When it comes to summertime, vacations and weekend excursions often are in the picture. Whether you are spending a weekend in Chicago, a month backpacking around Europe or relaxing on a two-week Caribbean cruise, packing your suitcase for the trip can be the biggest headache of all.
There are many logistics to think about when packing for any getaway. What will the weather be like? How many pairs of shoes do you need? Should you pack a coat? A swimsuit? How many bags can you take?
Before you know it, your bag is over the weight limit, and you’re sitting on the airport floor reorganizing your bags, or you’re paying those pricey fees for an extra bag.
No need to worry. We’ve discovered some tips and tricks to packing a suitcase efficiently with only the necessities.
“You want to think about the weather and surroundings you’re going to be in,” said Angie Harter, travel consultant at Travel Headquarters in Dubuque. “If you’re going to a beach in the summer, you’ll pack differently than you would if you were packing for a trip to London in November.”
For a trip to Europe, you’ll want to pack comfy shoes for traveling and walking around. But you also might want to bring sandals to wear for going out or lounging around in the hotel area.
As for the sandy beach, of course, you’ll want a good travel shoe. But you might want to opt for more sandals and swimsuits than sneakers and sweaters.
Harter added that her rule of thumb when it comes to shoes is three pairs.
“I’ve learned to really condense my things. I’m a very light packer.”
Roll and layer up
If you fold your clothes, you’re wasting valuable space in your suitcase. Rolling your items not only saves on those extra baggage fees, but it also keeps your clothes from getting wrinkled.
“By rolling you’ll be able to fit more in a smaller area,” Hartier said. “After you roll them, put them into airtight baggies. It creates more room and keeps your things organized, but it also is convenient when you go through TSA so they aren’t touching all of your things.”
Packing by layers also can help with organization and TSA checkpoints. You can do this by packing shoes as the first layer, clothing and toiletries on top. Layering makes it quicker for security to look through your bags and keeping liquids on top is convenient for when you have to pull them out at checkpoints.
Travel size items only
You don’t need to bring your extra value shampoo and conditioner bottles. They take up too much space, and no one wants shampoo or conditioner spilling all over the contents of their suitcase. When you pack toiletries, put hair products, moisturizers and washes into travel friendly containers.
“The 3-1-1 rule is also extremely important to remember when traveling by plane with a carry-on,” Hartier said. “The 3-1-1 rule is no liquids over 3 ounces, and they have to fit in one, one-quart sized, clear plastic bag.”
What should go where?
“In your personal item or carry-on, you should always keep your travel documents and valuable things that you can’t afford to lose like your passport, wallet and phone,” Hartier said.
It is important to stay with your carry-on at all costs. Never pack these items in a suitcase or bag that will go through bag transports. Additional items you might consider are drinks, snacks or a change of clothes.
“You might want to keep a change of clothes with you in case your luggage is delayed or your travel plans are long,” Hartier said.
As for your suitcase, that is fair game.
“You can really pack almost anything in your suitcase,” she said. “Just use the space you have.”
If you have a travel companion, Hartier suggests packing in halves.
“That way if one suitcase gets lost, you still have some of your things with you until your luggage arrives.”
Track your luggage
No one enjoys the pit that begins to form when they don’t see their luggage come around the carousel. It’s either lost or you missed it. One way to help you keep tabs on your suitcase(s) is to personalize them.
“Black suitcases all look the same,” she said. “I always suggest putting something identifiable on your suitcase: A ribbon, fabric, or colored duct tape that you can find easily.”
Also, when you check your bag for your flight, you get two barcodes: One for your bag and one for you. Make sure to hold onto the barcode in case your bag doesn’t follow you to your destination. That way they will be able to track where your bag is.
“If you’ve decorated your suitcase so you can notice it right away and you kept your barcode, you just keep your fingers crossed that it comes out of the carousel.”
Last minute reminders
“Before you leave for your trip, if you are flying, make sure to inquire with your airline on their bag limits and restrictions,” Hartier said. “For some airlines, it is more expensive to take a carry-on than it is to check a bag.”
Make sure to have luggage limits squared away before you even leave the house, but also, if you are leaving the country, look into investing in travel insurance.
“It is really important to consider,” she said. “This will protect you if your luggage gets lost or damaged, your flights get cancelled or delayed, or worst case scenario, if your trip gets cancelled.”
Luggage limits? Check. Travel insurance? Check. Last, but not least, Hartier lives by the phrase, “Take only half of the clothes you were planning to bring and twice the money,” when traveling.
“Less clothes, more money,” Hartier said. “While on any trip, people can purchase souvenirs or splurge on a fancy dinner. So having some extra funds is nice to have. Also, if you forget to pack something most likely it can be purchased while on the trip.”
Maddie McCarron is an intern with the Telegraph Herald.