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TravelHaven Tips – Packing Troubles

In a recent post at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31526291/ns/travel-tips/ Sarah Schlichter offers tips to resolve four common packing problems.

No. 1: Wrinkled wardrobe
Occasional wrinkles are an occupational hazard of traveling, but if your clothes come out of your suitcase looking like they’ve spent weeks in the back corner of your closet, it may be time to reevaluate your packing strategy.

Stick to wrinkle-free clothing rather than ordinary cottons and linens, which are prone to creases. You can get wrinkle-free garments from travel suppliers such as Magellan’s and TravelSmith.

Before your trip, lay your clothes out to make sure you have everything you need — but don’t put them in your bag until shortly before you’re ready to depart. That minimizes the time scrunched up in your suitcase. On the other end, be sure to hang up your clothes as soon as you arrive in your hotel. (If they’re looking a little rumpled, hang them in the bathroom while you take a shower — the hot, moist air will relax away most minor wrinkles.)

Don’t fold and crease each garment individually — that’s a recipe for wrinkles. Use a variety of packing methods, including rolling (which works particularly well in backpacks or duffel bags) and interlocking (folding multiple garments together so that they help cushion each other against wrinkles). Other travelers swear by tissue paper or plastic as a buffer between layers.

No. 2: Damaged goods
There’s nothing worse than arriving home to find the gorgeous blown-glass vase you bought in Murano reduced to a pile of colorful shards in the bottom of your suitcase. Travelers who’ve suffered the loss of a favorite souvenir or had clothes ruined by a messy spill may need a few lessons in packing with extra care.

It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: never put breakable items into your checked luggage. Wrap the items carefully in newspaper, bubble wrap or clothing and stow them in your carry-on. Smaller items can be slipped inside a shoe and cushioned with a pair of socks.

If you’re buying a fragile item too big to fit in your carry-on, have the merchant ship it home for you. Stores that frequently handle tourist purchases are pros at packing their goods for shipping — and you’ll often be able to insure your item and receive compensation if it’s damaged en route.

Anything with leak potential — shampoo, sun block, toothpaste, perfume, you name it — should be sealed tightly and packed in a zip-top plastic bag to keep spills contained. (We knew those TSA liquid and gel rules would come in handy for something!)

No. 3: Too much baggage
We don’t need to remind you of all the perils of over packing — extra baggage fees, anyone? — so if this is your major packing weakness, read on.

Start at the source: your suitcase. If you often find yourself edging toward your airline’s weight limits, it may be worth purchasing a lighter weight bag to give you a few extra pounds to work with.

Do your homework to prevent packing unnecessary items. If the weather forecast calls for nothing but sunshine, leave the umbrella home — you can always buy one for unexpected showers. Call your hotel to ask what amenities will be in your room. You probably don’t have to pack shampoo, soap or hair dryer.

Pack clothes that can do double duty — black shoes comfortable enough for sightseeing but dressy enough for dinner or a shirt that can be worn twice with different accessories. Stick to neutral colors so your garments can easily be mixed and matched.

Take your suitcase for a test drive. Pack it with everything you think you need and then walk with it around the block and up and down some stairs. If you’re huffing and puffing before you’re through, chances are you’ve packed too much — and there will be items in your suitcase that seem less essential.

No. 4: Pre-trip panic
Pre-trip panic – worries that you’ve forgotten something vital – is often a sign that you haven’t done enough preparation for your trip; or that your preparation was too rushed. Staying organized and giving yourself plenty of time to pack will help reduce pre-trip anxiety.

Don’t wait to start packing until the day before your trip. Begin making a list of items you think you’ll need about a week prior to departure to give you time shop for items you may be missing.

Mentally walk through your trip itinerary, putting aside each day’s outfit and identifying accessories or equipment you’ll need for the day’s activities. As each item goes into your suitcase, check it off your list. (You may even want to bring this list with you on your trip to make sure you don’t leave anything in your hotel room.)

Try to keep your suitcase stocked with things you always need, like your TSA ziplock full of carry-on items and your toiletries bag with the essentials.

Finally, keep your worrying to a minimum by remembering that outside of a few admittedly vital items —prescription medications and your passport, for example — there are few things you can’t purchase on the road if you forget to pack them.