Packing may seem simple, but it is a science with rules that travelers often learn the hard way over thousands of miles on the road.
You can recognize an experienced world traveler by her bag. It’s not the mammoth trunk; it’s the chic, unexpectedly small suitcase that’s not bursting at the seams.
Really expert travelers can jet overseas for 10 days with only a carry-on. Think it’s impossible? You, too can pack like a pro with these suitcase packing tips.
Start With the Right Luggage
It’s time to retire the black suitcase with the broken zipper and frayed edges. Modern luggage designs include divided sections, compression straps, 360-degree wheels and even digital tracking tags.
If you’re packing a carry-on, make sure it complies with airline carry-on rules, because airlines are tightening enforcement.
Use the 1-2-3-4-5-6 Rule
Here’s one of the simplest and best suitcase packing tips we’ve heard.
For a week-long trip, pack:
• 1 hat
• 2 pairs of shoes
• 3 pairs of pants or skirts
• 4 shirts
• 5 pairs of socks
• 6 sets of underwear
This list can be modified to suit your needs and the nature of your trip — a business trip requires a different wardrobe than a cruise, for instance. But it’s a good place to start if you’re not sure how much clothing to pack.
Check The Weather
While no weather forecast is 100 percent accurate, having a general idea of what the weather’s going to be like during your trip will help you decide on the clothes you should pack.
Print out your forecast from The Weather Network and set it by your suitcase for when you’re choosing outfits. Download their app to your phone or tablet so you can also keep tabs during your travels.
Consider Compression Bags
Several companies make plastic travel compression bags that help remove air from bulky clothing by rolling (no vacuum cleaner required).
Some say they’re the best way to pack a suitcase, because you can pack much more and use the bags to hold dirty clothes on the way back.
You can even wash clothes in the bag, if you add water and soap and then shake and massage it.
Check Your Tags
Fabric matters when you’re packing for a trip.
Seek out material that resists wrinkling and stains, stays fresh-smelling after several wears and dries quickly.
Lightweight merino wool for outerwear, quick-dry synthetics for underwear and Smart Wool socks.
You might imagine yourself going for a morning jog on the beach, but if this isn’t already part of your daily routine, you probably won’t do it while you’re on vacation. And you might end up dining at a five-star restaurant ,but you don’t need to pack your best designer dress, just in case.
In short, be honest with yourself about what you’re likely to be doing and wearing on your trip. If you’re packing something purely for a what-if scenario, you should take it out of your suitcase.
Roll, Baby, Roll
Rolling your clothes is one of the best-known suitcase packing tips, and for good reason.
Rolling clothes conserves space, reduces wrinkling and makes it easier to find clothes in your suitcase.
But do you really know how to roll? To turn T-shirts into tidy cotton burritos, try the military roll technique.
Choose a Travel Palette
To reduce the amount of clothing you pack, stick to a strict color palette: a base of neutrals, like black and gray, and then one accent color, like red or violet.
You’ll be able to put together a week’s worth of different outfits from a few basic pieces. Pack shoes that complement every outfit.
Replace the Material with the Digital
Books are bulky, but bytes don’t weigh a thing. If you’re bringing a phone or other mobile device, consider downloading maps, translation apps, travel guides and reading material for your trip.
One exception is travel documents. While it’s a good idea to store digital copies of your passport and itinerary on your phone, you should pack a few printed versions as well.
Take Your Full Suitcase for a Test Drive
Think you’ve gotten your suitcase as light as possible? Carry your suitcase by the handle for a while. Roll it up and down the street. Try lugging it up and down stairs.
This exercise will show you what it feels like to actually travel with your bag. If you find yourself exhausted or frustrated, you need to lighten the load.
Protect Yourself with Travel Insurance
Many people over pack to protect themselves against worst-case travel scenarios. While it’s smart to carry essentials like rain gear and a small first aid kit, you can’t pack for every possible travel crisis.
And what if you lose your luggage? The best way to pack peace of mind is to get travel insurance. Travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance can include benefits like lost or stolen luggage coverage and travel delay coverage, which reimburses you for essentials purchased during a trip delay.
Leave Room for Souvenirs
You know as well as I do you’ll want to bring home souvenirs from your trip for your home, family and friends. Make sure to leave room for such items.
Organize your Carry-on
Consider your carry-on an emergency kit: if you were to ever lose your luggage or get stuck at the airport, what essentials would you need to have with you to enjoy your trip no matter what happens?
Here are just some of the items you should consider including in your carry-on:
• prescribed medication
• anti-nausea, pain killers, antacid
• ointment, Imodium, bug spray, Benadryl
• prescription glasses and sunglasses
• bottled water and snacks
• toothbrush and toothpaste
And now that you’ve got your luggage situation sorted, it’s only a matter of actually making it through the airport in one piece.