How to pack a suitcase in 30 minutes

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Publication date28.01.2020

Whether you’re going to miss your flight or you just hate packing, sometimes 30 minutes is all you have. So how do you pack successfully, avoid being oversized or overweight, and keep your sanity? If you follow these 9 steps, it’s easier than you think.

Take a deep breath because you’re going to be fine! Packing is a skill you can master. Here’s what you need to do.

1.  Make a list of essentials ahead of time (reuse it for each trip)

Probably the worst part of packing is that deep, existential worry about what you might have forgotten to bring. While your list will change a bit depending on the trip, making a list of essentials that you’ll need for every trip (think deodorant, a comb, toothbrush, etc.) can make things easier.

You can also create more custom lists for, say, summer and winter trips. The point is, this is a simple thing you can do far ahead of time that will both make packing faster/easier and help prevent you from worrying too much. That means you can focus more on your trip. If you’re feeling blocked, you can find sample travel lists online.

2.  Be in the right headspace

This may sound a bit silly and you don’t always have the luxury to choose when you’ll be packing, but hear me out. Learning what it takes to get you in a focused state where you can knock out your packing in 30 minutes will save you… well however long it normally takes you to pack. Maybe watching a Marie Kondo video (or someone else packing) will help get you there. Or, it could be playing just the right music. The challenge is to learn what works for you.

There are two main reasons here: the first is that focusing on getting in the right headspace can help you finish your packing ahead of time (meaning less stress). The second is that you shouldn’t torture yourself by trying to get your packing done when you’re just not in the right mood. You’ll hate it and you’ll be more likely to forget something.

3.  Choose the right suitcase

Is this one obvious? Yes. Do people still get it wrong? Oh absolutely. It’s about more than just the size of the luggage, it’s about the type. For example, if you’ll be on a rocky island moving from hotel to hotel every few days, you might want a bag that’s designed to be carried and not rolled.

Obviously making sure your luggage fits into the size requirements is also essential. This is especially true if you’re taking a budget airline. But in any case, that thought in the back of your head that if anyone checks your luggage is really too big is a recipe for stress. Plus, let’s face it, if you finished packing only to realize your suitcase is the wrong size, you might just lose it. Stay sane by choosing wisely.

4.  Make sure you have a few key pieces of gear

A few simple purchases can make packing much faster. The first is 100ml bottles. This can mean either buying toiletries that are within that limit or getting special mini-bottles you can put your existing products into. Personally, I keep a set of both ready just for when I travel. This prevents me from having to make a special trip for something like shampoo. Even if you’re taking the bus instead of flying, these small bottles are a real space saver. You’ll also want a clear bag to keep them in.

Personally, I always bring a travel umbrella, a bathing suit, basic medicine like headache pills, and some dry snacks wherever I go. A few extra zip top bags also never hurts (you can use large ones for dirty clothes). The moment you need any of these things (and those moments come more often than you think), you’ll be grateful you have them.

5.  Pick an outfit for each day

Now when it comes to the actual packing, the key to avoiding bringing things you won’t wear is planning outfits. Consider what you’ll be doing (each day if you know) and pack outfits for it. If possible, try to reuse things like pants or jackets. Starting with knowing exactly how you’ll wear everything ensures you’ll pack exactly what you’ll need.

6.  Use your bed to see everything before you pack

This is the step that always saves me the most space. I take all the things I’m planning on bringing, spread them out on my bed and have a look. At this moment, I’ll often spot things that I don’t really need (often because I’m bringing something else that’s similar). It may be an easy step to skip, but I don’t recommend it.

7.  Get rolling

Much like that time your uncle decided to try lighting fireworks while drunk, the key is to stop, drop, and roll. You’ll be shocked at how much space you can save by rolling your clothes instead of folding them the traditional way. It’s much easier to arrange the little rolls more efficiently and this method helps minimize wrinkling as well. Militaries have been using this technique around the world for decades because it simply works.

Another benefit is that this technique makes it easier to see all of your clothes. Instead of folding them and layering them on top of each other, which hides most of them, everything remains visible. If you’re not sure, here’s how to roll like a professional.

8.  Finish with large things to fill gaps

If you’re taking a larger coat or beach towel, it’s best to leave it for last. The last thing you want is for your clothes and toiletries to move around inside of your suitcase. Larger items prevent that by taking up all of the remaining space.

9.  Make sure you’re within your weight restrictions

If you’re traveling by bus or train, this probably isn’t an issue. But if you’re flying, it most certainly is. The key is to know what your weight limit is and double check it before you go. Be aware that home luggage scales can be a bit off, so it’s best not to leave it to the wire unless you want to find yourself frantically trying to get rid of things before checking in. This is especially important if you’re traveling with a low cost airline, as they tend to be extremely strict (and have expensive fines!)

The difference between leaving home knowing you’re within the weight limits and wondering whether you’ll get hit with a fine is huge. The same goes for leaving knowing you brought everything you need. So check your weight for your wallet and your sanity.

Getting it done in 30 minutes

All of this may seem like a lot, but the key is building good habits. Once you have your lists ready, know how to roll clothes, and have all of your essential travel gear purchased, getting packed in 30 minutes is no problem. Now all you need is a great place to travel to. With travelling more affordable than ever, there’s no better time to build those skills and hit the road!

Ready for your next trip?

Publication date07.01.2020