8 Simple Steps for Wrinkle-Free Travel

Have you ever opened up your suitcase to find that your orderly and organized clothes have turned into origami? You’re not the only one. The war on wrinkles has been an ongoing battle among seasoned travelers for what seems like ages.

Tips to Tackle Your Wrinkle Woes When on the Road

Here are some tested methods that will minimize the number of frustrating folds ready to surprise you the next time you unzip your luggage.

Packing Cube Tetris

With overhead bins shrinking and checked luggage fees rising, the art of packing has never been more important. Turn your travel bag into a game of Tetris with space-saving packing cubes. By compartmentalizing your clothing, you can reduce the shifting in your suitcase –the major contributor to unwanted wrinkles. Companies like BAGSMART and TravelWise offer multiple options to keep your clothing free of creases, with the added bonus of freeing up more real-estate in your luggage. 

Quick links to buy: BAGSMARTTravelwise, and Gonex

Ziploc it Down

A budget-friendly and multipurpose alternative to packing cubes, Ziploc Bags (specifically the ones with sliders) serve as simple travel hack you’ll swear by. This lightweight everyday household item might not look as professional as a set of cubes, but their functionality is on par. Minimizing the amount of friction between clothing, you can itemize apparel in Ziplocs to keep them crisp and clear from rumpling. After loading it up, squeeze the air out for a tight vacuum seal and presto, you’ve got wrinkle and spill protection all in one. Clear sides make finding clothing items a cinch too!

Quick links to buy: Ziploc Slider

The Rolling and Bundle Methods

Bring your baking skills to your bag packing; roll up or bundle easily creased clothing to avoid friction that forms wrinkles. Like making a cinnamon roll, take your flatly laid out garment and begin to tightly roll it creating a compact piece that will reduce wiggling around in your bag. As the military’s packing style of choice, the rolling method is extremely effective in maximizing room in your luggage while keeping organized.

Try your hand at bundle packing by laying out all your clothes and selecting some core pieces that you don’t mind getting wrinkled (socks, underwear, pajamas, etc.). From this base, you carefully wrap the rest of your wardrobe around it, forming a layered onion of items. Save the apparel that is most likely to wrinkle for last and create the outer shell using those garments. By wrapping your most commonly creased threads at the end, the tension needed to wrap around the bundle’s larger surface area should keep your clothes taut and wrinkle-free.

When you've picked the best method for you or a combination of them both, seal your rolls and bundles in a packing cube or airtight Ziplocs to keep them contained. This will make them less likely to come undone or rub up against other items in your luggage that will cause crimping. Pro-tip: roll-up items that are easily wrinkled like silk ties, scarves, hosiery, etc. into your sturdiest shoes to protect them.

Wrinkle-Free and No-Iron Fabrics are Your Friends

All fabrics are not created equal when it comes to combating creases. Do your best to prevent wrinkles before they start by stocking your travel wardrobe with wrinkle-free and no-iron items. Everyone has a favorite shirt or dress that begins to fold up like a broken beach chair the minute you grab it off the hanger. Ditch it and instead pack fabrics like nylon, wool, lycra, cashmere, and any other wrinkle-resistant materials. Fashion brands have gotten the hint too, and now supply non-iron options of their most popular pieces. Familiar outfitters like Chico’s, Buttoned-Down, and prAna offer travel collections specifically geared to iron this problem out. 

Quick links to buy: Chico's, Buttoned-Down, and prAna

Pack Along a Travel Steamer

For the perfectionists in the crowd, nothing quite compares to your own trusty travel steamer. While lugging around your own personal iron seemed outrageous years ago, newer travel size and portable steamers from brands like Steamfast and URPOWER make it easier than ever. Weighing only a few pounds, these mini-sized wrinkle warriors are a surefire way to keep your shirts, skirts, and suits looking sleek. While it's true, many hotels still provide in-room irons, the rise of Airbnb’s and other budget-friendly accommodations mean you can’t always rely on these sort of in-room amenities. Plus with your personal steamer, you won’t fall victim to a filthy or faulty one provided by the hotel.

Quick links to buy: URPOWER, Steamfast, and BIZOND

Up Your Suitcase Game

Luggage is a crucial component when factoring into how to pack to avoid a wrinkled wardrobe. Too much extra room in your bag and you’ve got a soup of striated sleeves and slacks. Not enough room and your densely packed designer duds will be a crinkled disaster. The key is a structured bag that provides compartments, straps, and just enough space to keep your clothing in place yet friction-free. Travelpro and Samsonite provide first-rate luggage options (many of which include inner garment bags) that are favored by flight crews worldwide.

Quick links to buy: Samsonite, Travelpro, and Briggs & Riley

A Few Sprays of Wrinkle Releaser

No matter how meticulously you pack, some wrinkles and folds may still form. To free your wardrobe from minor creases and crimps, splash a little spritz of wrinkle releaser spray on the affected areas while the piece is hanging and allow those fabrics to relax. Wait a few seconds while the spray smoothens out the wrinkles giving the garment a soothing scent while eliminating odors. Downy and RealSimple’s 3oz. travel sized versions are TSA compliant and easy to stash in your purse, weekend bag, or any other carry-on you bring onboard. Now, if only it worked on crow’s feet formed from too many red-eye flights.

Quick links to buy: Downy Wrinkle Releaser, RealSimple, and Wrinkle Wiz

Spend a Few Extra Minutes in the Shower

This travel tip has been around forever, but for a good reason. While taking a hot shower, hang up your wrinkled wardrobe in the bathroom, allowing the steam to fill up the room and relax the fabric. I found that splashing on some of the above-mentioned wrinkle releaser spray accelerates the process. While many savvy travelers swear by this system, I notice you can't always rely on it. Some hotels are getting too creative for their own good regarding bathroom design nowadays, ditching doors or offering open layouts that don’t allow for an enclosed area for the steam to stew. If you do get the steam system working, allow extra time for your clothes to air out to avoid dampness.

Bottom Line

There’s no surefire way to make sure your wardrobe will remain perfectly crisp and clean throughout the whole travel process. But by using a combination of the above tips, you can easily eliminate almost all of your wrinkle woes on the road. Now, if only smoothing out other facets of travel could be as easy.

Header image by Syda Productions, Rolling Packing image by Chutima Chaochaiya, and Shower image by Lucian Milasan via shutterstock.com

Product photos via amazon.com

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