Walt Disney World (FL)

Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Suitcase Space

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Photo - Angela DahlgrenI’ve read many a post on what to bring to Walt Disney World. In fact, I’ve even written about the topic here and here! However, I don’t often see posts on how to maximize the space in ones suitcase. So, today I bring you just that. Whether its a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, here are my space-saving tips!

Note: This article is targeting toward a more casual vacation. I’m hopeless when it comes to packing for business & formal events. Huge overpacker. 

Make a packing list

For me, this is crucial. It is the ONLY way I won’t forget anything. As you place the item in the suitcase, cross it off your list. This may also prevent you from overpacking.

Extra tip: The night before, I like to make a list of all the last minute items I’ll need to add (i.e. phone charger, toothbrush) the morning I leave.

Avoid Over-Packing ClothingPhoto - Angela Dahlgren

This one is hard and something I’m still figuring out. What I started doing is packing two more days of outfits than I actually need. That way, if my flight home gets cancelled or I get drenched (Thanks Splash Mountain), I have extras.

However, my one idea doesn’t really help you. So, I did some additional research to see how else we can all put an end to overpacking. Here’s what I learned:

  • Research weather ahead of time so you know exactly what to dress for — I feel like this one is a no-brainer, but decided to include it anyway.
    • Extra Tip: When I travel to Florida, I typically bring one pair of jeans and one sweatshirt/jacket with me in case of a cold day. I’ll often wear the sweatshirt on the plane as it’s bulky and I tend to get cold on the plane.
  • Select a similar color palette: If all of your clothing colors go together, it will be easy to mix and match your outfits.
  • Re-wear your bottoms: Pack 2-3 tops for every pair of bottoms.


Miniaturize your toiletries: Go to the Dollar Store and pick up those small travel bottles to fill with shampoo and conditioner. Better yet, use the shampoo and conditioner provided at your hotel. It’ll save you room (If you do choose to bring liquid toiletries, put them in a Ziploc bag to prevent any spills from leaking into your luggage).

Go for the travel toothpaste, shaving cream, etc: I justify this expense as I typical get two trips worth of use out of these items.

Put medicine in small sandwich baggies or a weekly pill box: Bring a few extra days worth in case your trip is extended.

Photo - Angela Dahlgren
1. Layer the Clothes
2. Fold in half
3. Roll, roll, roll!

The Actual Packing Process

Rolling clothes: This is a tried and true tip….especially when packing for kids. Not only does it reduce wrinkles (and save space), but it’s a great way to organize your clothing into outfits. I’ll layer my entire outfit on top of my shirt, (see photo) fold in half and roll into a bundle. It saves time in the morning (grab and go!) and I don’t have to worry about where to put socks and undergarments.

Air compression bags: I’ve actually used these successfully! When my daughter was a newborn, I had to pack twice as many outfits in case of a spit-up or blow-out issue. I used a space saver bag and just rolled all the air out…no vacuum required! Keep in mind that while this technique really does save space, it will also make your suitcase heavier as you’ll have more room to add extra items. Weigh your suitcase before traveling to ensure you don’t go over the 50 pound limit (or 40 if you’re flying Allegiant).

Shoes: Shoes can take up so much room! If at all possible, try to limit to two pairs. When I go to WDW, I wear my sneakers and pack flip flops/sandals in my suitcase. To keep from mixing dirty shoes with clean clothes, I put them in a plastic grocery bag and tie shut.

If you absolutely insist on packing several pairs of shoes, use the insides to pack smaller items such as chargers, socks and the like.

I hope my ideas help you in any future packing endeavors and before I go, here are two last minute tips. Good luck!

  • Put heavier items in your carry-on luggage. Books, camera, shoes, jacket, etc.
  • If you have to put heavier items in your larger suitcase, stuff them in the bottom to prevent your luggage from tipping over.

What tips do you have for me? Any you find particularly useful? Let me know!


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Angela Dahlgren

Angela is cohost of the TouringPlans Podcast and regular contributor to the TouringPlans YouTube channel. When she's not talking about the happiest place on earth, she spends her time entertaining her own little Minnie and Mickey Mouse. You can find her on twitter @AngelaDahlgren or via email - angela@touringplans.com

28 thoughts on “Tips and Tricks for Maximizing Suitcase Space

  • The TSA doesn’t like the bottles that you fill with shampoos etc for travel because they are not labeled with what it is and ounces.

