The Best Way to Fit It All
in Your Suitcase + a Few Tips
Check out below how I’m doing on my clothes shopping diet.
I’ve recently returned from two back-to-back trips. Both required packing for air travel, so I didn’t have the luxury of doing too much over-packing (which I have a habit of doing!). The trips were completely different – a music festival in the Southern California desert where the temperature was 100+ degrees and a stay in New York City with pleasant fall weather in the mid-60’s. Fortunately, I had two days between trips, so I did not have to try to pack for both in one suitcase! Still, my dilemma was trying to choose the most space-efficient method of packing.
I have learned a few things about packing over the years of my moderate travels both locally and to far-flung destinations. I have experimented with a variety of folding methods, including laying clothing flat and layering pieces, folding with dry cleaning bags between items (to prevent wrinkling and creasing), rolling clothes, and packing cubes.
With each packing method I’ve tried, the goal has been to efficiently pack as much as possible into that rectangle closet substitute. Each new method I incorporated improved over the previous ones. Laying flat and layering clothing one on top of the other worked pretty well and was my method of choice . . . until I tried rolling pieces. Wow! I could fit so much more – or maybe it was just that I made better use of the available space, fitting rolled tops and exercise wear into the nooks and crannies along the edges and corners of my suitcase
However, with my most recent jaunts I decided to give packing cubes a try for the first time. I’d been considering the packing cube packing method for some months – reading reviews, looking at the myriad of packing cubes available, and studying photos of suitcases packed with them.
I decided, on the spur of the moment, as I was about to get ready for a trip, to go for it! I ran to the local retailer that carries them (one type only) and purchased a set of three – small, medium, and large. (Do you know why they are called packing “cubes” since they aren’t cube shaped?)
It was a winner! It’s my new favorite way to pack. Check out the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Starter Set. The demo video is great to view and have an idea of the best way to use packing cubes.
The packing cubes keep clothes organized and fit so well – they can go right up against the edges of the suitcase. Space is maximized. I found that by rolling clothing items before lining them up in the packing cube, wrinkling was a bit minimized and I could fit quite a bit. I use the large size for pants and skirts, the medium for tops, and the small for undergarments and socks.
Unpacking is easy too. When you arrive at your destination, all you need to do is move the packing cubes from your suitcase to the dresser drawer. So quick and simple! Then, when it’s time to pack for your return home, move your worn clothing into a separate packing cube (I decided that next time I’ll bring an empty one). Then gathering your laundry when you get back isn’t a chore.
If you haven’t tried using packing cubes, I recommend trying it for your next trip. You can purchase individual packing cubes in various sizes if you want to get one to try, or you can purchase them in sets (make sure they are lightweight and you can see into them when they are closed). If you are going to try just one, get a medium size as it’s probably the most versatile.
Check out more packing cubes here.
More Packing Tips
Here are a few other packing tips:
- Avoid suitcase wrinkles: The most effective way I’ve learned that allows my clothes to live for a time in a suitcase and come out free of wrinkles is to use plastic dry cleaning bags layered around or folded among the clothes. Truly, it’s pretty incredible how well it works. I haven’t yet tried rolling or layering the dry cleaning bags inside the packing cubes, but you can bet that’s next.
- Weigh your suitcase: If you’re going to be taking your suitcase on a flight, be sure to weigh it before you leave home. There’s nothing more frazzling than trying to check your bag and having to take things out and move them to your carry-on or travel companion’s bag, or, worse, pay additional fees for the overweight bag. The best way to weigh your bag is to weigh yourself on your home scale, then weigh yourself again while holding your suitcase.
- Packing shoes: I like to cover my shoes with shoe bags so there’s no chance that anything will get dirty. I always put my shoes in the bag first, the first layer in the suitcase. I lay them so they fit best and so “squishing” them is minimized (don’t want misshapen shoes).
- Liquids: I always pack liquids in a water tight container. One of my suitcases has a built-in, water-proof zipper compartment. In other bags, I put my liquids in a zip lock baggie.
- Carry on valuables: I ALWAYS carry on anything I wouldn’t want to lose. Of course, I don’t want to lose anything, but it would be pretty expensive to replace my jewelry and make-up, so I always carry those items with me. I think it goes without saying that carrying on electronics, passports, money is also a must.
- Carry on an extra outfit: When I’m checking my bag on a flight, I always to carry on a change of clothes. In the event that my bag is lost or ends up in Chicago when I’m going to Hawaii, I want to have with me another outfit that I can wear until my bag and I are reunited. (This actually happened to my husband once – us in Hawaii and his bag in Chicago. He had to purchase a few things in a rush to attend a business dinner.)
The Next Challenge
My next packing challenge – and it’s a big one – is to minimize the collection of clothing I bring. I find it really difficult to commit to what I will wear on a given day and always bring extra outfits so I can have a choice. However, what I invariably find is that about half of what I bring returns home unworn. Obviously, I don’t need all that extra stuff. And the weight of it all can be an issue when I am trying to stay under the 50 pound limit for air travel (those clothes are heavy!). With my new-found space-saving and efficient packing method (I can fit a lot of stuff), it’s going to take some serious discipline and will power to be a minimalist. I’ll let you know when I go for it (no trips planned in the immediate future, so don’t hold your breath!). If you have a method of minimizing the assortment of clothes you pack, I’d love to know it.
So what’s your preferred packing method? It’s helpful to learn the tricks that others have found work for them. Let me know if you have some tips that you can share.
Clothes Buying Diet Update
It’s been a month since my promise to myself (and public vow) not buy any clothes for myself until the new year (that’s January 2017!). I’ve done pretty well, I must say. Even with my two treks to the music festival and NYC, I stayed pretty true to my commitment. In the interest of transparency, I did purchase a souvenir t-shirt at Desert Trip and three $5 scarves from street vendors in NYC. Does that count? I was actually pretty astounded to discover that I still had a fairly full closet even though the clothes I’d worn while traveling were all in the laundry room. It really highlighted how much I have and how little I need to be shopping to add more. Instead, while in New York I bought three pairs of cool jeans for my husband – and he actually liked them! So I’m carrying on into month #2 of my three-month moratorium on clothes buying. Wish me luck!