Why are we so useless at packing suitcases?

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This topic contains 30 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  capetonianm 28 Jul 2018
at 11:42

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  • LuganoPirate

    Interesting article in today’s FT by Pilita Clark about how we pack and it got me thinking.

    I remember way back I’d frequently travel with 4 suitcases, 1 for shoes, 1 for jackets and suits (including my dinner jackets (a white and a black one)), 1 for shirts and underwear and washing kit, and 1 spare for what I may purchase on my travels. Today it’s either a carry on and maybe a suitcase, but always minimal with room for purchases to bring home.

    This is partly influenced by baggage rules and partly by reducing the hassle of packing and unpacking, the worry of lost cases and the need to not really need a suit anymore.

    Do fellow posters now pack less as well or is it just me?


    With all due respect, LP, I am probably a bit younger and never lived those days with tons of luggage. As far as I can remember, I always travelled with one piece of luggage in the hold, admittedly sometime heavy (30kg). It is still true today as I hardly can travel with cabin luggage only since my suits would not fit in.


    Very interesting topic LP… I am very spoilt where packing is concerned..

    For short trips into Europe the lady who cleans my house is able to iron and fold as many shirts / trousers as needed, so they fit exactly into my overnight case.

    For Asia, everything gets put in plastic bags, after cleaning. When I arrive into BKK, everything is pressed by the hotel…

    I generally travel with a case and backpack. Case has all clothes, but no wires or electrical items. That way, it should not need to be opened at security. The backpack has all things electrical and lap top phones.

    However, I come from a world of General/Corporate Aviation, where I have seen clients use a PJ, just for luggage..!!


    Interesting post, LP.

    A problem I have met twice, once in Iran and the other time last week in China, is a visit where one is given so many things that you need an extra suitcase to carry them home.

    In my neck of the woods these are “when-I’s”. “When I was in Turkmenistan I was given this fine carpet”. “When I was in Japan I was given this huge picture”. (I am looking at them both.)

    The only other person I knew with a comparable collection of “when-I’s” was a finance man who worked for the CIA. I don’t know if he had to buy extra suitcases all the time…


    Short haul a minimum of one suitcase plus hand luggage and long haul a minimum of two suitcases plus hand luggage. But may be more depending on arrival destination and length of trip. On a trip to New Zealand our baggage allowance was 96 Kgs, the return journey became in excess of our allowance. It’s really difficult to know at times what will be enough.

    Thankfully BA to Sydney gives 128 Kgs each way. Normally have all worn items laundered before the return home, just not necessarily all the pressing.


    I nearly always check in a bag, even on s/h LCCs, unless I know I have to make a quick getaway, as I can’t be bothered with trying to cram everything into a cabin bag and then worry about liquids, gels, now powders, etc.

    I have had the same problem in Iran, I was given so much stuff by the wonderful people I was working with that I had to buy another suitcase and then of course was about 20 kgs overweight and I was dreading paying the XBAG, but I had a chat to the station manager of the carrier I was flying out on (BMI) and they are obviously used to it because he just waved it through.

    I’ve got very good at packing. Normally travel to and from CPT in C, take out a couple of suitcases of boxes of old clothes and so on to leave for the needy, and come back with wine. I always impress myself with the amount I am able to cram into the suitcases.


    I never forget my dear departed Mum’s packing rule [told to us in the 1960s]:

    “Halve the clothes, double the money”. Brilliant (I think).

    How do I pack – I’m a bit obsessive – over decades I’ve built up a list of must-haves and that is all I ever pack. I pack from the list.


    Our holiday trips are still with 2 large suitcases packed upto airlines limit; one for Wife another for daughters and my few stuff squizeed somehow. Plus 4 cabin bags!
    However for my business trip I perfected to manage only with one cabin bag plus laptop bag. My laptop bag is slightly large that accommodates quite a lot. Do not have any problem except USA domestic carriers where I travel coach, I manage by saying that came from Long haul and they allowed that. Only once (out of hundreds) I had to check in.
    For my business trips that last mostly 5 days, I pack 3 sets of shirt and pants, 5 sets of inner garments, 1 tee shirt, 2 pyjamas and a small toiletries pouch. It fits quite well in my cabin bag. Pants are used for 2 days, shirt gets crushed, so goes to hotel laundry on Wednesday.
    My well travelled Samsonite and Victronix cabin bags served me well, these are still good, but tempting to buy a new one. In another thread posters discussed Tumi etc. I will be grateful for suggestions for a good cabin bag that will accommodate my stuff above, light and durable.


