There are two kinds of travelers in the world: those who packed light and those who wish they had. To include everything needed in as little space as possible, follow these helpful guidelines compiled by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know the techniques of efficient packing for all types of travel.
MAKE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT!
Like an architect planning a building, so must you plan the contents of your suitcase by creating a list. A packing list eliminates the panic of last-second packing, serves as a handy guide for repacking at the end of the trip, and can be beneficial in the unfortunate event of lost or stolen luggage.
When planning your wardrobe, consider the events you will participate in both day and night and write down a possible outfit for each activity. Crosscheck this list to determine if one piece can cover multiple occasions. Pick clothes that coordinate well together, based around complimentary colors.
Check the weather forecast of the destination and plan accordingly. Also, be sure to know the local traditions, where a t-shirt for dinner could be a serious blunder, or bare shoulders may bar your entrance into such places as St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. For almost all outdoor activities, take pieces that can be layered.
Forget dress clothes for every occasion. The world at large has relaxed its dress code, showing almost universal leniency to tourists. Dark colors - a black dress or blue jacket - will get you through most dinners and plays.
TO PACK OR NOT TO PACK? THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Now that the wardrobe is thoroughly planned, stick with it. When packing, lay out the items you intend to take and reexamine your list. If possible, weed out single-use items and extras.
Set aside the pieces you intend to bring and ensure that they are clean and ready to be packed. Contact your travel agent about the hotel's in-room amenities - such as a hair dryer, an iron and board, soap, shampoo etc. - so you'll know what to leave behind.
Jewelry - don't take what you don't want to lose, and leave behind the flashy pieces that could attract thieves. Keep makeup to a minimum to save space, and leave the perfume behind when scented lotions will work just as well.
When it comes to the question of toiletries, travel kits are always the answer. Having a travel kit perpetually stocked in a waterproof case will save in packing time before the trip and aggravation after arrival. Most personal toiletry items come in inexpensive travel sizes, so purchase these whenever you see them so as not to arrive with a half-empty bottle of your favorite hair gel. And don't fill bottles up to the very top, for pressure inside the plane may force the contents to expand and overflow.
With each item you intend to bring, visualize how to make it smaller, like photocopying certain pages and maps from the guidebook instead of bringing the entire book. Streamline your daily habits. Bring only one bottle of all-purpose lotion instead of multiple lotions for hands, face and body. Choose a regular toothbrush or razor over electric models.
Film and other accessories can be purchased globally and often easily, so save packing room by leaving them behind. Create an in-trip adventure and discover more about the area by shopping for a local brand of deodorant or lotion.
When it comes to incidentals, a few items will go a long way. Important items to bring include a first-aid kit, a tin of aspirin, sunscreen and a small bottle of Woolite for emergency, in-room laundering if needed. Also, a Swiss army knife will amaze you with its handiness, whether peeling fruit or uncorking a wine bottle. Remember - it's not allowed on the plane, so pack it in your checked luggage.
Once your travel kit is complete, be sure to pack it in your carry-on bag to avoid a mess in your checked luggage and have on hand during the flight.
THE ART OF PACKING
Now you know what to bring, so let the packing begin. Iron everything before placing it in the suitcase. If it goes in crisp and clean, odds are more in its favor of coming out the same. Button all buttons and zip all zippers.
Learn to fold. Practice folding like they do in clothing stores - they use that method for a reason. The better the fold, the fewer the creases. All garments can be folded in many different ways - T-shirts, jeans, skirts and sports coats can be rolled up and strategically positioned (i.e. stuffed) in a duffel bag or travel pack.
The interlocking method of folding clothes is ideal for suitcases. Overlap two pieces of clothing flat and then fold them into each other so that each piece cushions the other to aid in defying wrinkles. Placing a piece of tissue paper between each layer of clothing will also help prevent wrinkling.
If using the fold and stack method, try to think chronologically, placing the items to be worn first on the top. This will prevent rooting around the suitcase for a specific item while disrupting the rest.
Always pack tightly. Packing loosely wastes precious space and causes clothes to wrinkle. Eliminate wasted space, such as the insides of shoes, which are perfect for socks or underwear.
Always carry travel documents, medication, jewelry, traveler's checks, keys and other valuables in your carry-on luggage. Items such as these should never be packed in checked luggage.
Label each piece of luggage, both inside and out, with your name and telephone number, but not your home address. If an address is needed, then put your office's. And remove old claim checks to avoid confusion.
Unpack as completely as possible as soon as you get to the hotel to prevent further wrinkles. When repacking, remember that balled-up, dirty laundry takes more space than carefully folded clothes, so repack your used clothing identically to your original packing method.
The main message: be in control of your luggage and not at its mercy. With a little TravelSense, a few packing guidelines and some helpful tips, traveling light will be an easy plan to follow.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, airlines have imposed strict regulations on the size and the amount of luggage passengers may check. Travelers who fail to check size requirements before their flights may be charged with extra fees in order to bring the bag on board the aircraft. To avoid such issues, ASTA advises you consult with the individual airlines' Web sites or Customer Service lines.