Possibly one of the most unexpected assignments I’ve been asked to write on spec… how to pack a suitcase for someone who barely knows what a suitcase is. I took photos of the entire process because I wrote this on the weekend I was moving house, but they were terrible.

Have you ever had this common holiday problem? Your trip is booked; you’ve got your suntan lotion, and a wicked polka dot bikini (or sensible UV resistant wetsuit), but you don’t know how to put everything you need into your suitcase. Here’s how to make your pre-holiday preparation as easy as ordering a daiquiri at the beach.

Things you’ll need:

  • good-sized suitcase
  • small and large plastic bags

Always take the weather with you

Check the weather forecast before you pack, even if you are heading out to a hotter climate for the weekend. Bring something warm just in case the weather changes unexpectedly, but don’t be too cautious and cram in more outfits than you need. A weather-proof jacket and pair of jeans is usually enough.

Bag it up

If you are flying, any containers with 50ml or more liquid must be checked into the hold in your suitcase. This includes sunscreen, moisturisers and creams. Put anything that might leak in small plastic baggies. Ziplock or re-sealable bags are the best for keeping your holiday gear dry and free from nasty stains.  

Start big

Open your suitcase and lay it on a flat surface where you can easily get around. The floor, a large table or a clear bed are all good surfaces.

Most suitcases have one side that is deeper than the other. Use this side.

To begin, separate your holiday clothes into larger items, such as trousers and shirts, and smaller pieces, like underwear and swimsuits. Start with the big stuff. There are two popular ways to pack: folding or rolling.

Folding

The most popular way to pack a suitcase is to fold large items into the case, layering them until they’ve filled the side of the case.

Tip: Don’t be too worried about making your clothes meet the edges of the suitcase perfectly. There’s a good use for those gaps.

Folding is preferred by people concerned with keeping any ironed lines crisp and sharp. It is also the favourite method of people who can actually fold.

Rolling

For everyone else, there’s rolling. Not only is it the easiest way to pack, it’s also the most space efficient, allowing a few more items than folding does.

Start rolling your clothes along natural fold lines to reduce creasing. For example, line up each trouser leg seam and then roll the legs together until your trousers resemble a Swiss roll.

Fill the bottom of the suitcase with these little rolls. You can even add another stack of them, but try not to exceed the height of the suitcase. You still need to add shoes and smaller items and you don’t want to have to sit on your suitcase to close it.

Travelling with the ultimate cheat

Vacuum-pack bags are a handy way to save space by removing air between clothes. You can fold or roll your clothes into the bags before removing the air.

Tip:

  • Travel vac-bags are small enough to fit into most suitcases and don’t require a vacuum cleaner to use.
  • Don’t pack any liquids, electronics or sharp objects in these bags.

Gaps are great

Once your case is packed with folded or rolled up clothes, it’s time to plug any gaps in the sides with your smaller articles and liquid baggies. Both the folded and rolled items create natural spaces where socks, underwear, brushes, travel hairdryers, and swimsuits can go. If you don’t have a vanity bag, these gaps also create natural insulation for your liquid baggies.

Grab your shoes to go

As in life, your shoes are the last things you’ll need before you head out the door. To keep your clothes clean, put your shoes into the larger plastic bags. It’s a lot easier to wrap each shoe individually. You can then manipulate each shoe to fit within the natural dips and folds created by your packed clothes.

Finally, bring across the empty side of the case and close the suitcase, without disturbing any of your packed items. Easy!

A note on suitcases: some suitcases have equal sides with a zipper flap to keep your clothes undisturbed on one or both sides. In that case, fill up each side and zipper the compartment shut before closing the case.

Happy holidays!

Categories: Non-fiction writing

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