It’s a widely held truism that if you can figure out your suitcase, you can figure out your life. It’s an elegant metaphor for your various trials and virtues as a person – in that bag is every supporting item you simply cannot live without. If it’s not in the bag, it’s ultimately expendable. With that in mind, it becomes important to keep your suitcase – your life as a traveller – organized and efficient. Maximize your carrying capacity, reduce your travel time, and make sure your life on the road is as orderly as possible.
You are packing for two things: yourself, and the world. Packing for yourself is as easy as packing all your favourite things, but packing for the world requires some research. First principle? Call. Call the hotel, call the airport, call the tour company, call your travel agent. Ask every question you have so you can cut through the tedious aspects of travel and get right to the vacationing. Does the hotel offer a complimentary laundry service? Will the weather let you wear that new favourite t-shirt? What toiletries will be provided? Additionally, make sure you know any local customs where you're going, prohibitions or tabboos of which you might inadvertently run afoul. Making sure you know the environment you’re packing for will ensure not only that you can cut down on suitcase volume, but that you won’t be left stranded without a vital piece of equipment.
Wash Your Clothes!
For trips longer than a week or so, it’s wasteful to bring new clothes for every day. If you’re careful around foods and other staining agents, certain items can be worn multiple times. Eventually though, everything gets dirty. Laundry is, for many, an exclusively home activity, and simply giving yourself permission to do household tasks while abroad is often enough to dramatically slim down a suitcase.
Buy A Travel Iron
On a similar note, a travel iron can keep your packed clothes ready for the runway, let alone a beach or a casino floor. This small addition will almost always fit in a bag, wedged between two groups of clothing – any wrinkles it causes will be more than offset later on. This makes you a much more versatile, self-sufficient traveller, carrying with you something that’s often overlooked by travellers but which, when needed, is absolutely indispensable.
Wear The Big Stuff
Need to pack a bulky sweater and jacket? A pair of enormous wool socks, or perhaps space-hogging galoshes? Of course you can always try to pack it, stuff your boots with socks and wrap your clothes in a jacket, but they will still likely displace smaller items of equal importance. Rather than worry about that, try wearing your biggest stuff – airports are carefully air conditioned, as are hotels, and a jacket can be stuffed into overhead storage. This also minimizes the extent to which a lost bag will leave you out in the cold - literally.
Your bag is never safe – not when you hand it to airport staff, not when you put it down to order a coffee, not when you’re holding it clutched to your chest in the secure section of the airport. The intent is not to make you paranoid, but to impress the importance of taking precautionary measures so you don’t have to be paranoid. If you have multiple bags, try to keep at least a few of each important item in each bag, so that if one gets stolen, the other can tide you over until recovery. There’s nothing worse than having to buy underwear in a foreign language. Also be sure to lock your bags – but be mindful of regulations so the local security doesn’t cut them off to look inside. If you’re really determined, tracking technology exists – but for the cost you could just buy a new bag, instead.
Use Plastic Bags
Staying organized is priority number one. By splitting up the interior of your travel bag with yet more bags, you can help maximize space and cut down on time spent rooting through socks to get to toothpaste. Firstly, a sealable plastic freezer bag can be deflated over clothes and then sealed – where a naked fabric would spring back to take up space, the vacuum in the bag will keep the package tight. It also keep leaks from affecting clothes, both by keeping liquid spills in and by keeping any successful spills from soaking anything more than the luggage itself.
Know The Rules
Don’t get stopped at security, and more importantly don’t have your items upended, opened, poured out, or in some cases destroyed. Know before you arrive at the airport what items are allowed, what items will be problematic, and any other limitations on your packing. Exceeding a weight limit can set you back a pretty penny if you’re not careful. Additionally, bringing home taxable items can be a pain – make sure you know what needs to be declared. Gifts are always best wrapped at home, as wrapped gifts have a good chance of being ripped open by inspectors, thus undoing all your hard work. Know the rules before you show up, and you’ll never be surprised.
Make Your Bag Stand Out
First and foremost, pick luggage that isn’t black. Standing at the baggage carousel, you’ll be amazed by the proportion of luggage that is flat, boring, unrecognizable black. This make a thief’s life easier, since most black bags held with confidence look exactly the same – is that my bag he’s making off with, or will I look like a fool for stopping him? Just having a green bag, or one with pinstripes, can be enough to let you spy your baggage on its first trip around the carousel. Most of us already own bags, however, and so modifications can be just as good. Stickers and transfers can liven up a bag with some a beloved insignia, or you can wrap brightly coloured belts and ribbons around its handle or entire girth. One advantage of wrapping the whole bag is that it is an easy way to tell if your bag has been opened.
Roll, Don’t Fold
Okay, fold sometimes. Certain pieces of clothing, and certain types of fabrics, simply don’t like being rolled up. However, the majority of your shirts and pants can be scrunched down to occupy less space than their flat-folded partners. Done properly, the roll can hold its internal tension and keep the clothes from expanding as folded clothes often do. Laying out a carpet of rolled clothes at the bottom of the bag also lets you survey your clothes without rifling through shirts like pages in a file folder. This technique is liable to wrinkle the clothes just as much as folding them (or stuffing them in like a barbarian) but you’re got your travel iron packed, so that’s not an issue, is it?
Your Suitcase Is A Cabinet
When you pack, place at least one type of item (shoes, toiletries, etc.) in the way you think they will be the most useful and accessible. When you arrive at your destination unpack the rest and keep your suitcase in a nice accessible place. Now you have one fewer thing to pack when it’s time to leave, and a nicely separated container to keep you organized. This also lets you keep valuables in your locked suitcase while you’re gone (it is locked, right?) If your clothes all come from the hotel chest of drawers, your toiletries from the bathroom, and your technology from the suitcase, you’ll never be left with one item hidden beneath another. For maximum time-saving, keep your clothes in the suitcase – just be prepared to iron our the wrinkles if you do.