When you travel, there are times when you need to deliberate about each and every item you place in your suitcase — and then there are times when your plane leaves in an hour and it takes 45 minutes to get to the airport. The best packing tips usually instruct travelers to diligently sort through their belongings, consider the utility of every possible household item, and fold the chosen ones origami-like into the smallest possible bundles for maximum utilization of space. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have time for that.
For one reason or another, I am always rushing to pack my suitcase in the final minutes before I have to leave on a big trip. Thus, I have developed a foolproof packing strategy that gets all the gear I need in 20 minutes or less. I use this plan whenever I travel, and if you struggle with packing on a deadline, you should, too.
Before you can start packing, you need something into which you can pack — namely, a suitcase. As the foundation of your luggage, you should consider the size, shape, and features of your suitcase before you start throwing clothes and toiletries into any old bag. Not every suitcase is right for every trip: A weekend excursion to a neighboring state won’t require nearly as much gear as a month-long trip overseas.
The duration of your trip should be enough to inform your choice for size of bag, while the type of activities you engage in might determine your bag’s shape and structure. For example:
- A lightweight day pack is best for a weekend jaunt to an urban environment.
- A heavier travel pack is preferable for a longer adventure in several urban centers or a shorter trip in a more natural location.
- A small rolling suitcase is viable for short, busy business trips.
- An extra-large rolling suitcase is advisable for especially long trips to urban places.
- A medium convertible suitcase is usually sufficient for most vacations or business trips anywhere.
The size of your bag is perhaps the most important consideration to make when you are packing on a deadline because it will appropriately limit the number of items you need to bring on your travels. A suitcase that is too large will force you to waste time filling space with items you don’t truly need, while a suitcase that is too small will cause you to cut out potentially valuable items. Starting out with the Goldilocks-sized suitcase is key to fast packing.
Choosing your clothing should be the fastest step of all — as long as you remain focused on the tenets of proper packing. Your inclination is likely to be toward selecting the perfect outfits for each day and adding extra options “just in case.” Unfortunately, this overfills your suitcase with useless items and takes an inordinate amount of time to complete. Instead, you should quickly sift through your wardrobe to find simple, lightweight items that can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways. Then, you will be prepared for any weather, any occasion, and any mood you may experience on your trip.
There are a number of items you will want as close to you as possible during your travels. While you want to limit your number of bags to as few as possible, it does behoove you to keep important items handy while you are on-the-go. Plus, stashing these items in outside pockets and auxiliary tote bags usually provides extra suitcase space you can use for clothing or other daily basics. Here are some examples of items you should have within reach:
- Identification documents. Your passport, your driver’s license, your student ID card, and other identification that will make your travels smoother.
- Important information. Your itinerary, your tickets, your hotel information, and other details of your trip you might easily forget.
- Entertainment. Your books, your laptop or tablet, your music player, and other items that will distract you while you go from here to there.
While you are sorting through the items that need to be in easy reach, you might want to throw in a handful of items that typically keep your spirits up while you are away from home, like snacks and pictures of loved ones; smokers may want to buy an e-cig or three to ensure they don’t get uncontrollable cravings while on-the-move.
The last items to enter your suitcase in the final moments before you must leave on your trip are your toiletries. Many people spend extra time scouring their bathroom cabinets to ensure they didn’t forget a single toiletry for their travels, but in truth, you only need to imagine your daily bathroom routine to collect the items you need. All-in-all, it should take you less than five minutes to gather up your hygiene necessities and head out the door. Plus, if you forget any of your bathroom items, you can usually find suitable travel replacements while you are on the road.