    One another website a user came up with a solution.
    Print out a label with the name of the shampoo and oz. After that she never had a problem.

    Another solution is emptying the bottles of hotel shampoo and filling that with your own.

  • I tried this trick one time and it worked out really well.
    Instead of buying travel size shampoo, conditioner, etc., I took my full size bottles that were almost empty, used the last of them on the trip, and tossed the empty bottles before we came home. That newly freed up space was used for souvenirs. I can never seem to find my hair products in travel size bottles anyway, so this worked out.
    (I should note that this took some advanced planning-I had to pull my almost-empty bottles out of the shower and hang on to them until vaca.)

    • Melissa,

      I would have never thought of that! What a great way to make more room for the trip home.

      Thanks for the idea!


  • Am I the only one who travels with teen-age girls? I have four daughters and not long ago they were all teenagers. I can tell you that they refuse to use the shampoo and conditioner that is provided by hotels. We have to pack full size bottles (yes multiples of each) for them to use on vacation. They don’t take up much space but weigh a ton. Same for sunscreen. Multiple heavy bottles. We spent 2 1/2 weeks in Hawaii a few years ago and I weighed every bag before leaving home and had to shuffle the bottles from bag to bag to make sure we were under 50 pounds for each bag. Fun times.

    • I am far from my teenage years and use my own shampoos (which I fill into <3oz bottles when I'm not using my Owner's Locker, that is, traveling anywhere that's not WDW) and need my own hairdryer. I also won't use the sunscreen sold onsite because I don't like the smell of Coppertone. This is why I love my Owner's Locker. I can fill it once a year with a single stop at Target and that gets me through 8-10 trips to WDW a year.

    • Bobaloo000,

      I admit, when I was a teenager I was the same way.

      I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve become a little more relaxed with my hair care (probably not a good thing!), so I settle for hotel shampoo and conditioner.

      Occasionally if I’m going to a special event where I’ll need my hair to look nice, I’ll bring my own. However, I don’t care how I look at WDW so I’ll just use what they provide.

      Thank you so much for the comment!


  • I am a convert to packing cubes. I prefer the type with compression zippers, but have both. I have one packing cube which compresses almost flat and keep a swimsuit, coverup, and a sundress in that so I don’t forget to bring them and don’t get annoyed with myself if I don’t use them. It now takes up a tiny space. I have another packing cube that holds my white capris. That’s what I now take to Florida. I have tops that go with jeans and white capris. That way everything matches. I like the idea of wearing jeans and a sweater or hoodie flying down to Orlando. Another cube is for undies. I have two TravelPro (22″ carryon and a 25″ checked bag) rollaboards that are configured to take hangers. Tops on the ultra thin hangers go in that section of the case. I have a zippered net bag for laundering “delicates”. That holds most of my toiletries. It works really well since it just lies flat or can be jiggled and shifted to allow the contents to fill in spaces, but still keep everything together. When I travel for leisure I take on rollaboard and one backpack. I prefer to check my rollaboard.

    Angela is absolutely right about making lists! You can’t hope to be an efficient packer without writing it down!!!!!!

    • Janet,

      Where did you purchase your packing cubes? I’d like to see about getting some. Especially with a carry-on suitcase.


  • For longer trips….since I re-wear bottoms I typically pack all tops in one packing cube, bottoms in another. Socks, bathing suits and undergarments in a third. When I get to the hotel unpacking is just opening the suitcase and putting the cubes directly in the drawer. Also if your suitcase is picked for searching it is tidy and nothing gets ruined or lost. It is really helpful whe changing hotels too, so re packing is never cumbersome. Just zip the cube and back they go in the suitcase. They come in different sizes and are a must! Also, use the inside of sneakers to hold small breakable souvenirs!

  • We pack a medium luggage, then put it in an empty large luggage. that we we have extra room for souvenirs coming home.

    • Paul,

      That sounds too dangerous for me. I would make it my subconscious goal to fill up that suitcase with allllll the souvenirs.

      Thanks for reading!


  • Your friendly pharmacist chiming in – For medication safety, I would recommend using original packaging for all prescription items. If you get a large supply typically, your pharmacist can provide you with an extra bottle, appropriately labeled, for your vacation (similar to what they do for kids needing to take a small supply with them to school). Also, you should always carry a list of your medications with you. You never know when you may be in an emergency situation and not have access to your typical doctors or hospitals. Your pharmacist can provide you this list as well.

