How to pack a suitcase BETTER- my desert to swamp trip

I’m a chronic over-packer.  But I’m efficient and this is why I can be an overpacker and never go over the allowed suitcase weight or dimensions.  I consider myself to be a “pretty good” packer (although I’ve entertained friends with my frantic unpacking-trying everything on-repacking episodes before big trips) but this time, I’ve done some light researching to tweak my skills for my trip from the desert (Palm Springs, CA for the Coachella festival in Indio) to the swamp (actually Disneyworld in Orlando, FL).  I’m literally flying across the U.S. and visiting these two different climates for two very different types of trips (concert festival then professional seminar) in 11 days.

English: Field of Wind turbines outside Palm S...

THE DESERT.  Field of Wind turbines outside Palm Springs, CA. Photo taken March 2006 by Jim Harper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Florida Swamp

The SWAMP- a swamp in Florida from Flikr

I was going to type a simple post about how to pack efficiently but I’ve decided to also give myself a challenge- pack all the clothes I need into my carry-on!!  This is tough, especially considering that I’m a girl who likes to dress up AND I’ll be attending many different types of functions in two very different types of weather.

I decided to keep the challenge to clothing, excluding accessories (including shoes and my large hat) and toiletries.  I’d like to do some shopping at the outlet near Palm Springs so I need some room for the deals I score.  Plus I enjoy a challenge.  Here are the tips that I researched-

  • 3 popular methods of putting clothes into the suitcase: rolling each item individually (normally my preferred method) or bundling (see video below) or outfits assembled into large ziploc bags.  Lay out and plan outfits a day or two in advance- mix ‘n match tops and bottoms to maximize outfits with less pieces.   
  • Check the weather at all destination(s).
  • Pack in advance then go back later remove some pieces that aren’t essential for layering or certain functions.
  • I like to shop when I travel so I always need extra room for the return trip- packing an flat extra duffel bag or an expandable bag (eg. Longchamp has some) can help because you can check it or put all your carry-ons into it for more room.
  • Layer, Layer, Layer!
  • Put loafers, flipflops and flats in front pocket as well as reading material (shoes in plastic bags).  Big shoes inside the suitcase and at the bottom by wheels (to balance the center of gravity when you’re pulling and avoid squishing clothes down).  Put your socks inside your shoes to maintain the shape.
  • Use a handy weight scale by Heys for an accurate reading of how much weight you are within the limit.
  • Store a photocopy of your passport, credit card info, etc in a different area such as in your carry-on if your originals are in your purse or wallet.
  • Pack large belts around the inside edge of the suitcase.
  • Pack your towel last to protect the items inside from drops or moisture.
  • Pack jewelry in a makeup case with smaller containers or plastic bags.
  • Always have one simple dressy outfit in case- it’s tough to buy in a pinch.
  • Martha Stewart uses drycleaners’ thin garment bags and she swears that this prevents wrinkles.
  • Pack fragile items in the middle.
  • I use packing cubes to sort out different types of clothes- eg one for bathing suits and coverups, one for pjs, etc.

The result of my challenge?  Since I’m staying in only two different places and my accommodations only change once, I tried the bundle method.  It was a SUCCESS!  I packed all the clothes that I wanted to take (well, I had to part with some non-essentials that I likely won’t wear) but they all fit in the carry-on suitcase.  I’ll pack them into my regular suitcase but now there’s so little that I’m not stressed about over-packing and I have room for souvenirs (ALL my little cousins want the Mickey ears from Disney!!) and my outlet shopping purchases.


Some general tips for those who do a lot of traveling:

  • Keep a carry-on suitcase pre-packed with everything but your clothes (show pic)
  • Consider the type of trip you’re going on to guide your packing- backpacking trip, professional seminar, visit to family and friends, tropical holiday, vegas fun trip, tour exploring.  I’ve done it all!
  • If you’re gone longer than about 1.5- 2wks, plan to do laundry!
  • Think of what you can buy at your destination.
  • Don’t count on buying essentials unless it’s a long trip but some things are easy to stock up over there.
  • I love bringing bottles almost completely used up and I toss them out on the trip to make room for more!

Have fun- packing can be stressful but remember that many things are usually available when you get there.  Pack essentials and have a good trip 🙂

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4 thoughts on “How to pack a suitcase BETTER- my desert to swamp trip

    • I appreciate your suggestion. Always filled with useful information, Mr Chaitan! Thanks for the warning… I have a feeling I’d pack a lot less for Brasil since it would be all outdoor, relaxed activities.

  1. You can combine both business and play into a carry on if you pack strategically. Think about investing in some technical clothing in conservative colors. Ex-Officio, Columbia, Royal Robbins, Patagonia are all expensive, but they have clothing that can transition from desert to office. The key is to make color choices in “conservative” colors – black, grey, white, etc.
    Another thing to do is create a capsule wardrobe – You have done that a bit, but you actually created 2 different capsules. Think about one integrated capsule next time.

    As far as souvenirs go, I have 2 methods. The first is to pack a soft-side duffle bag in the carry on. Then use it for purchases on the way home. The second (preferred) method is to utilize flat rate shipping to mail the souvenirs home.

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