How To Live Out Of A Suitcase

I know a few things about how to live out of a suitcase. I’ve spent the better part of the past couple of years traveling as much as I’ve been home. TripIt tells me I’m in first place among my friends for number of days on the road—a dubious honor.

These tips aren’t aimed at the minimalist, around-the-world-with-one-small-backpack crowd. But if you have to go to a conference or on a business trip, here’s what I’ve learned the hard way.

  1. Roll your clothes 
    If I teach you one thing it’s that you can pack more into a suitcase if you roll your clothes into cylinders, as compared to folding them. It’s also easier to find what you’re looking for with everything in neat rows. If you like this idea but think it’s not cult-like enough, then packing cubes are the product for you. I’ve never tried them but I assure you that everyone who has tried them told me all about them, repeatedly.
  2. Keep your toiletry kit ready to go 
    I’d lose my mind if I had to remember to bring toothpaste every time I packed. Just keep duplicates of everything you need to bring stored in some kind of travel case.
  3. The “I have first-world problems” toothbrush holder 
    One problem with keeping all my toiletries stored in a kit is my toothbrush would get kind of gross. This toothbrush holder costs $20 and requires batteries. It bathes the head of my toothbrush in a healing blue light, rapturing the germs and leaving it as pure as the day I bought it. It is, hands down, the most ridiculous product I own. I love it.
  4. Buy one good suitcase and use it
    I see these poor people at the airport, rolling these rickety contraptions with cheap handles and wobbly wheels. If you’re going to live out of a suitcase, you need a good one. Buy a rolling suitcase that will fit in the overhead compartment. And that’s the only one you need. One day trip? Use your suitcase. Three week trip through several different climates? Use the same suitcase. (And don’t ever check it. Checking is for suckers.)
  5. Limit your shoes
    You will never be able to make it for three weeks out of the same carryon suitcase if you bring all your shoes. Two pairs is ideal, three pairs if you must. May I suggest leaving your running shoes behind?
  6. The “I wish Obama really were a socialist” water boiler
    Visiting my friends in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, I’m envious of government policies that offer health care, public transportation, affordable childcare, and marriage equality. I also envy the tea kettles in hotel rooms. American hotel rooms provide a cheap drip coffee maker, the instructions on which advise that it can also be used to boil water for tea. This is an option useful only to the most hung-over of conference-goers who are willing to drink vaguely coffee-flavored tea (NB: I have done this.) This nifty gadget immerses in a cup of water and makes it boil. Bring your own tea bags and lounge in bed while everyone else stumbles down to Starbucks in the morning.
  7. Unpack
    Don’t live out of a suitcase. If you’re going to be in a hotel room longer than a night, hang things up or put them away in drawers. I find that pretending I don’t live out of a suitcase doesn’t take any longer when it comes time to repack. And it helps keep me sane.

I’m done with living out of a suitcase for a while. Next year I look forward to writing another post, called How to live comfortably in your own home.