Stop, Drop, and Roll – It’s Not a Fire Drill, but the Perfect Way to Pack!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Mattbuck


I used to take an exorbitant amount of clothing when I traveled. Used to car trips where we had plenty of room and no weight restrictions, I crammed everything in just in case I might change my mind about what to wear. So when I began to travel more often by air, I had some serious adjustments to make in packing attitude. Some people manage to walk on a plane with one small carry-on or backup but that person is not me; I still need some choices and want to look fashionable at all times. However, I have learned to narrow down what I choose to pack and to also to pack more conscientiously and logically. I don’t need quite so many choices!

 I still take a bag that is fairly full, but I also take one that is very light when empty and I leave a little room for shopping at my destination, which is inevitable. There’s all kind of tips on the Internet about packing light, what to pack, and how much to take, but it’s really an individual choice. I have no intention of wearing the same few items several times, for instance, or taking a monochromatic wardrobe.

So here’s what I have learned about packing and what allows me to take what I want, be happy and still not have an overweight, overpacked suitcase.

1. STOP. What kind of suitcase are you using? When my husband and I first started traveling seriously, we both had complete sets of that bulking canvas luggage. You know the kind I mean – it’s a set with all the matching pieces, each of which is extremely heavy before you even start packing them. We struggled along for a long while, progressively getting more and more annoyed with the limitations of our suitcases. When we attempted to travel by train in Europe with our heavy suitcases, we finally decided to just spend the money to get a quality, hard-sided, light suitcase.

There are lots of options available on the market, but we have had our Rimowa suitcases for several years now and they are amazing. You can literally pick them up with one finger when they are empty and, even when they are fully loaded, they rarely weigh more than 30 – 40 pounds, well below the weight limit for most flights.

Now consider a few extra things. What is the weather going to be like where you are going? Will it rain? Will it be chilly? Do you need sunblock? What about bug spray? Make a list of what you need and check off things as you pack them.

Remember you don’t want to put expensive electronics, cameras, prescriptions, important papers, jewelry or anything else that you care a great deal about into your checked luggage. Also, it’s an excellent idea to put a note into the luggage with all your contact information. If your luggage tags are torn off, the airlines have no idea who that luggage belongs to. If something goes amiss, make it easy for them to find you and return your carefully packed items. Another helpful suggestion is to make copies of your identification and credit cards (front and back), then email this information to yourself. It will prove to be invaluable if you are robbed.

2. DROP. You know what I mean. Drop it. That fifth top you are packing for a weekend trip just because you might change your mind about what you want to wear is unnecessary.

I have no problem with packing quite darling clothes and matching shoes and jewelry (of course!), but you have to set some limits. One important thing I have learned about fashion while traveling is that people pay much more attention to what you wear on the top than what you wear on the bottom. So take one great pair of black pants and several cute tops. Believe me, nobody will notice you are wearing the same pants every day.

Lay out everything you are thinking about taking, then take about half of it and put it in the closet because you are probably not going to need it. A variety of scarves and costume jewelry can be invaluable in changing up a pair of black pants and different sweaters or colorful t-shirts. It’s a great idea to take clothes that can be rinsed out in the sink and dried overnight. You don’t need fresh underwear for every single day if you can just rinse them out.

3. ROLL. I have tried every packing method out there. For years, I simply folded my clothes, then I tried several other methods until I finally started rolling everything and voila! It’s the perfect way to pack. Pretty much everything takes up less room when you neatly roll it, except already bulky things like sweaters and jeans. Just fold those flat and roll a second layer on top.

Now take those neatly rolled items and tuck them into those packing cubes I know you have already purchased. I used to have a hard time imagining how in the world people could want those silly packing cubes until I purchased some and now I can’t imagine packing without them. You can cram tons of stuff into those cubes, you can organize your clothes (tops in one, underwear and socks in one, etc.) and one of the coolest things about them is you can simply take them out of the suitcase and pop them right into a dresser drawer. No unpacking!

The secret to packing cubes is to place a few items in there, then zip it up, leaving just the front part open. Now you can cram it full without everything falling out the sides.

So, just like a fire drill – Stop, Drop and Roll. And have fun on that trip!


About the author: Jan Ross

For twenty years, I worked as a librarian in an elementary school but finally decided to get serious about travel writing and devote all my time to it. Now, I travel the world and write all about it. I can't imagine a more fabulous or fulfilling job. I write a regular travel column for two regional, Central Kentucky magazines and contribute regularly to other magazines and online travel sites, such as The SavvyGal, A Luxury Travel Blog and The Vacation Gals. I'm an avid reader and stay active with Yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes. My favorite place in the whole world is a beach - any beach. I have been married for 34 years and my husband is my favorite travel companion. I also rely on him for his excellent photography skills. We have two grown children and the best grandson in the world. Slowly but surely, we are visiting all the places we have dreamed about. Hopefully, the next one will be the one you want to read about!

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