I’d always been a reluctant traveler, concerned with what taking a trip would do to the daily routine I’d worked so hard to sustain. My Type A personality caused me to take “there’s no place like home” to a whole new—and probably unhealthy—level. This all changed when I learned how to pack a suitcase: it kept my Type A personality busy while simultaneously taking away every excuse I’d make to get out of traveling, allowing me to experience… well, experiences.
Trust me, when you know how to pack a suitcase, you’re so ready for your adventure to start you literally strut to the airport. Bring. It. On.
Make sure you provide yourself with plenty of time to pack for your trip. In other words, don’t leave your packing until the night before (or the morning before if you’re uber-crazy). The more time you have to pack, the less likely you’ll find yourself carting around unnecessary items and forgetting necessary ones. (I won’t even get into the toothbrush incident of ’02.)
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to pack your suitcase so efficiently, nothing will get in the way of you putting your feet up when you’ve reached your destination.
1. Choose proper luggage.
How long is your trip going to be? Is it a business trip or a personal getaway?
Answering these two questions will help you determine the size and type of luggage you’ll need to take with you. If you’re going away for the weekend, you’ll only need a tote bag, whereas a 10-day excursion will require a snazzy suitcase on wheels.
2. Check the weather.
While no weather forecast is 100 percent accurate, having a general idea of what the weather’s going to be like during your trip will help you decide on the clothes you should pack.
Print out your forecast from The Weather Network and set it by your suitcase for when you’re choosing outfits. Download their app to your phone or tablet so you can also keep tabs during your travels.
3. Go over your itinerary.
What will you be doing on your trip? It’s important to not only pack for what you’re definitely doing, but for spontaneous celebrations and events that might pop up.
If you’re planning your trip through a travel agent, he/she can supply you with a solid amount of information on recommended dress requirements for your destination. Travel brochures and websites are also helpful.
Have your family or friends visited where you’re going? Ask them what they packed (or wished they packed). If you can’t get in touch with them, see if they have photo albums from their trip on Facebook to help spark ideas.
4. Create an itemized checklist.
One of the best tools to keep my Type A personality at bay during the packing process is a detailed checklist of what I need to bring. Otherwise, I’d be so paranoid about forgetting something, I’d pack my entire bedroom and bathroom.
It’s also a great way to put your trip into perspective. As soon as you’re done your list, you’ll immediately start slashing what’s unnecessary. Bonus tip: take your list with you to make sure you don’t leave anything behind on your way home.
If you’re someone who doesn’t travel often (like me), use a suggested list of items as a starting point. The two best I’ve found are courtesy of Squawkfox and The Art of Manliness.
5. Invest in travel gear.
Most grooming accessories and hygiene products are available in travel sizes. Some recommend purchasing your toiletries at your destination to save space, but if you’re picky about your beauty routine (again, like me), do yourself a solid and make sure you have on hand:
- a mini brush and comb
- travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste
- mini zip-top bags for jewelry
- travel-sized bottles for your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizer, etc.
- large zip-top bags for your bottles in case they leak, and your shoes
- a second set of chargers for your laptop/tablet and cell phone specifically for travel
- a mini hair dryer (which doubles as a steamer if any clothing ends up wrinkled)
Pack these items in an outside pocket or at the top of your case so no pressure is put on them, and they can easily be accessed at airport security.
6. Pack outside your suitcase.
Collect everything on your itemized list and place the items around your suitcase so you can decide what will make the cut.
Focus on basic neutral colors such as black, white, grey, navy, and accent prints. The more versatile your clothing, the easier it will be to mix and match outfits, and therefore you won’t have to pack as much.
Choose versatile styles of clothing made of fabric that doesn’t wrinkle easy. Eight versatile pieces that blend well together will create up to 24 different outfits! For example, a tank top and pair of comfy shorts can double as pajamas, and a big t-shirt can double as both a nightie and cover-up for the beach.
Use accents such as jewelry and scarves to pump up the volume on your outfits—they barely take up any space!
When it comes to shoes, wear your heaviest shoes and choose comfortable, light ones to pack.
7. Remove your pet.
By now, your pet is likely sensing you’re going on a trip and is trying to make you feel very guilty about it.
8. Pack awkward items first.
Pack items likes shoes, blow dryers, and purses around the outer perimeter, and work your way in. Perfect the use of the nook and cranny: use the odd-shaped cracks between these items to tuck in your socks, bathing suits, and belts.
Stuff your undergarments in your shoes to both maximize space, and keep your shoes from squishing.
This process helps to evenly distribute the weight of your items so nothing ends up broken/crushed during your trip.
9. Master folding techniques.
Organize your clothes in bundles: tank tops in one, tees in another, shorts in another, and so forth.
Roll each bundle (thicker items such as sweaters will have to be rolled individually).
Not only does this save space, it decreases the chance of wrinkles.
Place each bundle side-by-side in your suitcase.
10. Wear bulky items there and back.
If you wear your bulkier items—such as your coat, jeans and sweater—as opposed to packing them, this will save loads of space in your suitcase. Plus, dressing in layers offers you the convenience of adding or discarding them depending on the temperature.
11. Leave room for souvenirs.
You know as well as I do you’ll want to bring home souvenirs from your trip for your home, family and friends. Make sure to leave room for such items.
12. Organize your carry-on.
Consider your carry-on an emergency kit: if you were to ever lose your luggage or get stuck at the airport, what essentials would you need to have with you to enjoy your trip no matter what happens? Here are just some of the items you should consider including in your carry-on:
- prescribed medication
- anti-nausea, pain killers, antacid
- ointment, Immodium, bug spray, Benadryl
- prescription glasses and sunglasses
- bottled water and snacks
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- swimsuit and sunscreen