Packing Tips From a Non-Expert


Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

I spend my life packing; I’m traveling at least twice a month, but I can’t call myself an expert because, sadly, to be an expert at something, you have to be really good at it.

I’m spoiled because I have Platinum status on American Airlines, which means I can check two bags for free. So, if my suitcase fills up, I can grab another just for shoes and gleefully hand it over to the attendant when I check in. This works fine if I’m going to a luxury resort and never really have to handle my suitcases throughout the entire trip; I can smugly sit back and say, “How funny, I’ve brought everything I own,” but in the real world, this is not a good practice—eventually, I’ll have to drag the suitcases across an airport all by myself.

The latest trip I packed for included plane rides, cabs and a train for a visit to London. It’s the train that’s a killer; I’ll need to be able to jump up on a high step of the locomotive fairly agilely (hopefully with some grace) and it would be nice if I had my suitcase with me when I did this. And while many depend on the kindness of strangers when traveling, this is not a practice I embrace.

So here is what I can share in terms of do’s and don’ts for packing when you need to go light.

Don’t open your suitcase and simply pile things into it. Lay everything out on a bed, folded neatly so you can plainly see what you’re bringing. Edit the pile. You don’t need five black tops; three will do. 

Be careful that there are no items on the bed that you could bring accidentally when you fold it all in together, including stuffed animals, live cats or clothing you’re planning to return to the store as soon as you find the receipt.

Don’t bring things on a trip that you will never wear at home. This includes items that don’t fit but that you really love and wish you could wear at the seaside with a big floppy hat. You’re not going to get any skinnier on this trip.

Do bring practical shoes. I once tumbled down the steps of the Great Theatre of Ephesus because I felt that, on a Mediterranean cruise, I had to wear elegant sandals throughout. It took me a long time to reach the ground as I heard my fellow cruisers’ oohs and aahs as I hit each step.

To carry or not to carry: I am sure that there are many of you who can get through 10 days with the clothing you put in your backpack or incredibly small suitcase. It all comes down to the liquids and personal amenities. If you think you can go a week and a half without your favorite facial lotion and the big bottle of sunscreen you favor for the beach, go for it. But remember, this is a vacation and having your stuff around you is part of the fun. 

Do save some space in your suitcase to bring things home from your trip. I mean that amazing ceramic elephant and that whimsical lamp you found at the flea market in Paris. Just be warned that large items stowed in your carry-on can be considered “bludgeoning devices” that you’ll have to check in. Airport security advised me of this when I tried to get through the line with a giant pig weather vane and I had to return to the check-in line with my great find, which is no fun when you’re in a hurry. 

If you go to YouTube and type in “How to pack a suitcase” you’ll find all sorts of fancy things to do when you’re preparing for a trip, including using tissue paper to wrap around each article of clothing. That’s the expert advice you’re probably looking for, but in the meantime, I hope these tips help somehow.