An old dog learns a new (packing) trick

I’ll be the first to admit I only learned to do laundry last year when I graduated college and moved away from home. I know, I know, shame on me, but my mom just put so much care into it at the time that I knew I could never compete. So I didn’t even try.

I have, however, always prided myself in how quickly I can pack for a trip. I usually pack 15 minutes before I leave home for the airport, and it usually consists of me throwing my entire wardrobe in my carry-on, save for my airline pajamas (which, on second thought, makes up about 90% of my wardrobe).

Last year my mom also pointed out to me that apparently there are clothing stores other than Old Navy. Who knew? She introduced me to this brand called Lacoste that has a stupid alligator logo on it (or is it a crocodile?). She told me that apparently it’s considered “cool,” and was my only chance of marrying someone on the @AmericanAir Twitter team. So I decided to invest in two of those shirts.

Anyway, ever since living alone I’ve had a habit of literally dumping my entire carry-on into the washer upon my return home, regardless of whether or not I actually wore the item on the trip. After all, when you’re mixing damp gym clothes and swimming trunks with unworn clothes, everything could use a wash.

Despite buying those two Lacoste shirts, I almost never wore them, though I did take them on almost every trip. Well, that was at least the case until this weekend, when I did wear one, only to find it was about as big as a tube top. Perhaps washing clothes with every trip isn’t all that good of an idea, and I should actually spend a bit of time organizing my clothes.

So I’ve come up with a new system for handling clothes on trips. Perhaps this is glaringly obvious to everyone else, though it was a revelation to me. Now when I travel I take the hotel’s laundry bag, and as soon as I have “used” clothes I place it in there. That way I separate my “fresh” clothes from my “used” clothes, and actually stand a chance of having it fit more for more than a month before shrinking into Barbie-sized clothes. It’s also an easy way to keep track of how much clothes has been worn and how much is still left on a trip in terms of rationing.

Anyone have any other packing tips that’ll knock my (clean) socks off?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel
  1. reading the washing instruction labels on the shirt can help too, some clothes are meant to wash at different temperature or dry clean only, etc.

  2. This is how you know you don’t work out enough. And this is why it sucks when you work out often.

    I take my carry-on, every-day stuff goes in it ‘as is’, including neatly folded/rolled collared shirts and polos.

    Gym/pool stuff goes in as well BUT in a laundry bag/plastic bag…not as neatly folded. I prefer once of those nicer plastic bags with a string/small rope (like the ones you get after buying at [insert famous athletic wear brand] stores. This is also the bag where you put the dirty stuff and the one that will immediately emptied on the washing machine on arrival.

    Most of the time, there’s also some sort of plastic bag for shoes. I usually travel with dress shoes and a pair of sneakers (for exercise/hiking.

    And this, Ben, is how a 3-day trip turns into an over stuffed carry-on.

    Overpacking…not just for girls at the @HouseofV.

  3. funny, 20-what and you’re an “old dog”? šŸ™‚

    washing the clothes appropriately helps. and drying (or not). mom had me doing laundry at 12 or 13.

    for biz trips, I use the “days” method to pack. 5 days = 5 underwear, socks, pants, shirts; 1 gym shorts, tshirt & socks; 1 “pajamas”. any specific locale/weather adaptations as needed. shoes, ditty bag (restocked when i get home and put right back in the suitcase), laptop adapter, etc. all live right in the suitcase so i never forget them.

    if i have unworn cloths at the end of the trip, i usually pack them in the front zipper pocket (since there’s usually on a tshirt of a pair of socks or something small – otherwise, I’d use a plastic bag).

    go spend $100 at tj maxx/marshalls and you’ll be set for another year or few… šŸ™‚

  4. While I’m at it, let me give you a real life example. Flew MCI-DFW-LAX on Saturday at 5pm, arriving at 10pm in LA.

    Only spending ~20 hours in LA. The plan was to catch a DJ at a club, lift in the AM with a friend, stuff my face at a fancy brunch and finish up with a Dodgers game before heading back to the airport at 6pm.

    So a mere 20hr trip entailed: 1 collared shirt (plane there + club), 1 polo (brunch), 1 t-shirt (gym), 1 t-shirt (Dodgers), 1 t-shirt (plane back). Jeans (1), Shorts (1). 2 sets of underwear/socks. Dress shoes, sneakers.

    And that’s not even for 24 hours! But you sweat at the club and gotta change. You sweat working out and gotta change. You sweat at the ballpark and gotta change. It sucks.

