If you're heading home for the holidays (or traveling just about anywhere), and plan to pack gifts for loved ones in your suitcase, you're dealing with that age-old holiday travel issue: how to pack gifts without ruining them, and without making yourself nuts during what can be what can already be a maddening dash through planes, trains, and automobiles. Consider these tips and hacks for traveling efficiently, and arriving with your gifts fresh and flawless instead of crumpled and smushed.
1. Don't jazz them up with ribbons and bows just yet.
According to Barbara Reich, a professional organizer an author of Secrets of an Organized Mom, "If you must pack wrapped gifts, consider carrying the bows and ribbons separately." That's because they get snagged, crushed, and just generally ruined when they're tightly packed into carryons and even bigger pieces of luggage.
2. But if you can avoid it, don't even wrap your gifts at all.
"Don't wrap your gifts before traveling," explains Hitha Palepu, founder of Hitha On The Go, a site dedicated to smart packing. "That goes for both checked and carryon gifts alike. [TSA may] open them for screening, so save yourself the time and energy."
3. Use your sweaters like bubble wrap.
"Use your own soft, thick clothes as padding for any delicate gifts," Palepu adds. "Wrap glass or crystal items inside of thick sweaters and wrap a scarf around a candle in a glass jar."
4. Know the magic formula.
Palepu says, "I like to keep a 50-50 ratio for holiday packing — half of the suitcase reserved for your items, and half for gifts." And that may mean (sorry) ditching a chunk of your holiday shoe collection. "Be uber selective about what you pack for yourself," she says. "Preorder toiletries for the entire family and have them shipped, or do a quick shopping run immediately on arrival, as these are the likeliest to leak and ruin your gifts."
5. Pack a steamer.
Palepu also recommends packing clothing gifts as-is in your suitcase and bringing along an affordable, portable steamer so clothes can be quickly unwrinkled after unpacking. "Pack clothing gifts tightly and then give a light steam before wrapping when you unpack so they're not creased or crumpled," she says. "And use the extra space around the handle to pack even more items around."
6. Forget the boxes.
"Always remove gift from boxes before packing. You can always flatten the boxes, pack them, and reassemble and wrap them upon arrival," says Palepu, who stresses that even if the box is super cute, it's not worth sacrificing all your suitcase real estate.
7. Or just shop online.
"If possible, have gifts shipped to your destination," says pro organizer Reich.
8. Organize your gifts by weight.
"If they're heavy, they belong on the bottom of the suitcase," Reich says. "Your lighter gifts can be placed on the top of the suitcase."
9. Go easy on the footwear.
Both experts agree that packing shoes is basically the biggest killer of suitcase space, so limit yourself to three pairs and try to find a smaller, more packable gift for loved ones.
10. When in doubt, hire someone else to do it for you.
If you're loading up on luggage beyond the norm, and you're totally overwhelmed, willing to drop some cash on a professional, and open to having an expert visit your home, Amazon Home Services (yeah, the same Amazon you order toilet paper and lip balm from) will actually send a pro to pack your suitcases, boxes, or just about anything else for you. Better yet? You can obviously pay by credit card, which means you'll be earning miles to take more trips (hopefully with more bathing suits and less packages on the next go-round).
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