There's no end to our quest for self-improvement — the urge to do everything better, smarter, faster, cooler. In this spirit, we've compiled our 24 best packing tips and tricks — some old standbys, some new hacks — to get you from A to B and back to A with a little more spring in your step and a little less sag in your shoulders.
THE GOLDEN RULES
Carry-on instead of checking so that you can exit the airport immediately after reaching your destination. - Check in online 24 hours before a flight, not only to save time at the airport but also to get a better seat.
WHAT TO WEAR ON THE JOURNEY
Something cozy but not schleppy. Translation: Instead of sweats, try cashmere lounge pants/leggings under a comfortable dress or comfy jeans and a sweater.
BAG IT UP
Air-compression packing bags are miraculous, squeezing air out of clothes, giving you more room in the suitcase. Giant Ziploc bags work, too. Just roll them tight. We use Ziplocs in various sizes for everything from toiletries to wet swimming gear and always pack a few extras.
THINK HEAD TO TOE
Check that you've packed everything you need by mentally dressing yourself from shoes and socks up to goggles and hats.
LEAVE THE BLING
Leave pricey watches and jewelry behind. If you aren't prepared to lose it, don't pack it. Buy a cheap Swatch for traveling and costume jewelry for show. (Bauble Bar is a great resource for jewelry.)
Unless you know you are going to be causal, pack something small that can make any outfit smarter. You never know when you'll need to look sharp. For men, this means an uncreasable silk knotted tie. For women, a fancy scarf.
Pack rolled socks into your shoes (saves space, keeps shoes shaped). Separate shoes in bags and line them along the sides of the suitcase.
DO THE MATH
Think about the number of outfits you need and subtract one. You still won't wear everything you pack.
CHARGE WHEN YOU CAN
Charge all phones, cameras, iPads, and laptops before getting to an airport. If you do get delayed, you won't have to stalk outlets, which are always too few and far between. Rokit Boost makes a protective iPhone case that doubles battery life.
ADAPT AND CHARGE
Carry the adapter for your destination — a multi-plug version is the best. If you're sneaky — or are traveling to a problematic area — bring a double plug so you can share outlets with others.
Forget about squeezing your favorite face wash into tiny tubes. Buying travel-size items of your favorite products — and laundry detergent — and keeping them at the ready in a Ziploc might seem indulgent, but it will save time, product, frustration, and your skin. 3Fl.Oz. is our favorite source for these.
In a pinch: Pack nearly empty toiletries, and leave them behind. Or just buy certain toiletries at your destination. Why schlep a big can of shaving cream when Gillette is universal?
PACK YOUR RX
Make sure you have enough medicine to cover unforeseen delays. (Remember the volcano ash cloud that left thousands stranded for a week?) And don't forget condoms.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Mark your suitcases with your email address as well as your actual addresses.
SHARE YOUR ITINERARY
Email friends and family your itinerary, passport number, and insurance documents, and load all the info onto a private folder on the cloud. Don't forget the prescription for your glasses.
BE PREPARED WITH TIPS
Make sure you have small denominations in local currency for tips.
MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE
Pack a zippered pouch with in-flight comfort essentials: earbuds or headphones (to zone out); lip balm, hand lotion, toothbrush/toothpaste, and hand wipes (for surfaces and dirty hands); a pen (for filling out landing cards and swapping emails with your cute seat-mate); tissues, Advil, and extra undies (especially on a long-haul flight). The Flight001 Seat Pack we use has a loop for easy hanging on the seat in front of you.
EDIT YOUR READING LIST
Long journeys are great for catching up on the reading pile. Instead of packing heavy magazines, rip out the articles that you want to read. (Do this on the drive to the airport.) Voila: Vanity Fair and Vogue now weigh 95 percent less. Alternately, bring magazines that you can leave behind, shedding weight as you go. Of course, you could just load up the iPad with books and articles. (What? We're still addicted to paper.)
If you'd rather listen and watch than read, download movies and podcasts to distract you during long bus rides, plane delays, and train rides. If you subscribe to a local podcast from the region you are about to visit, you'll be caught up on the news and culture of the region before you arrive.
Pack filling and healthy snacks for the trip. You'll feel more with it after eating almonds, energy bars, dried mangoes, apples, Wasa crackers, and carrots than a salty bag of chips. Pack tea bags — herbal, green tea, your favorite — as flights usually only offer Lipton. Watch out for coffee: It's dehydrating and can make you edgy. Obviously, drink as much water as you can and bring a few vitamin-inflused fizzy drink packets (like& EBoost) to add to a water bottle.
If you're traveling with gifts, slide gift bags and tissue paper into the outer pocket of your rolly so everything lays flat. (You don't want to have to ask your hostess for tape or wrapping paper.) Don't pack wrapped gifts: They're bulky and they'll get messed up in transit. Or ship your gifts before your arrival.
LEAVE BREATHING ROOM
Leave room in your suitcase so that if you buy souvenirs, you won't have to cram your stuff. And stash an empty, fold-down-to-nothing bag (like a LeSportsac tote) in case you do need extra room.
HITCH A WELCOME WAGON
Order the pick-up car before you leave. There's nothing better than not having to wait for a car after a long flight.
MAKE FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
Make nice with a few passengers at the gate — smile, make eye contact or a joke with moms and their kids, an elderly gent. This comes in handy when you get on the plane and need room for overhead baggage, need to swap seats, need gum. People will be nice back and make room in their overhead bin or help make your life a little easier.
We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.