How to pack your suitcase to avoid wrinkles
A while back I learned something through laziness. Before a trip I procrastinated and had to pack at the last minute so I threw everything into my suitcase while the clothes were still in the dry cleaner’s plastic bags. Guess what…no wrinkles – not at all.
So that is the first tip: Keep your suits, shirts, and pants in dry cleaning bags to avoid wrinkles.
Amazed at the simplicity of this, I was convinced I was missing out on more packing tips. I looked around last night for some other tips and here is what I found:
- Lighten your load. Jamming your suitcases as full as a subway at rush hour will leave your clothes as exhausted as a crushed commuter. Clothes become wrinkled almost as soon as you shove that last leaden item into your bag. The easiest things to jettison? Hairdryers and clothes irons. Almost every hotel room (and hostel) in the world has these items to lend.
- One word: Plastic. If you remember only one word in your packing efforts, this is the one. And here’s why: friction causes wrinkling, plastic reduces friction. It’s that easy. The best way to utilize this basic plastic physics is with dry-cleaner bags. All hanger items should be packed in individual bags (one outfit per dry-cleaner bag). Clothes arrive in a perfectly preserved state. Really! Another great plastic tip: zip-top baggies. Use these for dirty shoes, shampoo bottles, or anything else you want to isolate from your good clothes.
- Rolling, rolling, rolling. You have two options for items that you’re not hanging: folding or rolling. Rolling is a great space-saving and wrinkle-reducing choice for jeans and T-shirts. Here’s how you do it: take a pair of jeans and fold them lengthwise so that the legs are stacked on top of each other. Now, starting from the cuff, roll your way up. For T-shirts, place face down, fold arms back (you should now have a long rectangle), fold lengthwise, and roll up.
- Fold it. For sweaters and other non-T tops, the square fold is the way to go. Here’s a quick primer: button all buttons and lay shirts face down on a bed or flat surface. Smooth away wrinkles. Fold material in at the shoulders and lay arms flat along the body so that you create a roughly two-inch overlap of material on both sides. Now fold up a third of the material from the bottom and overlap a third from the top. You should now have a tidy package worthy of any chain retailer.
- Delicate situation. What to do with your undies and lingerie? Buy inexpensive mesh laundry bags; they’re made of nylon and are lightweight. Stow your delicates in here. An added bonus: if your bag is inspected, no one need touch your underwear since an inspector will be able to see into the bag. Socks, by the way, should be rolled up and placed inside shoes or used to fill gaps in your bag (see below).
- Pack it away. Now take all your tidily arrayed garments and put them outside your bag. Your goal is to use them to create a clothing jigsaw puzzle where no empty spaces remain and items won’t shift. Lay your bag flat and put folded clothes in piles down the center. Put your toiletries kit at what will be the bottom of your bag when it’s standing (this should now be the heaviest item in your bag; in this position it won’t crush other items). Rolled clothes fit into the spaces around the stacked clothes. Single shoes should be tucked into remaining openings (remember, shoes aren’t friends; they don’t need to travel right up next to each other). Socks fill in remaining holes. Voila! You are now a wrinkle-free savvy traveler!
- Don’t over pack your bags.
- Travel with clothing that is less likely to wrinkle.
- Roll up T-shirts or underwear and wrap your items around them at a fold line. This will help keep a crease from forming.
- Take the proper size luggage for your trip. Too big a bag will allow your items to move around and make damage and wrinkles more likely.
- Button the buttons on shirts so items will hang properly.
- Use plastic dry cleaner bags between items. Make sure the dry cleaner bags do not have any advertising printed on them. The ink can rub off and end up on your clothes
- Unpack as soon as possible.
- Hang wrinkled items in the bathroom while you shower to help steam out the wrinkles.
The theory behind the interlock, which works best with standard suitcases and travel packs, is that each piece of clothing folds over or is cushioned by another piece. It’s really quite simple:
- Lay a pair of slacks or a skirt across an open suitcase from north to south, allowing some surplus to drape over each side.
- Place a sweater from east to west, allowing arms to drape both east and west and tail to drape to the south.
- Now flip the northern part of the slacks over the top of the sweater, fold the sweater arms in over this, then fold the bottom of the sweater and the southern part of the slacks or skirt over everything. You’ve created a neat stack of clothing that provides cushioning everywhere a wrinkle wants to be.
You can add as many garments to this construction as you wish. When you’ve finished, fill in the corners and crevices with underwear, socks, scarves, and so on. Place shoes heel down along the hinges of your suitcase.
A quick aside about packing your shoes: they should never be empty. They should always be stuffed with underwear, socks, a child’s shoe, a purse-size travel umbrella. Otherwise, the hollows of your shoes are just wasted space, and those small items are free to wriggle into whatever crevice they please.
We all harbor fears that a customs official will fling open our suitcase, revealing our Victoria’s Secret teddy or heart-dappled boxer shorts to the airport community at large. Stuff them in a shoe and he’ll never notice. Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can buy cloth drawstring shoe bags, or you can simply place each shoe in its own plastic shopping bag. But do pack shoes separately rather than as a pair — the positioning possibilities are greater that way.