Wheelie-bag forest, BEA, New York City, NY, USA.JPG
Credit: Cory Doctorow

A woman clasps a bulging tote bag and drags her large wheeled suitcase. Meanwhile, her purse slides off her shoulder. If she knew how to pack a suitcase, her trip would not be such a struggle.

She pays dearly to check that baggage. At the next airport, she presses around the luggage carousel once more clutching her handbag and tote.

Follow a plan.

It takes planning to avoid paying to risk losing luggage. It also takes these simple items:

A practical handbag;

A lightweight jacket;

An overhead bin-sized suitcase with rollers;

Quart-sized plastic bags;

Drinking straws;

An old greeting card; and,

A garbage bag.

Carry a smaller purse.

The trick is that the purse needs a long strap worn across the body and a handy outer pocket for the requisite travel documents. The bag should have enough room for a favorite e-reader or a small tablet, sunglasses, camera and a cell phone.

Pick easy fabrics.

Pick clothing made from easy care materials. To test how well a particular fabric will pack, grab it in one hand and squeeze. Release. Is there a wrinkle pattern? If not, it is a winner. Entire clothing lines exist just for travel. The common denominator is the fabric choice. They are made from easily hand-washed and drip-dried synthetic knit cloth.

Go versatile.

Wear the bottom half of your outfits more than once during a trip. Include more tops than bottoms for a varied wardrobe. Each day’s outfit is still unique. Avoid dresses. Instead, substitute a matching or coordinating skirt and top. Whatever the weather forecasts say about your destination, add a light jacket. Even warm places have overly chilled buildings or plunging evening temperatures.

Stay coordinated.

The age-old advice to stick with no more than two or three colors max still holds true. Simple mix and match outfits travel well.

Lightweight scarves or jewelry add style without bulk. Necklaces pack tangle free when threaded through drinking straws. Poke post earrings through an old greeting card.

Crinkly scarves, socks or hosiery can go inside shoes. Even better, simply wear easy slip-on shoes and only pack one other pair.  Flip-flops make a good choice as they save space and come in many styles.

Use plastic bags.

Individual quart-sized plastic bags contain toiletries, cosmetics, accessories and undies. Keeping like items together in clear bags makes any security search go faster. After all, no one will help put everything back. The clear bags can shorten the ordeal. Fortunately, they are also great for keeping track of personal items in hotel rooms.

Fold and roll.

The easiest way to pack clothing is folded, smoothed and rolled up. For pants, shorts or skirts, just fold in half lengthwise and begin rolling from the waistband smoothing as you go. To roll shirts, pick up the top by the shoulder seams with the front facing you. Fold the sides back about halfway between the neck and sleeve. Lay the top front-side down. Match the sleeves together and fold them to align flatly down the length of the top. Slowly roll the shirt from the neck onwards gently pulling out any wrinkles.

Pack a suitcase.

Packing is now easy. Place the heaviest items on the left where the wheels are. That is where the clothes will settle when the suitcase is pulled around in airports. Lighter weight garments go on the right side, away from the wheels. Then, fit the clear bags around any nooks and crannies. Flat scarves go nicely in the mesh lid of the suitcase. Cram the garbage bag in anywhere. It is for the return trip with the dirty clothes. Remember, searches can happen in either direction.

Travel well.

A woman walks erect with a long-strapped purse crossed over her body. She wheels a single carry-on case behind her.  Her other hand is free to whip out her ID, plane ticket and boarding pass. Her cell phone and essential items are secured and at hand. She easily shucks her slippers at security. If her bag gets hand searched, her gear is organized. When she reaches her destination, she gleefully leaves the airport and the carousel crowd behind.

She really knows how to pack a suitcase.

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