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Packing Tips

By Rachel Deutsch

Packing is an art form in itself. Experienced travelers have perfected this art over the years so they cen carry just a small bag and still have all that they need on vacation. Here are ten tips to help you pack for your next vacation.

1. Prepare a packing list in advance. One packing list for each traveler and a list of common things.

Each list should be separated to a list of things you are going to check in, and a list of things you will carry on the plane with you. Mark on each list the things you can only put in the bag in the last minute, such as a toothbrush you intend to use at home before the flight. Make another list of things you need to take out of your wallet or bag before the flight, such as knives, tear gas or any other object that is not allowed on the flight.

2. Make a list of the bags you will take, and make sure well in advance that you can find them and that they are in good condition. Maybe since you last used them you lent a bag to someone and forgot. A bag could have been damaged by moisture or insects in storage. It could also be damaged since your last trip, but you didn't notice or forgot.

A small hole can get worse when handled by the airport staff, and it's not a pleasant experience to see your bag's content spill on the floor. Make any repairs necessary before going.

Make sure the size of the bags complies with the airline regulations. I checked regulations on Swiss and on American airlines. Each company has slightly different rules, and these change from time to time. Read the following as a general guide. After you book your ticket check the website of the company you fly with.

The regulations at this moment are:

For flights within Europe:

Carry on baggage - 20x40x55 cm, 8Kg maximum

Checked baggage - dimensions up to 203cm (sum of length, height and width), 20Kg per person, max 32 Kg per piece

For trans-Atlantic flights:

The weight per passenger checked luggage is 23Kg, but dimensions are maximum 158cm for the first piece and 273cm for the two pieces together.

Carry on up to 18Kg (40lbs).

For internal US flights:

Each passenger is allowed two checked bags and one carry on.

Two checked bags at 62 in/157 cm each

One carry-on bag at 45 in/114 cm

3. Take clothes that are easy to wash and dry, as little ironing as possible. If you must carry a business suite, use a special bag, or put it above all the other clothes and take it out of the bag the moment you arrive in the hotel.

Don't take clothes that you don't wear at home. You will probably not wear them on your trip either.

4. If you intend to spend much time at the beach or by the swimming pool, consider taking more than one bathing suite with you. A bathing suite doesn't weigh much, and if one bathing suite is damp, you can use the other one. It is also good to have backup in case of any damage to your bathing suite.

On the other hand - I know someone who deliberately "forgets" her bathing suite at home, so she just has to buy a new one...

5. It is very important to take the right shoes with you on a trip. Good walking shoes can make all the difference. You need one pair of good walking shoes, preferably not new shoes. When you start planning a trip, ask yourself what shoes you're going to take. If you have a pair in mind, wear them and walk in them for 2-3 hours at least. If your feet and your back feel good, and you like the way the shoes look - these are your travel shoes. If not, try another pair or buy new shoes and walk in them until you get used to them. People suffering from back problems or foot problems should consider insoles for foot support.

If you are going to hike - you need hiking boots. For the evening you would want nicer looking evening shoes. For a trip, I would sacrifice some elegance for comfort. At home you may drive to the door of the restaurant and not walk more that a few feet to the table. On a trip you may want to take a stroll before or after dinner, and you don't want your high heels to get stuck in the cobble stones.

Other shoes you could want to take with you are slippers or sandals for the shower or the beach. If you jog or exercise, you may want shoes for that too.

Your walking shoes or hiking boots will be on your feet during the flight. Take the most comfortable shoes to the flight. Make sure it is easy to take these shoes off, in case you are required to do so at the airport. If your luggage is very heavy, consider wearing the heaviest shoes, so the luggage is not overweight.

6. Pack your socks rolled up inside your shoes. This way they are not taking up space, and they also help maintain the shape of the shoes.

7. There are two approaches to packing clothes. One approach is to spread them flat one on top of the other. Take all the shirts, spread them, and then fold the sleeves of the bottom shirt over the others to get a stack of shirts the size of your bag. Pants also go one over another, and than the whole stack folded together. This way you have minimum folding creases. It's good if you hang your clothes. If you keep your clothes folded on shelves you will need to refold them anytime you unpack.

The other approach is to fold everything as square as possible, fitting the size of the bag, so the bag is filled.

8. Take what you need for the first day in your carry on bag. Lost luggage is not common these days, but it still can happen. If it happens to you, don't let it ruin the first day of your trip. Take your tooth brush, shaving utensils, basic cosmetics, a change of clothes and anything you may need on your first day with you.

If you have a printed page with directions to your hotel or important telephone numbers, take them with you.

9. Insure your luggage. If the luggage is stolen or damaged, it's good to be able to replace it. Even so, don't check in expensive or sensitive items. Take your new camera with you - it's the safest.

10. Don't take big bottles of shampoo, hair conditioner etc. There are small travel size bottles, or you can take some of the bottles content with you in a smaller bottle. Overweight will cost you more than buying a new bottle of shampoo at the destination.

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