Check In

The Pro’s Guide To Packing

by , November 5, 2012
Sufficient clothes for a 10-day trip, all within a single piece of carry-on luggage. An unlikely story? You might think so if you generally end up having to sit on your check-in suitcase to shut it – and that’s just for a week’s supply. Believe it or not, with a few straightforward tips you can achieve this miraculous packing feat yourself. True Jedi masters of packing, flight attendants know a thing or two about efficient carry. We’ve summarised the packing guide of flight attendant Heather Poole below (plus a few thoughts of our own) but you can check out the slideshow guide in full here (or click the images, which are courtesy of the slideshow, featured on the New York Times website).
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Tip 1 – Roll with it

Before packing your clothing in your suitcase, roll up each item as tightly as possible. In addition to keeping wrinkling to a minimum, rolled clothes take up less space than folded clothes.
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Tip 2 – From people to packing, life works better in layers

Pack your shoes first. Place them along the edges of the bag. Next, place items such as jeans and trousers (think your heaviest items) along the bottom of your bag to form the first layer. For subsequent layers, working from the bottom to the top, pack heavier items first and then progressively lighter items. In essence, your heaviest items of clothing should be at the bottom of your bag and the lightest items at the top. Make sure your rolled clothes are packed tightly together. Items you need quick access to (such as a dopp kit) should go on the top of your clothes. This makes it easy to take them out whilst going through security control, plus you’ll probably want to freshen up once you reach your destination and not having to rummage around in the bottom of your bag for your toothbrush is a bonus.
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{Side note: Depending on the type of shoes you pack, you might be able to shove rolled-up socks into them in order to save space.}
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Tip 3 – Sometimes going over the edge keeps you wrinkle-free

If you’re going on a shorter trip and subsequently don’t need to pack as much, you can alter your packing technique a bit to help prevent wrinkles in smart clothing. Lay your dress clothing on the bottom of your case but hanging over the edges. Pack all your other clothes and travel items on top of your dress clothes and then fold the hanging edges of your dress clothes over these items.
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The Benefits

Several airlines charge you to check in luggage. With these packing tips you can avoid the need for check-in luggage, saving you money plus the time it takes to check in and collect your luggage after you’ve landed. Additional perk: no need to worry about an overstuffed bag that’s threatening to burst at any moment, spewing its contents onto the airport floor, the pavement as you hail a taxi, or the reception area of your accommodation.
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The Drawbacks

Hmm…there aren’t any really. Okay, so you’re not going to have much space for souvenirs and the like in your bag but there’s always the option of wearing more clothing on your return journey than you did on your departure in order to create some extra space in your luggage. Yes, you’ll look like you’re wearing a sumo wrestling outfit but if you want that souvenir badly enough, sacrifices must be made.

  • http://www.splathead.com Joe

    No matter how long I will be traveling, I always pack for 4 days + the clothes I’m wearing. If I’ll be gone a week, it simply means I’ll be wearing the same item twice. Two weeks; same item 3 times. Or on longer trips I’ll find a local laundry to drop off dirties. Much cheaper than doing it at the hotel.

    Since longer trips usually means multiple city travel, there’s no great faux pas in wearing the same stuff twice.

    • Jake

      Another reason to not pack everything you own is you can now do laundry on the go with a product I found yesterday, called “The Scrubba” ( http://www.thescrubba.com/ ).

  • http://Www.mattgrandin.com Matt Grandin

    Flight attedants know about traveling light for sure. Thanks for the great post. I have one tip that gets overlooked for people who do check bags, pack at least one change of clothes (and any essential items) in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost forever. I have started rolling my clothes when my laundry is done, it saves closet space and makes packing easier. I know for myself I try to have lots of activities planned on trips and that sometimes requires specific gear, for example you need different stuff for hiking and camping than you do for a business trip. Often for me the ‘activity specific’ stuff will ultimately dictate how minimal I can go and what shoes I bring.

  • Dice Roller

    Great article but I might add one thing, you can achieve the same effect with the Eagle Creek packing cubes/folders and be a little more organized. You can still roll your clothes too if you want and place them inside the cubes. That way, when you do rummage through your bag, your clothes that are packed tight won’t unravel. It also stays more contained when TSA goes through your bag, and in the very unfortunate event that your bag bursts, it will still be contained and save you from a clothing explosion that reveals your personal items like underwear, dirty laundry, etc. to the world. Once you try them you’ll never go back.

    • http://www.rtwgirl.com rtwgirl

      I’m with Dice Roller. I always use packing cubes. Just bought some by Muji (had Rick Steeves ones for my Round The World trip that didn’t last and was in Asia so replaced them with Muji ones). Eagle Creek or Ebags or Flight 001 ones are decent too. It’s true….once you use them, you’ll never go back.

  • Catherine

    @ Joe, Matt, Dice Roller – Great suggestions, thanks for taking the time to share!

  • Ali Cat

    Please please please! Wrap your shoes each in its own plastic bag.
    Seeing raw shoes packed in with clean clothes is like watching someone jump on their bed in shoes. Do you have any idea what shoes touch as we walk down even a clean looking street? I’m not going to list it.

    Seriously! Pack clean.

    Imagine this, at the other end, you go for a walk just before you have to pack your bag again and you tread in dog poo, are you going to stick that in with your undies and silk shirt? no. You’re going to be glad you have a bag to stick it in. Even if you don’t tread in dog poo, don’t kid yourself! Just because you cant see or smell the horror on your shoes doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    Now, I’m done channeling your mum!

    • Catherine

      Good call! :) I stash a plastic bag in my luggage for wet or dirty items of clothing and bringing my shoes back (as on the return journey they’re likely looking like they’ve been on an adventure or two). But yeah, just put the shoes in a plastic bag all the time and you’re sorted.

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