For some of us, it’s an exciting part of travel: deciding what you are going to take and arranging it all in your suitcase. But there’s a fine art to packing just the right amount and including some items which will make your trip even more enjoyable.
Who better to ask about insiders’ advice than people who travel a lot. We put some feelers out in the travel industry and came up with some insider suggestions on packing like a pro.
An informal poll of industry professionals reveals that packing cubes have become a big favorite. Available in sets of various sizes, packing cubes are rectangular fabric zippered “boxes” into which you fit clothing items, usually grouped together such as shirts, socks and underwear and so on. “Love them,” reports one travel advisor. Others chimed in: “They’re like file folders for clothes.” “A great way to stay organized, especially if you are on the move and never have time to properly unpack.” Hint: keep one for dirty laundry.
Here are some other great ideas that we gleaned from travel types.
From Alycia Oliphant, Business Development Manager/National Accounts for Cunard Line, who says that she is on the road on average half the time:
In my carry-on I always have my itinerary, earphones, a ‘real’ book (I don’t like e-readers), a medicated cream to combat inflight dryness, and two inexpensive shawls: one for my lap and one for my shoulders. I never wear sneakers or lace-up shoes in case they ask you to take your shoes off at security, because they are a nuisance to take off and put back on again. And I always wear socks: who wants to be barefoot going through security!
I also keep a second set of toiletries for travel so I’m not always raiding the bathroom. I have the tech stuff down to a science and keep it all in one pack. One gadget I just love is a miniature goose-neck reading lamp that plugs into my laptop. It gives a softer light than the white one from the screen.
Packing for a cruise is different, of course! Lots more shoes, handbags and jewelry. You pretty much have to have two outfits per day, which is great for me as I love to dress up.
Prolific travel writer Tim Johnson (timjohnsontravels.com) has 145 countries under his belt. For him, simplicity is best. He learned long ago to travel with just carry-on, no matter how long the journey or exotic the destination.
I never leave home without earplugs, because you never know when your hotel room will face onto a busy street, or you’ll have a screamer behind you on the plane. Another indispensable item for me is a bathing suit. I’ve swum on Antarctic beaches as well as 1,000 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, so you never know when you’ll need your suit.
And to keep it to carry-on only, Tim says he has gotten comfortable with packing “the simplest version of my clothes, if not the most stylish—including six almost-identical black polo shirts.”
Christina Annese works as a Key Account Manager for Icelandair and travels frequently on business.
She finds that ballet slippers that fold up in her bag take little room and are flexible fashion-wise. A neck pillow (“I never thought I wanted one as I thought they were nerdy, but now I love mine!”), disinfectant wipes and a handbag with a zip-top, so nothing falls out when it gets put in the bin at security, are also part of her packing plan.
And as someone travels regularly to Iceland, Christina suggests that for trips to cooler temperatures you should pack clothing that can be worn in layers.
I travel about 15 times a year and have come up with a couple of my own tricks. I never put clothes straight from the drawer into my suitcase. Instead, I put everything I plan to take onto the bed and estimate if it will fit into my suitcase. That way if I have to delete something, I can take it out of a pile rather than having to do a deep, disturbing dive into a carefully-packed case.
And as much as the professionals I mentioned above love their packing cubes, I’m a fan of vacuum bags: tough, clear plastic zippered bags – sort of like large freezer bags – into which you place your clothing. You zipper them almost shut and roll them up to compress the clothing and squeeze out the air. Many items, particularly bulky ones like sweaters, end up about half their regular size. They’re a huge help if you are going the carry-on only route. Each set comes in various sizes, so they are sort of like space-saving packing cubes!
I also like to include a separate little bag in my carry-on which holds I’ll need inflight: reading material, a shawl, neck pillow, breath mints, tech needs, moisturizer, snacks. That way I can pull it out when I get to my seat and not be that person holding up the boarding process.
A couple of inexpensive items make life on the road easier for me. They include a small plug-in night light for my hotel room (I cannot imagine how many stubbed toes I’ve avoided with that one). A hand-held paper fan has proven a lifesaver on jaunts to warmer climes like sun-soaked Venice and the steamy Caribbean.
Note: Fewer hotels are providing shower caps so if you need one bring one with you, and in Europe, facecloths are almost unheard of unless you are staying in a luxury hotel.
A jean jacket is also great. Classic, windproof, and with pockets that always prove handy for a notebook, phone or spare change — a jean jacket can always be dressed up with a nice scarf.
Pack smart and you’ll bless yourself for the conveniences it provides and the hassles it avoids!
Martha Chapman has been traveling since she was 12 years old and says she is always looking forward to her next adventure.