“Ma’am, your suitcase is too heavy. You have to take out 4 pounds” And there I was, in line at the international check in with a long line of angry people behind me, waiting impatiently to check their own bags in. This was my travel nightmare, opening my suitcase in front of the world, trying to figure out what I could pull out and somehow fit into my bulging carry on bag. I could feel my face burning red, I wanted to cry and I was close to panicking.
This was ten years ago, and I have learned a lot about packing like a pro since that horrible day.
Whether you are traveling across the country for the holidays or across the world for a vacation you can make your trip much easier by packing like a pro.
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How To Pack A Suitcase Like A Pro
1. It Starts With The Right Suitcase.
You many need to replace your old, worn suitcase with a new, modern one. Modern suitcases are built light so you’re not wasting unnecessary weight on the suitcase itself. They tend to have compartments divided off, compression straps and 360 degree wheels. Look for one with 360 degree wheels that are slightly inline – if they stick out too far they are more likely to break off.
I used to travel with a 29 inch suitcase (why???) but now have the Away Medium which is approximately 25 inches, 26 if you include the wheels. The bigger the suitcase the more likely you are to overfill it. My travel rule is if it doesn’t fit in a 25 inch case it’s not coming. The End.
2. Use Packing Cubes
These have proven to be a lifesaver for me! I have been using the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes for the past few years and like them better than any others. Their sizing is perfect, they are well constructed and their fabrics don’t hold and trap smells. You won’t want to pack clean clothes into packing cubes that hold the smell of well worn socks and dirty laundry!
I find them invaluable because I always know where everything is. I use one for sleepwear and undergarments, another for tops, another for bottoms etc. I even have a narrow one for all my electronic attachments – computer chargers, phone chargers, adaptors, spare cords. This means I never lose anything and never have to tear my suitcase apart looking for anything.
If I have a special event and have separate clothes for it, they stay in their own cube. If I have to pack for different climates I use separate cubes for each.
The great thing is they fit together seamlessly inside my suitcase. It is incredibly efficient.
On international trips I always pack clothes for 3 days into my carry on. Inside one packing cube I can roll everything I need and slip it into my bag, nice and easy!
I bought the blue Eagle Creek Packing Cubes at The Container Store. I started with the 3 piece set and have since added more pieces. I also found the starter set on Amazon: Eagle Creek Pack It Cube Set at Amazon.com
3. Mix And Match
Planning your travel wardrobe is essential. Ideally pack 4 or 5 tops for each set of bottoms, and have them all (or almost all) mix and match. Sticking to a simple color palette with interchangeable pieces makes everything really easy. I like to plan my outfit for each day so that I’m not caught out with nothing to wear. I also find this helps eliminate excess items.
Keep heavy and bulky items to a minimum. Jeans, sweaters, coats take up lots of room and can weigh a lot. Good planning will cancel out “just in case” items. You don’t need them!
4. Two Pairs Of Shoes
It took me ages to get on board with this one, but once I started planning my outfit for each day away it became quite easy.
Of course you have to have the right shoes for specific events, such as hiking/beaching/going to a ball, but most of the time we only need two pairs.
I don’t count flip flops as one of my pairs, but I do plan on one pair of shoes that I can walk in all day and one pair of sandals in the summer or boots in the winter, and I make sure they work with everything I’m bringing. This folds in nicely with that streamlined color palette!
5. Choose Travel Friendly Fabrics
This is so important! You need to pack fabrics that breathe, don’t require dry-cleaning and aren’t high maintenance. Nothing that requires lots of ironing, nothing that makes you sweat, nothing that holds smells. In summer look for cottons and linens (although linen crushes quickly). Also look for modal, an “artificial silk” that breathes, is luxurious but hard wearing. You can wash modal over and over and it doesn’t pill up, fade or shrink. It is the perfect travel fabric.
Warmth Doesn’t Have To Mean Bulk
You don’t need bulky clothes to stay warm. You can find very fine merino wool pieces that keep you super warm but are still lightweight. Last winter I traveled in Europe with the Ibex Shae Dress in black. It is only slightly thicker than a t-shirt fabric, but was super warm.
I discovered Ibex dresses via Travel Fashion Girl. They make dresses for all seasons, and they even have merino dresses for summer!
Ridge Merino makes really fine merino base layers that keep you warm without adding bulk.
Merino is fantastic for travel. It is antimicrobial, odor resistant, quick drying and temperature regulating. It is also soft, doesn’t itch and rolls down beautifully so it needs very little space.
6. Roll It!
The very best way to pack your clothes is to roll them. It gives you much more space and for the most part stops wrinkling. My mom who has been an avid traveler her whole life taught me how to roll clothes when packing. I always marveled at how she had so many outfits in one medium sized suitcase, and nothing came out wrinkled! Endlessly chic, she is also incredibly glamorous and has never sacrificed her sense of style or panache when traveling.
My rolling skills are pretty basic but still really efficient. I don’t do the little tuck over they do at the end of this video, but it will give you an idea of how to roll your clothes when you’re packing.
7. Go Digital
I never travel with hard copy books or magazines anymore. Everything is digital.
I have found that one travel guide is never enough – no two have identical information, so I would normally take 2 or 3 with me. I love to read, especially on planes, so any trip needed a handful of novels too.
Years ago I got the Kindle App (I don’t own a kindle) and now read everything on my iPad. The app syncs with my phone, so my travel guides are at my finger tips when I’m out exploring. If I stop for a coffee I can pick up where I left off on any book I’m reading, although I’m not much for reading novels on my phone.
When I wrote my book, Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) I planned for it to only be available on the Kindle App so that travelers had me there to help them, right on their phone. (It is actually available as a paperback too)
A bonus to anyone reading their books on the Kindle App is that Kindle eBooks cost much less than their paperback counterparts, and there is no waiting for a book to arrive, it is instantly there in your Kindle App. If you read a lot you can get a subscription service called Kindle Unlimited that lets you download as many books as you want for (I think) $9.95 per month. They have some different plans available: Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
I don’t have Kindle Unlimited because right now I only order a couple of books per month, and with Kindle books being so inexpensive I seldom spend more than $10 in a month anyway.
I have a couple of other Amazon links that are great for travelers. The first is for the Amazon Unlimited Music free trial : Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial
The second is for Audible. This is a subscription for monthly downloads of audio books. You can get 2 free books with a thirty day trial. They also have a variety of plans available depending on how many books you like to listen to each month. Here’s the link: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks
So how did that airport scene with the open suitcase end up? I took out my travel books, a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes. The airline attendant working the check in let me get away with a couple of pounds overweight, and I vowed this would never, ever happen to me again.