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Packing Tip I: Lay out everything you expect to take on vacation
Packing your suitcase so you don't end up with a wad of wrinkled clothes at your destination is easier than you think. Follow along with our illustrated tips.
Choose Your Case
- Don't buy black.
- Two wheels or four? Four is easier to manouever through crowds, but the weeks are always below the bag, taking up space in your permitted baggage dimensions (they always list the dimensions you are allowed 'including wheels'
- Hard or soft? Hard is heavier, but it means you can get more into the bag.
- Top Carry-On Bags If you pack well, your carry-on can be your main bag
- Tom Bihn Tri Star Bag One of our favourite bags
- Baggage Allowances with Major European Airlines
How to Eliminate Things You Don't Really Need
- Lay out everything you expect to take, including your suitcase. If you've been on a vacation of the same duration before, remember what you didn't use or wear, and chuck it. Packing light and efficiently will make your vacation much more enjoyable.
- It's difficult to leave behind one or two small things. You think 'Oh, I might need that' and it goes in. But all those little things add up. So, lay out everything you have in order of importance. Clothes first, then toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo phone charger, etc. At the other end you'll have hand cream, pens, notebook, shower cap, etc. Find the point on the scale where 'essential' becomes 'non-essential' and leave everything behind after that point. Suddenly it becomes obvious how much weight you can save by leaving behind the things you don't need.
- Harness the power of your smartphone. This might be the first trip you've gone on with such a fantastic super computer in your pocket. You might realise that guidebooks, maps, cameras and laptops can be left behind. Flashlight? There's an app for that.
Buying a GSM-Compatible Phone
Dialling Codes for Phoning Home
- Consider new tech for your trip. Avid book reader? Surely now is the time to buy the cheapest Kindle or other e-reader - it's a fraction of the cost of your entire trip and it means you won't need to bring bulky books. Even if you swear by the smell and texture of real books, your back will thank you relaxing your principles for this one trip.
Considering bringing a laptop? How about a cheap tablet instead? Do you always carry a bulky camera with you? Consider one of the new mirrorless cameras with changeable lenses, such as one from Sony.
See also: Electricity in EuropeContinue to 2 of 3 below.
02 of 03
Roll 'em! Rolling your clothes will help reduce wrinkling.
Take a shirt, in this case a fairly heavy long sleeve shirt, and lay a tee shirt over it. Then roll them both up together in a fairly tight roll.
In this case we've had to fold the shirts in half lengthwise, because our carry-on bag is fairly narrow, but it'll be OK; vertical creases are more aesthetically pleasing--don't ask me why.
By rolling our clothes we're creasing them less. We're creating a radius bend and we expect the fabric to recover from such gentle handling with just a bit of shaking out.
Ok, so now we've got our clothing all rolled up and we're ready to start loading up the suitcase.
On the first layer we'll stack any clothing that we don't roll. I don't bother rolling jeans; I just fold them in half and they fit just right. Then the clothing rolls go on top. If you have really heavy stuff like boots or really big guidebooks, they need to go in the bottom of the bag (the lowest part if you've got the bag on your shoulders). You don't want your bag to be top-heavy--it won't sit well in baggage racks on trains and you don't want the heavy stuff crushing your shirts every time you plop your bag on the floor.
Remember to add your non-clothing items. Toiletries, spare shoes (if you must), and a security pouch or moneybelt, prescription medicines, an extra pair of glasses, contact lenses or sunglasses and your camera.
Europe Has Shops, You Know
Don't forget, you can buy stuff in Europe! Supermarkets in foreign countries are always fascinating places, so have a little cultural experience and buy your shampoo when you arrive.
And while you don't want to go clothes shopping as such, underwear is a great option to pick up in a branch of H&M (every city in Europe has one, these days). Socks that have been pressed in the factory take up less space in your case than ones you've washed and folded yourself!Continue to 3 of 3 below.
03 of 03
The suitcase is packed - mostly
Here's how ours looks when it's pretty packed.
To make space in your suitcase at the end of your trip, take some old clothing you don't want to keep--holy underwear, jeans on their last legs, a ratty sweater--and toss them at the appropriate moment.
Preparing for the Airport
- Put everything you won't need - or hope you won't need - in one place and forget about it. House keys, home currency, passport copies, second copy of your hotel and train tickets.
- Bring a plastic wallet (even the A4 plastic ring-binder files will do) and put everything you need at the airport in there. Because of numerous ID and ticket checks, you'll find yourself emptying pockets every few minutes and forgetting where you put things. But if you start with empty pockets and everything you need in one place, you'll find everything much less stressful.
- If you are checking luggage, make sure that you have the following with you on the plane: anything valuable, anything that can break, medication and some basic toiletries and clothing in case your bag is temporarily misplaced in transit.