How to Pack Like a Pro

TSG Tip 243: Peace Frog Packing Tip

As any frequent flyer knows, there is an art to packing for a trip. (This is true whether you’re jetting off for a weeklong family vacation or a day of business meetings in a big city.) To help travelers arrive at their destinations with not just everything they need, but an organization system already in place, we asked Lindsay Craig, Packing Specialist and Store Manager at Charlottesville, Virginia-based Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, for advice on how to pack like a pro. Here are her recommendations:

Invest in key products. If your packing approach involves stuffing as much clothing as possible into a bag and hoping for the best, you haven’t discovered packing cubes yet. “These game-changing lightweight cubes save space and alleviate ‘exploding bag syndrome,’” says Craig of the containers that come in a variety of sizes and colors. Craig recommends packing different people or different types of items into specific colored cubes as a way to keep things organized within your suitcase. Additional helpful products include folders, which are great for keeping blouses and slacks wrinkle-free; compression sacks, which are great for minimizing the amount of room occupied by thicker items and dirty clothes; garment sleeves featuring roll bars that prevent creases from occurring in items like dresses and suits; and multi-use items like a bag that packs into itself or a vest that folds down into a neck pillow.

Be strategic with bag space. When packing your bag, Craig recommends building by layer and making sure you’re filling each layer (again, this is where packing cubes can be helpful, since the different sizes let you fill space like a puzzle). Pack items like socks, underwear, and an umbrella around the rails in the back of the bag so as not to waste space, and put your heaviest items like shoes on the bottom, which will help manage the weight of your bag when you’re pulling it through the airport or train station. Craig also advises that you keep in mind what you’ll be using earlier in the trip versus later in the trip so you won’t have to do a lot of rifling to find items you’ll want to access immediately.

Edit your items. “We’ve all probably heard this, but laying out your items before you begin packing is important,” says Craig, who starts putting items she plans on packing into sorted piles a week or two ahead of time. “That way, when I go to pack and see I have eight pairs of pants in a pile, I can easily pare down.” After she’s edited her selections, she rolls items (another space-saver), places them into packing cubes, and places the cubes in the bag. Opting for multiple layering pieces—particularly ones that can be easily hand-washed and dry quickly—over bulky sweaters can save you space as well.

Optimize your personal item. Since you never know when your carry-on suitcase might be gate-checked, always pack essential items and valuables (such as medications, jewelry, and electronics) into the personal item you’ll bring on the plane. You should also think strategically about what you wear on the plane as well. Traveling in your comfortable boots or sneakers and wearing an extra scarf on the plane can save space in your carry-on. And remember that if you’re traveling with little ones, they’re allowed to bring suitcases and personal items, too. In addition to making the trip seem more exciting, giving children their own bags creates extra luggage space.

TSG Tip 243 from Lindsay Craig, Packing Specialist and Store Manager at Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters is featured in The Scout Guide Charlottesville.