August 1, 2006
We asked our readers to send in their best packing tips. Here are the runners-up

When I travel, I put each shoe into one of the plastic bags that the newspaper is delivered in. They are sturdy, just the right shape (long and thin), and at the end of the trip I can just throw the bags away as I get more bags everyday at my doorstep! --Patti Watson

For car travelers, pack a black bedsheet to put over your belongings in the back of your car to prevent them from being seen from the outside. --Tom Glow

Even if you're not planning to swim in the ocean or pool, tuck a pair of inexpensive rubber flip-flops into your bag. They're light and hardly take up any space. Your feet will breathe a sigh of relief when you slip them on after a day of shopping or sight-seeing. Wear them to protect your feet in the shower at the gym and with your pj's as slippers. At the end of your trip you can use them leave them behind. --Mary M Morris

We take a pencil with a two-foot piece of duct tape rolled around the middle. This holds a couple of safety pins and threaded needles and is a compact emergency repair kit. The tape comes in handy for all types of repairs, from keeping blackout drapes together to fixing hems of clothes and even makes, with a piece of tissue, a bandage. The safety pins are also used for quick fixes from hanging damp bathing suits to pinning money to the inside of clothes. The Needle and thread are easy to locate, and the pencil is used for writing as well as the graphite loosens locks in a pinch. --Pat Campbell, Upland, Calif.

When you need warm clothing, avoid bringing wool. Bring garments made of a high-tech fleece. They are warm and can be dressy, too. Fleece weighs so much less than wool and takes up much less space. Some fleeces wick moisture and are very comfortable whether you are sitting still or are very active. If you have trouble finding garments made of fleece in your local department store, try a sporting goods store or catalogue. --Linda Byard

When we travel, we pack clothes to wear that we will eventually donate to a shelter or charity in the area we are visiting. The day before the end of our vacation, we launder the clothes and drop them off. This is a win-win situation: more room in our suitcase for souvenirs, and clothes for people who need them. --Lori Chiffy

After finding that some hotels, especially in Latin America, have door locks that aren't dead bolts, I have begun packing a small rubber door stop. I wedge it under the door for more security. --Mary Davis

I'm a huge fan of guidebooks, but they are way too bulky to bring them all along. Since most of the guidebooks that I use are updated annually, before I leave I tear out the pages featuring attractions, museums, and restaurants I want to visit on my trip. I also purchase a good map like the Streetwise edition. Instead of four or five guidebooks, I end up taking a few sheets of papers that pack flat in my bag. And best of all, I can throw them away at the end of my trip! --Dena Martin, Pasadena, Calif.

When I travel for business or need to pack formal wear, to save on space I roll up my ties and stick them inside my shoes. When I arrive at my destination, I simply take the ties out of shoe and unroll them. This has the same "no-wrinkle" effect as rolling up jeans! --Derek Hendrickson, Rochester, N.Y.

To reach your destination wrinkle-free, layer your similar clothes (long slacks or jeans, tops, shorts, etc.) with a folded sweater or other soft item in the middle on top. Then fold in half or, in the case of tops, fold the sleeves to front, and then in half, around the soft item. I always do this, and I never need to re-iron on a trip. --Jacquelyn Kelley, Ardmore, Okla.

Pack a sheet of bubble wrap for those breakable items you might purchase while on vacation. Also, a regular size Ace bandage is always good to have for any aches and pains from hiking, too much walking, or any accident that you might suffer. Place heavy items at the end of the suitcase that will be on the bottom when the suitcase is standing on end--this way the weight will hold the bag upright and not tip it over. --Kathy Quinn

A lot of people underutilize the outside pockets of modern suitcases because of security fears. The pockets are great for holding dirty clothes on your return trip. This will free up space in the main compartment of the bag, making more room for things you picked up on your trip. The outside pockets are perfect places for undergarments, socks, and workout clothes. I guarantee no one will steal those! --Dan Moisand, Melbourne, Fla.

