Whether you love it or hate it, packing is the necessary evil of any trip, but these three tricks will speed up the process and make you a more organised traveller.
We spoke to an ex-army member to get his top packing tips. After all, they're taught how to pack, do it regularly and are very, very efficient.
His number-one piece of advice? "Watch the grams, and the kilos will take care of themselves". In other words, consider the weight of everything, even smaller items (like socks) rather than reduce your bulky/heavy items first. It all adds up after all.
Thrillist also interviewed US defence force members who weighed in on how they're taught to pack.
1. Practise packing for the best technique
If you hate packing, you probably don’t want to do it more than you have to but as they say, practice makes perfect. Try packing, unpacking and repacking your bag as many times as you can bear (doesn’t have to be all on one day) until you know where everything goes so it always goes back into the same spot. This makes it easier to get what you need quickly on the go.
Nominate a ‘staging zone’ (think an area of floor/table/bed) which will clearly show you everything you're putting in and out of the bag and keep it neat.
“Setting up a staging zone helps you think through what you’ll need and then pack the bag in the sequence you will need the items inside,” one marine tells the publication.
Use the staging zone to reevaluate each item each time you repack. “Pull out everything you might need and put it to the side. This will help you pack only the essentials first and fill in extra space with the maybes,” one service member advises.
2. Roll vs fold debate settled
This brings us to the great debate: roll vs fold. It seems the ‘fold, roll, and tie’ method is favoured in this interview, as Thrillist notes: “One veteran tells us he rolls bulky items tightly and then ties them with a cord to keep them under control.”
One of the benefits of rolling over folding is that you can roll things together in groups to make complete outfits easier to access, or all your pants in one bundle. Try and keep your rolls in uniform size, so they line up in your bag and you save creating awkward spaces that can only be filled by socks and undies.
3. Use bags within bags to save space
Packing cubes, drawstring bags and Ziplock bags can all work together to make packing more streamline. By putting all swimsuits in one bag and t-shirts in another you can make unpacking easier, and won’t have a ‘pack explosion’ if you only partially unpack at a destination.
Cords, electrical items and odd ends (such as gym clothes) can be divided up into bags so things aren’t floating around loose in your case meaning they're also less likely to get knocked around and damaged.
Putting things into a bag can also reduce a last minute freak-out, because instead of rummaging through your entire suitcase to see if you have you phone charger, you know to look in the ‘electrical’ bag.
One Marine suggests packing a special bag designated for trip essentials. “Think of things you’ll need quickly and most often: documents/paperwork, phone charger, headphone, snacks, a couple toiletries, and either a change of clothes or layers depending on the environment.” And keep this bag on hand, or at the top of your suitcase for easy access.
Bonus packing tips for your most organised holiday ever
Finally, only pack what you need. A classic army saying is "be minimalist with EVERYTHING other than ammo and water,” which obviously doesn't translate to every day life but it good advice to consider as a general term. It sounds obvious but it's true. Don’t include things you might need in a very certain situation. For example if you're off to a tropical island and pack a ski jacket because it might get cold.
Unless you're going to a remote location, toiletries such body wash and shampoo can be purchased on arrvial. This might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it will cost more to wash everything in your bag if a bottle of conditioner explodes mid-flight.