The right way to pack for travel

The right way to pack for travel
Bring along a compact carry-on and think twice about everything you want to put in your bag to cut out the packing clutter. Photo: iStock
Published: 4:00 AM, July 13, 2017

NEW YORK — Tight airline luggage bins, long waits at the luggage carousel and checked baggage fees are just a few of the reasons it pays to pack light. If your flight is cancelled or delayed, having your bag in hand can be the difference between getting on with your trip or being stuck at the airport.

Whether you are going on a three-day business trip or preparing for a two-month outdoor adventure, here are some guidelines for maximising suitcase space, minimising your load and cutting down on wrinkles.

Invest in a compact carry-on

The bigger your suitcase, the more you will put into it. The simplest way to limit your pack-rat habit is to buy a hard-sided suitcase no taller than 56cm (22 inches), with a structured shell, so you cannot squeeze in any extras. While there is no universal carry-on bag size, many airlines restrict bags to 56cm tall, 35.5cm wide and 22.8cm deep. The size may be smaller for some international flights. (Shop with a tape measure if you want to make sure your bag — including wheels and outer pouches — meets a specific dimension.)

“Think twice about everything you want to put in your bag,” said Ben Nickel-D’Andrea, who writes about flying first-class with his partner at travel website No Mas Coach, part of the BoardingArea blogger network. Recently the jet-setting couple flew to Morocco for nine days with only their carry-ons and backpacks. “Fully get rid of the ‘just in case I need it’ category,” the couple added in an email sent from the airport. “If and when you need it, you can buy it.”

Do the clothing countdown

If you need a mantra to help streamline your wardrobe, use the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” rule for a weeklong trip, limiting yourself to no more than five sets of socks and underwear, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one hat. The list can be modified to suit your needs, with a swimsuit and exercise gear or a suit jacket and dress thrown in, depending on the trip.

Decluttering guru Marie Kondo rarely exceeds a week’s worth of clothes. If she is away longer than a week, she said: “I will make time to do laundry.” Her bag typically includes two pairs of shoes (a pair for work and another low-heeled pair for casual occasions), two sets of pyjamas, underwear for each day, and an extra jacket and dress, “just in case my work clothes get dirty,” she said.

Think Tetris

Many road warriors recommend rolling your clothes in order to maximise space and minimise wrinkles. Some like packing cubes to keep their outfits ordered. Others prefer the more exacting bundle technique, which involves carefully wrapping each article of clothing around a central core, with underwear and T-shirts at the centre and large, tailored items like blazers and dresses as the outermost layer. Whatever your method, the goal should be to fill every inch of space.

For example, footwear should be stuffed with socks and packed heel to toe at the bottom of the bag and enclosed (a plastic shopping bag will do) to protect your clothes from dirt. Rolled-up T-shirts, shorts and jeans make for a good base for stiffer garments like blazers and dress shirts, which can be folded on top.

Keep liquids within reach

“Toiletries should always be placed on top in a clear bag since you never know when Customs might be interested in looking,” said Matthew Klint, a frequent flier and the award expert at Live and Let’s Fly.

Do not unpack your toiletries bag. “I recommend keeping a separate toiletry kit for travelling,” Kondo said. “This saves time that would otherwise be spent unpacking and repacking everyday use items.” A second set of bathroom products also ensures that you do not leave behind a toothbrush or contact lens case that you might use the morning of takeoff, she noted. “Keep these items in a small pouch or box in the corner of a cabinet or drawer for easy access when packing for a trip.”

Got kids? The more gear you can leave behind, the better. Cribs, car seats and other baby gear are often provided at hotels or available for rent. Any extra cash you may spend will be offset by what you save in excess baggage, or check bag fees, and hassle. You can buy extra formula, sunscreen and Cheerios when you arrive. Diapers are one exception; you will want more, not less, on hand when your flight is delayed.

Another must-have on board: a change of clothes for the child and yourself. That way, you will have options when she spills juice all over you. To reduce your load while keeping the kids entertained, load up your phone or tablet with movies and games. THE NEW YORK TIMES