Figuring out what to pack can be an adventure in itself. Figuring out how to pack is an art form. Get it right and you won’t be scrambling to find a toothbrush or washing socks in the hotel sink at 3am after realizing you forgot to pack extras. Get it wrong and you’ll catch yourself cursing the bewildering logic that forced you to iron in your hotel room at midnight. Even the most seasoned traveler can get weighed down with packing stress, but have no fear: we have some effective strategies for even the most bewildered packer:
Pack For the Best Case Scenario: You know what they always say: less is more. Instead of packing for the worst case scenario, pack for the best—a simple trip to the store can easily buy your way out of most jams. A general rule of thumb is to pack three tops for every bottom. This is easier to pull off if you pick a color scheme. Start with a few neutrals for your bottoms and choose two to three brighter shades for your tops. The rule of threes also applies to shoes: one casual and one dressy pair, plus a pair of sneakers is more than enough for most travelers (yes, even you ladies!).
Pro Tip: Still unsure what to bring? Packing apps like Packpoint will do all the guesswork for you. Simply tell it where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, and how long you’ll be there; and, in return, you’ll get a personalized list of what you’ll need to bring with you.
Choose Fabrics Wisely: It’s hard to imagine anyone who likes ironing at home, let alone when they travel. The good news? The fabrics you choose can drastically affect your ironing fate. For example, cotton mixed with polyester or spandex will hold up in your suitcase better than 100 percent cotton. Non-iron dress shirts are also a great option. Even if you need to touch them up with the iron, the wrinkles tend to come out easily. Not sure what’s what when it comes to fabric? When in doubt, scrunch the material in your hand to see if it crumples easily…then make your decision.
Pro Tip: The longer clothes stay stashed in your suitcase, the deeper creases get.
Roll, Don’t Fold: Now the real question: should you fold or roll? While this seems to spark some controversy in the packing world, many experts agree that rolling is the way to go. You’ll be amazed at how much room you’ll save, and bonus: this method also reduces wrinkles. The key is to not only roll everything as tightly as possible, but to lay them flat and fold along their natural seams first (you don’t want to roll in wrinkles!). One exception to the rule: stiff, wrinkle-prone garments such as starched shirts and dress jackets …these items are usually better off folded.
Pro Tip: Got a fancy dress or suit that needs to stay in tip top shape? Consider a garment bag suitcase combo as your carry-on item. Some models also moonlight as a closet with a hanger bar.
Use the Cake Layer Technique: When packing your suitcase, it helps to think of it as a three layer cake (remember, there’s magic in threes!). Like a layered cake, your base should be the heaviest – your jeans, sweaters, shoes, etc. If you folded some items per our previous tip, these can serve as your middle layer; otherwise simply place your rolled, medium-weight items here. The top layer should always be reserved for draping your lighter, more delicate items (like dress pants depending on their length, skirts and blouses). Remember to cover each of the three layers with a dry cleaning bag. Why? The bag’s slippery surface prevents clothes from staying in one place long enough for creases to set (like Botox!).
Pro Tip: If you must bring fragile items, pack them in the center of your case so they’re less likely to break.
Fill the Nooks and Crannies: Things like socks can be stuffed inside of dress shoes to save space and to prevent them from getting crushed. Under garments, bathing suits and books can help add structure and stability to the open sides of your suitcase. Belts can be snaked around the perimeter of your bag. Toiletries can be grouped by product type into ziptop bags and tucked on the side corners, inside netting or even zippered outside pockets. Much like clothing, toiletry conundrums can usually be saved with a trip to the store or your hotel’s front desk.
Pro Tip: Never pack medication, your passport, wallet or other valuables in your checked luggage. These are items you always want close by in the event your luggage is lost or stolen.