Roughly eight years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of efficient packing assistance tools. I was prepping for a bachelorette party trip to Denver, CO via air travel. I booked a daytime nonstop flight from Raleigh, NC so I knew that I would be stuck in the air for about four hours and would want to be comfortable and have a few items of convenience easily accessible.
I also made the decision to travel carry-on only because our itinerary included a day and a half in Denver, two days in the mountains (an hour and a half drive from Denver) and a final two days back in Denver before flying back home. Under these circumstances, I did not want to risk a delay in my luggage arrival. I have never had an airline lose my luggage, but I had experienced a few occasions in which my luggage was delayed by a day or two.
Before this trip, I already considered myself a packing genius. I was a roller. All my clothing was rolled before arranging each item into the suitcase. I also packed very light. However, for this trip, I needed dressy going out clothes, a casual coat, a ski coat, casual clothes, and shoes for each outfit. Packing light was not an option.
I gave in to considering packing systems for efficient travel. Here we are with a few packing tips for travel:
The vacuum seal packing system is best when you cannot downsize any further. Most of the space in our luggage taken up by our clothing seems to be filled with air. A ton of air means a ton of wasted space. The use of vacuum bags will save you on a ton of space by shrinking the contents by fifty percent or more! Saving on this type of space for my trip to Denver allowed me to have more room for awkwardly shaped items like dress shoes.
Now, be careful when you remove most of the air from your pack. You may encounter two negative unintended consequences:
1) The weight will increase if you fill your bag with vacuum sealed bags used to the fullest. To resolve the weight issue, make sure that you are using a roller and will not have much occasion to actually lift you bag. In case you do have to lift your bag (or in the event that you are not using a roller), practice carrying your bag around to assure that you can handle the weight. There is nothing worse than being unable to maneuver your own luggage around town from point A to point B without a struggle.
2) You may be looking for a vacuum every time you need to load you back up again. The potential need for finding vacuums can be resolved if you will be staying with friends or family where you will have easy access to normal household items. If not, there is no need to worry. Saving so much space in your luggage will allow you to easily use some of that saved space to bring along a small travel hand vacuum with you for the sole purpose of vacuum sealing your vacuum bag.
Packing folders are best used for items that should be folded. They are good for dress shirts, dresses, skirts, and dress clothing. Using this system is good for packing clothes without the risk of dealing with wrinkles on the other side.
You use this system by folding your clothes directly on the folder to maximize the surface area that the folder permits and then folding all four sides of the folder down tightly. You fasten the folder with Velcro which creates a compression effect.
I can usually fit about ten to twelve garments in the packing folder.
Flat Zipped Bags
Another great packing organizer are the colored or clear flat mesh bags. You can also purchase bags that are not transparent, but the transparent bag eliminates the time in which I have to search for an item in my bag. Although these bags do not save much on space, they are excellent for a color coded organization system.
OK. Drum roll? I saved the best for last. Packing cubes are the essential organizational, compression, multi use packing system. Do not let the name fool you. These cubes are more like three dimensional rectangles. They come in many sizes, colors, and materials.
Some cubes have zippers on two sizes with a divider in the middle of the bag. With this type of bag, you could use one side for clean clothes and the other for your dirties.
Other cubes actually allow you to fill the bag, zip it, and then zip it with a second zipped such that you end up with a flat bag (similar in shape to a packing folder) Basically, this creates a double compression bag and saves you on air space.
I have three green packing cubes with mesh tops. I use the large one for approximately seven to ten total items made up of pants, jeans, sweater, and long sleeved items all folded flat. The medium size cube is usually filled with about ten to twelve t-shirts, tank tops, and small form fitting dress tops. The smallest cube is quite tiny, but I manage to squeeze about eight pairs of panties, two pairs of socks, and one sports bra.
I must confess. For my trip to Denver, I used the vacuum seal technique and the packing folder. However, I have not used then since that trip. I am now tried and true packing cube girl. I did not even know about the packing cubes eight years ago, but I found out about then when I was getting ready for a two-week trip to China in 2015. They were a godsend and I have used then for every trip I have taken since then, whether it has been for a car camping weekend or a full week vacation across the country. They are by far my favorite packing system.
I also use flat mesh zip pages to keep my electronic accessories and jewelry organized. I travel with a red one and a green one for these two purposes.
After writing this article, I am tempted to giving the packing folders another try, but my vacuum seal days are over. If you can take anything away from this article, know that packing cubes are king. There are many sizes and types to fit all preferences, but cubes will always win in my book. They are easy to use and super effective for organization and space-saving!