I either roll up all my clothes or I put a piece of tissue paper in between the different layers of cloths, because this decreases wrinkling. I also make sure that I pack one pair of comfortable shoes (running sneakers). I am a runner, and I love to explore by running. I then pack only 2 other pairs of shoes to coordinate outfits (for example a black pair/a brown pair). I also leave any expensive jewelry home--no need to lose anything sentimental! Wear the jewelry that you want to wear for the whole trip. --Jessica Piecuch, Chelsea, Mass.

For long trips, I always pack along two sturdy wire hangers and attach two clothespins to each. When I need to wash pants or other items that need to be dry by the next day, I hang them where the air can circulate around them freely. Hotel hangers have no hooks and cannot be used outside of the closets. Wire hangers take up no room in your luggage, and you can leave them behind after the last wash has dried. --Norma Martin

Pack women's dress shoes inside men's shoes. If your feet are small enough and your husband's feet are large enough, you can save space in your suitcase by packing your shoes inside his. I wear size 7 ½ and my husband wears size 10. I pack my dress shoes with a low heel inside his dress shoes. It not only saves space in the suitcase, it also keeps my shoes from losing their shape while packed. --Danielle Bangs

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Here's a tip for packing kids' clothes for a trip: Assemble complete outfits (shirt, pants, underwear, socks), place the largest piece on the bottom and stack the rest on top of that, and then roll up into one bundle. This eliminates having to rummage through the suitcase each morning, as you just pull out a complete outfit, ready to wear. --Meg Rice, Hillsboro, Ore. To avoid arriving at your destination without your possessions because the airline has misplaced or lost your bag, pack half of your items in your spouse's or partner's bag. Ditto for them. That way, you still have a few items to change into until your bags arrive. --Elaine Poole, Goshen, Ind. We place a collapsible soft-sided cooler bag in luggage when we fly. Not only does the cooler serve as a picnic refrigerator while on vacation, it also hauls souvenirs back home as checked-on luggage. --Ray Anderson I travel often, but I can pack in minutes, because I keep a pre-packed bag in my closet. It's carry-on size with wheels, and it contains: a Dopp kit with toiletries, a manicure kit, a makeup bag, a nightgown, a robe, a hairdryer, a cell-phone charger, a mug, a "coil" to heat water, tea bags, a mending kit, granola bars, bandages, antibiotic ointment, medicine, a change of underwear and socks, and a good book. --Kathleen Webster Many travel articles say to pack as little as you can bear taking, and then take half of that. I've never been able to travel quite that light, but I've still found plenty of ways to keep my load manageable. 1. Bring black, and never underestimate the power of accessories. 2. Pack a reversible bathing suit and a sarong. You can use it as a towel, a skirt, or a beach blanket. 3. Use a chamois cloth instead of a full-sized towel. The chamois rolls down to washcloth size, dries quickly, and can be wrung out instead of hung to dry. You can buy it in the car supply area of any home store, or at a swimming/diving specialty shop. 4. Bring only the beauty essentials, and look for products that have dual functions. For example, take a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen--it's like having foundation, lotion, and sunscreen all in one. --Amy Zimmer

North America

Mexico: Ocumicho On one his frequent art-buying trips to Mexico, Hank Lee came upon Ocumicho in the mountains of the state of Michoacán. "It's eternal springtime there," says the co-owner of San Angel Folk Art in San Antonio, Tex. "There's never really a hot summer or a cold winter. The town is filled with flowers and vegetation, and baby chickens are everywhere." The village, two and a half hours from the main road between Guadalajara and Morelia, is known for its clay devil figurines and painted pottery. "The artists get inspiration from the tabloids," explains Lee. "Everything is about sensational topics, like Ebola and killer bees." Two stores off the main square serve food, and a typical dish is squash-blossom tacos with homemade cheeses. "But everyone wants to feed you," says Lee. "In a villager's home, you'll usually see a woman sitting in the living room with a pile of corn, shucking it, husking it, and grinding it by hand. And the women of the town all wear traditional dress: petticoats with aprons, puffy-sleeved shirts, and hair in pigtails." As for lodging, Lee offers three options: "Stay at hotels back by the main road, rent a house, or camp out in the town square. No one minds." Michoacán Tourism Board: 011-52/443-312-8081, United States: Greenwood The Mississippi town of Greenwood, 130 miles south of Memphis, is experiencing a renaissance. Much of the revitalization is thanks to The Alluvian, a high-design hotel opened in 2003 by the Viking Range Corporation, the kitchen-appliance manufacturer, which has its headquarters in town. The hotel and Viking's cooking school have attracted foodies and artists, who, in turn, are opening restaurants, shops, art galleries, and even a blues museum. Last fall, Ari Weinzweig, cofounder of the Ann Arbor, Mich., culinary colossus Zingerman's, went to Greenwood for a conference. "Visiting the area is like going to another country," he says. "Not in a bad way! It's just the feel, the pace, is different. You drive through fields and see how cotton looks when it doesn't come in a box." Weinzweig loves the pastries that Martha Foose, the cooking school's executive chef, makes at her Mockingbird Bakery. But his greatest find? "The Delta tamales," made with beef and cornmeal. "They're all over the area," he says, "but the best ones are at Doe's Eat Place." The family-run restaurant, 55 miles west in Greenville, has served Delta tamales for more than 60 years. The Alluvian: 866/600-5201,, from $175. Greenwood Blues Heritage Museum & Gallery: 222 Howard St., 662/451-7800, Mockingbird Bakery: 325-B Howard St., 662/453-9927. Doe's Eat Place: 502 Nelson St., Greenville, 662/334-3315,

