Pack (and Unpack) Smart

Clean your suitcases.

Get your vacation gear off to a great start by swiping away old travel-bag grime with a clean rag and multi-purpose stain remover mixed with warm water. Test a hidden spot for color fastness before cleaning the bag. Allow suitcases to dry completely before packing.

Protect against spills.

Packing shampoos and other liquids in a protective carryall is key to preventing spills. If you don’t have a snazzy toiletry bag, store items in a soft lunch tote—the padded, well-insulated kind. It will protect your toiletries in transit and you can use it to carry food once you’re unpacked. Be sure to tuck a few detergent pods inside so you’re equipped if a wash load or two is needed, and include a stain remover pen, so you’re ready for messes on the run.

Unpack right away.

Yes, we all want to jump right into vacation mode, but do take a few moments to unpack your clothes—and have your family do the same. The alternative is that everyone lives out of their suitcases and in a day or two (especially with kids) you have a pile of half-dirty, half-clean, wrinkled clothes, sending you to the Laundromat ahead of schedule.

Prevent wrinkles with tissue paper.

White tissue paper is a terrific anti-wrinkle tool. Just lay your clothes out as flat as you can get them between layers of tissue. Recycle the tissue as packing material for the trip back: Use it to wrap up any breakable souvenirs you buy.

Hand out the “hampers.”

Once unpacked, designate bags for laundry, whether it’s one for the family or one for each bedroom. Canvas totes can do double-duty as transport vehicles for sheets, towels, and pillows, and—once unpacked—as hampers. It’s another easy way to avoid the dirty-clean clothes mash-up, and to keep you in vacation mode, not cleaning mode.

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