How to pack properly
The best way to pack for your next trip
Words— Marc Richardson
So you’re about to set out on a long—or not so long—voyage? That’s great. Travelling, in general, is great. But it can also be extremely stressful. You have to find flights, book accommodations, acquire foreign currency and make sure your travel documents are in order. And, after all that, you still have to pack—which, in my experience, is the least enjoyable part of travelling. But whether you’re flying with checked bags, skipping the extra fees and baggage claim, or even travelling by train, there are some things that will make packing a whole lot easier—and your trip less stressful.
To bring or not to bring, that is the question.
Are we sure this isn't what Hamlet was talking about? Sometimes, in the midst of trying to fit all your clothes into your luggage, it’s easy to forget things. Like, really important things—hello, passport! Most—if not all—of what you absolutely need that isn’t clothing should fit in a dopp kit. What’s a dopp kit? The little case meant to hold toiletries in. It can hold so much more, though!
You ought to be able to fit a toothbrush, deodorant, a razor, moisturizer, makeup, a comb and body wash with relative ease. You should actually have room for other essentials, like a travel adaptor for whichever country you’re travelling to, Tylenol, sleeping pills (great for battling jetlag!), earplugs, and any prescriptions if you need to travel with them.
If you’re travelling with checked bags, you should put this in your carry-on. Not only will you have the bare necessities if your luggage is lost, but you’ll have everything you need to freshen up before setting foot in your destination of choice. If you can, pack a change of underwear and socks in your carry-on—wrap them in a T-shirt and place them at the bottom of your bag. It’s better to be safe than sorry and, if you’ve had a long flight, layover or train ride, you’ll be grateful to be able to change into fresh clothes.
Of course, when there are things you need, there are also things you most definitely do not need to bring with you for a 10-day trip. You do not, for example, need 20 pairs of underwear or two T-shirts per day. As a general rule of thumb, you can probably bank on 1.2 pairs of underwear and socks for each day you’re gone—so that means six for a five-day stay and 12 for a 10-day sojourn. And, leave the laptop at home if you’re going on vacation!
Here’s a good—but not exhaustive list of basics to pack:
- 1 T-shirt/longsleeve per day
- 2 pants per week
- 1 sweater per week
- 2 collared shirts per week
- 1.2 pairs of socks per day
- 1.2 pairs of underwear per day
- 2 pairs of shoes, including the ones you’re wearing
- 1 suit—only if needed
- Pyjamas (unless that’s not your style)
- Body wash
Roll, roll, roll your clothes
I remember how incredulous I was the first time someone told me that I should be rolling my clothes rather than folding them when packing. How, I wondered, was it possible that a T-shirt takes up less space rolled than folded? Folded things could be crushed flat, I assumed, where as rolled things, could not.
Boy was I wrong.
Everything you pack ought to be rolled. Incredibly, things really do take up less space when rolled. Fold your underwear in two before rolling them up; do the same with your T-shirts—fold it along the vertical axis so that the sleeves are on top of one another; and your pants, too.
Really, the one thing that shouldn’t be rolled is a suit. The jacket should be folded inside out and in two, then wrapped in the trousers—carefully of course. This helps reduce wrinkles and weathering.
It’s not Tetris
In case the rolling didn’t make it obvious, packing is not a question of arbitrarily placing things in your suitcase. It is more calculated science than an intuitive art form. If you’re packing like you’re playing Tetris, you’re doing it wrong—simple as that. You shouldn’t be winging it with each item. You should have a plan. There’s a structure that you can build that not only makes better use of space but makes it easier to organize your life on the go.
If you’re travelling with a suit and a hard-case luggage, start by laying that on the bottom. The weight of the rest of your clothes and the flat case will keep it from wrinkling too much.
Next, stuff your rolled up socks inside your shoes. Not only will they act as shoe trees, but you’re saving space by filling in otherwise unused volume. It may seem negligible—but trust me, it isn’t. Place the shoes in the middle of the luggage and then tightly pack rolled up T-shirts and tops around them. The shoes act as an actor of sorts while you’re packing and can be used as a divider for later in your trip when you’re trying to keep track of what’s dirty and what’s clean. Shoes, they’re for more than walking around!
Once you’ve created a base with the shoes and tops, you can start to add some of the bigger rolls—sweaters and pants and thick shirts. It’s only at the end that you should be playing Tetris, by stuffing any remaining socks or rolled up underwear into empty gaps along the walls or between garments.
While there may be size and weight restrictions for your luggage, there aren’t for you! That means you’re best off layering up before hopping on the plane. Throw on whatever takes up the most space and any layers that can easily be pulled off with your jacket when comes time to board. If it means wearing two mid layers—a puffer under an overshirt—and a jacket over a hoodie, then so be it. You’ll be thankful that you spent fifteen minutes sweating while waiting to board when you have the luxury of choice once at destination.
Invest in Luggage
If you travel often, the best packing advice—yes, better than what I’ve laid out above—is this: spend a few more dollars on your next suitcase. Buy something that will make packing a breeze. If you’re more inclined to backpack, buy a great collapsible soft-shell bag; if you’re living out of your suitcase or travelling for business, invest in a sturdy hard-shell case. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, but good wheels and something to make partitioning clothes easier are always nice touches.