Packing to maximize space

For the first five or so years of business travel I primarily traveled by myself. However, over the past few years that has been shifting so now I travel with coworkers more often than not. This leads to some interesting conversations, particularly around packing. Colleagues are frequently amazed that I can fit everything I need into my tiny little suitcase.

On a trip a couple of weeks ago I was having breakfast at the hotel prior to checking out, when my traveling companion rushed in. “I don’t know why fitting everything into my suitcase on the way home is so much harder than on the way out here!” she exclaimed. “It’s not like I’m buying a bunch of stuff!”

“Well, do you fold your clothes?” I asked her.

She just stared at me. “My dirty clothes? No. Why would I do that?”

It feels a little bit like stating the obvious, but, well…..This is why! Because crumpled clothes take more room than neatly folded clothes! So while it may seem counter intuitive to fold clothes that are just going in the hamper or washer when you get home, it will make fitting all of your items back into your suitcase that much easier. This goes double if your bag was very full on the way to your destination! 

A few other tips for packing to maximize space during travel:

  • Use a capsule wardrobe so that everything goes together and can be worn multiple times.
  • Use packing cubes to compress your clothes.
  • Decant your toiletries into the smallest container possible. Yes, 3 ounces are allowed, but most people don’t need 3 full ounces of anything for a one-week trip. The biggest bottle I have is my 2 oz. dry shampoo (which can’t be decanted); everything else is one ounce or less.
  • Only bring two pairs of shoes, including the pair you wear during travel. Three is okay if you need to work out, but two pairs of work shoes should be more than sufficient for a week-long trip.
  • Find the travel-sized versions of grooming tools. There are plenty of smaller hair dryers, curling irons, and even hot rollers that pack a powerful punch.

Readers, what are your best tips for maximizing your limited packing real estate?


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  1. For dirty clothes, bring a zip compressible bag, the kind with a valve. Then roll the air out and the clothes take up very little room and are not intermixed with your clean clothes. A snap to pop them in the hamper.

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