Packing is a skill that can make the difference between a harried trip and one that flows seamlessly. Why waste one precious moment of your trip shopping for forgotten items? Here, five smart strategies, from choosing the right suitcase to maximizing space in your carry-on.
1. Choose the right carry-on.
So. Many. Choices. Whether you prefer the durability of a hard shell or the pliability of a soft-sided suitcase, the most important considerations are keeping it lightweight and well-designed. Look for bags that have smart extras like interior pockets, exterior padded laptop compartments and designated spaces for gadgets. Double-check the size (22H x 14W x 9D is the standard); brands may claim they meet regulations, but actually are larger than some airlines allow. Expandable versions let you unzip around the outside to add a couple inches to the depth of the bag. “Wheelability” is another factor—four wheelers (also called spinners) can effortlessly be pushed and pulled in any direction; two-wheeled designs offer more control.
2. Lay out what you think you’ll need…then edit.
Think outfits rather than items. Work around a neutral color palette, adding strategic pops of color. Include layers to accommodate fluctuating temperatures. Opt for clothing that can go day to night with a simple change of accessories. Stylish sneakers go just about anywhere; a pair of dressy, comfy sandals are a better choice than wear-only-once heels. Other all-stars include a versatile scarf (shawl, sarong, beach cover-up), knit cardigan, on-trend kimono and your most flattering jeans. Be sure to allow ample planning time; left to the last minute, even the most seasoned travelers can under or overpack.
3. Fill every inch of space in your suitcase.
How you arrange things is a matter of personal preference. Packing cubes are an increasingly popular choice; not only a space saver, these smaller bags are known to keep you neat and organized. (Added plus: move them directly into hotel drawers to make unpacking and repacking a breeze.) Rolling clothes is another option, ideal for t-shirts, knits, jeans, pants and sleepwear (stiffer and bulkier garments can be folded on top). Fill in around the edges with smaller items like socks, underwear, and bathing suits. Finally, don’t overlook “hidden” spaces like inside shoes, hats or purses.
4. Keep a separate ready-to-go travel toiletry kit.
Stock up on travel-friendly, TSA-approved sizes of your favorite brands. Next time you’re cosmetic shopping, don’t be shy about asking for samples. (The same applies to your dentist.) When possible, choose multi-functioning products like CC creams (foundation, moisturizer and sunscreen in one) or shimmery cream sticks (that can be used on cheeks, lips and eyes). Also keep on-board necessities—lip balm, mini moisturizer, freshening spray—within easy reach.
5. Don’t forget a back-up bag.
If you’re planning on shopping—always a good idea—pack a lightweight, durable duffel or tote that folds down to a compact pouch. (Getaway Girls, take note: we can arrange for shipping your purchases stateside.)