It's probably a cliché to say that most men pack at the last minute, but let's be honest: Most guys do. Most of the guys I know, my father and myself included, tend to wait until zero hour and either end up:
A) Running around in a panic while their partner/spouse/family members watch in irritated dismay
B) Forgetting something essential, like socks or a passport
C) All of the above
Over the years, I've learned that putting some modicum of thought and preparation into packing saves a whole lot of hassle and frustration, both for you and for anyone you may be traveling with. Some of these tips may seem like common sense, and if so, good for you: You're an evolved male and a seasoned traveler. If not, take note and thank us later.
Do. Laundry. Beforehand.
This is the easiest way to trick yourself into planning ahead. Throw all your dirty clothes in the wash at least three days before you travel and pack directly from your basket of clean, folded clothes. You don't want to find out you only have four pairs of clean boxers the night before you leave for a week in Paris. This also gives you time to run to the dry cleaner if necessary.
Pack Extra Essentials
Some men (though certainly not all) have it in their heads that packing is a sort of primal challenge to see who can pack the fewest clothes possible. This is absurd. If anything, you should throw in at least an extra pair of socks and underwear plus an extra T-shirt or undershirt. Why? Things happen. It rains. You spill wine on yourself. Maybe you tumble down a hill, I don't know. All sorts of unexpected misfortune can creep up on you, and it's worth it to be prepared.
Bring Interchangeable Parts
Bring a sweater that's comfortable enough for sightseeing but sharp enough for dinner. Pack shoes that will work for business meetings, but that you won't mind wearing to the bar with jeans and a T-shirt. Traveling for a wedding and have to go to a rehearsal dinner and family brunch in addition to the ceremony itself? Throw together some combinations that utilize your suit jacket and pants separately so you don't have to pack multiple blazers or dress pants.
Related: 11 Must-Haves for Your Carry-on Bag
Roll Your Ties
Folding causes creases; rolling doesn't. It's that simple. And no, balling up your tie and shoving it into your luggage is not an acceptable third option. Roll your tie like a spool of tape and pack it wherever it's least likely to get crushed.
Stuff Your Shoes
Speaking of shoes, take some rolled up socks and shove them in your shoes. Shoving your socks (or anything small that you don't plan to eat later) into your shoes not only saves space but will protect your shoes and ensure they'll look good when you unpack. This is especially true for dress shoes, which can become bent and creased while in transit.
Related: Worst Shoes for Travelers
Fold Delicate Items to the Width of Your Bag
Dress shirts, fine-knit sweaters (like cashmere), and blazers or dress pants should go in the bag last and be folded so they take up the full width of your suitcase. This cuts down on wrinkling and also means they'll be the first thing you unpack when you arrive. (Which is to say you won't forget about them until just before the wedding/meeting/romantic dinner, at which point you sheepishly extract a mangled article of clothing from the depths of your suitcase.)
Bring an Extra Charger and Keep Your Cords Organized
Chances are you have no fewer than 20 assorted phone chargers shoved into various drawers throughout your home. Bring two and make sure at least one is in your carry-on. Phone chargers are almost begging to be left behind, and you probably don't want your vacation to include an excursion to Best Buy. If you're traveling with multiple chargers for multiple devices—and let's face it, you probably are—put all your cords in a small drawstring bag or a cheap dopp kit. Good organization means you're less likely to lose something.
Keep Your Toiletries in a Dopp Kit
A loose tube of toothpaste in a suitcase will almost always result in toothpaste on clothes. Invest in a basic, inexpensive dopp kit and put all your toiletries in it. (A zip-top bag works as well.) Buy deodorant, toothpaste, and anything else you need for your trip instead of packing what you already have at home; it's a minimal expense and it saves you the frustration of having to unpack your perfectly packed suitcase the morning of your flight because, like a dope, you packed your only deodorant and now you need it.
Lay Out Your Essentials the Night Before
This is especially good advice if you have an early flight. Lay out your wallet, passport, keys, travel clothes, and any other important belongings, and make sure your travel documents are in a can't-miss location. This mitigates any risk of something being forgotten or misplaced, and will make your departure day that much smoother. Plus, you won't have to dig through your suitcase the next morning because you packed the hoodie you wanted to wear on the plane.
Unpack When You Arrive
"Living out of a suitcase" may be a way of life for some travelers, but it shouldn't be taken too literally. Promptly unpack your dress shirts, blazers or suits, and anything else that needs to be hung up. The longer these items sit in your suitcase, the more wrinkled they'll be—and ironing while on vacation is not fun. Put some of your clothes in drawers. Put your shoes in the closet. Basically, act like a civilized human. All this will make it easier to pack for the return trip. Now go have fun!
You Might Also Like:
- 8 Secrets of Ultralight Packing
- 8 Carry-on Packing Tips That Will Change How You Travel
- 10 Things You Should Pack but Probably Won't
(Photo: Tanya Constantine/Getty Images)