How to Pack Like a Pro

One of the most dreadful thing that can happen when you travel is forgetting to bring something. This goes without saying that good planning will go a long way when you travel. Yet, planning is only part of the equation. Knowing how to maximise the space that you have in your suitcase will make you a happier traveller. And we are here just to help you do that.

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1. Planning

This is the first step that you have to do when you pack your suitcase. First, write in your notebook or paper the duration of your travel. Why is this important? Because this will help you decide the size of the suitcase and the number of clothes that you will need for your travel.

The weather and climate of your destination are important because this will determine whether you need to pack warm clothing or not, which will take up more space in your suitcase. Gloves, beanie cap, thermal underwear, wool scarves, thermal socks and jacket are highly essential for travelling in a cold climate. Hat, sunglasses, sunblock and pocket fan is often what you need when travelling in a tropical climate.

Another important thing you have to do is to check the amenities and neighbourhood of the hotel/residence that you are staying at. The hotel website usually lists all the amenities that is available in the room. For example, good hotel these days provide a hairdryer and even clothes iron (complete with the board) in the room. This means that you do not have to pack them in the luggage. You may also want to check if they have a laundry facility (the coin type) or near your hotel’s vicinity. This is important because then, you will be able to wash your clothes and you can pack less in your suitcase.

The activities that you plan to do during your travel will also determine the number of clothes that you have to bring. For example, if I were going for a beach holiday, I will pack extra clothes in simply because I foresee myself engaging in various wet activities. What you need to do is to actually sit down and plan for each day of your travel on what you will be wearing. On each day of wet activity, you should plan to pack an extra set of clothing in. Also, you should actually try to choose some neutral colour for your pants/shorts that will go well with any coloured top that you wear. This will ensure that you pack fewer clothes without sacrificing your look in the photographs.

You may also check out the exchange rate and the general prices of clothing at your destination. Depending on how much shopping you plan to do, you may want to buy some of your clothing over at your destination so that you can save some space in the initial leg of your travel.

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Dumping everything in your suitcase is not a good way to pack.

1. Packing

When packing, our ultimate objective is to maximise the space in your suitcase so that we can bring all that we need to bring with us. Inefficient packing often lead to unnecessary large luggage sizes. Having done our initial planning homework, we are now ready to pack.

The first rule of packing is to pack heavy items at the bottom of the suitcase. Bottom here refers to the side that is nearest to the wheels of the suitcase. So with reference to the picture shown above, when the luggage is placed horizontally on the ground, you need to pack the heavier items on the right-hand side, nearer to the wheels. The reason is for the stability of the luggage (heavier item at the bottom lowers the centre of gravity of the luggage, making it more stable). Nothing is more irritating than having your luggage topple over when you stop and rest and so packing it right goes a long way.

Ladies, if you are bringing along extra handbag, you should attempt to fill it up with items such as your cosmetic kit and other small items. This will at least make full use of the space taken by the handbag.

For toiletries, you should put your bath gel and shampoo in a ziplock bag in case they leak. The leak happens not because you forgot to close them properly but because of the changes in pressure that happen when you fly (and the difference in altitude of your destination also matters). So to be safe, always put them in a ziplock bag before packing it in. Other fragile items such as perfume, you should wrap it using your socks or padded bag. I personally prefer using socks to save space.

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Now, the internet is basically divided into rolled and folded clothes. One camp says rolling clothes save a lot more space in the luggage while the folded clothes camp said a flat folded clothes is better at saving more space. Ultimately it will boil down to your own preference and habit. Honestly, the culprit that takes up space in the luggage is the air trapped in your clothes so the only efficient way to reduce space drastically is to vacuum pack your clothes. But this also mean that you need to bring along vacuum bags and a pump in your suitcase, which can be a handful. My own personal preference, though, is flat folded clothes with the collar side packed alternately.

For shoes and slippers, it is better to wrap the soles in shower caps (the one that we took from hotels in our previous travels :P) so that it will not dirty other clothes and it does not take as much space as plastic bags.

The last golden rule of packing is to leave space for your shopping and souvenirs. Some people seem to forget this rule and have a headache later on when they need to pack for the return journey home and end up purchasing another luggage that can be costly. Also, note that the latest aviation regulation does not allow power banks and battery operated gadgets (iPads, laptops etc) to be packed inside the luggage. So leave those for the carry-ons. Sharp items such as nail clippers and scissors must be packed in the checked-in luggage.

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3. Carry-on luggage

For carry-on luggage, the first thing you have to make sure is that the bag that you are carrying is below or equal the maximum size allowable. The last thing that we want when we travel a long-haul flight is to be stopped at the gate and told that our carry-on luggage has to be checked-in. This will mean that we have to go on the flight without the items that we may need during the flight.

What you need to have in your carry-on luggage is an extra pair of clothes, just in case. You will never know when your checked-in luggage got delayed, which can happen when you are making tight connecting flights. Having a clean set of clothing with you is always useful.

We also want to make sure that all the essential items such as passport, wallet, hotel bookings, flight bookings are there in a more secure location of your carry-on bag. Packing a small foldable umbrella is also useful to have to protect yourself from rain/hot sun at your destination.

A light jacket/sweater is always good to have in your carry-on bag as it can get really cold inside the cabin on a long flight. Of course, we need the charging cables for your mobile and power bank. Some newer flights have USB charging ports in the seats and we should take advantage by charging our mobiles and power bank during the flight so that they will be fully charged for use when we land.

Essential items to have in your carry-on is your medication and general medicine that you may need such as allergy medication. Not forgetting also some books or even movies and music stored on your phone or iPad that can come handy to entertain yourself during a long flight. A water bottle is also good to have to keep yourself hydrated during the flight. You can always ask the steward/stewardess to request for water. A neck pillow can be delightful for long flights too!

 

And there you have it! You can now take a deep breath and start packing for your holiday because you are now a PRO!

Happy travels!

Written by Dr. Peter Darmawan

Dr Peter received his PhD degree from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. Having spent 23 years in Singapore, he has been through the rigorous and robust Singapore education system with exposure from primary school right up to university education. In addition, he has spent 2 years of post-doctoral research fellowship in National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) Japan and another 3 years as a Research Fellow in Singapore under the NEW-CREATE Programme. As a scientist, Dr Peter has written numerous peer-reviewed research papers, book chapters and filed a number of patents.

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