Though many would consider it a chore best left to the last minute, packing is a delicate blend of art and science. It takes an impressive degree of skill to roll a shirt so perfectly that it unfurls with barely the slightest hint of a wrinkled thread. Not to mention staying within the guidelines that airlines have laid out concerning baggage size and weight limitations.
Experienced travelers display an almost wizard-like quality in their uncanny spatial intelligence. They could be heading off on a month-long multinational trek and you’d never know it because all they have with them is a chic little carry-on bag that looks as though it has room to spare. And while it might seem impossible for you to go away for the weekend with anything less than Winnebago-sized trunk, you too can become a packing pro after you start incorporating a few of these tips.
12. Use the Right Piece of Luggage
This might mean it’s time for you to give up the matching leopard print suitcases with the frayed edges and shopping cart wheels. Most modern luggage designs include a variety divided sections, extra pouches, compression straps, 360-degree wheels and even digital tracking tags should they happen to become lost or stolen.
If you plan on bringing carry-on bags, make sure they’re not too big or too heavy since many airlines have recently started tightening their belts with the size and weight restrictions.
11. Pack Realistically
Just because you happen to be vacationing near a lake doesn’t mean you need to pack your rod and all your tackle in the off chance that you might go fishing. And even if you’re unsure of all the places you’ll go while traveling, you don’t need to pack a different outfit for every occasion. If you’re looking to avoid overpacking, the best thing you can do is think realistically about the things you’ll be doing and the items you’ll need. Anything that you’re thinking of bringing “just in case” can probably be left at home.
10. Use the 2:1 Ratio
Most people are more likely to re-wear a pair of bottoms than a top. So, to avoid overpacking, follow this simple rule: pack two different tops—like a sweater and a collared shirt—for every bottom. As for bottoms, you can never go wrong with denim and perhaps one or two dressier options.
9. Use Compression Bags When Packing an Exceptional Amount of Clothing
For all you clotheshorses out there, plastic travel compression bags help remove air from bulky clothing by rolling (no need for a vacuum cleaner). Some travelers swear by this packing tip because it allows you to pack a lot more in a limited space and, as an added bonus, you can use the bags to hold your dirty clothes on the way back. Some designs even let you wash the clothes directly in the bag. Just add some soap and water, give it good shake, and then throughly massage the bag. However, a word of caution, compression bags have been known to wrinkle thin fabrics, and using too many of them can result in you being charged a fee at the airport for an overweight bag.
8. Take Clothing Fabrics into Consideration
Depending on the nature of your trip, finding access to washing machines and ironing boards isn’t always easy when you’re traveling. If you’ve got the option, try to stick to materials that are stain and wrinkle resistant while avoiding materials that are especially odor absorbent. According to some of the travel experts on the website Tortuga Backpacks, some of the best fabric choices include quick-dry synthetic materials for underwear, lightweight merino wool for outerwear, and SmartWool socks.
7. Roll Your Clothes Instead of Folding Them
Rolling your clothes is probably the most essential tip for efficiently packing your suitcase. Not only does it conserve space, it reduces wrinkling and makes it easier to organize and find all the garments in your suitcase.
There are a few different methods you can use to roll your clothes nicely and neatly, but if you happen to be packing a lot of T-shirts, you should definitely try out the military roll technique to transform all those shirts into a bunch of tidy little cotton burritos.
6. Pack Your Heaviest Items Closest to the Suitcase Wheels
When using rolling luggage, it’s important to take into consideration the way in which the items in your suitcase will be balanced—especially when in motion. By placing the heaviest items near the wheels you can ensure that the weight will be properly distributed so your lighter items don’t get crushed and your suitcase won’t accidentally tip over while you’re waiting in line at the baggage check.
5. Replace Physical Items With Their Digital Version Whenever Possible
Taking along a lot of books, magazines and travel guides will really add a lot of weight to your luggage. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you should consider downloading things like ebooks, podcasts and digital maps. By doing so, you can lighten your luggage and also save yourself the trouble of having to carry around a bunch of paper once you reach your destination.
The one exception to this rule is when travel documents are concerned. Although it’s still a good idea to have digital versions of them as well, you could run into situations where printed versions are required.
4. Put a Few Dryer Sheets in Your Suitcase
To keep your clothes smelling laundry fresh, throw a few dryer sheets at the bottom of your suitcase. In fact, you might want to just bring the entire pack since dryer sheets can serve a multitude of purposes while traveling. Supposedly the ingredients in dryer sheets can act as an insect repellant. But don’t wipe the dryer sheet directly on your skin. Instead, just wipe it on your clothing and then tuck it in a pocket before stepping outside. And since dryer sheets are made of a soft material that doesn’t scratch, they’re perfect for cleaning the screens of laptops and other mobile electronic devices.
3. Put All of Your Toiletries in a Clear Bag
Keep your makeup and bathroom supplies in a see-through pouch. Doing so has two important benefits. First of all, in the event of a spill (toothpaste, sunscreen, perfume, etc.) the bag will contain the mess and save you the trouble of having to find a dry cleaner abroad. And secondly, the transparent bag should allow you to more easily find the specific item you’re looking for without having to rummage around your suitcase and turn it into a disorganized mess.
2. Find a Convenient Place for Small and Breakable Items
To avoid losing jewelry and other small items while on the go, find a small container like an empty tin of mints or an unused glasses case to put them in. The same type of container could also be used to organize various wires like earbuds and charging cables so they don’t get all tangled up and mixed in with rest of your stuff. And when it comes to breakables, such as a glass bottle of cologne, you can provide a little added protection for them by slipping them into a sock before packing.
1. Leave a Little Extra Space for Souvenirs
If you’re on vacation, chances are you’ll want to do a bit of shopping and bring something home that commemorates the trip. However, people rarely take this into consideration when they’re in the packing stage. Remember to leave a little bit of extra room in your bag for all the frivolous foreign trinkets you’ll inevitably be carting home. However, should you find that you don’t even have a spare inch of space left in your luggage, you could always look into shipping your souvenirs back home. Although it might sound like a costly alternative, especially if overseas travel is involved, sometimes the fees that result from overweight baggage can be even greater than the parcel shipping costs.