Don’t Overlook Your Packing!

Luggage by nhanusek Creative Commons

Nothing fills our eyes with stars quite like the thought of arriving at our vacation destination. We imagine ourselves glowing like the people in the travel brochures, brimming with the excitement of the adventures that lie ahead.

The real experience, of course, is not always as advertised. Those smiling adventurers in the promotional photos have packed about enough luggage for an afternoon of billiards–in other words, nowhere near the freight load that you’re toting along on a real vacation.

For too many vacationers, the reality is garment bag straps digging into your shoulders and wheeled luggage wandering off the sidewalk into the mulch. It’s a morning rush to locate Caleb’s shoes and Kendra’s cami. It’s unexplained wildlife hiding in your socks. But it can be managed. Here’s how to plan your luggage as efficiently as you’ve planned the trip.

Pack Safely

Luggage ages quickly. Whatever travel you are doing likely pales in comparison to the abuse you give it in storage, where a heavy box of old books rests atop the suitcase and the crowding is creasing the duffle. Everything looks serviceable as you load up from the house, but as it hops of the carousel, it just might regurgitate everyone’s silky underthings in front of a couple dozen amused travelers.

Before the trip, do a vigorous inspection of your gear and make sure that the zippers, hinges, wheels, and straps are fit for duty. If they aren’t, don’t gamble on them for one frequent flyer mile. Get to work getting some new items.

Pack Realistically

No matter what kind of great luggage sale you’ve hit, you still don’t want to carry more onto the plane (or ship, or train, or rickshaw) than you absolutely have to. With air travel, of course, baggage fees can be murder.

The standard idea has always been to take twice as much money and half as much clothing as you think you’ll need. That’s not a bad idea.

Of course, people panic at the thought of running out of clothing. And families traveling with small children are wise to load heavy in case of spit-ups or juice box catastrophes.

But in most cases, your agenda will drive what garments you’ll need. And even if you do find yourself coming up short, you can launder a few items in the hotel. Many will send the clothes out for you for a reasonable fee. And hey, if your last day is a rain-out of a golf date, you can get all productive and just go ahead and wash everything before you return home! No? Okay. But pack light anyway.

Pack in Modules

Your time in the hotel is considerably less joyous when you spend half of it trying to remember which bag contains your pajamas. It’s human nature to pack things in groups, because that’s how we do in our homes. Bedsheets here, bath towels there.

But luggage should be done differently, especially when you’re taking a trip with multiple stops If your abundance of clothing won’t all fit in a single bag, break it up by locations, not by uses.

For example, a road trip through the American south might give you a night bar-hopping for music in Nashville, a day at a museum in Huntsville, and a few days on the Gulf Shore. Would your outfits for the clubs need to mingle with your seersucker shirt for those romantic walks on the white sand? Of course not. Get each day’s needs (and the subsequent night’s needs) grouped together so that even if you have other bags, you can efficiently set them aside and find everything in one place.

The items you pack, where you pack them, and how you pack them should not be an afterthought that wanders through your mind on the heels of hotel ideas and dinner plans. It’s a critical element that can make or break your trip. Do it right and have a great vacation!