Pack It In

I am leaving a little bit later today for a business trip, because that is what fancy people do, and I am, as always, paralyzed by the packing process. Especially since I have to pack wrinkle-prone suits and shirts, all while attempting to not have the biggest suitcase on the trip.

Sounds like sort of a nightmare, right? Well, should you find yourself in the same boat, here are some tips on packing for a trip from Anne McAlpin, author of Pack It Up: Traveling Safe and Smart in Today's World. If anyone knows, she must, right?

1. Checklist. Make a list of the items you need to pack and check off each item as you pack it.

2. Travel Wardrobe. Cut down on the amount of clothes you pack by building your wardrobe using two basic colors. Then you can wear the same shoes, belts and accessories with everything. Since shoes are one of the heaviest items in any bag, pack a minimum of three pairs.

3. Wrinkle-free packing. The secret is to pack in two layers. The first layer should be your heaviest items and the second (top) layer should be your clothing.

Some more layering tips:

Pack your shoes heel-to-toe facing one another with socks stuffed inside, and place them in your suitcase by the wheels. Place belts flat along the perimeter of the suitcase and place any heavy items in the center. Pack squishable items like socks and underwear around the corners and between heavy items.

Use a packing board to separate your layers. If you don't have one, use a placemat. A flat surface for packing your clothes helps reduce wrinkles. Start with pants, folded in half, with the waistband against the left side of the suitcase. For your next pair, use the same method but in the opposite direction. Leave the legs out side the suitcase for now.

Next, fold shorts, skirts and dresses along their natural creases and alternate laying them left and right in your suitcase. For button-up shirts and jackets, fold the sleeves to the back along their natural creases, slide a dry cleaning bag over each and place them in the suitcase with the collars at the top edge.

Roll up your knit items-- the tighter you roll them the fewer the wrinkles-- and pack them next to one another on top of the layered clothing. Once you have utilized every last inch of space, bring the pant legs up and over the rolled items inside the suitcase alternating sides as you go. Then fold in the bottoms of any shirts or jackets that may be outside the case.

One more benefit of a packing board: you can lift out the top layer without disturbing it to retrieve something from below.

And, some final super packing tips:

If you can't wheel or carry your bag with ease, you've packed too much.

Dry-cleaner bags (plastic) allow items to move more freely without getting stuck in a wrinkled position.

Pack everything possible inside a plastic bag. This keeps items well organized and protected in case anything leaks.

Organize children's clothing by packing an entire outfit in a large freezer bag.

Pack women's shoes inside men's shoes (if possible), saving valuable packing space.

Always cover shoes with a shoe bag to avoid getting soil inside your suitcase.

Compression bags are the best solution for the overpacker. They're also great for wet swimsuits, damp workout gear and laundry.

Hanging toiletry bags are the answer to organizing your personal-care items when there's limited counter space.

Never pack make-up in your toiletry bag in case something leaks.

If you can't live without a hair dryer, call your hotel in advance and ask if they provide them. One less thing to pack if they do!

Whew. I am feeling more ready to tackle this packing project. How about you?


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