Fill ’Er Up
Here’s a step-by-step guide to packing your bag efficiently.
1. Line the bottom with a plastic trash bag. After you’ve packed, add another one on top. This helps fend off wrinkles. Plus, “if your luggage is off-loaded from the airplane in the rain, your clothes won’t get wet,” says Hannon.
2. Stash footwear and heavy stuff along the wheel base. Fill shoes with socks or bulky bangle bracelets, then put them in individual bags (splitting up pairs saves space), with the soles facing the sides of the suitcase. Rest other heavy items, like a hair dryer and a toiletry kit, next to or on top of shoes. “Placing these near the wheels stabilizes the bag’s center of gravity, so it won’t topple over when upright,” says Krantzler.
3. Lay the foundation. Start with tightly packed rolled clothing.
4. Build the second level. Layer folded dresses, pants, and skirts on top of rolled clothing. Alternate the sides that the waistbands are on so that the stack is balanced.
5. Move on to the third level. Add thick sweaters, jackets, and folded shirts.
6. Finish with the top level. Lay crushable items, such as a voluminous dress or molded bras. Stack bras flat so they spoon each other, and stuff the cups with socks. (Don’t bend molded bras in half—you’ll crimp the foam.)
7. Wrap belts around the interior frame of the bag.
8. Stock essentials, loose toiletries, and chunky costume jewelry in the lid compartments. Store delicate earrings in pill cases, and string dainty bracelets and necklaces through drinking straws, taping the clasps to one end. Then secure the straws in a plastic bag, says Poole.
9. Tuck leftovers—swimsuits, hosiery, underwear, scarves—into corners and any remaining nooks.
10. Store dirty laundry in large zippered plastic bags. Press the air out as you tightly roll each bag, like a vacuum pack. Lay the compressed bags flat in a side pocket.
11. Cradle fragile souvenirs in your bulkiest sweaters and arrange them in the center of the bag, where the least movement occurs, says Krantzler. For extra protection, store messy liquids—like that bottle of extra-virgin olive oil from Tuscany—in a reusable inflatable plastic bag designed for this job (try the VinniBag; $28, vinnibag.com).
If you’re bundling, simply place the bundle in the bag and follow the accessories tips.
If you’re using a soft-sided bag, like a duffel or a weekender, place flat shoes along the bottom, with the soles pressed against either side of the bag. Add rolled clothes, packing them tightly to prevent shifting in transit, which causes wrinkling, says Klosky. From there, follow the accessories tips, with these exceptions: Lay heels and boots flat on top of the bag, then add the toiletry kit.
Find a travel-friendly wardrobe at realsimple.com/packlight.