Your Weekly Organasm: How to Fly with a Perfectly Organized Suitcase

Lately, I’ve been developing the skills to pack my travel bags with maximum efficiency.
Publish date:
February 1, 2013
flying, organization, packing, your weekly organasm

I love to ski. As soon as it gets cold, I’ll hop on and off cars and airplanes in a mad search for powder. There are lots of upsides to this. It keeps me bright, perky and happy when snow falls and temperatures drop. I’m active at a time when most people get slow and lazy.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve been developing the skills to pack my travel bags with maximum efficiency. This is how I do it.


When I fly, my carry-on bag holds everything I need for the ride, plus some. I like to check and double-check that I have all of my travel documents, such as passport, tickets, itinerary and money. I can forget to bring almost anything else, but these are the things that are necessary. I also like to pop an extra shirt, underwear and socks into my bag because that’s what I’ll miss most if the airline loses my stuff. More good things to bring are an eye mask, ear plugs, a pashmina that doubles as a blanket and maybe a travel pillow.

Minimize Your Checked Luggage

On any trip that lasts longer than four days, I use this space-saving trick of packing half as many clothes as I think I'll need. The reason for this is twofold. One is that I’m a dirty, dirty slob who likes to wear her clothes for two days at a time when I travel. And two, I think it’s better to spend a few bucks to do my laundry than to pack an extra 20 pounds of clothes I may or may not wear.

I also like to save on luggage space by rolling up my clothes. I know you’ve heard it before but wait, there’s a twist! I do it the military way.

And why not? Army people travel all the time and they have been trained to be super efficient at it. This particular method is called a army (or ranger) roll and you can do it to your T-shirts, underwear and socks. It’s superior to conventional rolling because it creates a neat, compact bundle that doesn't ever unfurl. Even if you don’t have immediate travel plans, you should go ahead and learn this trick.

For one thing, it’s a great way for you to pack a change of clothes for the gym. You can also use it RIGHT NOW to organize your panty drawer. The great thing about it is that you can throw the little rolls into your drawer any which way and it will still look organized. Here’s a shot of my Hanky Panky collection.

For my underwear, I do a slight variation of the army roll. To do it, spread out your underwear on a flat surface, front side up and with the waistband on top. Smooth it out with your hands. Fold down the waistband behind your panty, about an inch from the top. Then, fold the left side of your panty two times (or once if it’s thick) to the right so that it meets with the right side of the crotch.

Do the same fold to the right side of the panty. Now, starting from the bottom, tightly roll up your panty. Take the initial fold from the back of your panty and flip it inside out and over your roll to create a neat little bundle.

Note: If you’re working with a thong instead of a bikini or boyshort, you might want to start by flipping your underwear over so that the back side is on top, and the front side (which has more fabric) is on the bottom.

I should probably tell you about the one small downside to army-rolling your clothes. It saves so much room in your suitcase that if you use it on the way to your destination, you’ll have no choice but to re-use the same method when you go back home. Otherwise, your stuff won’t fit in your luggage. So when the time comes, suck it up and roll up your dirty laundry. You can wash your hands with soap and water when you’re through.

Be TSA-Friendly

When I travel, I really dislike the idea of having some TSA agent paw through my stuff. It’s bound to happen when your suitcase is messy and disorganized because that’s when it’s most inconvenient. Clean up your act, and it will save you a lot of time and trouble.

I’m a big fan of the clear Ziploc bags that the TSA recommends. Use them to corral all of the smallest items, and the TSA won’t have to do much more than give your ziploc a cursory glance. I also recommend using packing cubes for your underwear and socks. It’s a great way to ensure that all of the stuff you want to keep clean are in one place, and won’t fly out if your luggage is opened up for inspection.

They do tend to be expensive, so you can also improvise by using lingerie wash bags instead. For example, I have a bra bag that I like to use to transport my underwear as well as my bras.

Finally, if you don’t want the TSA to touch absolutely everything, don’t overpack. I know that some people like to maximize space by doing things like tucking socks into their shoes or wrapping shirts around their ski gear. Please stop doing this. For one thing, it looks messy, and people won’t respect your stuff if it looks messy. It also looks complicated, which makes a lot harder for a stranger to put it back together.

Pack Your Must-Haves

There are certain things I never want to travel without. One is my asthma inhaler and various medications. Another is my sea bands, and I highly recommend that you get some. I use it to prevent all types of motion sickness, whether I’m in a car, airplane or boat. It’s a pair of elastic bands that you wear on each wrist, with tiny balls that press into your acupressure points.

Believe me, it works! And if you’re traveling with small children, these things may save your sanity.

Another must-bring is a swimsuit and a pair of flip flops. Even in the dead of winter, there may be hot tubs and hot springs to jump into. And if you never end up dipping your toe in the water, there’s still a good chance that you’ll long for your flip flops when you come across cold, wet or grimy floors during the course of your trip.

Stay Beautiful

I like to rock a french braid when I’m on the go. I love this hairstyle for so many reasons. I don’t need to worry about heat styling my hair, it doesn’t need any product, and it always looks put together. It keeps my hair neat when I go swimming, and it fits under a hat or a helmet when I go skiing. It really is just about perfect so if you have long hair like me, try it at least once.

Here’s another beauty tip. When it comes to packing up my beauty products, I try not to feel too restricted by the 3-1-1 rule from the TSA. Trial-size products are so great for traveling. The smaller the better, because I’ll use less than I think, and you may be able to toss them before you go back home.

It’s worth mentioning that right now, there’s a great deal from Mario Badescu. They recently sent me a swag bag of tiny products just for answering some questions about my skin on their website. Isn’t that nice? Head over there right now to get your own.

Min Lee is on Twitter @minjams