5 Ways to Pack Your Suitcase Way More Efficiently

Doesn't matter if you're going away for a few nights or a fortnight, there's no need to carry more matched luggage than Princess Vespa. With a bit of planning and these simple storage techniques, you'll be able to pack your holiday's worth of gear into a standard carry-on.

Have a Day by Day Plan

Over-packing for a trip is a rookie mistake, and a costly one at that; pack too much and your free carry-on will suddenly become a $25 checked bag. Remember, laundromats exist in other towns, you can always run a load if you find yourself in a pinch. Or just buy a cheap pair of shorts or shirt at your destination to compensate for any under-packing mishaps. Plus, if your bag is bursting when you arrive, how are you going to bring all those sweet souvenirs back home?

A general rule of thumb for how much of what to bring follows, though you'll want to adapt it depending on how formally you'll need to dress:

  • Unmentionables: Do your mother proud and pack a clean pair of socks, undershirts, and underwear for everyday.
  • Shirts or dresses: two fewer than the total number of days in the trip—wear the same outfit on the flight back as you did on the flight out, save two days worth of clothing.
  • Pants: a pair of jeans for every other day, slacks as needed.
  • Shoes: two pairs of casual shoes (ie a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers) and a pair of formal kicks.
  • Toiletries: If you're bringing your DOP kit through security, be sure to get everything in travel-size bottles and pack them per TSA regulations. If you're checking them with the rest of your gear, you won't need the plastic bag but stick with the small bottles to conserve space nonetheless.

Predict the Weather

This should go without saying, but take a moment to check the weather forecast for your destination before you start shoving stuff into a suitcase. There is a nominal but bone-chilling difference between 40 degrees with clear skies and 40 degrees and raining, so make sure you are adequately prepared.

Rolling vs Folding

Once you've picked out what you're going to wear, the real challenge begins: cramming it all into your luggage. There are two schools of thought when it comes to putting clothes into bags: folding and rolling. Folded clothes are less likely to wrinkle but take up more space. Conversely, rolled clothes will wrinkle if stored improperly but take up a fraction of the space as when folded. Of course, there's nothing to say you can't use both methods—which, actually, you should.

Soft, wrinkle-resistant materials like knits, wool, and cotton can all be rolled without much worry—just make sure you keep the roll tight, since loose rolling will result in wrinkles, regardless of the material. Starched garments like collared shirts and dressier items should always be folded. The combination should be enough to let you cram everything in without looking like a mess at your destination.

Get Packing

Yes, there is in fact a right way to pack a bag. This is it:

  • Lay your suitcase flat on its back, fully opened.
  • Pack as many socks and undergarments into your shoes as will fit, then set the shoes in the bottom of the bag. Congratulations! This is the first layer of luggage.
  • On top of your shoes, lay down a layer of heavier rolled items—jeans, sweaters, etc.—packing them in as tightly as they'll go. This not only minimizes wasted space, it also prevents the rolls from coming undone during transit.
  • If you have any fragile items that aren't being brought as carry-on, place them in the center of the bag on top of the heavy-roll layer to protect the items from breakage.
  • The next layer should consist of lighter rolled items like t-shirts and undergarments, also tightly packed to prevent unrolling.
  • On top of them, place your folded items. This will allow easy access to them upon arrival for unfolding and hanging. You can also place these items in a dry cleaner bag to help prevent wrinkling.
  • Any additional lightweight items—underwear, belts, socks, etc—should then be crammed into any available nook or cranny to help stabilize the packing.
  • Put your toiletry bag on top of the folded layer, then simply close the suitcase lid and you're done. That was easier than getting into a pair of skinny jeans.

Got it? If you're more of a visual type, here's a video that can walk you through the whole process:

The Return Trip

Nobody wants to go through the hassle of finding and matching dirty socks on the last day of a vacation, and it's not like your washing machine cares if what you feed it is wrinkled. Instead of wasting those last few hours in paradise (or Poughkeepsie), bring along a compressor bag like the Eagle Creek Pack-It. Just toss all your dirty clothes in (plus a dryer sheet to combat the stink) and these compressor bags will reduce their content's volume by up to 80 percent—leaving you with plenty of extra room for souvenirs, gifts, and such.

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. [WikiHow - Real Simple - Lifehacker - NYT - Image: racorn]