    • Tricia,

      Thank you so much for leaving a comment. Getting a professional opinion from a pharmacist definitely makes me rethink how I’ll package medications in the future.


  • I carry all my pill bottles in a zip lock bag in my carry on. Also – I use packing cubes or space bags.

    • Terri,

      I’ve been thinking about purchasing packing cubes. I hear nothing but good things about them. Great way to organize from what I’ve read.


  • i used to “roll” but find the “bundling method” as seen on packinglight.com MUCH more efficient and i am able to get more into my bag. travelled on an alaskan cruise from florida a year ago with only a small rolling bag (carry on) and a backpack. you can do it for disney as well.

    • I wish I had known about the bundling method back when I was traveling every week! Maybe I can try it out next time I have to pack for an overnight stay. Thanks for the tip!

    • Sheri,

      Googling this method immediately. I may have to change my packing ways!

      Thanks for reading!


  • One trick I have been using lately is making piles for each member of my family and then taking at least 1 full outfit out of the pile and leaving it home. I tend to over pack so this has worked the last couple of times I have traveled. When you are packing for 4 people- taking out 4 outfits is helpful!

  • In the UK we have a stupid rule (to safeguard against overdoses) that we can only buy 16 painkillers in shops or 32 in Pharmacies – so when I saw tubs of 500 Tylenol and 500 iprobrufen in Wal-Mart in Orlando I bought one of each and took them home. I didn’t have any problem – AND no-one has taken more than the normal doseage!!!! Not convinced I will use them all before the expiry date – but just handy to have them – and they are sooooooo much cheaoer over in the USA.

  • The concern with packing medication is not so much what the rule requires/allows but what the officer believes about the rule. You can’t school the officer on the scene.

    In addition, many of us travel across the U.S. border where some interpret the border officer’s rules as requiring not only original packaging but verbal declaration of each and every pharmaceutical. (“Good morning officer. I have an inhaler for my asthma, and a prescription ointment for my rash, some antidepressants, and oral contraceptives.”) In fact, I personally don’t bring up any information they don’t request, and have not personally had problems, but there is an entire thread on Flyertalk about it, ands CBP. I bring the pharmacy log sheet listing my prescriptions as well as the pills in an original prescription container. I have the pharmacist provide me some of my quantity in a small container once in a while (with Rx label), and I reuse that container, and I put doses into an organizer when I get there. I do put vitamins in small containers, and worry every time about meeting a power-hungry CBP officer, but I’d skip vitamins for a week before I’ll bring several 100-pill bottles.

    I’ve also been furiously lectured by an officer not to repackage toiletries. She insisted that even shampoo be in the manufacturer’s package. That is not my interpretation of any rule I know, but again, the officer’s interpretation is what will rule your travel day.

    • Thank you to everyone who has weighed in on this medication topic. Hearing everyone’s input is so helpful to those (myself included) preparing for an upcoming trip.

      I appreciate the comments!


  • Actually, TSA regulations do not allow use of a daily organizer. ALL medication must be in its original packaging- both prescription AND over the counter- during check in. I have been through this before- don’t try to get through TSA check in with anything other than the prescription/original bottles…

    • That’s incorrect. TSA allows all medicine through regardless of packaging with the only regulations being for liquids. https://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/what-expect-if-passenger-needs-medication.

      Perhaps you’re running into a specific state regulation (as the TSA article mentions). As for Disney, I’ve flown in and out of Florida and California with no problems with my medication (pills, not liquid). Nor have I had any problems flying internationally.

      • I ran into it at both Warwick (Providence if you aren’t local) and Orlando. I called and asked to make sure- I was told all medicine MUST be in prescription bottles or original packaging. All of my meds are pills and I had to wait while my ID and the labels were compared at both airports- I was told it is TSA not state….

      • Just to be safe, I pack mine in original bottles with prescription label on it. But I know my parents too their’s in a pill box last year and had no problems flying KC to Orlando and back.

    • I totally just throw mine in a plastic baggy and I fly every week without problem. Only issue I’ve ever seen is with LIQUID medicine. Pills should be fine.

      • I’ve done it both ways. My mother carries several (and I mean several!) medications with her on trips and I know she has done it both ways as well. Sometimes she is stopped by TSA and sometime she isn’t. I know there is a specific protocol, but I think it just depends on the agent you get.

        I wonder, does it make a difference if medication is carried in a checked bag?

        I do know that my mom carries a list of her prescriptions with her at all times, just in case.

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