Please Don’t Put Your Suitcase on the Bed, Ever

The real reason there’s a luggage rack in your hotel room.

Welcome to AFAR Answers: a deep dive into all your unanswered travel questions. First up: Why are there luggage racks in hotel rooms?

For years, I had the same packing routine: Pull my hard-shell roller suitcase from under my bed, toss it on my duvet, and fill it with clothes. Once I checked into my hotel or Airbnb, unless a luggage rack had been set up somewhere convenient, I’d throw my luggage onto the bed again and pull out the things I needed for the night before chucking it all on the floor. But that all changed in 2019.

After Netflix released Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, we tapped the organizing expert for her packing tips. At the end of the interview, Kondo said whenever she returns from a trip she unpacks immediately and wipes the wheels of her suitcase before returning her luggage to her closet.

As I read those words, my mind spun. While I’ve tried (and failed) to unpack as soon as I get home, I had never wiped down the wheels of my luggage. I immediately thought of all the places my suitcase had been. Its wheels have touched New York City and New Orleans sidewalks, rolled across London Tube platforms, and been dragged through sand and mud on the Indonesian island of Gili Trawangan.

When I finally cleaned my suitcase with Clorox wipes, I was appalled. It took about two or three wipes each to get all the dirt, gunk, and unseen germs off of four little wheels.

Hotel bed with throw across the foot and suitcase on top of it

If you’ve ever wondered why that little bed scarf some hotels use at the foot of the bed exists—just think of how many people unpack their bags on the beds.

Photo by Shutterstock

Why didn’t anyone—well, besides Marie—warn us? I’m certainly not the only one throwing my suitcase on a bed. Back in 2019, a search for “packing suitcase” on a stock photo site delivered more than 38,000 results. Of the roughly 100 images on the first page of results, 31 photos depicted travelers—businessmen, young women, families, and elderly couples alike—packing a suitcase on top of a bed. Only 11 photos showed people—including one pregnant woman—packing a bag on the floor.

But in the five years since I first published this article, it appears I have gotten through to many people. A recent poll of AFAR staff showed that most of us either packed on the floor (44 percent), on a luggage rack (38 percent), and other nonbed methods (6 percent) like balancing it on top of a hamper. However, 12 percent of AFAR’s staff still pack their suitcase on the bed. AFAR’s social media audience told a similar story. From a poll of just over 2,600 people on AFAR’s Instagram stories, most people either packed on the floor (41 percent), on a luggage rack (40 percent), or other nonbed methods (3 percent). A small portion of AFAR’s readers still pack their suitcase on the bed (16 percent).

To those I haven’t gotten through to yet, here’s why you should always use the luggage rack in your hotel room. It’s unclear exactly when they were invented, but they likely became popular in the late 19th century, when travelers started carrying hand-held suitcases rather than hefty trunks. Until wheeled luggage was invented in the 1970s, porters typically handled suitcases, ferrying them from point A to B. What once was a handy way to access your clothing without having to sit on the floor—or completely unpack your bag into a hotel room dresser—is also now the best way to keep your germy bag away from the place you’re sleeping.

And as bedbugs become more of a global issue, keeping your suitcase on a luggage rack reduces your risk of encountering those little life ruiners. However, Rob Anderson, an associate professor who researches blood-feeding pests like bedbugs in the biology department at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, takes it one step further.

“In theory, trying to keep a suitcase from touching walls and carpet and beds, et cetera, might reduce the likelihood of bedbugs ‘climbing aboard’ because the luggage has reduced points of contact, but bedbugs, as with most insects, can climb really well,” Anderson says. But Anderson says he now recommends that people keep their luggage inside a large-volume garbage bag with a tight closure when staying in hotels.

If that’s not a feasible solution, a luggage rack is better than nothing. If one isn’t set up when you arrive in your room, there’s typically one in the closet. (Shout-out to the Yotel San Francisco: Because of the pod-size rooms, there are no closets to store luggage racks. When I stayed there in 2019, I loved using the handy built-in luggage shelf that makes accessing your bag easy without needing to put it on the bed.)

Luggage rack with black suitcase open on top of it

Amazon also sells affordable luggage racks you can keep in your bedroom to keep your comforters clean.

Photo by Shutterstock

Once you’re back home, there are a few alternatives to packing your bag on the floor. If you use packing cubes, it’s easiest to lay out what you want to pack and fold it all into the cubes on the bed. Then just organize the cubes in the suitcase on the floor. If you want to avoid the floor entirely and don’t mind the extra laundry, throw a spare towel across the bed and pack your luggage on top of that.

Amazon sells a variety of luggage racks for $100 or less; you can keep one in your closet and pull it out when you pack. It also doesn’t hurt to get one for your guest room: It’s easier than getting into an argument with your mother-in-law about why you don’t want her suitcase on your white comforter.

Buy now: Amhancible Folding Luggage Rack, $30 for set of two,

This article originally appeared online in 2019; it was updated on March 14, 2024, to include current information.

Lyndsey Matthews is the former senior commerce editor at Afar, covering travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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