Central America

El Salvador: Suchitoto Jim Kane, founder of the tour company Culture Xplorers, travels to Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala, and El Salvador three months a year. "We try to go to places that aren't necessarily so far off the beaten path, but that we want to experience in a different way," he says. One of Kane's recent finds is Suchitoto. "It's one of the prettiest towns in El Salvador, with well-maintained colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. It reminds me of Antigua, Guatemala, 20 years ago." The village, on rolling hills next to a lake, is less than an hour north of San Salvador. Suchitoto attracts artists and hosts festivals throughout the year. A boutique hotel, Los Almendros de San Lorenzo, adds to the appeal. "For under a hundred dollars a night, you get a trendy hotel in a sleepy town," says Kane. Los Almendros de San Lorenzo: 011-503/2335-1200,, from $80. Guatemala: San Marcos "We buy high-grown coffees, usually starting at 4,000 feet, which means mountains are always around," says Alain Poncelet, vice president of coffee and managing director of Starbucks Coffee Trading Company. "It makes the views very unique." Poncelet spends nearly a third of the year traveling to plantations. "I was on a farm in the San Marcos region of Guatemala recently," he recalls, "walking up the mountain with the farmer, when I heard a very loud noise and saw rocks rolling down. The farmer laughed and said that the volcano had 'awakened.' " Eruptions of the Santiaguito volcano regularly shower the area with ash. Though Santiaguito is in the province of Quetzaltenango, which borders San Marcos to the east, its eruptions can be felt for miles. San Marcos has three volcanoes of its own, including the highest peak in Central America, Tajumulco (13,845 feet). Departing from Quetzaltenango City (a.k.a. Xela or Xelaju) every Saturday morning, Quetzal Trekkers leads two-day peak excursions that include transport, food, guides, and camping equipment. Covered in the rate at Takalik Maya Lodge, south of San Marcos in Retalhuleu, is a coffee plantation tour, as well as entrance to Takalik Abaj National Archaeological Park. Since the ruins were unearthed in the late 1800s, 277 Mayan monuments have been discovered. Quetzal Trekkers: 011-502/7765-5895,, $50. Takalik Maya Lodge: 011-502/2333-7056,, includes all meals, from $57.

