I travel frequently, so over the years I've established a system for packing quickly and efficiently. Now I think I have it down to a science.
Whether you travel weekly for business or take one or two vacations a year, knowing how to pack well is important - it will save you time and keep your clothes looking their best when you reach your destination.
The first thing to think about is the kind of trip you're taking. You will pack very differently for a beach vacation, a ski weekend and a business trip.
If arriving wrinkle-free is your top priority, you'll use certain packing tricks; if carrying as much as possible in the way of casual clothes is the goal, other techniques are more effective.
For almost any trip, you'll use a garment bag, suitcase, duffel bag or a combination of these. Each piece has its advantages. Here are tips on which one to use, and how to use it best.
A hanging garment bag is ideal when you're packing formal clothes or business suits.
A good dry cleaner can provide you with plastic bags, tissue paper and cardboard covers that fit over hangers.
Arrange clothes this way: Place a cardboard cover over the hanger's bar, then fold tissue over the bar and hang pants from it.
Drape tissue over the hanger's shoulders, hang a shirt over it and stuff the sleeves with tissue paper. Finally, hang a jacket over that, pulling the shirt's sleeves through its sleeves. Make sure the jacket isn't crumpling the shirt's collar.
Slip a plastic dry-cleaning bag over the whole thing, and hang it in the garment bag. The tissue paper helps the clothes keep their shape and the plastic reduces friction, so clothes hang naturally.
Never overstuff a garment bag. If it is bursting at the seams, your clothes will suffer.
The plastic bags are effective in a suitcase, too; place each garment in its own bag.
Overlapping the clothes as you pack them reduces the hard folds that cause creasing. For example, lay the upper half of a pair of trousers into the suitcase, letting the legs overlap the side. Then add a shirt, so half of it overhangs the front of the case. Fold the pant legs into the bag over the shirt and the shirt over the pant legs.
Pack the edges of a suitcase with socks, lingerie and accessories. Shoes should be tucked in along the hinges.
Soft luggage is excellent for casual clothes. When I traveled to Mount Kilimanjaro, I packed absolutely everything into two small bags by rolling the clothes into neat little bundles.
Heavy items, like shoes, should be at the bottom, followed by rolled clothes.
A duffel can still work even when you have blouses and jackets to pack; encase them in the plastic bags and fold just once before laying into the bag near the top.
If possible, lay a raincoat or other jacket across the top before zipping the bag.
If you need to squeeze a few more things into the duffel, try this. Close the bag, lift it by its handle and drop it on the floor. The items will settle, creating a little more space.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Unlike garment bags, suitcases and duffel bags should be filled to capacity; if not, the clothes will shift about, which leads to wrinkles.
Place duffel bags and other soft luggage on a hard, flat surface when you're packing. This will allow you to fill them evenly and completely. Never fold an item more times than is necessary; most will fit into a bag with just one fold.
It's always a good idea to keep valuables, travel documents, reading and business materials, maps, cosmetics and a change of clothes in a separate carry-on bag. If your luggage doesn't reach your destination with you, you can still enjoy your trip.
Questions may be sent to Martha Stewart by electronic mail. By snailmail, questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, c/o The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.
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