Make the Most of Your Suitcase

  • Don't panic pack:Decisions shouldn't be made when you're faced with an open suitcase, says travel speaker and author of Doug Dyment, who has trotted the globe with only a carry-on. Well in advance of a trip, make a master list of everything you'll need day to day and for all the events on your itinerary (Dyment has close to 100 things on his list), and refine it over time. This not only ensures that you won't wind up at your destination with only flip-flops when you have a hiking excursion planned, it also serves as a personal contract—meaning that you can't throw in that extra pair of heels "just in case." "If it's not on the list, it doesn't go on the trip," says Dyment. And don't forget to pack your checklist; it makes packing up to go home (and not leaving your bathing suit hanging in the hotel room shower) more foolproof.

  • Expand later: If your suitcase has an expander, pack with it zipped up on the way to your destination to limit your load and leave room for souvenirs, says Minkoff. If you're carrying on and don't have a heavy load, skip the suitcase with wheels. "Not only will they add 6 to 8 pounds, but the telescoping handle cheats you out of about a third of your packing space," says Dyment. He suggests a rectilinear bag (with straight, flat sides), which gives you more storage capacity than a curved-edge suitcase of the same length, width and height. And keep things you'll need when you deplane (like your phrase book or umbrella) toward the outside so you won't have to come up with "Where's the bathroom?" in Tamil or stand in a taxi line uncovered during a downpour.

  • Get rid of wrinkles: Rolling clothes is a popular space-saving solution, but while it eliminates creases in your pants and shirts caused by the traditional fold-and-stack method, it can increase wrinkling. Dyment swears by bundle wrapping, which involves stacking garments in alternate directions (with the more tailored pieces like jackets and dresses on the outside), wrapping them firmly around a small, soft core (like a nylon travel pouch filled with socks or underwear) and finally anchoring the bundle in place with your bag's tie-down straps. To see a step-by-step diagram, click here. When it comes to your shoes, wrap them in individual bags (Dyment says plastic newspaper sleeves work just as well as the fabric kind) and put them on the bottom of your suitcase. If you're packing pumps, fit the toe into the heel of the opposite shoe and stuff the inside with socks or hosiery. Worried about the smell from your gym sneakers seeping into the rest of your clothes? Rebecca Creer, spas and grooming manager for Virgin Atlantic Airways, suggests sticking an orange peel in them overnight before putting them in your suitcase.

  • Stick to solids: Don't take too much water—and we're not talking about the bottled kind. Dyment says there's a lot of liquid hiding in cosmetics and toiletries that can weigh you down, result in damp luggage and add up to hefty overweight-baggage charges. Many things, including shampoo and even toothpaste, are available in solid form (like Lush Dirty Tooth Tabs, $4, and Shampoo Bars, $9–$11). If you can't part with your conditioner, prevent leaks by squeezing the bottle before screwing the cap on—this provides room for air to expand inside when the pressure changes, says Dyment.

  • Reduce the bulk: Dyment once had to pack his carry-on for a two-week business trip to Moscow (where it was 40 degrees and raining) and Delhi (where it was 120 degrees and humid). Instead of taking bulky sweaters and a puffer to ward off the chill, he brought thin layers made of high-tech fabrics like PrimaLoft (or try Uniqlo's HeatTech collection) to wear under his dress shirt and jacket and stuck to a neutral color palette of two shades to make matching easier. But don't bundle up on the plane to save space; we know a woman who wore her long johns on a flight from New York to Paris and arrived at Charles de Gaulle drenched. No room for your blazer or overcoat in the plane's coat closet? Creer picked up this tip from one of the British royal family's butlers: Thread the left arm of the jacket into the inside of the right sleeve, then reach up through the right cuff and pull the left arm through. This will leave you with half a coat. Then lay it flat in the overhead compartment.

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