How To Pack a Suitcase

by Updated January 29, 2009

We spend countless hours planning a trip - reading guidebooks, getting ideas and recommendations from friends, checking out the best places to visit by searching the Internet.  Then when the big day approaches, we grab a bunch of clothes, chuck them in a suitcase and off we go.  Either that, or we stand in our bedroom, empty suitcases lined up, and have no idea what to pack and stressed to the max.  Maybe you put stuff in, take it out again, put other stuff in, take it out again... 

Packing doesn't have to be a big deal, but if you don't take the time to plan a little, you'll either spend hours stressing over what to pack, or you'll arrive at your destination with a case full of clothes that are too crumpled to wear, and you probably won't wear half of them anyway.

When it comes to packing, less is good.  Forget the idea of taking half a dozen suitcases with you; apart from the fact that youll probably pay a lot extra to take it on the plane, chances are you won't even wear most of the clothes you take anyway.  Aim to take one checked suitcase and one carry-on as the maximum.  If nothing else, when you get to your destination you'll have a lot less luggage to worry about, and it will be much easier to move it around yourself if you need to.  The modern suitcases with wheels are great, but make sure it also has a strap so you can carry it by hand if necessary.  After all, wheels can break!

One important thing to remember - you don't need ten pairs of shoes!  It might be tempting to pack a pair for every outfit or occasion, but it's definitely not necessary.  Take your favorite sneakers (or boots) for outdoor activities, one slightly dressier pair that goes with anything for dinners or other slightly more up market activities.  If you're going to the beach or somewhere warm, add a reasonably nice pair of sandals that can be worn on the beach or at dinner.  That's it!  Shoes take up space, are heavy, and only the minimum is really necessary.

For clothing, try to co-ordinate your clothing as much as possible.  If you have a pair of shorts that matches three different tops, great.  Much better than taking three complete sets.  If you need heavier clothing, such as a jacket, then take just one that goes with everything, rather than a jacket per outfit.  It's also good to choose clothes that can be worn both during the day and in the evening.  Work out how many days you will be traveling, and pack half that many outfits.  So if you're traveling for 10 days, take 5 outfits.  Most clothes can be worn twice with a quick spruce up.  Always take enough underwear and socks to last the distance, though, to minimize the need to do laundry.  If you're gone for more than 14 days, just accept that you will need to do some laundry; otherwise you'll be weighted down with luggage.

Now that you're ready to start putting clothes into your suitcase, just remember one word - rolling.  If you want to avoid wrinkles and pack as much as possible into your suitcase, rolling is the key.  First, fold your clothes in half in the long direction, and then roll them as tightly and smoothly as possible.  Place all the rolled clothes side by side in the suitcase.  Stuff underwear and socks into your shoes, and place them on top of your clothes within a plastic bag.

You also need to pack your toiletries carefully.  The last thing you need is a suitcase full of clothes covered in shampoo.  Choose travel size containers of your favorite toiletries, or transfer some of the contents of a big bottle into a smaller container.  Put each item into a zip-lock bag.  Once all the items are inside your toiletries bag, put that inside at least two plastic bags as well.  I know, it sounds excessive, but if one container breaks in transit, you'll be very glad you made the effort.  For make-up, keep it to a minimum. If you're taking prescription medicine, always keep it in its original packaging, and preferably carry the prescription itself or a note from your doctor.  Always take essential medicines in your carry-on bag, just in case your luggage goes astray.

When you first read these tips, you might think that there's no way you could travel with so little luggage.  But give it a go, and you'll be amazed just how little you really need to take when you travel.



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