Bags can say a lot about the travelers who drag, roll and carry them around.
Whether you’re going home for the holidays or taking a much-needed vacation, there is travel—and thus the ever-daunting task of packing—in your future.
Packing is pivotal. Forget an essential item and you’re left disappointed and scrambling to find the nearest store in your destination. Pack too much and you end up disorganized, burdened with heavy bags, and hemorrhaging money to pay for pricey airline baggage fees. So we thought it best to revisit the most basic—and most useful—packing rules.
Here are some fundamental packing strategies that every traveler should learn;
1. Roll, don’t Fold
Rolling is superior to folding. The best way to prevent creases and make the most of your space is to use the roll method. Lay tops facedown, fold in the sleeves, and roll from the bottom up. For pants, put the legs together and roll from the waist down. Once you’ve rolled everything, place pants and tops in your suitcase before shoes and accessories; then, fit in other oddly shaped items like hair tools.
2. Make a Packing List
When it comes to packing, procrastinators fall short. Start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your departure date; this gives you time to craft a complete list, plus purchase any additional items you might need for your vacation. Creating a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never, ever forget to bring something important.
3. Know your Airline’s Baggage-fee Policy
Figuring out the airlines’ tricky and befuddling baggage-fee policies is key to any budget-minded packing strategy. While most airlines permit travelers to check at least one bag on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights. Before you begin packing, take a peek at your airline’s website and read its baggage policy. This is something you might even want to do prior to buying your plane ticket, especially if you’re set on bringing a checked bag or two.
4. Pack the First Outfit you’ll Want to Wear on Top
If you know you’re getting off the plane and going straight to dinner or a meeting, plan your outfit and put it into your suitcase last. That way, when you arrive, you won’t have to dig through everything else to find it (plus, it will be less likely to wrinkle). This strategy is a great excuse to think about what you’ll wear in advance so you don’t make one of the biggest packing mistakes: waiting until the last minute to pack.
5. Cover your Footwear with Shoe Bags or Shower Caps
“You never want dirty shoes touching your clothes,” says Bromstad, adding that the smell can transfer as well. Keep dirty shoes from mucking things up by placing them in shoe bags or shower caps, which are available at most hotels.
6. Pack the Heaviest items Closest to the Wheels
One important rule of thumb is to keep all the heavy items like shoes and books stored towards the wheels so weight is distributed evenly. This placement helps your bag stay stable when upright, and stops other items from getting smushed.
7. Put Loose Wires in a Sunglasses Case
To avoid messy tangles with your various wires, roll them up tightly and throw them in a sunglasses case, which is easy to open/close and won’t allow them to move around on the go. You can also do the same with jewelry.
8. Put Breakables in Socks
When it comes to breakables, like a glass perfume bottle, take extra precautions by slipping it into a sock. This will also prevent it from scratching or catching on anything.
9. Keep the Important Medication in your Purse
Even if you plan to carry on your bag, there’s still a risk you could have to check it at the gate. If your meds are in your purse, you’ll have what you need even if the overhead bin space fills up and you end up having to check your bag.
10. Capitalize on Empty Space
Every nook and cranny counts! So look for underutilized space, like the insides of shoes, for small essentials like headphones or change purses.
11. Pack Dual-Purpose Garments
If it’s two-in-one, it’s one less thing to pack. Dual-purpose items, such as pants that turn into shorts or a jacket that turns into a travel pillow are worth their weight in airline baggage fees.
12. Put your Toiletries in a Transparent Bag
Keep your toiletries and makeup in a see-through pouch. It will not only keep things confined in case of a leak, but you’ll be able to see everything in one place, without digging through/mussing up your suitcase.
13. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
As long as it’s empty, it’s okay to bring a water bottle through airport security. Once you’re inside the terminal, fill it up at an airport cafe or water station. You’ll stay hydrated, and it’s greener than having to buy plastic water bottles while site-seeing.
14. Bring two Small Laundry Bags
Use one for lights and one for darks. If you forget, grab plastic bags from your hotel room’s closet. When you get home, throw the presorted loads in the wash. Other Cleaning Lab must-haves: two-gallon resealable bags for wet bathing suits and an instant stain remover.
15. Choose a Practical Suitcase with Standout Details
Losing your luggage is the ultimate packing pitfall, and it’s all the more likely when your suitcase blends in with thousands of others. Brand your bag with unique name tags or opt for a style in a bright color or print. Remember: it’s an extension of your personal style.
“Your luggage is a reflection of yourself so they should be stylish, practical, lightweight, and most definitely durable,” says Bromstad.
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