Opening your suitcase to find a zen garden of neatly rolled T-shirts and perfectly coiled cords—instead of a hurricane covered in some gunk that exploded in your toiletry bag—is a supreme feeling. And, when you’re dealing with holiday travel stress and staying at your in-laws for one day too many, it can being a sense of calm to the situation. Here are a few tips that’ll help you turn a messy bag into an Instagram-perfect one before you head out for Thanksgiving. (Don’t actually Instagram your suitcase though.)
Lay out everything you want to bring, then edit it down.
Stuffing your suitcase as you go is tempting, but you’ll make better decisions if you see the full lineup in advance. Duplicates and things that wrinkle easily or are difficult to wear more than once should be the first to go.
Have a nice suitcase, with thoughtful compartments.
Your military duffle bag is cool and all, but a structured suitcase with handy compartments (not to mention, wheels) will make the job of packing infinitely easier. Raden make suitcases with a built in scale, charger, and shoe compartments—yet it looks like a minimalist dream.
Master the roll without abandoning the fold.
Packing lunatics might tell you there’s one right way to compress your garments but that’s BS. Casual items like T-shirts, jeans, and sweaters can be rolled, while stiffer items like shirts and jackets are easier to fold.
Learn how to origami your suits into submission.
Folding a suit requires a bit more attention. You could fold it in half while it’s in a dry cleaning bag, or pop the shoulders inside-out, fold it in half so the lapels touch, and then fold it in half again to compress it more tightly.
Fill unused spaces with small items.
Roll up your socks, underwear, and ties and stuff them inside your shoes—which should be at the bottom of your suitcase, by the wheels—or use them like a mortar to secure stacks of folded clothes.
Bag up everything that could spread dirt, explode, or get tangled.
Use a small bag to keep cords and chargers together. And one for toiletries that’s lined with a plastic material in case of spills. Individual shoe bags are also key for keeping your stuff clean—you keep those when you buy new shoes, right?
Buy all of your toiletries in travel sizes.
Even the fanciest grooming brands make travel-size products now. Order everything you need for your Dopp kit online—down to the toothpaste and shaving cream—and never look back.
Compress bulky items with space packs.
Going skiing? If you just can’t get around packing bulky items like heavy sweaters and ski pants, invest in compression packs that don’t require a vacuum cleaner to do their thing.
Get dressed and pack your carry-on bag wisely.
Consider wearing your heaviest shoes on the plane and packing your biggest, coziest hoodie in your small carry-on bag to save space in your suitcase.
Always leave a little bit of room for souvenirs.
Someone will force you to bring something home, or you’ll need or want to buy some stuff for yourself while you’re traveling, so it’s always best not to stuff your suitcase to the gills from the get-go.