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Packing a Suitcase: Handy Tips

Step one:  remove cat from suitcase

Step one: remove cat from suitcase

Step One: For Cat Owners

Remove cat from suitcase or duffel bag!

Note that this step may have to be repeated several times!

Hahaha—hard to be cross with them; they are so darned cute about it!

Suitcase or Duffel Bag?

When I pack, it doesn't matter whether I'm using a suitcase or a duffel bag—I pretty much pack the same way for both.

My father was in the Navy, and all of their clothing and gear had to fit into their sea-bags, which is just a Navy term for a duffel bag. These bags were stuffed full. My dad had a saying he got from those days, if something was going to be a tight fit. He'd say, "Just like my Navy sea-bag—when it's full, you put the rest in."

Being the military, you'd better believe their clothes had better not come out wrinkled, either! He was a past master at packing and using every inch of space, so I learned from the best.

The main trick I learned was this: do not fold your clothing items—roll them! Folds guarantee wrinkles. Rolled clothing comes out wrinkle-free, or at least much, much less wrinkled than folded clothes.

At every fold, there will be a crease or wrinkle when the clothes are unpacked

At every fold, there will be a crease or wrinkle when the clothes are unpacked

There are no creases but one up the center of the back as if ironed, when rolling clothes, and it's really not that noticeable

There are no creases but one up the center of the back as if ironed, when rolling clothes, and it's really not that noticeable

How Do You Pack Shoes in a Suitcase?

Old socks. I am serious. Save some "holey" socks aside for the purpose. Keep them stored inside the suitcase so they don't end up in the rag bin or tossed out with the trash.

When packing, slide the shoes inside the socks. Not only do the socks corral the shoes and any small items you may stash inside; they also, more importantly, serve to keep the rest of the clothing clean.

Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination to find a dirty smudge on a shirt that began the journey nice and clean.

Then, lay them in the suitcase as they originally come to you in their shoe box—heel-to-toe, and tops together for best space management.

Use the shoes as the bottom layer, laid on their sides.

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The Bottom Layer

"Bagged" shoes in position in suitcase

"Bagged" shoes in position in suitcase

Use All the Space

Whether I'm going camping, or going visiting for a few days, my personal preference is the duffel bag. Because it has no rigidity, you can stuff-cram it full much easier than you can a suitcase. Also, the duffel itself is very flexible, and can be 'crunched' into awkwardly sized and shaped spaces, unlike even a soft-sided suitcase.

However, the same tricks work no matter which piece of luggage you decide to use.

One thing we always do is use all the space that would otherwise be wasted, and here, the shoes come in handy. You can put your small items such as toothpaste, deodorant, and the like inside the shoes. (For extra security in case of leaks, first seal them in plastic baggies.) Mind you, this probably only works if you are driving to your destination, what with all the lists of items forbidden on airplanes these days. You can also stuff underwear into shoes if you have a really big packing job.

In a suitcase, use the little pockets around the edges to corral your undies and toiletries. It's easier to pack the toiletries scattered about than trying to find room to stuff in a separate travel kit, unless it's a very tiny kit.

The more space you can conserve, the fewer bags you'll need to carry, and that's fewer things to keep track of.

Dual-Purpose Packing

Don't waste the space inside the shoes

Don't waste the space inside the shoes

Special Tips

  • Never put any prescription medications in your checked-through luggage. Keep them with you at all times. Then, if your luggage goes astray, you won't be without your necessary medication.
  • Put your name and address on the inside lid of your suitcase, as well as on any luggage tag. In case of the luggage breaking open, or the tag coming off, your belongings can be returned to you.
  • When using a luggage tag to mark your bags, be sure to use the type that conceals your address under a part of the tag, so that you are not instantly advertising that you are away from home to any unscrupulous baggage handlers or snoopy bypassers.

Use Small Sizes

Another way to pack efficiently and conserve space is to use small sizes of your toiletries. The little hotel-sized sopas are better used this way than just stashed as "souveniers." Then,if you happen to forget and leave them behind, you're not out anything.

When you're getting ready for your trip, hit the sample-sized bins at your local drugstore, convenience store or dollar store. True, you might not find your usual brands, but it's only for a few days. These tiny sizes are perfect for stuffing into shoes as I suggested above, and again, if you don't bring them home, you're not out of pocket for full-sized bulky containers of shampoo or what-have-you.

If you are traveling by air, and find these items on the "do not fly" list, simply purchase them at your destination. Most major cities will have a good-sized store near your accommodations offering these trial sizes. If you are staying with relatives, go ahead and buy your full size, and leave them behind for your hosts when you return home.

Time To Relax

Now that you have everything corralled in as little space as possible, you'll have fewer bags to pack and lug with you. This means less to keep track of, and quicker check-in at airline counters.

It also means less fighting to fit luggage into your car for driving trips.

That's extra time you can use to begin the de-stressing process on your way to your destination.

© 2012 Liz Elias

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