Ah, packing and unpacking - a not-fun but completely necessary evil we must endure in order to go enjoy the pleasures of travel. But at least there are a few techniques out there which will help you maximise your packing efficiency and minimise the time you need to spend on this chore. In interviewing packing experts over the years, our editors have gleaned some pointers that make this admittedly somewhat tedious process as painless as it can possibly be, and is even likely to enhance your experience on the other side. Here are nine of them:
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears reminding, as plenty of us still try to stuff our cases with items of marginal utility, or too many of the same type of garment. Be ruthless about making your choices with maximum utility in mind. For example, what is truly essential? Do you really need more than one fancy frock or shirt for evening wear? Would it be so terrible to re-wear an item of clothing once or more? Keep in mind, too, that many travellers these days opt for self-catering flats or villas, and if your lodging doesn't already have a washing machine, it's well worth looking for one that does, to allow the same clothes to be worn as much as possible. Remember - especially away from home - nobody cares about seeing you in the same thing more than once or even twice.
Rolling vs. Folding
When it comes to clothing, there are two main ways to pack. Rolling is particularly great for backpacks, but can also be used effectively with suitcases, with the added benefit of avoiding wrinkles whilst saving space by minimising the air trapped between the fabric that is more common with folding. But if you do prefer folding, at least try folding two items of clothing together: put down one piece of clothing, then put half the other piece over it. Fold the bottom one over the top one, and the top one over the folded piece of the bottom one. That way there's a bit of cushion between clothes, also helping to reduce wrinkes.
Heavier Stuff on the Bottom
This applies to trousers, shoes, and jackets, along with non-clothing items such as vanity kits, mirrors, shavers, and footwear. This should, again, cut down considerably on wrinkled clothing.
Use Shoes as Containers
Speaking of footwear, if you've got any in your bags, don't pass up the chance to use the spaces inside each shoe or boot to store smaller items such as (but by no means limited to) socks and belts. It may not seem like much, but depending on the size of your case, every little bit can help.
Don't Stash Valuables in Checked Luggage
This is of course in the unlikely event your bag goes missing (and even more unlikely, that it's never recovered). That includes not just the likes of jewelry and electronics, but also important documents. Again, you might think this perhaps a no-brainer, but again, you might be surprised at how many travellers unwittingly break this rule - please don't become one of them!
Do Stash Larger Liquids in Checked Luggage
Not to seem too obvious - but then again, some people ignore the obvious. Since the travel-security theatre of this day and age requires any liquids you bring with you to be confined to containers of no more than 100 millilitres (3.4 ounces) each, in addition to relying on "travel-size" shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries, you can be a bit more eco-conscious by packing normal-size toiletries in your checked bags. And of course this also applies to any liquid souvenirs you may pick up along the way, such as wine and spirits.
Try Wearing the Heaviest Clothing You'll Need Onboard
As we noted above, in this situation every little bit counts, so rather than packing them, wearing one or more of your bulkier garments on a flight or train ride will add an additional bit of room inside your luggage as well as better distribute the weight within. (Of course, there might be circumstances in which this may not work quite ideally, such as wearing heavy coats and/or sweaters when going from a warm climate to a colder one - but on the other hand, you can always carry them over one arm; the considerable space you'll free up in your bag may well be worth the minor inconvenience.)
Hmmm, what exactly does "cross pack" mean? Well, essentially it's putting some of your stuff in your partner’s suitcase and some of his/her stuff in yours (the same applies to your kids, if you’re traveling with any). This way, in the unlikely event one of your cases doesn’t arrive at your destination when you do, you'll have at least some clothes to wear until it does.
Try Systems Like Luggage Cubes or Pouches
You'll recall that in my second point, when talking about rolling, a key aspect of packing compactly is to minimise the air trapped between items. Clever folks have come up with the idea of selling compact pouches to compress and compartmentalise your clothing and other items to do just that, and you can find them all over the Internet - some sold with small reverse vacuums to suck out as much additional air as possible. Definitely worth a go, in our experience.
Hope this helps - now get packing, and happy trails!