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10 foolproof packing tips for travelers

August 10, 2016
Woman with suitcase

One of the more stressful and compulsory activities of taking a trip is packing suitcases and travel bags.

We often worry that we’re going to pack the wrong things, or that we’re going to forget to bring certain essentials. And then there are concerns about our clothing coming out a wrinkled mess on the other end — especially business clothing.

There are ways to take some of the stress out of packing for your trips. There is a process to effective packing, and there’s plenty of good advice out there from the experts. One of the places you can find that advice is in USA Today, which probably writes about travel, lodging and hospitality more than any general interest newspaper in the country. One of its articles took this subject head on by offering 10 packing tips that it says every traveler should know. Here is what USA Today says experts have to share with us.

Make a list. When it comes to packing, procrastinators fall short. Start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your departure date; this gives you time to craft a complete list, plus purchase any additional items you might need for your vacation. Creating a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never forget to bring something important.

Roll, don’t fold. Many travel experts — including backpackers, who must stuff months’ worth of clothing into a pack the size of a box of wine — agree that rolling is superior to folding. Tightly rolled clothes take up less space than folded ones. Plus, they’re less prone to getting deep wrinkles from fold creases.

Know your airline’s baggage-fee policy. Figuring out the airlines’ tricky and befuddling baggage-fee policies is key to any budget-minded packing strategy. While most airlines permit travelers to check at least one bag on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge for bags checked on domestic flights. Before you start packing, go to your airline’s website and read its baggage policy.

Follow the 3-1-1 rule. What happens if you don’t follow the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage? Attempt to bring a large bottle of shampoo or a full-size gel deodorant through the security line and the TSA will likely confiscate your stuff, holding you up in line in the process. So get familiar with the agency’s rules: All liquids brought onto planes must be in 3.4-ounce bottles or smaller and inside a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag.
It also helps to know which items are, according to the TSA, considered liquids or gels and thereby subject to the 3-1-1 rule. Learn more about these policies on The TSA Blog.

Use your personal item wisely. It’s standard for airlines to permit each traveler to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard planes. This personal item is subject to specific size requirements (these vary by airline), but something like a purse, laptop bag, or backpack is generally acceptable. Travelers are advised to bring a large tote bag, rather than a small purse, that you can stash under the seat but will still give you extra storage space. Pack it with items you need to keep within arm’s reach.

Wash your clothes on the road. If you know your accommodations has free laundry facilities, or there is a laundry service (as is the case with The Rose Hotel), it’s a big advantage. You can pack fewer pieces of clothing and wash and wear a handful of outfits.

Pack dual-purpose garments. Dual-purpose items, such as pants that turn into shorts or a jacket that turns into a travel pilloware worth their weight in airline baggage fees.

Layer. This advice is twofold: Wear layers and pack in layers. First, your on-the-road wardrobe should feature plenty of layers, which will help you jet-set through multiple climates in style and comfort. Second, the items in your checked bag should be packed in neat layers for easy screening. According to the TSA, “Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.)” so that the security agent screening your checked bag can get a clear picture of what’s inside. The faster the TSA agent can screen your stuff, the faster you’ll get through the security line.

Never check essential items. It’s terribly important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you, just in case your check bag doesn’t make your destination.

Use packing aids. Here is one great one: Eagle Creek Compression Sacs. Use them to shrivel your clothes into a vacuum-packed, tiny, tight bundle that takes up minimal suitcase space. Other packing aids that can help you organize better and fit more into your bag include packing envelopes and packing cubes.

As we said at the top of this blog post, Packing is a process. Put these tips in place and in no time at all you’ll be packing like a pro.

And you can stay current on travel considerations of all kinds by making regular visits to the USA Today travel section.