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Smart ways to pack your suitcase

Get everything to fit and keep your clothes looking good

Published: November 2013
Photo: Peter Dazeley

Traveling for Thanksgiving or the holiday season? You don’t want to arrive and open your bag only to find wrinkled clothes, mismatched outfits, and . . . where’s your underwear? Hit rewind. Here are tips to help you pack for a smooth trip:

  • Check the weather at your destination.
  • Call ahead to where you’ll be staying and ask whether a hair dryer and toiletries are provided. (If you’ll need toiletries, buy travel sizes.)
  • Make a packing list. Seems obvious, but how often have you forgotten something important?
  • Before you pack, pile your suitcase’s contents on a flat surface and assess. Are you taking too much? Cull. Try to limit shoes—one or two comfortable pairs for walking and a dressier pair.
  • Consider packing synthetic clothes, which are apt to wrinkle less than those made of natural fibers. Coordinate colors (preferably dirt-deflecting dark tones).
  • Pack a plastic bag for dirty or wet clothes.
  • Pack a small flashlight or headlamp for power outages or nighttime reading.
  • Wear your bulkiest item—an all-purpose jacket or sweater—in transit.
  • Put hanging outfits in dry-cleaner bags. Rolling up other items, inserting them in zip-top plastic bags, and squeezing the air out can save space and reduce wrinkles.
  • Put heavy items—toiletries, say—at what will be the bottom of the bag when it’s standing.
  • Place shoes around the edge of a suitcase or use them to fill gaps between other items; socks can nest inside shoes.
  • Charge electronic devices before you leave, and take the chargers you’ll need, with adapters that will work where you’re going.

Visit the luggage discussion in our forums to share your packing tips and tell us which luggage you love (or loathe). And don't buy any suitcases or bags until you check our luggage buying guide.

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