Preparing for a trip is a great feeling. There is a lot to do. One of my favorite things to do is pack. I know this sounds crazy, but I really do enjoy it. Making sure I have everything that I need, but not things that I don’t need (even though they still sneak into my bag somehow) and that my bag will still close is a huge equation that I thrive off of. I know some people hate it. If I could pack for them, I would. Maybe they just haven’t found the right method or they don’t have the right luggage. Choosing your luggage, your packing style and even changing your pack to fit your needs can hugely influence whether packing will be fun or torture. It’s different for everyone, every trip and every location. I’ve found what works for me and by following a few general pointers, packing is quick, easy and painless.
Pick Your Luggage
What you pack in is the first thing to determine. You don’t want a bag that is too small, too big or two awkward. When I travel, I travel from one city to another once or twice a week. I am not taking my bag on hikes, long walks through cities or any activity where I have to carry it too long. For me, it’s more important to be able to get into my bag than to carry the easiest. I have a ‘travel pack’. It’s not a hiking backpack, that loads from the top. I carry it on my back, but it still opens like a suitcase. This works great for me. It is comfortable enough to carry from location to location, but I don’t have to unload everything to get to my buried toothbrush at the bottom of a top-loading pack. The wheels on a rolling suitcase add extra weight and make stairs and cobbled streets difficult, so that is out of the question. A travel pack works wonderfully for me.
If you plan to go on hikes or carry your pack further than from the train station to wherever you’re sleeping, this might be a good option. The top-loading system keeps things in place and the suspension system makes it easy to carry. If you’re only going into it on occasion, you should sacrifice accessibility in exchange for something that carries well.
If you don’t want to carry your pack on your back, traditional rolling suitcase is a good fit. You have easy accessibility to all parts of your pack and you don’t have to carry it. Keep in mind where you are going. If you’re sleeping somewhere with no elevator, you will have to lug it up the stairs (or get someone to help you). Wheeled luggage is a little heavier, but if you don’t mind the weight, the wheels can be a lifesaver.
Utilize Packing Tools
There are many packing organizers that can help you keep everything in place. I am in love with Eagle Creek’s Packing Cubes. They are fabric cubes with a three-sided zipper that can fit several tops or a couple bottoms in each. The cubes come in different sizes, some with two sides and some pouches. I have a few to separate my tops, bottoms, underwear, dresses and pajamas. I have them in different colors so it’s easy to tell what is inside without unzipping it. They act like drawers in my pack and make packing, unpacking and finding things simple. After using them, I can’t imagine traveling without packing cubes.
Of course, depending on what type of luggage you’ve picked, you might already have a built-in organization system. Most backpacks have a few smaller pouches and one large rounded compartment, so square packing cubes might not be ideals. Of course, they would still work, but they are best for square travel packs or suitcase.
Pimp It Out
Whatever type of luggage you get, it isn’t made specifically for you. There is always something you can do to make it fit your needs. Packing cubes are a great way to make it work better for your situation. My travel pack came with an attachable day bag. I found I never really used the day bag and it makes my pack really long, so I’m leaving it at home this time around. I’ve tried putting smaller reusable shopping bags in it’s place, but I found they would slip out of place. I McGyvered my bag with six velcro strips on the bag and their partners on the reusable shopping bag. Now, I can put a coat, food or something small inside the bag and velcro it to the outside. It’s easy to get to if I need it and it’s held securely in place with the pack’s straps and my velcro. Making your pack work for you often needs to be done. The company that made it had general travelers in mind, not you specifically. So pimp it out and make it your own!
Your final packing session means that you’re really going! It’s not a time when you want to be stressed out or realize you have too much stuff to fit in your bag. You want your luggage to be easy to carry, organized and fit to what you need it to be. If you plan ahead enough, practice packing and realize early on what you do and don’t need, packing will be much easier. It does take a lot of planning, but it’s all worth it when you have one less thing to stress out about. But if you still don’t like packing, I will gladly come and pack for you.