How Not to Suck at Packing Your Bags
I just got back a couple of weeks ago from a fantastic visit with my best friend in Boston. She’s an MIT engineer—and, therefore, a certified genius—who regularly does research on stuff I’m not even allowed to talk about. Suffice it to say that one of her projects is going to go to Mars. The planet, not the city in Pennsylvania.
Anyway. The city of Boston is not as awesome as my friend, but it comes pretty close. Beautiful fall colors on all the
trees, a million people in scarves, century-old bookstores, the best Italian pastries you’ll eat outside of Italy, regattas on the river… and bunnies. So many bunnies. I had a great time and came back with an MIT mug in my suitcase.
The only way the trip could have been better? Maybe if my flight from Boston to Miami hadn’t been delayed. If it had been on time, I would have gotten to my connecting flight before the gate closed. If I had gotten to my connecting flight before the gate closed, I would have gotten to sleep in my bed that night. Since none of that happened, I ended up stranded in Miami. For. Twelve. Hours.
Really, there was nobody to blame. The weather in Boston was bad, which was why the flight was delayed; there was a Big Massive Auto Show going on in town, which was why I couldn’t get a hotel room; I was stuck in Miami and not Atlanta, which was why there were no “sleep suites” where I could go to catch some z’s. Overall, the situation was… less than ideal.
If you’re traveling this holiday season, don’t be like me. Don’t sleep on your purse for two hours and then wander around Terminal D like a ghost in an 18th-century Gothic novel. Pack right—for every possible situation.
What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of packing as collecting one’s belongings for a trip in a way that is sensible, space-saving and least likely to get you detained by the TSA.
- Think about your destination. Desert? Tundra? Rainforest? Don’t discount the importance of having options for all possible weather conditions. Regardless of where you’re going, you’ll need a few basics (deodorant, books, duct tape), but most of your suitcase is going to be specific to your trip. Bring light layers and an umbrella (and maybe some snakebite venom if you’re going to the middle of the desert).
- “Hack”* your suitcase. Rolling your clothes into cylinders will allow for more free space in your bag than folding them into rectangles will. Put shoes on the bottom to evenly distribute weight and make sure your clean clothes don’t get shoe prints on them. For the love of God, get a suitcase with wheels. It’s the 21st century and technology is beautiful.
- If you can leave it at home, do. Are you really going to need to work on your laptop on this vacation? Do you actually need a new pair of jeans for every day? Are you actually going to wear any of those accessories? No? Leave it. Leave it all.
- …except underwear. If a Walking Dead scenario happens and you’re stuck in your destination for a month with worthless currency, no washing machine and no possessions but what you have in your suitcase, you’re gonna want clean underwear.
- Try to keep certain things on your person. ID. Books. A blanket. A pillow. A phone. If you get stuck in an airport, these are the supplies that are going to alleviate your situation. Don’t sleep on the bare floor of gate 27D. It won’t help you.
- Don’t get arrested. Learn what can’t be transported in the cabin on flights in your country, and then don’t pack those things. The government has a lot of lists, and it’s better to stay off of them.
*As any MIT student will tell you, very little to do with your everyday life is really a “hack”. For a list of some of MIT’s most famous actual hacks, click here.