How I Learned To Pack Like a Professional Traveler

I am a seasoned traveler, but I have to admit it has taken me a very long time to learn how to really pack well.

Before you start packing though, you have to have the right luggage.  I’ve never scrimped on my luggage because quality trumps all else when it comes to this essential travel item.  I have to admit that in the early days of my travel, it was my more practical husband who taught me what to look out when it came to what luggage to buy.  We found a luggage brand we could trust that suited our busy lifestyle and which is practical, light, hardy and importantly for me, beautifully designed. These days I make my own luggage choices but have stayed loyal to this brand as it has never let me down in the many thousands of miles, and busy airports I have travelled through.

How to choose the right luggage:

Size is really important. Too big means crumpled clothing. Too small means more creases!

  • Hardside cases protect. They are durable and scratch and shock resistant. I always travel with hardside.
  • However, if you are pushed for space, then soft side cases are best. Many expand and have lots of pockets, providing a special place for everything.
  • A lightweight carry-on case is best for short visits and business trips. That way, you won’t waste time waiting to collect your baggage.
  • For heavy luggage, choose a case with sturdy wheels. Yes, this is me. I still have not mastered the art of packing small. I like to have a variety of clothes with me.
  • When traveling large distances between airports and hotels with heavy luggage, go for a four-wheel spinner case. This is just one of the reasons I buy Samsonite, because their ergonomic grips prevent wrist strain and fold away handles provide comfort and convenience.
  • Adventurers, hikers, and backpackers need durable, lightweight luggage that is designed for comfort to prevent straps from cutting into shoulders. I travel with a sleek soft leather backpack, that has breathable straps, is lightweight, but also looks great.

Plan Before You Pack:

It’s really important to check your destination, the weather, special clothing requirements due to religious beliefs, any sporting or other activities and even laundry facilities. Basics for any traveler, but often forgotten.

traveler | longevity live
Picture: Gisèle Wertheim-Aymés

I am traveling to Myanmar this week on a cultural tour visiting ancient Buddhist temples and places of interest and my clothing choices, given the religious and cultural considerations are very different to a trip I did to the bustling city of Lisbon in Portugal recently.  I don’t think one should ever underestimate the cultural issues in a country and one should be respectful at all times.

  • Strict safety regulations determine what can be included in your hand luggage. This is true especially in Europe and the US. With all the security concerns globally, you must do some homework on what is allowed in your hand luggage and what isn’t.
  • Importantly check your airline’s website for the number of cases you can take, luggage weights as well as size restrictions when it comes to hand luggage. Bulky items are often subject to special regulations.

What You Want Versus What You Need:

Now, this is where we all come unstuck. I find it is really helpful to sit down and list items you’d like to take and then tick off the ones you can’t do without. Compare and compromise if you can. I plan time in advance to allow me to go through these choices, culling what I don’t need until I get the exact proportion of clothes right.

  • Create a capsule wardrobe. The rule is mix and match, so choose one or two color palettes that will enable you to create a variety of outfits. Look out for items that you can either dress up or dress down.
  • Choose fabrics that don’t crease and don’t need ironing.
  • Downsize when it comes to toiletries, you can take smaller containers.
  • Which electrical appliances will be on hand – you might not need to bring a hairdryer.
  • And you can always reduce the amount of clothing by taking along a small container of hand wash detergent.

Pack Smart:  

  • Pack from the base of the case upwards. Pack larger, heavier items first so as not to squash any delicate items. Ensure that you have flat level surfaces to avoid creasing. Because I use a hard case and I like the fact it has a section which zips up completely. This is also where I place my shoes, and I usually wrap them in plastic bags or shoe bags so they don’t dirty clean clothes. You can push smaller items such as socks or underwear into your shoes to save space.
  • A divider pad and/or cross ribbons help you to organize your suitcase and allow you to keep your clothes in place when your case is not completely filled.
  • Small items that may get lost between clothing can be stored in the side pockets.
  • Use a packing kit. Fold your clothes around the packing frame to stop creases.
  • Socks and underwear are good for filling any gaps in the case
  • Use the top part of your suitcase to store delicate items or separate dirty laundry.
  • Shirts and blouses will wrinkle less if you insert a sheet of tissue paper between the individual layers of clothing
  • ‘Interweave’ tailored items like skirts, pants, coats and jackets to prevent creases – drape them with the ends hanging over the sides. Then put the rest of the clothes/soft items (T-shirts, jerseys, etc) on top. Finally, fold over the trousers and hems hanging out over the side of the case and smooth them out
  • Leather belts are less likely to be damaged if you lay them out along the inside walls of the case
  • Place toiletries that can leak or goods that need to stay dry (hairdryers, electric shavers, books) in plastic bags or vanity cases.

And now the answer to that age-old question…

  • To roll or to fold? Without a doubt rolling clothes for travel (especially to summer regions) is best and when using backpacks and holdalls. Usually rolling also works well for trousers, skirts, shorts and jerseys while items like shirts are better folded.

Travel Safe:

 Always put your valuables, important documents (e.g. business documents) and fragile items in your hand luggage.

  • traveler | longevity liveFragile items are best stowed away in your hand luggage. Do not check in valuables, keep them in your hand luggage.
  • Have two identity tags on your case – one on the inside and one on the outside – just in case one gets ripped off.
  • I usually choose my luggage which is unique and easily identifiable, but many people opt for colors and styles that are more common. You need to use additional tags on your bag with color or other cues, like stickers to be able to identify your luggage on the carousel easily.
  • Write your name, number and where you are staying on the label when you leave. Using your home address can draw attention to the fact that you will be away.
  • Choose a sturdy lock. Again one of the reasons why I prefer Samsonite bags. They use TSA locks which are a good option, especially when traveling abroad.
  • A quick hook accessory enables you to attach a second, smaller piece of luggage to your upright case.

I am off to Myanmar this week with friends and author James Cannon Boyce, of the novel set in Myanmar, titled Floating. We will be experiencing the pages of his book first hand, and discovering this hidden land.  If you’re interested in learning more about Myanmar, the places, and people, follow me on Twitter and Instagram, where I will be chronicling my journey. You can follow my story here.