Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Art of Packing

After twenty plus years of traveling to many destinations around the globe, I can claim with confidence to be an expert packer.  Most people throw some things into a suitcase and when they can get the zipper shut are satisfied with their accomplishment.  However, in this day and age where the airlines become bolder every day with charging baggage fees and the carry-on limits are steadily increasing, it is in the traveler's interest to be a vigilant packer.  The best way to do this is to "plan your pack."  What I mean by this is that you need to start thinking about what you want to take not a day or week ahead of your trip, but actually several weeks.

One of my pre-international travel packing rituals is to place a cardboard box in a non-traffic corner of my living room and every time I come across something I need to take, I toss it into the box. What about those Dutch stroopwafels and dark European chocolate my friends and relatives in the U.S. have been begging me for?  Throw them in the box.  My squishy earplugs for the loooong transatlantic flight?  Throw them in the box. Passports? Check. By the time my travel date nears, I am ready to begin my stress-free pack confident that I'm not forgetting anything important.

Obviously, you need to consider the weather and clothing requirements at your destination and pack accordingly.  Most tourists overpack because they want to be prepared for every weather scenario, but this is unnecessary and usually leads to frustration when said tourist buys that irresistible Mexican sombrero but has no room left in the suitcase for the return trip.  Because I live in Europe, clothing is ridiculously expensive so I usually wait until I am back in the U.S. again to shop for clothes.  I have learned from experience to only take a maximum of one or two changes of clothes because this is all I need until I can buy that fantastic new spring wardrobe.  Here are some more packing and baggage tips:

  • Don't fold, but ROLL your clothes.  By rolling your clothes up into cylindrical shapes and placing them in the suitcase, you can fit much more in; however, be aware that it will make your suitcase heavier because you are now able to fit more in
  • If you are planning to purchase a lot on vacation, take a large suitcase with a slightly smaller one and on the outbound journey, place the smaller suitcase inside the bigger one.  This will save you the extra baggage fees on your outbound journey. Or, it might be more economical to simply purchase a new suitcase at your destination.  With baggage fees ranging from $50-$100 per bag, that money might be better spent for a new suitcase to replace your old one
  • See if you can save money on your baggage fees by checking-in online.  Most airlines offer lower baggage fees if you reserve them in advance by checking in online.
  • Wherever possible, place heavy items into your carry-on and not in your fully-loaded suitcase.  This will make a big difference in your suitcase weight and save you from unwanted extra fees due to overweight baggage.  It may also keep TSA from opening and inspecting your baggage for unidentifiable items. (Make sure, however, it isn't something like a liquid which is prohibited from carry-on items)

In addition, there are several websites out there that will help you pack sensibly.  A good site for packing tips is: OneBag.com

Do you have additional ideas for more efficient packing?  Please post them below.

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