The flight is booked, your stuff is laid out but you’ve run into trouble. There’s not enough room. How do you get it all to fit?

“Packing, you either love it, or you hate it,” explained Allison Wallace, travel expert with Flight Centre.

If you’re like me you probably hate it and leave it to the last minute and throw everything into a bag, sit on it and zip it up. But you know how that goes: you get to your destination, realize you forgot something and everything looks like it’s been in the laundry heap for a week.

Wallace has some great advice. First, make a list of essentials. Second, lay out what you’d like to wear and then pare it back. Think layers, mix and match. Will you have access to laundry facilities at your destination? That helps reduce things even further.

A good pair of shoes that can double as casual, and athletic shoes or a lighter pair of dress shoes, are a good choice. But leave the wooden shoe trees behind – they might help those dress shoes keep shape, but they’re heavy.

It’s the same thing with hangers for suits. Ditch the heavy wooden hangers for light flexible ones.

“You don’t want to get dinged on pricing,” said Wallace.

Make sure to check your airline’s baggage restrictions for both size and weight. Air Canada has a handy online tool that tells you how much and how large depending on your destination. 

Space matters. Wallace shows me how to stuff my shoes with socks to maximize it.

“Roll your clothes,” Wallace said as she demonstrated how to do it. It helps to really get a lot more in.

And try using packing cubes. They’re great to keep things organized, especially if you have two people sharing a suitcase. Think about getting separate coloured cubes so you can easily distinguish your stuff when you unpack at the other end.

Don’t roll dress shirts. They’ll wrinkle. We picked up a flat folding panel that helps making it fast and easier to fold them in a shape that can stack nicely into packing cubes so they come out relatively unscathed at the other end.

Toiletries and medications should be taken in a carry on. Remember there’s a 100 millimetre limit for each container of liquids and gels. It doesn’t matter if something is only half full. Security screeners look at the label.

Make sure to put your liquids in a ziplock bag and keep it ready to show screeners.

“So it’s clear they can see what’s in there,” said Wallace.

Once you’ve got everything rolled, folded, in packing cubes and laid out, it’s time to start filling your suitcase. Wallace advises you put your shoes along the edges and heavier items in between, then start fitting in your cubes and rolled clothes. If you’re taking a suit, put it in a folding garment bag and place it on top then secure your folding panels or snaps, depending your luggage, close the lid and zip it up.

It’s always a good idea to carry a portable scale that can hook around the handle to weigh in order to make sure you’re within the weight restrictions. You don’t want to be opening suitcases at the ticket counter to reorganize everything to avoid paying extra charges.

Beware of expandable carry-on luggage: it needs to be able to fit in the overhead bin. Again, check baggage restrictions.

Wallace say there are also many travel accessories you can buy to make things easier, like a collapsible water bottle or sealed wine protector bags so that you can safely pack alcohol in your checked luggage.

Happy travels.