How to Pack a Suitcase
Packing may seem simple, but it is a science with rules that travelers often learn the hard way over thousands of miles on the road. Doing it strategically can be the difference between a harried vacation with countless detours to local drugstores and a streamlined one with everything you need at your fingertips. Here’s our shortcut to packing the right way: how to find the best suitcase, minimize your load, pack what you need on a beach trip or a business trip and cut down on wrinkles.
1. The bigger your suitcase, the more you will put into it: The simplest way to avoid bringing too many things is to buy a hard-sided suitcase, no more than 22 inches tall (so it can work as a carry-on) with a structured shell so you can’t squeeze in any extras.
2. Do the clothing countdown: If you need a mantra to help streamline your wardrobe, use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rule for a week-long trip: Limit yourself to no more than five sets of socks and underwear, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one hat. The list should be adjusted to suit your needs. Throw in a swimsuit and exercise gear or a suit jacket and dress if you’ll need them.
3. Lay out what you think you’ll need, then edit ruthlessly: “Think twice about everything you want to put in your bag,” said Ben Nickel-D’Andrea, who writes about flying first-class with his husband, Jon Nickel-D’Andrea, at No Mas Coach!, part of the Boarding Area blogger network. The jet-setting couple once flew to Morocco for nine days with only carry-on bags and backpacks. “Fully get rid of the ‘just in case I need it’ category,” he said. “If and when you need it, you can buy it.”
4. Think Tetris: The best way to fit everything into one bag: Fill every inch of space. For example, footwear should be stuffed with socks. Then lay your shoes together heel to toe at the bottom of your suitcase in a plastic shopping bag to protect clothes from dirt.
How exactly you arrange everything in your suitcase is a matter of personal preference.
Here are some popular strategies:
- Roll your clothes. This helps to maximize space and minimize wrinkles.
- Use packing cubes. These smaller bags help you keep your clothes compact and your outfits ordered.
- Try the bundle technique. Carefully wrap each article of clothing around a central core, with underwear and T-shirts at the center, and large tailored items like blazers and dresses as the outer layer.
5. Keep liquids in easy reach: “Toiletries should always be placed on top of your suitcase in a clear bag since you never know when T.S.A. might be interested in looking,” said Matthew Klint, a frequent flyer and the award expert at Live and Let’s Fly.
6. Never unpack your toiletries: “I recommend keeping a separate toiletry kit for travelling,” said Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Keeping a set of bathroom products already packed also ensures that you don’t forget a toothbrush or contact lens case that you might use the morning of takeoff, she said. “Keep these items in a small pouch or box in the corner of a cabinet or drawer for easy access when packing for a trip.” To streamline what you need, consider all-in-one options like BB creams, which combine foundation, moisturizer and sunblock. To prevent leakage, double up that plastic bag.