Whether you’re headed to Spain, Sudan, or Switzerland, you can never underestimate the importance of proper packing. How you pack can set the tone for your trip. If you’ve ever arrived at your destination only to find your suitcase splattered with the remains of a shaving cream explosion, you know this to be true.
Here is how to pack like an expert:
- Make a checklist of every item you plan to take on your trip: clothing, shoes, toiletries, maps, guidebooks, reading material, and hotel and rental car information. Include even items you do not intend to pack. Murphy’s Law dictates that if you forget something, it will likely be an important item such as your plane ticket or housekeys.
- Check your luggage prior to packing to ensure it is empty (especially if the luggage is not yours) as you are responsible for its contents when you pass through customs. It is better to be safe than sorry. Once you have packed, consider using tamper evident products to seal your case, so you can check if your luggage arrives without being breached before you go on to clear customs.
- Review your checklist to determine whether there are any items you can remove to lighten your load. Will you really need three pairs of shoes? And two coats? Consider the weather and what kinds of activities you will be doing.
- Buy travel-size containers for your toiletries, regardless of the length of your trip. Unless you will be in a remote location for weeks, you can always drop into a local shop to restock your supply of soap and toothpaste.
- Begin packing your luggage, checking off each item on your list as you go.
- Pack clothing using the time-honored “roll” technique. Lay two or three items on top of one another, smooth to flatten, and roll them up like you would a sleeping bag to save space and prevent wrinkles. For added wrinkle insurance, place a sheet of heavy tissue or packing paper between items of clothing before rolling.
- Pack sweaters and underwear in reusable compression bags, which can create up to 75% more space in your luggage. (They lock in odors, so they also work for storing dirty laundry, but make sure they are dry.)
- Enclose toiletry containers in airtight plastic bags to prevent contents from spilling into your suitcase in the event of a leak. Wrap socks or pajamas around breakable items to cushion them.
- Plan to bring a snack on the plane in case you get very hungry. Bring a snack like a bag of pretzels or something (avoid peanuts as these can cause allergic reactions in other passengers). Pack it in your small suitcase. It’s wise to bring a larger snack if you have allergies or conditions that call for certain foods (e.g. gluten-free or nut-free).
- In the other big suitcases pack a diary and a pen you can write in during your trip. When you come back you will want to see what you did on your trip.
- Do not bring any cigarettes because the airport security guards won’t let you bring it on the airplane.
- Inside the suitcase with the diary and pen, pack one travel size game if you’re traveling with someone else.
- Put your cellphone in your pocket and bring a purse with you (if you are a woman.)
- Stretch your travel wardrobe by color-matching. If you simply make sure every piece of clothing you pack works with every other piece, you can create a host of mix-and-match possibilities and no one will be the wiser.
- Going abroad? Make a photocopy of your passport and store it separately from the original. If you lose your real passport, having a copy will speed the replacement process.
- Avoid overpacking. Do you really need 4 t-shirts for an overnight?
- If you’re going to be bored, be sure to include things like books or games to keep you occupied and happy.
- Keep in touch with your friends with stationery!
- Wear your heaviest clothing such as jeans, running shoes/tennis shoes, sweatshirt to save on space. Consider replacing your jeans with light-weight travel pants which take less space and dry quickly.
- Pack neatly. When folding your clothes to put in your suitcase, fold them neatly and don’t just throw them in. Try to be space conserving. When you fold neatly it’ll definitely give you some more space! Also, try to use every part of your suitcase (every gap between objects or so).