How Do You Unpack Your Suitcase?

The most-viewed article on SmartWomenTravelers.com is Top 7 Tips for Packing Your Suitcase, but unpacking my suitcase is actually a bigger chore than packing it! This got me thinking about the different ways that people unpack their suitcases.

Upon returning from a trip, my husband immediately (and I mean immediately!) opens up his luggage, gets his dirty clothes into the washer and totally empties out his bag. I, on the other hand, roll the luggage into our bedroom where it sits next to my nightstand for a day …. or two … or more. I hate unpacking!

When I am home for just few days, I usually do not open my bag until a few hours before I need to pack it again. My workout clothes are washed and repacked, but the other clothes can get washed or dry-cleaned when I have time. My small bottles of liquids get refilled with shampoo or conditioner, if needed, and get tossed right back into the luggage. My makeup bag and hair brush stays in the bag to be ready for the next trip.

Returning from a vacation, I’ll wait just as long before emptying out my bag, if I ever truly empty it. Check any piece of luggage and you’ll likely find maps, ticket stubs, boarding passes or other miscellaneous items. The only item that I always put back in its place, and immediately, is my passport. I leave that at home in a safe place when I am not traveling internationally.

A coach of mine used to get very frustrated by his wife’s still-packed suitcase sitting in their bedroom, but he did not want to be the one to unpack her bag. Then he figured out a perfect way for her to want to empty it out – and fast! He’d invite friends over for dinner, friends who had not seen their new home. Of course they’d want to see all the rooms in the house, so his wife just had to get her suitcase unpacked and put away before her guests showed up. This trick only works for so long, however, before you run out of friends who have never seen your house, or your spouse figures out your stunt.

So what is your modus operandi when it comes to unpacking your bag? Are you a get-it-done-now unpacker like my husband? Or do you get around to it when you have time, like me? Or maybe something in-between? Does your bag get put away in a closet or become part of the bedroom furniture as it awaits your next trip?

So much is written on how to pack … now let’s hear about how to unpack! We can talk about purses another day, as I’m sure our habits with luggage carry over to how we switch to a new purse.

Post your comments below. I’m anxious to hear if I am the only one with an aversion to unpacking.

Similar Posts


  1. Only dirty clothes come out of the suitcase!

    Tolietries, work-out shoes, light-weight jacket, hair stuff (brushes, flat-iron), travel purse, umbrella, all stay in the suitcase – they never get unpacked.

    After I accepted a job where travel was required, I immediately went out and purchased 2 of all my cosmetics and keep them packed.

    A trip to Target usually involves walking through the travel-size aisle to stock up on toothpaste, deodrant, etc. When I am in a hotel and notice something is low, I write a note and place it on top of everything; when I get home I refill as necessary.

  2. I never unpack. There is normally so little time between trips that it isn’t worthwhile, and besides which it means if I oversleep on day of departure I can be up, packed and out the door in just a few minutes.

  3. One caveat about unpacking and repacking. We travelers need to CLEAN the inside and outside of our bags. Makeup and powder can trigger the little machine they wipe down our bags with at TSA. If we were traveling someplace where, say, a few farmers were traveling and still had fertilizer on their boots, our wheels could have picked up some substances when we rolled by that would trigger an all out search. Now that TSA is more paranoid and the machines are getting more sophisticated, it’s just smart to once in awhile dump everything out and take your suitcase outside to hose it off. This also goes for the bottoms of our purses, ladies. One biologist took a random sample of 1,000 purses and found unimaginable and creepy critters lurking there. Where do you set down your purse, your carryon? Take a little rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball and wipe that thing down from time to time. Just sayin’…

  4. Great website! Great travel information!

    I buy those space bags to pack all my clothing.
    Since they are compact, it makes for easy unpacking when arriving home.

  5. I’m totally the opposite – the first thing I do when I get home is unpack & do laundry! I hate leaving my suitcase sitting there, even if it’s only for a few days. Part of it is probably that I live in a 500 sq foot condo with very little spare room, so a place for everything and everything in its place 🙂

  6. I hate to unpack and so I found your site. My bags are sitting in my room staring at me. I hate unpacking and packing but travel for different reasons and must. I do have many things in a bag that gets thrown in every time..basically never unpacked just moved from suitcase to suitcase depending on the length of my trip. I hate the inconvenient place in my closet for my suitcases, so may take the laundry room idea from here. I also may add some seasonal clothing that I only wear when traveling and never unpack completely, just wash dry back in and ready to go next time. Thanks for the tips.

  7. Hi Leita — I laughed when I read your comment
    because I have my bag staring at me also. My husband is out of town so my suitcase is laying open on his side of the bed because I don’t want to take the time to empty it out.
    Maybe I can hire a neighborhood kid to come over on arrival-home days to empty everything out 🙂

  8. So funny ladies – my suitcase is open in the spare bedroom waiting to be unpacked. My cats love to use it as their spare bedroom which then means I have to empty all the clothes out and wash before repacking. I hate unpacking but love packing.

  9. I like to unpack the second I get back. I throw my clothes in the washer and hang everything else up. My toiletries go back, etc. Then while I’m folding clothes, I like to take out older clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn in a while and put them in my suitcase to make room. The next time I use my suitcase, I put the clothes in a bag and donate them.

  10. I have learned to unpack the first ten minutes I get home before I do anything else. And yes,I also have several items that never leave my suitcase. 1. Duplicate hair brush and curling iron (or hot rollers – travel size), “comfort clothes” – yoga pants, top and light weight floaty cardigan-type top that doubles as bathrobe if needed, night clothes, travel liquids, girl-scout emergency small ziplock of cold remedy, alka-selzter, tylenol, etc. Never what to be feeling unwell in a hotel room at 2 am and not have a few things to treat what ails me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *