Stephanie Johnson

how to pack a duffel

It should be simple.  But like finding the perfect outfit at the last minute, that one pair of shoes that seem to have gone missing, or rummaging through your bag for your identification in an airport’s security line, it always manages to evade us.

And in the case of packing a duffel bag, it results in a dash to stuff in one last item, hugging the bag closed as you try to close it, and realizing it’s WAY too heavy when you try to pick it up.

It’s rough.  But that’s why I’m here.

I’ll preach these travel tips (pre-pack your bag, only three pairs of shoes, essential toiletries) until I’m blue in the face, but they are the foundation to a perfectly packed bag.  My trip essentials (SpacePak, shoe bag, toiletry kit) live in a basket in my closet for easy reach.  I opt for a roomy duffel that’s still comfortable to carry.  AND I pack in a super-specific order that maximizes space and minimizes stress.

Now the million dollar question – why should I pack a duffel (versus a suitcase)?

Glad you asked.

1)  A duffel will ALWAYS fit underneath the seat in front of you.  If you are in boarding group 4 of higher, there’s a strong chance that the overhead space will be occupied by wheeled suitcases long before you board the plane.  Duffels are also ideal for small planes, where wheeled suitcases would be dropped off and picked up in the jetway.

2) It’s the perfect luggage piece for weekend getaways and beach trips.  Do you really need a wheeled bag for bathing suits, shorts, and sunscreen.  No, you don’t.  You really don’t.

3) When packed correctly, you can fit 5 days worth of clothing in that bad boy.

Ready to learn how to pack your duffel perfectly?  Yes?  Good.

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I often brag about tout my ability to pack a suitcase under 5 minutes.

Don’t lie – you would do the same.  Any rational person would.

Today, I’m sharing one of the secrets that enable this seemingly impossible feat.  The one major tip – pre-pack your suitcase.

I’m not talking clothes.  But keeping certain items in your suitcase, ready to go, can shave your packing time in half.  

Here are the items that live in my suitcase, all the time:

  • Toiletry case.  I’m going to delve into this in a future post, but I always keep my toiletry case pre-packed at all times.  I keep liquids packed in this bag, and will pack it in the suitcase or my tote depending on the airport’s PreCheck availability.  The rest of my items live in my train case by Stephanie Johnson.  I also keep two pairs of clean underwear in my toiletry case, based on my propensity of forgetting to pack my unmentionables.  And a hairbrush.
  • Shoes.  I keep my travel sneakers and a pair of classic black pumps pre-packed in my shoe bag at all times.   Brava to Hudson & Bleecker for designing a bag that can fit 3 pairs of shoes.  4, if two pairs are flats.  Woot.
  • Gadgets.  Two electronics that live in my suitcase are my hair straightener and clothing steamer.  I honestly won’t leave home without these items (and will forget crucial items like underwear and belts instead).  I opted for international voltage models for both, but do what you got to do.  And, of course, pick the gizmos you need the most.
  • Spacepak.  I don’t pack ANY bag without my Spacepak.  Honestly.  Not only does it make packing a breeze, it makes unpacking an easy experience (laundry and clean clothes sections FTW).
  • First Aid Kit.  Mine lives in the mesh divider in my suitcase, but is always there.  I opted for several Help! items, Mucinex, and Neosporin.   I recommend you keep yours stashed in a pocked in your suitcase, or encased in a pouch from this Baggu set.

All that’s left for me to pack are my clothing & cosmetics.  Hence the whole under 5 minutes skill.  And now, you can too.  (And if you have trouble packing your clothing, my Pack Perfect Clothing Calculator comes to the rescue – sign up for my newsletter and you’ll snag it for free!)


Summer Storm Essentials

June 10, 2013


Given my hatred of rain and gloomy weather, you may be shocked to know that I spent my college years in Seattle.  How I managed to graduate with biochemistry and history degrees in four years is beyond me – when faced with a rainy day in NYC, I trudge through my necessary tasks for the day and curl up in bed with a massive bowl of popcorn and a great read.

The aforementioned activity has been happening more than I’d like to admit.  I blame the weather entirely.

The only thing that can get me out of bed and into the rain are good friends and good food.  Jessica, Hallie, Lacey, and the Brindle Room are just that.  And so I went into the monsoon last Friday night for a much-needed dinner and drinks.  Happily enough, I reached my destination only slightly wet and my look still looking casually chic.

And since I’m all about sharing, here they are – my summer storm essentials.

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