1. Know Your Weather. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you should pack for the specific forecast of your destination. In many places (especially Chicago), simply knowing the season won’t cut it. Be sure to check the forecast for the entire time you’ll be gone so you can know if you’ll need sunscreen, an umbrella, mittens or some combination.
2. Pack Outfits, Not Items. Be sure to put together an outfit for each day of your trip. Set out each outfit before packing. And to save on space, maximize the versatility of your clothing by choosing items you can use with multiple outfits, like shoes and bags. It’s a good idea to bring an extra outfit but make sure you’re not packing more than you need.
3. Roll for Wrinkle-Free. Once you’ve laid out your outfits, gently roll clothes lengthwise – like you would a sleeping bag (fold pants in half at the knee first). Make sure you zip zippers and button buttons before starting. Roll clothes at medium tightness, gently pulling on their length as you go to avoid wrinkles. Too loose or too tight and you’ll get some. For items like dresses or suits, consider using a garment bag, which can be hung in your car or on the plane by the flight attendant.
4. Pack Smart. After rolling, figure out which outfits to wear on what day. Pack these items in reverse chronological order, with the first outfit you want to wear ending up on top (so pack it last). For shoes, pack them with the soles facing the liner of your suitcase to avoid getting dirt or dust on your nicely folded clothing. And don’t forget to put potentially leaky toiletries in plastic bags. Finally, put your pajamas/nightgown on top along with a laundry bag for used items during your trip.
1. The Bag Has to Be Right. When you’re finished packing, make sure items aren’t too loose or too tight in the suitcase. If your zipper is about to burst or if you feel clothes shifting, you’ll end up with wrinkles and maybe broken items. Consider packing less or using a small second bag if it’s too tight and use a pillow or towel to stuff your bag if it’s too loose. For fragile items, pack them between outfits.
2. Leaving for the Airport. If you’re traveling by plane, make sure your suitcase doesn’t exceed the airline’s weight limit for bags. And print out your boarding pass at home to avoid some (potentially) long lines when you get there.
3. Getting Through the Airport Lines. Here’s the 411 on the “3-1-1″. Airlines allow only 3oz containers of liquids in 1qt sized plastic bags and only 1 plastic bag per traveler. Remember this or they’ll make you dump it out! A lot of travelers also miss the laptop rule: laptops have to be in their own bag. 2 laptops in 2 separate bags, 3 in 3, etc. If there’s a family with several small children in a security line, pick a different line to get through faster.
4. Gas and Parking. If you’re driving, look up the cheapest areas along your route to get gas before you head out. Typically the more rural the area, the cheaper the fuel (though not always). And be aware of parking fees wherever you’re staying. For example, at our hotel in Chicago, we’re unique in that we offer free parking, but if you wait to fill up the tank until you’re downtown, you could spend almost $0.40 more per gallon than you would outside the city.
Packing your bag for Chicago? Book a room at Best Western Plus River North Hotel, the only downtown Chicago hotel to offer free parking.