Packing a suitcase is like doing a jigsaw puzzle—in order to maximize space, everything needs to fit together perfectly. Packing efficiently makes traveling a much less stressful event. The last thing you want is to arrive in a foreign city, unpack your suitcase and discover that your phone charger is missing, not to mention the dress pants you needed for a business meeting or the swimsuit you wanted for the hotel pool.
By making a plan and knowing how to pack properly, all sorts of travel headaches and hotel meltdowns can be avoided. Here are a few suggestions on packing your suitcase to suit you.
Gather First, Then Pack
Don’t start throwing things straight in the suitcase. Plan before you pack. Gather all the items and garments you anticipate needing first, mix and match a few different ensembles and then put half of them back. Or to put it another way: make a pile of clothes, and then edit it. Once clothes are in the suitcase, editing can be tricky.
According to Kathleen Ameche, author of “The Woman Road Warrior,” for a five-day trip, you should pack five shirts, two pairs of slacks or jeans and a skirt. Choose knits, wools and cottons as these fabrics are versatile and more inclined to resist wrinkles. Remember: you don’t need at outfit for each day; you need pieces that are interchangeable and compatible.
The Suitcase as a Three-Layer Cake
There’s an art to packing a suitcase. Everything needs to be in the right order. Think of a suitcase as a three-layer cake. The heaviest items—shoes, sweaters, toiletry kits and coats—should be packed first. When heavy items are packed along the spine of the suitcase the weight is better balanced and the suitcase is easier to roll (socks and rolled-up belts can be stuffed in shoes to save space).
For the next layer, add jeans, slacks, shorts, skirts, dress shirts and blazers. These items are made of stiffer fabrics, so they should be carefully folded.
Finally, small, soft items such as underwear, lingerie, T-shirts, pajamas or any other delicate garment should go in the suitcase last. In order to maximize space, these soft garments should be rolled, not folded. It’s an old military trick that frequent flyers swear by. However, be sure to roll the items carefully, as fewer rolls take up less space and minimize creasing. The rolled items can then be stacked tightly in cubes. Finally, put Bounce dryer sheets between layers of clothes to keep everything in your suitcase smelling fresh.
Packing Tips, Tricks and Strategies
Every traveler has baggage, but no two travelers pack their suitcase the same way. For every businessman who turns his jackets inside out and folds them in half with tissue paper to prevent wrinkles, there’s another who thinks that sort of attention to detail is a waste of time. In other words, you need to pack your suitcase to suit you. Still, these tips and tricks will help you avoid unnecessary hassle.
- Bring a mesh or collapsible laundry bag for dirty laundry or wet swimsuits.
- Use tissue paper or plastic dry cleaner bags between layers of clothing to prevent items from getting wrinkled and damaged.
- Place all breakables in bubble wrap. It’s an easy way to keep your souvenirs safe during a flight. You don’t want that nice bottle of Italian wine or French perfume breaking in your suitcase.
- Women should pack a waterproof beauty bag for make-up and cosmetics. As for jewelry, Cosmopolitan suggests setting it between two sheets of plastic wrap to prevent it from moving around and getting tangled in the bag. Or, put one side of a necklace through a plastic straw and then clasp the necklace to prevent tangling.
Electronics and Chargers
There’s nothing worse than forgetting a charger—especially if you’re in a foreign country where electronic stores are scarce and gadgets expensive. How will you function with a dead phone? According to the Daily Mail, the average person spends 8 hours and 41 minutes on electronic devices (that’s more time that most people spend sleeping!).
Instead of packing several charging blocks for your electronics, pack one multi-port USB charger. A multi-port charger enables you to charge your phone, iPad, camera and whatever other electronic devices you bring along. In addition, you’ll only need to use one outlet in the hotel room. As a digital nomad, it’s time to consolidate chargers.
How to Pack a Carry-On and Avoid Checked Luggage
Checked luggage can be a hassle. Airlines are notorious for losing bags, and the fees for checking luggage are sky-high (most domestic airlines charge at least $25 to check a bag). In 2015, 23.1 million bags were mishandled worldwide, which amounts to roughly 6.5 bags per 1,000 travelers. According to Anne McAlpin, a packing expert and author of “Pack It Up: Travel Smart, Pack Light,” it’s possible to travel to any destination with only a carry-on.
- Choose a soft carry-on bag instead of a carry-on with a hard case. It’s not only easier to get a soft bag into an overhead compartment, but its slight give enables you to pack more inside.
- Minimize the toiletries. Instead of packing large quantities of lotion, shampoo and conditioner, take advantage of the toiletries the hotel offers. When packing liquids, remember to use TSA-approved sizes. Many TSA-approved containers have spill-proof, no-drip valves. The last thing you want is to unpack your clothes and find they’re covered in spilled shampoo. There are also a growing number of non-liquid toiletries on the market.
- Choose a travel color scheme. The idea is that you want to be able to put together several different looks from a minimal amount of tops and bottoms. According to Kathleen Ameche, the average 22-inch carry-on holds roughly two pairs of jeans, three sweaters, two dresses and five shirts.
- Wear your favorite jeans on the plane. Jeans are heavy and bulky, so avoid packing a pair in your carry-on (And don’t even think about packing a second pair, especially if you’re going somewhere warm. You’ll never wear them!).
From new hacks to old standbys, take the pain out of packing and travel like a pro with these easy tips.