Six essential tips on packing a suitcase

Nancy Novogrod, editor in chief of Travel and Leisure magazine, shares her best advice on how to organize travel items and pack smart

woman leaving entranceway of house carrying box suitcases

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1. The edit
Begin a few days before the trip. Pile accessories and clothing on a sofa in the living room, which effectively limits the opportunity to have people over for dinner or drinks — a good thing when you’re about to embark on a journey! Over the next day or two, add and subtract items; group outfits on another sofa, assembling versatile clothes that can go with a couple of pairs of shoes. As my trips are highly clothing-intensive, I look for items that can fold up easily and are not too heavy or bulky. Sometimes I take along an extra handbag in addition to the one I carry on the plane and a clutch for evenings.

2. Essentials
I travel with a BlackBerry, an iPhone, an iPad and sometimes a laptop, too. My iPad is the device I love the most: I use it to read PDFs of stories for the magazine, to pay bills and download books and magazines, and for music and storing photos. I always take laundry soap for my personal items and a steamer.

3. Roll or fold
I am a folder. I find my clothes get the fewest creases that way. The biggest challenge for me is shoes. I try to limit myself to a couple of day pairs, one evening if necessary and one pair of smart flats or boots, depending on the climate.

4. On-board necessities
I always have a cashmere sweater and pashmina, hand cream and eye-makeup-remover wands, a sample tube of moisturizer and, most important, an eye mask so I can sleep. I will categorically not check any medications, vitamins or jewellery that is of any real significance to me — just in case your bag doesn’t reappear on the other side.

5. To check or to carry on
I rarely manage to travel with just a carry-on, as much as I want to. Most of my trips require lots of clothing, with meetings and events from breakfast through dinner, and I am either too vain, too undisciplined or too fashion-obsessed to limit myself in such a cruel way.

6. Check the weather
The biggest pre-trip mistake people make is not checking the weather at their destination(s). Avoid this pitfall by adding where you’re going to your phone’s list, and start tracking changes a few days before packing. It’s not foolproof, but looking ahead 10 days can offer some sense of what to take.

Confession: I wrote these words during a trip to India, for which I packed a pair of sandals and two pairs of flats (I needed only one) in addition to the boots I flew over in. So I am not always successful! My big indulgence is shopping when I’m away — I call it “cultural cruising,” which means avoiding global luxury brands, which I don’t always manage. Somehow travel overcomes whatever modicum of restraint I try to have.

Nancy Novogrod is the editor in chief of Travel and Leisure magazine. She logs over 100,000 travel miles per year.

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