How to pack a suitcase when you're super high-maintenance like me

Learn to pack like a pro. Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable By Andy Moser2020-02-21 19:47:21 UTC Traveling isn't just about the destination. Carry On is our series devoted to how we get away in the digital age, from the choices we make to the experiences...

How to pack a suitcase when you're super high-maintenance like me
Learn to pack like a pro.
Learn to pack like a pro.
Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable
Traveling isn't just about the destination. Carry On is our series devoted to how we get away in the digital age, from the choices we make to the experiences we share.

If you're like me when traveling, you're high-maintenance as fuck.

You're gonna get your suitcase and pack that thing with every single item you think there's a slight chance that you maybe perhaps might potentially need/want (maybe). 

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Maybe. Your once-strong vocabulary is now reduced to the word. Everything is maybe. That long-sleeve you wanna bring even though you're going to a tropical island? Maybe. You might get cold! Or what about that extra pair of sunglasses with the red frames that only actually look good with one outfit? Maybe. You might wear that outfit one day! 

For people like us, packing is as excruciating as it surely is to watch. The look on a friend or loved one's face while we pack all those maybe items is one of pure agony (with perhaps a touch of moral superiority). Sure, we could talk about how maybe our dependence on packing all those maybe items has something to with our own deep-seated problems with commitment, but this isn't therapy! So we're just gonna do our best to show you how you can make the most efficient use of suitcase space so you don't have to leave behind all your favorite maybes.

Choosing the right-sized suitcase

The first thing you should do is consider what kind of suitcase you need. If you're taking a shorter trip, you'll want to use a smaller suitcase, as hard as that may be. You'll also need to decide if you want a hardside suitcase or a softside suitcase. Hardside luggage will be bulkier, but should offer better protection from the elements (and if your suitcase accidentally goes for a tumble). A softside suitcase won't give you that same level of protection, but it's more malleable, which comes in handy when you need to store it. You also might be able to pack a few more maybe items into it. Before you buy your suitcase, check airline size restrictions (they're specific to each airline) to make sure the size of your luggage won't be an issue.

How to pack a suitcase and save space

Starting off by making a list of what you need to pack is always a good idea. It helps you stay organized, and it helps you see which items are absolutely essential and which ones you can leave behind. There are actually people who keep a general, all-purpose packing list to make things easy. You might want to become one of these people. You may also want to check off the items on your list as you pack them. That way, you'll know you haven't forgotten anything when it comes time to leave. Be sure to check the weather for your destination, too, in case you need to prioritize a raincoat, winter jacket, snow boots, etc. 

Bulky items first!

Bulky items first!

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

Pack coats, jackets, and other large clothing items first. It makes sense. They're going take up the most space, so get them in there first so you can see how much room you have left to work with and go from there. It also helps me to lay those things flat at the bottom so they're not taking up too much room on one side.

Bonus: If you can, use vacuum-sealable bags for bigger items, which will help compress them so they're not taking up quite as much space.

Ready to roll.

Ready to roll.

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

Time to throw the rest of your clothes in. There are a few different routes you can take here. Rolling your clothes is a great way to conserve space. It's a pretty standard piece of advice, but damn, if it doesn't work like a charm. Make way, clothes. I'm taking the long-sleeve to Hawaii.

It shouldn't all fit! But it does...

It shouldn't all fit! But it does...

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

You can also use a second technique: clown car packing. Fold your shirts around your pants, and then just stuff it all in there. It works, but you gotta want it.

A good technique if you have a thinner suitcase.

A good technique if you have a thinner suitcase.

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

Third technique: Front-to-back packing. Simply roll your clothes front-to-back, stacking vertically in the suitcase (like a filing cabinet).

Honestly so satisfying.

Honestly so satisfying.

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

The fourth technique? Packing cubes! Roll or fold your clothes into them. Organize them by size, and arrive at your destination in total relaxation knowing where everything is.

The amount of extra shirts I've been able to bring just by stuffing my socks in my shoes...

The amount of extra shirts I've been able to bring just by stuffing my socks in my shoes...

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

If your suitcase has them, put your undies and socks in the little zipper compartments. They don't take up too much space, and you won't want to be fumbling around, digging through your clothes to find a pair of underwear. Or, if you're packing shoes, fold up your socks and stuff them in there. Your shoes have space in them. Why waste it? You can also pack shoes, belts, ties, and random toiletries in shoe bags to avoid dirt and grime. Ew.

Squeeze, but don't pop!

Squeeze, but don't pop!

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

If you want to bring travel-sized hairspray, perfume/cologne, lotion, etc., you may want to put them in a little Ziploc bag so they won't ruin your clothes if they break open. One small but helpful trick to packing it, though, is making sure all the air is out of the bag before you zip it shut. That way, the bag itself isn't taking up extra "empty space." 

Re-sealable bags are also a good idea for little odds and ends, like jewelry. But if that's not your thing, you can use jewelry rolls to keep everything from getting tangled.

You can place the re-sealable bags in between the little pockets of space where your clothes are. Part of packing efficiently is putting all of that small, leftover space to good use, and this is another way to do that. 

If you're running out of room and you're looking for other maybe items to pack, consider this: You might also want to get a souvenir from whatever place you're visiting. It could be a t-shirt, a magnet, a small figurine, a bottle of alcohol from the airport, two bottles of alcohol from the airport...whatever. Everyone vacations differently. Instead of adding those last-minute maybe items, leave that extra room for a potential souvenir that you'll maybe want to bring home with you.

OK, time for what's usually the most difficult part (at least for me).

OK, time for what's usually the most difficult part (at least for me).

Image: Bob Al-Greene/Mashable

We're almost finished. Once you think you have everything that you might want in your suitcase, you still have to do what can be the most difficult part of the whole process, a challenge I've had to quite literally tackle many a time: Closing the suitcase. You gotta hug it. You gotta squeeze it. Sit on that fucker if you have to. Part of the battle is sheer determination, so make sure you go into it with the right attitude. If you have anyone available to help out, have them push down on your suitcase while you do the zipping (or vice versa). Sometimes, it just takes a little teamwork. No shame in that. And now, you're ready to hit the road. You're gonna travel. And there's no maybe about it.

P.S. Don't forget your phone charger.

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