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Packing a Suitcase

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 20 June/July 1994

Before you can pack properly for a trip, you need to determine your priorities. For a business trip or a formal event such as a wedding, you'll want to keep clothes in perfect, crease-free condition. But if you're packing for a hike in the mountains or a drive down the California coast, you might tolerate a few wrinkles in exchange for an extra pair of walking shoes squeezed into your baggage. Experiment with the following packing methods until you find the one that best suits your travel style.

For the most foolproof wrinkle-free packing, suits and blouses should be stuffed with tissue and encased in dry-cleaning bags before going into a travel garment bag. The tissue keeps the fabrics from crushing, and the plastic reduces friction so clothes can settle into their natural shape. Pack everything else -- shoes, toiletries, books, papers, valuables -- in a separate carry-on bag.

Instead of using tissue paper to stuff clothing, try layering garments over one another so each layer pads the next. For example, begin with a pair of pants folded over the bar of a hanger, then hang a sweater around it. A silk shirt can go over that, and a jacket over the shirt. Slip on a plastic dry-cleaning bag last, and place the whole thing in a garment bag; or fold, and set into a duffel.

Keep delicate clothes from wrinkling by folding them around cushiony items like sweaters and knit shirts. Place the top half of a pair of pants in your suitcase, for example, smooth a sweater over that, and fold the pant legs up over the sweater. Never fold clothes more times than is necessary to fit them in a bag -- once across the middle should be enough for most sweaters and blouses.

Fill the corners of suitcases and duffels with clothes rolled into little sausages. This way you can distribute lots of items evenly throughout a small bag. This method saves the most space but is best for casual clothing -- blouses or blazers will rumple.

To avoid leaks caused by pressure changes during air travel, fill travel-size plastic bottles partway, squeeze out excess air, and cap them, creating a vacuum. Then double-bag them, first in a cosmetics bag or large resealable plastic bag, then in a plastic shopping bag. Never pack toiletries in the same bag with clothes -- a single spill can cause great damage. Along with toiletries, your carry-on bag should hold your jewelry and other valuables; eyewear; a travel first-aid kit; travel documents; maps; and reading material.

To protect shoes from scuffing and being crushed, stuff them with tissue or socks, and slip them into fabric show bags or plastic bags.

Do You Know?
If you run out of space in your bag before you've packed everything, there's a way to get more in: Drop the bag on the floor a few times, then open it -- things will have settled, and you'll find extra room.

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