Packing Problems? A Quick Fix

114/365: April 24 2007

Photo by ::d::’s photostream via flicker

It is that time of summer when we all travel back to our homes overseas. Many of us are getting our kids ready for the new school year. We’ve bought new school clothes, maybe even some supplies that are hard to find in the country we are now living in.

I have just returned from such a trip and as I re-packed our belongings I realized I had a problem.  I have this same problem each time we visit family. It doesn’t matter if it is in the US or in Germany, I struggle with this.

The Overstuffed Suitcase Dilemma                                                          

Please tell me I’m not alone in this. I followed my own tip, “Stash It”, when I packed to go to the US this summer. I thought that having that extra bag would be enough. I even packed clothes to take that I knew I’d leave behind and not take back, which would leave more space for the new clothes and gifts that we acquired while there. Sadly, I still had the Overstuffed Suitcase Dilemma. Fortunately, though, I found a solution.

Plastic Storage Bags

I have used these oversized shrink-wrap storage bags to help me pack up winter clothes and blankets in our apartment, but I’ve never used them for packing suitcases. If you’ve never used one before, they are really great. You simply put the desired clothing or other clothed-based material into the bag and zip it up. Unscrew the cap, and then place the hose of your vacuum cleaner on the opening. Turn your vacuum on and let it do the work. Once the air is out, put the cap back on. It usually shrinks it down to at least half the size. Take a look at what I did for packing.

Before

After: One blanket wouldn’t fit.

The Important Tip 

The one thing you must remember is that the weight doesn’t change. My pile of lap quilts my sister made still weighed five pounds after I bagged it, but I had a whole lot more space to use.

Your Turn: Have you ever used these storage bags for packing suitcases? Do you have other tips to share on gaining more space (I know, don’t buy anything to bring back. HA!) Please share in the comments below.

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5 Packing Tips for Visiting “Home”

You know every few years (or maybe every year) expats travel back to their home country for a few months to a whole year. This is our year to go to the US to visit my family. We’ll just be there for a few months, but we leave in less than a week and I’m just starting to think about packing. Yep, I know I’m a bit behind to be just starting (at least some of you are saying that…)
One thing that I’ve noticed since having kids is that packing a suitcase has become more of an art. Packing clothes for the five of us, making sure the “I can’t live without it” stuffed animal gets in the carry on, shoes for all occasions, toiletries, etc.
Maybe you are in the same dilemma and are wondering what to pack, how to pack, etc.  Here are my top 5 tips.

1. List it.  This sounds crazy organized, and it probably is, but I list out what each person needs to take. (Note: I don’t pack for my husband, we have different tastes.) Do note that I’m packing for 4 people. I don’t make it specific, just general. Then when it goes into the bag I cross it off. That way I know what I’ve packed and what I haven’t (unless little hands help out and unpack it all for me). Because I’m a list freak, I also list out what is going in the carry-on.

2. Stack it. After I make a list I usually usually stack the clothes on my bed. I do this for two reasons. One it gives me an idea if I’ve over packed or not. Two, I can estimate how many suitcases I’m going to need.

3. Half it. I look at the clothes on my bed and I do just that. I take out about half from everyone’s pile and put it back in the dresser. I have found that we rarely wear all of the clothes that I’ve packed, so do the math. Half the clothes = more space on the return trip. Besides, the extra space is usually filled with clothes from the extended family or from the stores that we just can’t resist. You know what I mean, don’t you?

4. Stash it. I’m talking about putting a suitcase inside another one. I always do this because we tend to bring more back on the return trip than we do going there. This way, we have the empty suitcase already and we don’t have to buy another one once we are there.

5. Roll it. This is an old trick, but one that should not be forgotten. Roll everything you can. It just saves space. And don’t forget to roll the socks and stuff them in shoes.

As for gifts for the family…I stopped doing that awhile back when I realized that they pretty much had everything I could think to bring. Well, I might stuff in some Asian candy just for the fun of it….that always brings a good laugh with my mid-west family. Besides, it is a taste of “home” for my TCKs, which is always nice for them on these longer stays.

Your Turn: What is your top tip for packing? Please share in the comments below.

*photo credit: microsoft.com

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