Packing light is a sport. Or at least, that's how I justify being so sweaty at the end of an avid bout.
And between carry-on size restrictions, the avoidance of baggage fees, and an inescapable series of pre-vacation premonitions of me buried under a mountain of sensible walking shoes with not a single clean sock in sight, it's not exactly one I'll volunteer to play.
But over the years, I've developed some strategies to make packing for a trip a little bit easier. (Mainly in the spirit of reallocating my energy to snack-planning for said trip.)
Here are seven tips, culled from my many failures and triumphs, as well as those of my colleagues:
Find a suitcase that speaks to you in matters of size, layout, and compartment density. (Pick one in each size-family if you regularly travel with a checked bag and a carry-on.)
According to Travel + Leisure: "The standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, which includes the handle and the wheels." They note that, because various international carriers have different regulations, "To be sure your bag is accepted on all carriers, you'll want to get a suitcase that stands at 21 inches or less."
For lightweight, thin fabrics (think: linens, t-shirts, sundresses, and the like), rolling a folded garment really does do wonders for suitcase Tetris.
"Everything is rolled and fitted like a grid along the side where the luggage handles retract," says E-commerce Coordinator Jamie Chen, of her packing strategy. "The key is make everything as flat as possible." (Chen also advocates for keeping a capsule wardrobe to pare down even further.)
For structural help, seek out packing cubes: semi-firm rectangles that allow you to organize and compress your items into different compartments.
Whether you're the type to make packing lists or to freestyle your outfits, always think in terms of what can be layered together. I like to start with one pair of versatile pants and a coat or jacket layer that matches, and fill in the blanks with a few tops and sweater options.
"In the summer, I always try to pack an easy-to-wear palette of neutrals. Usually it's a blend of whites, naturals, and faded blues—lately a hint of leopard too," says Associate Buyer Aja Aktay, who most definitely looks more put together than I do on any given trip. "A crisp shirt always seems to be the first thing I throw on, and it's nice to mix that back to some earthy textures like a rattan bag or rope sandal."
Packing shoes can be a pain point for even the savviest traveler. One thing you can do: wear the most cumbersome pair (looking at you, boots) on the flight. Bonus points if you do the same with that puffer jacket.
As for packing additional pairs of shoes, "I like to use the cloth bags that are provided with sheet sets. I never know what to do with those bags anyway and they just so happen to fit a pair of shoes perfectly!" says Aktay. Other team members note that shower caps make for handy sole-covers.
"I like to use [shoes] as their own vessels and fill them up with socks and random small items that otherwise just slip through and fall to the bottom of your bag," says UX Designer Rebecca Sutter.
Store your travel toiletries together in a travel case—which can be one intended for that purpose, or if you're me, a years-old Glossier zip-top bag—so you never need to unpack or repack all those tiny bottles.
Keep in mind the TSA's rule for liquids in carry on luggage: "3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin."
Erin Alexander, Assistant Editor of Partner Content, swears by a pre-packed laundry bag, whether it's a true breathable mesh one, or a repurposed one from a recent grocery run.
"Otherwise, I let my dirty clothes just pile up on the floor next to my suitcase during a trip, and I always end up losing something," she says.
Pack your laptop and bag of toiletries last, so it's as close to painless as possible to remove for the security screening line. Because the only thing worse than being stuck behind the person fishing around in the bottom of a Mary Poppins-esque duffel for one tiny shampoo is being that person yourself.