With the rising cost of “extra” luggage allowance, and the increasing restrictions by airlines, it’s more important than ever to learn how to pack your suitcase really well. I travel every week, so here are some tips for maximizing that precious small amount of space you have.
The notebook/laptop tote. For starters, before we even get to your suitcase, let’s open that laptop bag. More than just your computer can go in there. I always place a t-shirt folded carefully under my notebook, and another on top of it. These fit easily and add an extra layer of padding and protection for your computer. Next, ease 2 pairs of socks into each side of the notebook. The fit might be tight, but -again– it will add some extra protection to your notebook PC. On a 4 night trip, you’ve just taken care of half your shirts and socks. For a longer trip, you made good headway. Let’s move to the suitcase…
The suitcase. Put all your flats together in the bottom of the suitcase. By flats, I mean: anything that can be ironed or laid flat, such as jeans, pants or shirts. These go on the right side. If you need to pack an extra pair of shoes, these go on the left, but put them in a shoebox.
Pack the shoebox itself like a little suitcase. Load it with as much as possible, filling all the spaces (even your lens case, manicure set, etc. can go in there). Put the rest of your socks inside the shoes, and stuff them tight. All other items go on top of these two sections. Use every nook and cranny. Remember, most clothing items (underwear, etc) can be crammed into small spaces in your luggage. Keep everything at right angles, like building a tetris game. It will fit better that way. Your suitcase is a puzzle that needs to be put together.
In the pockets or sleeves on front of the suitcase (often there’s a wide zipper pocket), you can put another shirt and/or similar items that lay flat. Many suitcases also have a wide pocket on the back side. All your maps, phrase books, web printouts, etc. should also go here.
Keep all your toiletries, tooth brush, mouthwash, contact lens supplies, etc. in small plastic bags and tuck these into crevices around the suitcase. Put no more than 4 items in each bag. It’s easier to find spaces for several small bags than for one large bag.
Wear as much as you can. Why are you packing a jacket, when you can just wear it? Wear a shirt and a sweater, a jacket, and anything else that you can manage. Most of it can come off in the plane and lie behind you on the seat.
Also, remember that many items can be purchased easily in your destination city. Toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. is limited to very small sizes anyway (due to TSA security restrictions), so just buy it on the other end. It’s a couple dollars well spent.
Finally, make sure important items such as glasses / glass case, passport, agenda, hotel map, tickets, etc. are on you. Put them in the pockets of your jacket that you’ll be wearing. This way you won’t waste suitcase space, and you’ll be sure they are with you and not forgotten on the kitchen table when you walk out the door.
This is how I manage to travel the globe on 2 pieces of luggage: a PC tote and a suitcase.