How to Fold Clothes for Travel: Pack Right & Enjoy the Trip

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.


So, you’re heading on a trip, eh? But, you’re wondering how to fold clothes for travel so you maximize your space.

There are plenty of folding methods, but you want to ensure your clothes stay wrinkle-free and tightly compact.

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This post will show you exactly how to fold clothes for traveling so you can have one less worry before your trip.

Let’s get into it.

Is it better to roll or fold clothes in a suitcase?

There is no conclusive answer to this, but most travelers tend to favor rolling clothes over folding them.

There are multiple reasons for this:

  • Reduce wrinkles
  • Save slightly more space
  • Easy to organize

Also, it doesn’t just have to be for a suitcase. Whether you use a suitcase, a travel backpack, or another piece of luggage, the method will stay the same.

So, if you’re wondering how to fold clothes for travel to save space, you should use a rolling method.

How do you tightly roll clothes for travel?

The best way to tightly roll your clothes for travel is the following:

  1. Lay your clothing on a flat surface
  2. Spread it out evenly and brush out wrinkles
  3. As you roll, pull the opposite side away from you to make sure your clothing stays tight
  4. Use rubber bands to make your rolled clothing even tighter

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll save a TON of space in your bag.

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How to fold clothes to save space for travel

So, each piece of clothing will have its method, so we’ll break this down by each article of clothing:

How to fold shirts

Most of this will depend on the weather you’re traveling into, but the process will stay the same.

There are three easy steps to follow:

  1. Fold up the bottom of the shirt and fold the sleeves in
  2. Fold each side of the shirt toward the middle
  3. Roll and seal

Step 1: Fold up the bottom of the shirt and fold the sleeves in

First, find a flat surface and spread your shirt across it. Make sure to spread it out as far as possible and get any wrinkles out. 

This ensures your shirt stays wrinkle-resistant while it’s packed.

Next, fold the bottom of the shirt up about 6-8 inches. Make sure it’s on each side because this will keep your shirt tight and rolled up.

Next, fold each sleeve over toward the shirt’s middle. Once you do this, the shirt should form a rectangle, and no other pieces of the shirt should be sticking out.

Step 2: Fold each side of the shirt toward the middle

Next, take half of the shirt and fold it horizontally, so the edge meets in the center of the shirt.

Do the same thing with the opposite side. Both sides should meet in the center of the shirt.

Step 3: Roll and seal

Then, flip the shirt so your hands are where the neck of the shirt is, and start rolling toward the bottom, which you have folded.

Make sure to keep your rolling tight, and pull on the end of the shirt, so it doesn’t bunch up too much.

Once it’s fully rolled, flip the rolled bottom of the shirt out, so it wraps around the rest to create a small cocoon.

And that’s it! This works for every type of shirt you have.

If it’s a dress shirt or a long-sleeve shirt, simply fold the arm up over itself so you can fold it in when necessary.

Long Sleeve T Shirt Rolling

Doing this is the best way how to fold clothes neatly for travel.

How to fold shorts/pants/dresses

Pants naturally take up a bit more space. But, it ultimately depends if you’re packing shorts, dresses, or pants.

Let’s break each of these down.

How to fold shorts

Shorts Rolling

Shorts are extremely easy to pack. And depending on the size, you may be able to roll them up quickly without any methods.

But, if they’re a bit larger, here’s a great way to roll them.

Start by flipping the waistband down about 4-5 inches (if possible).

Next, flip one pant leg over the other, and begin rolling up from the bottom of the pant leg.

Lastly, flip the waistband over the rolled shorts once it’s rolled up to keep them tight. I usually add a rubber band around my shorts to stay put.

How to fold pants

Pants Rolling

The process is simple for pants. Lay your pants out on a flat surface like the floor.

Next, fold one pant leg over the other. About halfway up the top pant leg, angle it at about 90°.

Then, start rolling up from the bottom of the pant leg toward the waist. The pant leg you angled will be sticking out.

Last, fold the pant leg you left unrolled over the pants to ensure your roll holds. This form will prevent wrinkles and keep your pants fresh!

How to fold dresses

Dress Rolling

I don’t have personal experience packing dresses, so I consulted my long-time girlfriend on this one. Here are her brilliant instructions.

First, lay the dress out on a flat surface like you did the other clothes.

Next, fold down the top half of the dress to the middle. Then, fold each side toward the middle as you did with the t-shirts. Then, fold the dress in half vertically.

Last, roll it up from the bottom into a tight package. For dresses, you will need to use rubber bands to help keep them rolled up and to avoid wrinkles.

How to fold underwear and socks

For underwear, follow a similar process to the one described for packing shorts.

Fold the waistband down, then fold the underwear in half horizontally. Last, roll up from the leg and wrap the waistband around the rolled underwear.

For socks, separate them into individual socks. Then, roll up from the toe, and wrap the foothole around the rolled-up sock.

Pack these inside your shoes (if you have a pair you packed) to save space in your packing cubes.

Socks Rolling

Packing a suitcase or backpack to save space

So, you’ve learned how to fold your clothing. But what about actually packing your clothing?

After all, learning how to properly fold clothes for travel means nothing if you don’t pack them right.

For this, I strongly recommend packing cubes.

Packing cubes not only keep your clothes tight, rolled up and save space. But, they also give you organization.

How to fold clothes for travel? Fit them into a packing cube!

After all, with the different sizes, you can pack your shirts in one packing cube, pants in another, and underwear, socks, etc. in another. These are the best travel gear I (and other travelers) own.

They make it much easier to turn your packing list into a “packed” list. Packing cubes fit easily into your baggage and can be moved around to create more space when necessary.

I recommend Gonex packing cubes. They work fantastically and are durable. But, any brand will work as they all mostly do the same thing.

So, here are some top tips when using packing cubes to pack:

  1. Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane if possible
  2. Put your largest packing cube in the bottom of your bag
  3. If you’re using a backpack and bringing shoes, pack your shoes so they’re in the center of your back. This helps distribute weight better
  4. Try sitting your smaller packing cubes in your bag vertically for more space
  5. Find packing cubes that compress down even further with an extra zipper

So, you’ve learned how to fold clothes small for travel. What’s next?

And there’s your ultimate guide to folding. In this post, you learned how to fold clothes for a travel backpack, suitcase, or any other baggage you may own.

Hopefully, these tips will help you on your next trip.

Let me know what you think is the best tip, along with any other suggestions you may have! I’m always trying to improve my packing and keep an eye out for the best tips.

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.