Thanksgiving Packing Hacks You'll Never Know How You Traveled Without

Thanksgiving weekend means a lot of travel, and as you get ready to visit friends and family for the holidays, you may be wondering how you're going to fit everything into your suitcase.

Almost 55 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from their homes for the holiday, while the Transport Security Administration (TSA) estimates that they could screen as many as 2.5 million passengers nationwide over the weekend as people head to celebrate with loved ones.

Suitcase packing
A file photo of a woman packing her suitcase, left, and a picture of clothes being rolled to fit into a suitcase, right. We've put together the holiday packing hacks you'll wonder how you ever lived without. Rawpixel/Boyloso/Getty Images

Newsweek asked home organization specialist Nicola Rodriguez and travel expert and author Anne McAlpin to share their favorite packing tips this holiday season.

If you're getting things together for a Thanksgiving weekend away, we've got all of the packing hacks you'll wonder how you ever lived without.

1. Keep Essentials in a Small Bag for Easy Access

Especially useful if you're flying, but also helpful for packing up the car, make sure you put your essentials in a bag you can keep close by. Include important things such as medication, snacks, water, and travel documents.

"Never pack medication in a checked bag," Anne McAlpin told Newsweek. "Pack an extra two weeks of medication, in case your trip gets delayed or you're having such a great time you decide to extend."

"This I would highly recommend," Nicola Rodriguez told Newsweek. "There is nothing worse than needing that essential item, and you have packed it in your main luggage. Always remember though that liquids have to be in the correct sized containers for flying."

Top tip: "Use contact lens cases for small amounts of gel or toothpaste. Put it inside a TSA 3-1-1 liquids bag. This maximizes that small quart size allowed bag," said McAlpin.

2. Roll Your Clothes

Perfect for T-shirts, pants, and casual dresses, rolling up your clothes to pack will give you more space than folding. It also helps to prevent creases and means that you can easily see what you have packed.

Be aware though, bulky items like thick jumpers or coats may take up more space when rolled and might be better stored another way.

"Rolling up your clothes does create more space in your luggage, and prevents clothing from becoming creased," said Rodriguez. "This happens because the rolling squeezes the air from between folds giving more available space.

"You can also visually see what you have packed and where it is, too," she said. "I also recommend not to roll your socks into balls, but to instead fold them into a brick shape—that way you can stack them."

Top tip: "Pack less by using Anne's 3:1 Packing Ratio— three tops to every bottom," suggested McAlpin. "Pack around one basic color, then everything will mix and match."

3. Stay Organized With Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a great way to organize your suitcase. With small zip fastenings and available to buy for just a few dollars, adding them to your packing routine means you can organize outfits and certain items with ease before you leave.

"Packing cubes are so handy," said Rodriguez. "You can pack items right into the cube, and they fit well in your suitcase. They're also great to help when you are unpacking items, and you can use one of them for dirty laundry. Take a bin liner to put your dirty items into and then pack them into a single cube."

If you're looking to invest in packing cubes, McAlpin suggested: "Compression packing cubes are the best. They allow you to pack more in less space. Simply pack items, close the main zipper and compress down with the second zipper. Voila, extra space."

4. Travel With Gift Bags, not Wrapped Gifts

If you're traveling on a plane with gifts this holiday season, remember that your items could be screened at the airport. The TSA said: "If a wrapped item alarms the security screening technology, whether in carry-on or checked luggage, a TSA officer may have to unwrap it to determine what the item is and confirm it does not pose a security threat."

To prevent your perfect wrapping from being ruined, travel with presents in a gift bag for easy access.

"I would also take wrapping paper, too," said Rodriguez. "Then the gifts can always be wrapped later."

5. Wear Bulky Clothing

Big snow boots and extra-warm coats are best worn for travel, giving you more space and less weight in your luggage. Dressing in layers is also a great idea so that you can easily take off and put on layers to stay comfortable on your journey.

"This is the easiest way to make more space in your suitcase," said Rodriguez. "Also, you never know what the weather will be like this time of year, and you might feel cold on your journey."

Top tip: "If you travel to see the same relatives during the holidays, consider leaving your shampoo, hairdryer, or an old winter coat and boots at their house so that you don't have to pack as much next time," said McAlpin.