Whether you’re traveling south for some warm weather, exploring Europe, or just getting away for a long weekend, you’ll need to pack a bag, at least.
Traveling by car is the easiest option, as there aren’t space restrictions. The opposite is true when you fly, as you must decide whether you’ll pay the fee to check your bag or use a carry-on.
I’ve traveled both ways and have developed this guideline. It will be a carry-on (which has segued into my backpack) if I’ll be the one responsible for schlepping my luggage — lifting it in and out of taxis, cars, buses, or boats and up and down flights of stairs in hotels and subways. If I’m going on a tour and they’ll be handling my luggage, however, I’ll check my bag.
Travel catalogs like TravelSmith.com or magellans.com sell space-saving items such as pouches, cubes, trays, and organizers for your clothes and toiletries. Drugstores sell individual disposable plastic pill pockets that make taking your daily pills convenient.
If you’re flying, wear your heaviest shoes on the plane, even if you have to unlace them to go through security. Wear or carry your coat to save the added weight.
There’s an adage that has some truth: Take away half of what you plan to take, and you’re still taking too much. With this in mind, lay everything you plan to take on a bed before putting anything into your suitcase.
Then stuff small underwear, socks, and inexpensive jewelry inside your shoes to save space and prevent your shoes from getting squished. If these small items don’t fit, lay them aside until later. Put your shoes in plastic supermarket bags, which will come in handy when you need to pack a damp bathing suit or washcloth. All these items go in the bottom of your suitcase.
Roll your T-shirts, pajamas and shorts and place them between your shoes. Wrap your belts around the inside edges of your suitcase. Carefully fold everything else, using tissue paper and dryer sheets between the layers to reduce wrinkling and keep things smelling fresh.
Now it’s time for that pile of underwear and socks that didn’t fit into your shoes. Put your hand into your suitcase, especially around the edges, and you’ll be amazed at the little pockets of space that are just the right size to poke in these items. Make use of the overlooked spaces in or on your suitcase. Magazines and slim books can slide into the outside pockets; tiny items will fit into spaces around the pull-up handle.
A Baggallini is a good idea for packing. The company makes a variety of travel-related accessories, including some that come as small packed squares but which can be zipped open into roomy totes, so if you overbuy on souvenirs it can double as your purse (not your carry-on) when returning home.
Use the pack, wear, pitch approach. Take some of your older underwear or shoes. After you wear them, toss them or leave them in your hotel room in hope that someone can use them.
Zip your bag and wheel it out the door. The hard work is done; now it’s time to enjoy your trip!