For someone who prefers convenience and practicality in their life, having to fit their entire life into a suitcase resembles a challenge worth tackling. And as someone who has multiple times moved abroad and returned to the ever-unpredictable Finnish climate I have had to teach myself the perfect formula for packing a suitcase (or three). No matter if we are talking about a big suitcase or a hand luggage-size bag, the process for packing has become a routine for me. A routine that resembles assembling a puzzle.
This formula has proven to be a very useful one in my many travels and moves around Europe. So, if you are about to embark on an adventure (aka vacation) but do not quite know how you can manage to fit everything in your suitcase, here are my semi-pro tips on how to make the most of the limited space in your suitcase:
Well planned is half-way there
First thing to do is to think through the whole holiday-week, what’s the nature of this particular holiday; is it going to be a beach holiday where the purpose is to just lie on a beach, or a city-getaway where the whole point is to roam around town like a proper tourist and participate in fancy dinners. Plan an approximate outfit for each day and try to come up with combinations where you can mix and match just a few pieces of clothing in a versatile way. Classics, such as a good pair of jeans, black stilettos and a white tee were made for this. With classic pieces you can’t go wrong. And by adding accessories, such as jewelry, hats and shoes vs. sneakers you can turn up the volume of any outfit.
These boots were made for walking
Almost every single post that I found online about packing cleverly suggested to cut back on shoes. But as a heel-holic this is not a realistic option for me; I need to be accompanied by multiple pairs of high heels, sandals and ballerinas to be able to differentiate between a day-outfit and a night-outfit. So, I have figured out a way to fit in as many pairs of shoes as is physically possible;
Use up all available space and first fill the shoes with your underwear and socks. Then position the pairs on the bottom of the bag like a puzzle. Finally fill all the holes between shoes and heels with the underwear and clothes you couldn’t fit in the shoes. If, for some reason, I pack my sneakers I would wrap them in a small plastic bag to avoid soiling my clothes with the dirty soles.
The more the merrier
When you have covered the bottom of the bag with a shoe-puzzle it’s time to move on to the actual clothes. First thing you need to know is that despite the age old debate on Folding vs. Rolling, I swear by rolling each piece of clothing.
From personal experience I can guarantee that rolling and assembling clothes in a certain way really does the trick: you can fit almost double the amount in the bag and by rolling your clothes they don’t get as wrinkled as they would if you just fold and stack them. It’s also one less thing to worry about at your destination: ironing equipment.
When you’ve got everything rolled up you can assemble everything on, between and along the shoes. Fill all holes and cavities that are left between shoes and heels and save even more space.
As we all know, all liquids up to 100mg quantity must be packed into a zip-lock bag. Best to take a handbag big enough for accommodating the zip-lock bag along with your passport, wallet, mobile phone and keys because you will need to present the contents at the security desk.
It’s always useful to check your airline’s regulations on hair spray bottles and umbrellas because some companies do not allow these items into the passenger area. But these are both cheap things that you can also buy from the destination in case you do not have a suitcase that goes to hold.
The female essentials but not irreplaceable
Toiletry-bags take up a lot of space from a suitcase so I recommend to pack your hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste along the clothes and shoes into the niches and little crevices that have been left in the bag. Smaller items, such as hair pins, medicine and such can be put into a small bag (f.ex. zip-lock) and into the side pocket of your suitcase. If you are traveling with only hand luggage, best to leave deodorant and hair spray behind and buy them from the destination.
Just in case your hand luggage ends up in the hold (in case the plane is over-booked or so small that not all hand luggage fits inside), and your suitcase happens to be the popular brand and colour that every third passenger on the plane has, I recommend you to tie a colourful string or a belt around your suitcase. This is a good idea also in case your bag breaks in transit; the belt keeps it closed and together.
Another option is to buy a big and colourful address tag that you can tie to the suitcase handle. This has helped me multiple times to recognize my suitcase on the belt from all the other red pieces rolling around looking for their owners in the arrivals terminal.
And after all that’s done what’s left is to close the suitcase! Check that you have your passport and wallet with you, close the door behind you and start your next adventure.