kathleen barnes packing tips

Photo: Courtesy of Kathleen Barnes

They Find More Space
Fitting all your travel essentials into one suitcase can be less of a struggle if the bag does some of the work for you. For Kathleen Barnes, the woman behind the style blog Carrie Bradshaw Lied, investing in a smarter suitcase—one that comes equipped with compression straps, which condense clothes to create extra room—makes the packing and travel experience a breeze. She's partial to her Hartmann expandable spinner (you can find a similar option here).

If you're in the market for a new bag, look for ones that feature compression technology, one of the top luggage trends of 2016. Some styles, like the Briggs & Riley carry-on, expand up to 25 percent to fit more items, and then compress back down to original size.

And, within your suitcase, another great way to gain incremental space is with compression pouches, which squeeze out excess air without requiring a vacuum. (However, you'll still want to keep an eye on the weight, and it's best to avoid using them with delicate fabrics, which may wrinkle.)

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

They Multitask
When an item doesn't have more than one use, Karen Blanchard, creator of Where Did U Get That, doesn't pack it. "I really try to look for double duty. If I have a long floor-length maxidress, for example, maybe I can wear it later as a skirt by putting a top on over it."

Another fashion workhorse is the Turkish towel, a lightweight, superabsorbent and quick-drying cotton towel that not only is great on the beach or by the pool but also can easily transform into a coverup, a scarf, a skirt or even a tote bag.
contact lens cases for beauty products

Photo: Patrice J. Williams

They Rethink Travel Size
Can't leave the house without your assorted creams? Patrice J. Williams, the self-proclaimed professional packer who writes the budget-friendly blog Looking Fly on a Dime, uses an unexpected drugstore find: "For the brands I really love and can't leave behind, I buy a couple of cheap contact lens cases and put a dollop of whatever I need in each case."

One caveat for contact lens wearers: Make sure your cases for beauty products are easily distinguishable from the ones holding your lenses. Use different colors or styles, or label the travel ones with permanent marker or nail polish, so you'll always know what's inside.

Photo: Csondy/iStock

They Bring Order to Their Bags
Putting shoes on the bottom and delicates toward the top might feel like an organized system, but you're only setting yourself up for a lot of rummaging later on. To have your outfits easily within reach, Williams recommends packing by activity. Organize clothes by where you might wear them: night-out pieces in one corner, casual sightseeing clothes in another. Once everything is properly grouped, set aside any pieces you don't want to crease and drape them across the top, gently tucking them in around the edges. Or, for extra wrinkle and stain protection, place those items in a separate garment or dry-cleaning bag (plastic or tissue paper material will do) and lay it flat across the top.

Shoes are packed first and last for Blanchard, with the pair that will be worn the most put in last, near the lid of the suitcase (keep them in dust bags or shower caps to protect delicates), and the pairs to wear later packed first, either underneath all your clothes or tucked away in a corner, with the soles facing away from the clothes. And since she's prone to packing way more shoes than necessary, she sticks to one pair of sandals (weather permitting), one pair of wedges or a pair of heels, and one pair of casual sneakers, which covers everything from hours of sightseeing to a trip to the beach to an elegant night out.

As a final touch, Blanchard recommends keeping sleepwear near the very top of your bag. "There's nothing worse than tearing apart your suitcase for your pajamas at the end of a long travel day."

Photo: Yuri_Arcurs/iStock

They Hold Post-Mortems
Williams considers unpacking after a trip just as important as planning. Even the most sparing of packers can make mistakes. "I always revisit my bag," she says. "If something is clean, it means I didn't need it, and I make a note for next time."