South America

Argentina: Pampa Linda A Patagonian valley two and a half hours from the ski resort of Bariloche, Pampa Linda is way off the beaten path, the kind of place where the inhabitants don't generally have much exposure to visitors--which was exactly what Kevin Hodder, at the time a race manager for the TV show Eco-Challenge, was looking for in 1999. "For active travel, it's hard to beat," says Hodder, who spent five months annually hunting for Eco-Challenge locations. "They call the mountain Mount Tronador--the word for thunder--because the glacier is always calving off, and it sounds like thunder as chunks of ice break and fall into the valley." Adventurers can hike or ride horses to a lodge at the base of the glacier and then make the seven-hour climb to the lowest peak (10,456 feet), overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi. A stream rife with trout runs through Pampa Linda and widens into a river for rafting and kayaking; a hut-to-hut trail leads to the world-class rock-climbing spot Cerro Catedral. Activities can be arranged through the rustic lodge Hosteria Pampa Linda within Nahuel Huapi National Park, where Hodder stayed. Hodder has since acted as a segment producer for the challenges on Survivor, and now works as the supervising producer for an upcoming Discovery Channel show. Yet he spends winters just as he did before he got into TV--as a backcountry-skiing and mountaineering guide in his hometown, Whistler, B.C. "I still consider myself a mountain guide first and a TV producer second," he says. Hosteria Pampa Linda: 011-54/294-449-0517,, from $62. Brazil: Caburé Benjamin Weiher works at a desk these days, but for four years, the operations supervisor for G.A.P Adventures guided small groups through South and Central America. "I wore so many hats: translator, organizer, medic, and even therapist," says Weiher, who switched to the office life in March of this year. A scout for G.A.P had come across Caburé, a village in northern Brazil, six years ago, and Weiher visited on a 2002 tour. Caburé is a peninsular strip of white sand hugged by the Atlantic Ocean, the Preguiça River, and Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. (Lençóis means "bedsheets" in Portuguese; the park takes its name from the 380,000 acres of rippling dunes, which resemble an unmade bed.) "It's not much more than a few dozen thatched-roof buildings and an endless beach," says Weiher. To get there, he recommends hiring a private motorboat in Barreirinhas for a one-hour trip down the river, or taking a chauffeured dune buggy from Tutoia, a three-hour trek, half on local roads and the rest on the beach (ask at the little travel agencies in Tutoia). A handful of friendly pousadas, such as Pousada do Paturi, rent out ocean-side rooms and serve straightforward seafood meals. "You relax in hammocks, swim in the ocean, go sandboarding, or hike through the park--local kids are usually the guides," he says. "Caburé is one of the most relaxed places I've ever been." The boat costs about $70; ask at the dock. (The public ferry is $5, but takes five hours.) The buggies, which hold three passengers, cost about $90. Pousada do Paturi: 011-55/98-3349-9902,, $34. Brazil: Olinda As the A&R consultant for Putumayo World Music, Jacob Edgar spends at least one week per month traveling the world seeking exceptional talents. On a recent trip to South America, he visited Olinda, a colonial town in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, known in the world-music scene as a hotbed for forró. (Pronounced faw-haw, forró is reminiscent of zydeco.) When you've had your fill of strolling through Olinda's cobblestone roads and marveling at its 16th-century Portuguese architecture, Edgar recommends that you plant yourself in a local café and listen to the vast array of musicians. "Music is absolutely everywhere," he says. "The drums echo through the streets." His favorite spots include Forró do Arlindo, a nightclub in the backyard of a blind accordion player. "It's rustic," he warns, "but there's no better place to sip cachaça and hear great live music." The club is one of a handful on the outskirts of Olinda, in addition to dozens of forró bars in Recife, Olinda's sister city five miles away. Forró do Arlindo: Avenida Hidelbrando de Vasconcelo 2900, Dois Unidos. Ecuador: Sarayaku Nation In the past year, as director of Global Exchange's Reality Tours, Malia Everette met with the Naxi people and Tibetans to brainstorm a trip to Yunnan, China; inspected refugee camps on the border between Jordan and northern Iraq as part of the Global Exchange Peace Delegation; and dropped by San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to catch up with tour operators. But her favorite stop last year was in the pristine southwest corner of Ecuador's Amazon, a half-hour flight from Shell (which is a five-hour drive from Quito) that skims over lush forests. The Sarayaku Nation operates a modest ecolodge there. "Visiting is an amazing opportunity to learn about indigenous people and the resilience and beauty of a culture," she says. Sarayaku elders lead hikes--pointing out birds and medicinal herbs--and explain their systems for crop rotation and fishing. Sarayaku women prepare the meals and fashion pottery with geometric patterns using natural pigments and sap for polish. Everette left feeling humble and inspired. "It's food for the soul," she says. Book the lodge and flight through Papangu Tours, 011-593/32-887-684,, from $249 for three days.