Figure out which is best for your luggage.

By Ayn-Monique Klahre
February 14, 2020

Whatever type of trip you're preparing for, packing is likely part of the process—and it usually requires the utmost efficiency. Ideally, you want to arrive at your destination with your clothes organized intuitively, so putting them away (or reaching for them straight out of your luggage) is a breeze. Though this is often easier said than done, sticking to a tried-and-true packing method pays off in the long run. There are two major schools of thought about how to pack a carry-on: rolling and folding.

Getty / Natdanai Pankong / EyeEm

Ahead, travel expert Anne Howard, author of Ultimate Journeys for Two ($16.99, amazon.com) and Comfortably Wild ($26.49, amazon.com), walks us through the pros and cons of both. She's a true professional when it comes to savvy packing: She and her husband left for their honeymoon in January 2012 and never came back. The couple literally lives out of their suitcase as they travel the world—so naturally, they have opinions.

Related: The Best Way to Pack a Backpack

The Roll Method

For this method, each garment is folded width-wise a few times, and then rolled into a cylinder. The cylinders can then be stacked or organized by item within the suitcase. The pros? Rolling clothes causes fewer wrinkles, saves space, and creates better visibility in your suitcase (you can see what you're working with!). As for the cons? This method adds a step while you're packing the bag—you have to physically roll items after folding them—which isn't always easy, especially for some difficult-to-roll pieces. Regardless, Howard is a "religious roller," she says. "There are no hard creases, and you end up with fewer layers to flip through, so you can easily grab and go."

Howard rolls her clothing and then stacks like items together by category, so she can see—at a glance—where, say, her pants or shirts are. Another advantage? Tightly-rolled items are less likely to move during transit. "It keeps things in place when you're hurling your bag into an overhead compartment," Howard explains.

The Fold Method

This is the method you likely use while putting away laundry at home; garments are folded the traditional way (a t-shirt is folded into thirds width-wise, then in half, for example) and stacked on top of each other, ideally categorized by item. There are obvious advantages here: Items are easily transferred from drawer to suitcase and travel well, with minimal wrinkling. But there are some negatives, as well. You can't see everything inside your suitcase, and ultimately wind up with less space—plus, clothing can become squished when you stand the suitcase vertically.

But if you're traveling someplace where you're going to stay for a while—like a week at your beach house where you'll unpack into a dresser—the folding method can save you a step. "It's sort of like moving a dresser drawer," explains Howard. And there is one possible advantage of folding less space-efficiently, at least as you head out for your trip: It gives you a little bit of room to fill with souvenirs before you return home.

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