Some helpful tips for keeping clothes from getting wrinkled or ruined:
Lighten your load. Jamming your suitcases as full as a subway at rush hour will leave your clothes as exhausted as a crushed commuter. Clothes become wrinkled almost as soon as you shove that last leaden item into your bag. The easiest things to jettison? Hairdryers and clothes irons. Almost every hotel room (and hostel) in the world has these items to lend.
One word: Plastic. If you remember only one word in your packing efforts, this is the one. And here’s why: friction causes wrinkling, plastic reduces friction. It’s that easy. The best way to utilize this basic plastic physics is with dry-cleaner bags. All hanger items should be packed in individual bags (one outfit per dry-cleaner bag). Clothes arrive in a perfectly preserved state. Really! Another great plastic tip: zip-top baggies. Use these for dirty shoes, shampoo bottles, or anything else you want to isolate from your good clothes.
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Rolling, rolling, rolling. You have two options for items that you’re not hanging: folding or rolling. Rolling is a great space-saving and wrinkle-reducing choice for jeans and T-shirts. Here’s how you do it: take a pair of jeans and fold them lengthwise so that the legs are stacked on top of each other. Now, starting from the cuff, roll your way up. For T-shirts, place face down, fold arms back (you should now have a long rectangle), fold lengthwise, and roll up.
Fold it. For sweaters and other non-T tops, the square fold is the way to go. Here’s a quick primer: button all buttons and lay shirts face down on a bed or flat surface. Smooth away wrinkles. Fold material in at the shoulders and lay arms flat along the body so that you create a roughly two-inch overlap of material on both sides. Now fold up a third of the material from the bottom and overlap a third from the top. You should now have a tidy package worthy of any chain retailer.
Delicate situation. What to do with your undies and lingerie? Buy inexpensive mesh laundry bags; they’re made of nylon and are lightweight. Stow your delicates in here. An added bonus: if your bag is inspected, no one need touch your underwear since an inspector will be able to see into the bag. Socks, by the way, should be rolled up and placed inside shoes or used to fill gaps in your bag (see below).
Pack it away. Now take all your tidily arrayed garments and put them outside your bag. Your goal is to use them to create a clothing jigsaw puzzle where no empty spaces remain and items won’t shift. Lay your bag flat and put folded clothes in piles down the center. Put your toiletries kit at what will be the bottom of your bag when it’s standing (this should now be the heaviest item in your bag; in this position it won’t crush other items). Rolled clothes fit into the spaces around the stacked clothes. Single shoes should be tucked into remaining openings (remember, shoes aren’t friends; they don’t need to travel right up next to each other). Socks fill in remaining holes. Voila! You are now a wrinkle-free savvy traveler!