Packing–Fold or roll? The traveler’s dilemma. There you are, getting ready for your trip. You’ve given careful thought to what to bring. Perhaps you’re committed to doing carry-on, so your suitcase is small. Maybe you’ve even googled tips to make the most of the limited space.
Suddenly, your packing confidence evaporates: Travel experts offer conflicting advice on how to pack. Some say that layers of clothing not only work well, but also reduce wrinkles. Others are firm in their opinion that folding is for amateurs–rolling is the only way to go.
So, when you’re packing, should you roll or fold? I’m here to help. Let’s look at both methods…it really comes down to preference.
Folding and Layers: The Classic Method
There’s a definite order to this technique, so if you’re a “casual” packer, this may not be your best bet. But there are plenty of advocates willing to share their tips, including Martha Stewart, who seems to know everything about anything.
I like the practical advice in this article from RealSimple magazine. It walks you through the entire process, from choosing what to bring to handling dirty clothes. It does mention rolling a few things (underwear, t-shirts, jeans) but mostly, clothes are layered.
Folding clothes often involves extra precautions, such as using tissue paper or plastic bags to prevent wrinkles. Packing cubes can be helpful, too, especially for items like dress shirts. The key to successful folding is to make sure there isn’t room for the contents to shift around in transit. Use straps to hold everything in place.
I’ll be honest: folding isn’t efficient or practical. But since I know there are people out there who will never, ever roll their clothing, I’m trying to be supportive. And I’ll also be honest: in an informal experiment by Conde Nast Traveler staff, folding won. Read about it here.
Rolling: Pack More in the Same Space
Over the years, I’ve migrated to the rolling method. Clothing has become wrinkle-resistant and travel itineraries more casual in terms of what to wear. USA Today has a quick explanation of how to pack a carry-on suitcase by rolling items.
Rolling lets you organize several ways:
- Roll individual items, such as shirts, and keep them together
- Roll similar items together–all the shirts in a single roll
- Roll outfits together, including a couple of shirts with each pair of pants
You get the idea. Of course, you can still use packing cubes for even more organization.
Is there a downside to rolling? Well, you have to be careful not to overpack. And you still have to be careful about folding, to avoid wrinkles. Hector Cervantes has a popular YouTube demonstration on how to do an “Army roll” for t-shirts. It’s worth the 1 minute 39 seconds to learn how.
My favorite travel guru, Rick Steves, offers a quick rundown on packing light. If you’ve ever taken a Rick Steves tour, you know that it’s a must. In fact, you must agree to bring a carry-on size suitcase or backpack that you can handle by yourself.
In the end, it’s your trip, your suitcase, and your belongings. Do as you wish–to hell with the experts. But now you can wisely defend your choice!
Need more packing and travel tips?
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