You know the scene. You’re at the airport, and you have to check a bag or print a boarding pass. Somewhere in the check-in area, there will be – there seemingly always is – a family with about 19 massive bags and all kinds of different rolling devices and ways to transport them from A to B. The father and mother typically look annoyed at the pace of service. The kids are using the bags as some kind of base for a game or fort. You just have that one roller for a domestic trip. You wonder how a family can generate so much luggage.
There has to be a more effective system, right?
If you’ve ever wondered this, you’re not alone. A Google search for “how to pack better” yields roughly 316 million results, including this Taste of Blue article (focused on packing carry-ons).
In those 316 million results, is there a consensus? Can this mysterious art truly be mastered? Let’s take a deeper dive with these travel packing tips.
Picking the Right Bag
This is where it all begins. What type of trip is this, and what’s the duration? If it’s more outdoor-focused, then duffel bags and backpacks make perfect sense. If it’s a three-day business trip to Chicago, an elegant roller and one other bag for dress clothes is a better bet.
Carry-on size limits vary by airline. So research those beforehand if you plan on just using a carry-on. (One of the only things more exasperating than the family with 19 bags is the traveler trying to shove a massive bag into the overhead in a crowded aisle on a flight that’s already delayed.)
If you’re unsure of what type of bag to take on a specific type of trip, ask your travel advisor. Don’t have one? Taste of Blue can help. Also crowd-source your friends who either (a) travel a good deal or (b) have been to a specific location. They’ll have smart travel packing tips for you.
The Planning Process
Make a day-by-day plan. You may not stick to it, but you need a baseline. To do this:
- Check the weather of where you’re traveling each day
- Consult your itinerary, ideally co-created with an advisor
- What days are you doing fancier activities vs. more casual activities?
- When will you need to ‘dress to impress’ at a dinner vs. eating alongside a beach?
- Are there several days where the range of activities would necessitate a few attire changes?
- What’s the total duration of the trip? (That’s generally a good base number to use for “underwear” and “socks,” FYI.)
Now Compile a List
Once you have your plan, make a list of every item you need to bring. The list ensures you never forget to bring something important and reduces that panic of last-minute packing. Include even those ‘duh’ items, like a toothbrush and comb.
Lay It All Out
Lay out all the items from your list where you can get an overview. A bed works well. You can easily see if you’re forgetting anything. And you can also see what you might be able to leave at home for a lighter bag.
Determine Your In-Transit Outfit
With a strategic travel ensemble, you’ll have less to pack. This varies by gender. For females, it typically involves walkable shoes, a large travel tote and multiple layers. For males? Channel Steve McQueen.
Some people swear by packing with compression sacs. They condense your clothes into a tight bundle and save suitcase space.
Others love packing cubes. Each type of garment gets its own cube. They help you organize your clothing, configure everything in your suitcase and easily unpack at your destination.
Then there are stuff sacks. One of the more popular packing articles on Google is from Matador Network. The article recommends using stuff sacks to organize your clothes. You can put t-shirts in one, pants in another, shoes in a series of two or three. You can also buy compression sacks that reduce the size of the items in the bag.
Or go simple and use clear plastic zip lock bags. They organize your clothing, help you see what you want inside your suitcase, prevent leaks from liquids and keep stuff dry. They also come in handy in a multitude of other ways. Pack bags in different sizes:
Big ones are great for organizing items like underwear or t-shirts in a single bag.
Small ones are handy for packing little items that might get lost in the suitcase.
Bring spares for various uses during your travels: dirty laundry, new acquisitions, wet swimsuits, snacks on the go.
Roll Softer Garments, Fold Stiffer Ones
There’s some disagreement on the Internet about how best to pack stiffer garments (think clothes that would need to be dry-cleaned). But the general consensus is that underwear, t-shirts, jeans, and other knit clothing won’t wrinkle if rolled tightly. You can even roll garments in tissue paper to further combat wrinkles.
Shirts, blazers, dress pants, and the like should be folded carefully and placed above the rolled clothes in the suitcase. More delicate items, such as evening wear, should go on top.
Solving the Shoe Issue
Ah, shoes. We need them, yet they take up so much space in a bag. Pack as few pairs as you can get away with. Some experts advise no more than three, but your trip might call for more. Take the lightest pairs you can. If you can, leave the hiking boots behind. Pack shoes that do double duty for day or night. And think neutral: black or brown shoes will match more outfits than green.
To pack shoes, put them in bags to avoid getting the rest of your stuff dirty. Pack them along the bottom of the suitcase, with soles touching the suitcase’s bottom. Stuff smaller items inside them to save space and protect those items.
Get Visual Travel Packing Tips
If you’re a visual learner, YouTube is great for developing all types of skills. Packing is no different. In fact, YouTube offers some 200,000 videos on just that.
Consider these three options full of travel packing tips: