'leak' - whatever method you are going to use. Make lists and collect all your stuff together, organize it, then pack.
    – user40521
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 15:22

4 Answers 4


I use a combination of packing cubes, amenity kits I get for free from airlines, and cheap little zippered bags that get sold as pencil cases, makeup kits etc (the dollar store has lots of sizes.) I deliberately get a wide variety of colours (so they're easy to tell apart) and sizes (because sometimes you need a lot of room and sometimes you don't.)

I give each bag a name - "bathroom stuff", "first aid kit", "eating kit" (this is spare napkins and disposable cutlery, little extra packets of sugar, instant coffee etc, that you need when you're eating on the go or in your room and you're missing something), and so on. My packing list actually calls these things out by their names and colours eg "yellow first aid kit" and I have the packing list split up by bag and part of the bag so I might know that the yellow first aid kit is in the silver suitcase, on the far left when the handle is towards you.

Clothes are in packing cubes by size - so one small cube is underwear, socks, etc, while a larger cube is shirts. If I do happen to toss an extra pair of socks in when I leave home, the next time the stuff comes out of the suitcase, those socks will be moved to the cube where they belong.

This technique worked great on a 5 week trip where we packed and unpacked as frequently as every night and the longest in one place was 4 nights. Nothing got lost and we always knew where things were.


As EdmundYeung99 mentions, packing cubes, I use different kinds for different purposes: ebags cubes are all-flexible but come in really small sizes as well (small slim is just 6.5" x 5" x 2.75"), Samsonite cubes are a little bit better keeping their shape but it's still just a packing cube (these come in a set of three). Cables and small electronics go in the little but perfect size cubes OCZ sold with their power supplies. If I have something more fragile, I have an Eagle Creek padded cube. And for shirts and nice pants, Eagle Creek packing folder.

I do not have a single lose item in my bags. I might have too many packing cubes in my possession, however...


I just throw everything into the main compartment of my suitcase. I fill the channels around the housing for the telescoping handle with smaller items, but otherwise there's not much order to it.

I have never found the contents to be disturbed very much aside from the presence of a sheet of paper advertising that TSA has searched my bag. I presume they just open the bag, notice what's in it, maybe rummage around a bit (without having to open up any packing cubes or the like), and close it.

When I get to my destination, I unpack everything except for my keys and any other items that I won't need until I return home. It's therefore unnecessary to keep track of what items are where in the suitcase.


You basically need to develop a system that works for you.

As an example, here's my current iteration of my system.

I have a big backpack, a smaller frontpack, and a tiny kid's backpack I use as a "manbag".

The big backpack has a large compartment, some smaller ones, some pockets, and some side straps.

The frontpack is bigger than a daypack and also has a large compartment and a couple of smaller ones.

The manbag has two compartments.

When moving, the manbag is inside the frontpack, tent is attached to one side of the backpack, flipflops to the other. Sleeping bag is inside it, along with clothes interspersed with books. Dirty laundry is inside bin liner inside backpack. Toiletry bag is on top with my often not fully dry towel over that before the top flap is closed. Front section of backpack is all clean underwear and socks. Side pockets are all dictionaries and phrasebooks. Top compartment in the top flap has all less important gadgets, cables, adapters.

This bag does not have to be vigilantly guarded.

Frontpack has valuables and stuff I need handy while mobile. Passport, pens, waterbottles, laptop, tablet, most needed cables/chargers, and sweat towel.

This one must be vigilantly guarded.

When on day trips the frontpack is a smaller backpack.

When about town with too much stuff for pockets, the manbag can carry laptop or tablet, waterbottle, cables and chargers, books, gadgets, but not all at once.

There's also at least one junk pocket or compartment that can be accessed at the last minute to stuff in dirty socks or almost-forgotten charger.

Anyway, the important thing is it's your system that works for you and makes sense to you, which helps to remember where stuff is.

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