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 The Brancatelli File

joe HOW TO PACK IT IN

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

August 31, 2000 -- Regardless of whether you prefer hard-sided or soft-side luggage, Pullman cases or garment bags, wheeled cases or duffel bags, you need a packing strategy.

For starters, never pack any valuables--financial, medical or psychological--in anything but a carry-on bag. And never overpack: Luggage that's too heavy to carry to your car won't be any lighter when you're dragging it to the airport check-in line or at your hotel when there isn't a bellman to be found!

Then consider the following tips to manage the rest of your luggage.

MAKE A LIST, CHECK IT TWICE
Make a list of the items you'll need to take on your trip. Concentrate on mix-and-match clothes, shoes and accessories. Emphasize neutral shades, complementary colors and clothing that may be hand washed and drip dried. Don't forget specialty items such as resort wear, foul-weather gear, and, if appropriate, formal attire. Then check the list and eliminate anything that you can't justify the second time around.

LAY IT OUT
Lay out all the clothes you plan to pack on a sofa or table. Then, one more time, weed out what isn't essential. A good strategy: Eliminate what you can buy at good prices at your destination. For example, if you're headed to Ireland, buy sweaters there. Purchase beach wear at sun resorts and shoes in Italy or Brazil.

PACK BOTTOM TO TOP--OR FIRST TO LAST
For a quick trip, pack bags from bottom to top: heaviest items at the bottom of a bag, lightest items on top. For an extended trip, however, pack according to itinerary: clothing for the last stop at the bottom, garments for each earlier stop layered on top. Underwear and socks can be stuffed inside your shoes and around the edges of the luggage. Another way to lighten your load: Wear your heaviest shoes and bulkiest clothes on the day of departure so you won't have to pack them.

FIGHT THE WRINKLES
Items like slacks and ties can be loosely rolled to keep wrinkles away. For other garments, minimize wrinkles by wrapping them in tissue paper or plastic bags used by dry cleaners. And be sure to unpack as soon as you reach your destination. By the way, accept the fact that some wrinkles are inevitable no matter how carefully you pack. Hotels will usually lend you an iron and an ironing board or fall back on a time-tested trick: Hang wrinkled clothes on the shower rod in the bathroom, close the bathroom door and run the hot water. The steam will eliminate many wrinkles.

REMEMBER THE ESSENTIALS
Leave room in your bag for travel essentials: plastic bags for soiled garments; extra film and books; a small umbrella and a travel clock; a copy of your travel documents; and a foldable tote for packing the purchases you'll make during your trip. And remember three all-purpose items favored by all experienced travelers: sealable, gallon-sized kitchen bags, a Swiss Army knife and a tube of Krazy Glue.

PACK YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION
Place a piece of paper in your luggage with your name and home phone number and telephone numbers where you can be reached on the road. This information can be used to contact you if your bag is lost and your external baggage tags have been removed.

This column originally appeared at Mapquest.com.

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.