Pack efficiently—and lightning fast—by following these steps.
Whether flying halfway across the globe, driving an hour for a quick weekend getaway or you are a business traveler, packing is an unavoidable chore. And unless you’re blessed with monk-like minimalism and supreme foresight, it always ends up taking too much time. With this in mind, we share the best tricks and tips for cutting down packing time—for any bag—to a matter of minutes. Here, our trusty guide to streamlining the tedious process.
Step one: Use a packing list.
Compose your own or use a handy app like PackPoint, which considers trip activities and local weather to generate lists, or the infinitely detail-oriented Packing Pro. This time-saving prep will prevent you from emptying out your whole closet or forgetting something crucial. And once you customize, you’ll use it for endless trips to come. Added bonus: There’s nothing more cathartic than crossing items off a list.
Estimated time: We’re not going to count this one, because you could easily do this on the train commuting or while half-watching reality TV. Read on.
Step two: Keep toiletries and essentials pre-packed.
Quart-sized transparent bags are ideal for zipping through security. When it’s time to pack, you can just reach under your sink and grab them. Replenish after each trip so you’re set before your next one and not running out to get TSA-approved liquids at the drugstore or forced to toss that larger-than-allowed shampoo bottle you had hoped to sneak on.Es
Estimated time: Less than a minute
Step three: Bring clothes that mix and match easily.
A solid travel uniform, whether it involves a neutral color palette or avoids loud prints, will make for effortless styling and double (or triple) the outfit options using fewer pieces. For a long weekend, Jen Rubio of Away Travel goes by the “54321” rule: “You can always get at least five great outfits from four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes, and [if you're a woman] one dress.” For a longer trip (one to two weeks), add a few tops and maybe another dress or pair of shoes if there’s a fancier occasion involved. Jeans and pants can generally be worn multiple times without needing a wash. Remember to wear the bulkiest items (like boots and outerwear) while traveling to take up less luggage space.
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Step four: Lay everything out before even opening your suitcase.
This way, you can see it all at once and pare down if needed. You can also strategize where each type of item will go in your bag: Start with the heaviest items toward the wheels or bottom of bag, and cushion anything fragile in the center (this goes for hard and soft suitcases as well as duffels).
Estimated time: This can be done while choosing items in the previous step, taking up no additional time
Step five: Pack it in.
Flat pack, or roll? It seems the old debate will never die. Know this: A strategic combination of both will allow you to pack everything in snugly; anything loose results in wrinkles. Durable clothes like jeans, tees, and sweaters can be rolled to fit between crevices and around harder items, while delicate dresses, blouses or suits can be flat packed in plastic dry cleaning bags to minimize wrinkles. For those who want to leave room to bring back souvenirs, compression bags can be a game-changer: Flight 001’s Spacepacks are two-sided to keep clean and soiled clothes separated. Charlotte Cho, Soko Glam’s founder who flies regularly to Seoul, forgoes shoe bags to save space: “Although not as glamorous, I use grocery bags to wrap up footwear so it doesn’t get the rest of my clothes dirty.” And don’t forget to make use of any “dead space,” says Josh Udashkin, founder of Raden luggage, who stores sunglasses and other small objects inside shoes.
Estimated time: 5 minutes
Take it from us: Once you have the first few steps of prep done, the whole process will go much faster for future trips. You may even find yourself packing your bag in less time than it took to read this article.