How To Pack A Suit When You’re Traveling Light


With the hefty fees today’s airlines charge for everything from a checked bag to a slice of peach cobbler to a working seat belt, it can be difficult to avoid incurring annoying expenses as you pack everything you need for that quick business trip/wedding/steamy love affair.

Sure, you can still bring a compact carry-on bag and a so-called “personal item” (your teenage diary or a memento of your beloved late Uncle Higgins, perhaps?), but if you need to travel with the clothes on your back as well as a sharp business suit, you might find yourself throwing up your hands and asking aloud: “What’s the best way to pack a suit for travel?”

Related: How To Choose the Right Belt

Which, unless you’re standing around a group of patient, helpful people, is probably not going to be an effective step toward solving your mobile sartorial quandary, FYI. But you’re already here reading this article, so everything is going to work out, for this, sir, is how to pack a suit for travel. Or… wait… I meant THESE, sir, are five ways to pack a suit for travel.

Fold It Down and Pack It Away

FOLD SUITAssuming you’re traveling with a carry-on approved rolling suitcase, the kind that will fit into most overhead bins, you’re going to be able to pack a suit with relative ease. The trick to making sure it arrives relatively wrinkle-free, however, is to follow the lines of the suit’s, i.e. its seams and sleeves. Fold the suit in half along its back axis so that its shoulders are touching. Now fold one half of the jacket inside out, so that its liner is exposed. Make sure both sleeves are smooth and flat, and then fold the jacket in half over your forearm. It will now be in a slender, rectangular package ready to be laid down into your bag. Smooth your suit pants, fold them in half, then fold them again, then put ’em atop the jacket. Well done.

Roll It Up

SUIT ROLLERSure, you can buy a fancy suit roller bag and save yourself some time, but there’s really no need for such a specific accessory; you can easily roll up your suit for compact, efficient travel without the need for any additional luggage. And… that’s kind of the point here anyway. The secret to the rolling technique is to make sure your suit is folded in half across all its natural seams and with its sleeves as flat as can be. Next find something roughly tubular around which to roll the suit. Ideally you can use a pair of non-dress pants for this, as any garment rolled tightly will wrinkle. Use some jeans to make the central tube, for example, then carefully roll your suit jacket around them. Follow that with your suit pants. Now tuck everything into a t-shirt and secure the bundle with a belt, painter’s tape, or just by stowing it in a bag; this tube of clothing should fit in most backpacks with ease.

Send It In the Mail

BOXESStrange as it is to believe, it’s much cheaper to send a Priority Box via the vaunted United States Postal Service than it is to check a bag with most airlines. So if you want to travel quite light indeed, just plan ahead by about three days and mail your suit to your hotel (or other destination). Pack it using the same process as outlined above in the “Fold It Down” method, tuck the suit into a large Priority Box, and send it along for about $15.

Just Wear It

WEAR ITIf you need to bring a suit along for your travels, one way to keep it in relatively good shape is to just wear the damn thing while you’re on the plane. Change at the airport and shove your casual clothes into a bag, then as soon as you get off your flight, change again, draping your suit over your shoulder on a hanger. Your slacks and blazer can endure a few hours on your person without looking soiled, especially if you’re just sitting there in your seat.

Use A Traditional Suit Bag

GARMENT BAGPacking a suit bag is so intuitive I won’t bother going through the steps. Why is this not Option #1, then? Because a suit bag will only protect your slacks and blazer if the bag itself is properly handled; once it’s stuffed into a bin or crushed under another bag, there goes all your proper planning. If you’re polite to the flight attendants, chances are they’ll let you hang your suit bag in that handy stowage closet near the front of the plane. If that doesn’t work, just slide your unfolded suit bag atop other passengers’ roll-aboard luggage. As a last resort, after takeoff you can retrieve your folded-up suit bag from the overhead bin or from under the seat in front of you and unfurl it across your lap and knees. Not ideal, but that’ll keep your garments looking spiffy.