Packing Tips From Those In The Know

Hate schlepping heavy bags when you travel? Detest hanging around the luggage carousel waiting for your bag to come down the chute? So do we. Read on….

Credit: Thinkstock – ivan101

1. Before leaving for any destination, check with and if the forecast calls for rain – throw in a travel-size umbrella or a lightweight raincoat. The kind that packs into its own pouch is best.

2. Make sure that every piece of clothing that goes into your carry-on does double duty meaning you can wear it more than once.

3. For major pieces (dress, pants, skirt) it’s best to stick with solid colours and classic styles. You can break up the monotony with colourful scarves, accessories and tops.

4. Stick with two or three basic colours that easily mix and match.

5. Take one coat, cropped jacket or wrap that goes with everything from jeans to evening wear.

6. Because they take up so much room shoes can be a problem. Don’t take a brown outfit and a black outfit if it means you need to pack two pairs of shoes. Instead, go with a pair of two-tones or faux animal skin with shades of both colours. Alternatively, pack shoes in a color that will go with everything – red or copper are good choices.

7. One or two fabulous belts can really punch up a monochromatic look. Make sure belts are lightweight (chunky metal can add pounds to your carry-on, and cause delays when going through airline security.) To pack, wrap belts around the inside of the carry on.

8. Don’t throw an evening bag into a carry-on empty. Use it to carry jewelry and a scarf and make sure it can double as a day-time clutch.

Here are a few more packing tips from those in the know.

Veteran travel writer/columnist Donna Carter packs an outfit in a plastic dry cleaning bag to keep it wrinkle free. “I use one if I’m packing a very nice evening dress, good suit or fancy jacket,” she says. She leaves the piece of clothing right on a lightweight hanger and when she gets to her destination immediately hangs it up. “Works every time,” she says.

Family travel writer Kate Pocock of Toronto says her “must-pack” is a pashmina. She says, “it will keep you warm in overly air-conditioned buildings in the tropics, also in cool northern climes.” It also doubles as a headscarf in Arab countries and as an extra blanket on airplanes. “For me,” admits Pocock, “my pashmina is my Linus blanket when travelling.”

Zip-lock bags in assorted sizes are absolutely essential,” says Judy Wade, a Phoenix-based travel writer with over 30 years of packing experience. She says she uses the larger sizes for things such as wet swim suits and muddy running shoes, medium ones for toiletries, and small sandwich-size bags for film, prescription medication, a partially-used bar of soap, a mini-first-aid kit. James Yenckel, 16-year travel writer for the Washington Post, now contributor to Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine and assorted daily newspapers, also packs everything in plastic. Two or three shirts or pair of pants to a sweater bag, he says. Underwear in one bag. Socks in another. He says, “the bags protect these items from wrinkling, it’s easy to unpack and repack, and the plastic bags keep clothing from getting wet when luggage sits in the rain on the airport tarmac.”

Toronto travel writer and columnist Jane Stokes says if you’re packing for grandma, or anyone else travelling with your child, pack complete outfits rolled up together, perhaps one outfit for each day. “If clothes are rolled with care,” she says, “it also keeps them amazingly, wrinkle-free.” Travel writer and author Sally McKinney of Indiana also subscribes to the “fold and roll” packing plan. She groups pants or skirts and tops in the colour sets she plans to wear, adds companion pieces in folded layers, then rolls each set into a coil. “With the coils placed in the suitcase sideways,” she says, “I can easily see which set I want.”

Author and travel writer Judi Lees of Vancouver says since most of her trips are outdoor-oriented, she’s learned to rely on her hooded GorTex jacket. “It really is all-weather proof,” she says. “Even though I check weather temperatures before I leave and find that it’s going to be a warm and sunny I always take my GorTex and never regret it. I just took it to China and it was terrific on a Yangtze cruise.”

Shirley Linde, editor of goes the disposable route: toothpaste tubes that just have a few days left in them, a toothbrush that is due for replacement, the panty part of old panty hose. She throws then away day-by-day and returns with a lighter suitcase. She adds that most cruise ships keep their dining rooms and show lounges “way too cold” so she always packs a versatile jacket or sweater for evenings.

Florida-based Janet Groene, author of 20 books, lived on-the-go, happily homeless for ten years. “Multi-functional clothes are the key to living out of a duffel bag,” she finds. “Take extra-large tee shirts that the whole family can use as shirts, nightwear or swim suit cover-ups. Learn to tie a sarong as a skirt, dress or cape. For city travel, she has a button-front dressing gown. She says in a pinch she adds a belt and scarf and wears it as a dress.

With 30 years of travel writing under her belt, Carole Terwilliger Meyers of California should know a packing tip or two. She says she reuses dried shower caps in hotel rooms to wrap around cosmetic products that might drip. “I also use them to wrap up particularly nice soaps to finish using at home,” she says.

Toronto-based Anita Draycott offers advice on feet savers. “How can you experience the best of a place if your feet are too sore to take you anywhere,” she says. She reserves most of the real estate in her bag for shoes: trusty Birkenstock sandals, Rockport walking shoes and a pair of flats that won’t embarrass her at dinner.

Travel and spa writer Anne Dimon sticks to two or three basic colours that can be mixed and matched. Add one great belt that will turn a day-time ensemble into a special evening look, plus one or two large scarves to use as evening shawls, wrap around the neck if the weather is chilly, or wear as a sarong with a bathing suit, and you’re ready to go.

Now, all we need is the perfect carry-on – big enough to hold everything we want, yet small enough to meet escalating airline restrictions.

Karen Shaffer, a personal organizer from Columbus, Ohio, offers the following:

Buy travel sizes of the toiletries you would use on a trip and keep a cosmetic bag packed and ready to go. This includes hair products, makeup, toothbrush, hairbrush, hair dryer, etc. You won’t need to wait until the morning that you are traveling to pack those things into your suitcase.

When packing clothes in your suitcase, cover each piece of clothing with a dry cleaner bag – your clothes will be wrinkle free when you reach your destination.

To prevent wrinkling of clothing like jeans and bulky sweaters, roll them instead of folding them in your suitcase.

When packing for kids, you can pack outfits in large ziploc bags including socks and underwear. That way they can just grab a bag each day and get themselves dressed.

You can contact Karen at

Willa Mavis, owner of the Inn on the Cove & Spa in New Brunswick, Canada writes: “My husband and I go somewhere warm every winter. I’ve speeded up my packing by keeping my packing list in my computer. A few weeks before the trip I check the list, updating items such as ‘blue shorts’ to ‘beige shorts’. I print off the list and keep it on my dresser, checking off each item as it’s packed. Then I put the list in my suitcase so I can check everything while packing for the trip back home. That way I don’t leave my favourite dressing gown on the back of the bathroom door at the airport hotel.”

If you have any handy packing tips you’d like to share with Travel to Wellness readers please send to