    When I was still travelling for business I found over the years I could get away with less and less. For my last two years of business travel I was using a ‘Gate-8’ tri fold suit carrier with their shirt attachment plus my regular Mandarina Duck briefcase. This was enough for a three day trip. Like others here I had a trip list (inside of my wardrobe) and my wife packed my bag based on that and how long I was going to be away. I also maintained a separate ‘go-bag’ for those immediate trips where I had no time to prepare.

    On our current round-the-world trip life is a little more complicated. Mrs-P travels with the Rimowa Classic 60 litre plus a Samsonite cabin bag and a handbag, I make do with a Tumi Latitude and my briefcase. We also ship ahead of us a further two large Samsonite cases uses either Fed Ex or UPS. Anything purchased on the trip we have shipped home rather than carry with us.

    My son who has just started to do more and more business travel is now using my Gate-8 suit carrier bag and says it covers all his needs for a two or three day trip but he moves to checked luggage when its longer than that.


    I’m actually now very good at packing ………And I’ve honed my skills for both leisure and business because of what I learnt packing for my weekly commute down to London.

    And maybe not applicable to those who travel to further afield, particularly Asia , but when I first started travelling my case was a bulky sports bag that allowed my stuffy suit carrier to go in beside my other clothes.

    For me the biggest space saver has been the demise of the suit !!

    As companies have adopted more trendy “ business casual” culture, the need for the suit diminished. On the odd occasions that wearing a suit was merited on one of the days I was working I’d choose a suit whose jacket could be worn casually with jeans, packing the trousers in my case.

    Plus , as I’ve mentioned before elsewhere on the forum , 2 shirts and 2 ties = 4 looks –subject to hygiene factors, I’m not a skank !

    As for leisure, If I’m intending on buying stuff when I’m on holiday, I take the opportunity to review my current wardrobe and I’ll choose attire that will not be making the return journey . That space will be filled on the way home with my new gear and holiday souvenirs !!

    The last time I was in Kenya, the beach sellers love our redundant clothes. A sad indictment on our chuck away society !!

    Other things I do to minimise kilos, particularly on longer stays…….on a
    Visualise what you’re going to wear daily and be disciplined. And don’t pack 7 minutes before leaving the house !!
    A wee sachet of soap powder for simple laundry is a god send.
    If I’m travelling and sharing accommodation with friends, collective toiletries bought at your destination is just plain common-sense.


    I am normally a ‘nothing or all’ person.

    If I can get everything I need in my Briggs & Riley expandable 4 wheel cabin bag and backpack, then I do.

    When that’s not enough I usually check in a case far bigger than I need, a large Samsonite hard side, light weight one. 115 litre? On the basis if I have to check in a bag, may as well be a big one..

    When travelling to a destination where I know I will be bringing more things back than I take, I have a medium size case, 75 litre ish, which I pack and then that fits nicely into the large case. So I check in one case going and then have two for the return journey.

    With also having lower back problems I try to not make the cases too heavy, 20kg max and rather have two than try and get 32KG in one case that I struggle to lift.


    I am also an all or nothing person, unless its a max 2 nights then its the big samsonite even if its only a third full. I can bet most of the time it comes back almost brimming!


    I have only recently started packing a smaller case in a larger one for the extras one picks up on the journey. Prior to this I used to simply purchase a ‘disposable’ bag to carry the extra stuff back. I got the idea when I couldn’t resist picking up an Antler set comprising a roll-on and a full sized case at a clearance sale in Singapore. I already had my roll-on with me on that journey and did not have any checked bag, so I simply packed the new roll-on in the large case and checked it in. Since that eureka moment there has been no turning back whenever I anticipate I will be returning with way more than what I left with. The days of wasting time/money on buying cheap disposable bags are thankfully over.


    A good service would be the ability to leave clothing at a frequent destination for laundering and pressing and have delivered next time in town. Useful for frequent return trips, unfortunately very few hotels have this facility which is a shame.

    The only downside if that’s possible is that you are always seen in the same clothes all the time.


    Interesting article in today’s FT by Pilkita Clark about how we pack and it got me thinking…. Do fellow posters now pack less as well or is it just me?

    The author Paul Theroux once wrote that he always flew transatlantic (Boston – London I think) carrying only a book and a toothbrush, with no check in luggage either (one reason was that he kept clothes ready in his UK flat) – that always impressed me. He wrote that one problem was that it raised the suspicions of customs for some reason.

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