    PS. Worst place ever for packing? Vegas.

    Even if you’re not working out at all, between the walking, the 100F weather and the nightclubs every night (dress codes), you need a lot of extra stuff. It’s ridiculous.

  5. +1 on actually reading the label. The CliffsNotes version is: more expensive clothes generally have to be washed at a low temp or with cold water and cannot be tumble dried.

    That’s what got your shirts, not just washing them. Buy 1 more and after you wash it (before it hits the drier) take it out and hang it on a plastic hanger, it’ll be fine.

    I’m a guy, late 20s, I only learned these things in college.

    I’ve read it before on a lifehacker post that people were learning to separate clean & dirty clothes in luggage and I was shocked that someone would combine them in the first place. I usually pack a plastic bag or use one from something I bought, if the hotel has textile laundry bags.

  6. +1for packing cubes from eBags. Changed my life. Don’t forget to link through the shopping portal šŸ™‚

  7. +1for packing cubes from eBags. I travel frequently and they changed my life. Don’t forget to link through the shopping portal šŸ™‚

  8. Most polo type shirts require cold water, that’s probably where you went wrong. Along with the dryer. I usually us the low temp setting on colored clothes. So I’ll say +1 to the “read the label” contingent.

    I like packing cubes too. And I have a couple of the Eagle Creek folder packs for collared shirts.

  9. What a HILLARIOUS read! The laundry (plastic) bags in your hotel room ARE your friends. I use them all the time and it is among the first things I inspect when I get to my hotel room. You will learn from experience what works best. For me, I have two sets of clothes specifically for when I travel (either business or leisure). One set is always washed and ready to go; that way when I return from one trip, and am preparing for the next trip, I have a fresh set ready to go.

    Happy Flying.

  10. I must admit that I’m a slight polo junkie since I’ve got over 30. My favourite ones (from Burberry’s) get dry-cleaned. My Lacoste ones are washed inside out in special laundry nets in the delicate cycle. Actually, I prefer to wash almost everything in the delicate cycle as it prolongs the life of the clothes. My gym clothes are the only thing washed in the heavy-duty cycle.

    As for packing, I too use the ‘days method’ to pack and carry plastic bags for the worn clothing. Since I live in Asia, I buy undershirts and underpants for my trip at (the equivalent of) the dollar store and throw them away at the end of the day while on my trip.

  11. Proof that the part of the human brain involved with good judgment doesn’t fully mature until about age 25.

    Oh, and pretty much everything can be washed in cold water. Set the dryer to perm press and set the timer so that when the clothes come out, seams are still slightly damp (hang to finish drying).




  12. If I’m hit with a sudden business trip I’ll even pack dirty clothes and send them out to the hotel laundry. In Asia, at least, this is often cheaper and better than my local cleaners. As for polo shirts, European brand sizes are often out of sync with US sizes. For example, an XL on a European brand may actually be an L in US sizes. You may have actually bought one size smaller with your Lacoste shirts than you usually wear in Old Navy shirts. Drying on “high” didn’t help either.

  13. I’m sure your mother is a wonderful woman and that you love her very much. It is not meant as a slight to her when I suggest that sometimes great mothers do not make the best fashion consultants.

    Just sayin’.

  14. Lacoste shirts may be washed in warm water (so says the label, though I always err on the side of caution and wash mine in cold water), but must be line-dryed. Your shirts likely shrank in the dryer.

  15. Old Navy makes me shudder.
    You are drinking Krug in F repping a $15 polo. Step your wardrobe game up kid!

    Also: You should roll clothes so they don’t wrinkle. You can put socks and ties into your shoes which saves space and helps keep your shoes’ shape.

  16. Haha. I used to be a prolific overpacker. I’m talking about large, must-be-checked suitcases for a 2- or 3-night trip home on Southwest. Now I’ve reached the point where I’ve taken a few 10-day trips with only a carryon, and I knew there was room to leave even more stuff at home. Organizing your clothes, even the dirty ones, is the only way to make that work.

  17. 1. Get an Eagle Creek Pack-It 2-Sided Cube and you can separate clean and dirty clothes as you wear it in the same cube. It a time/space saver.
    2. Buy merino wool clothes(icebreaker, smartwool) and it will not stink by then end of your 24 hour mileage runs.

  18. @Craig If he’s paying $15 for an Old Navy polo, than Lucky’s needs to get one of the Gap-branded credit cards. My BR card is the only non-travel card I have, and I never buy anything there unless I can get at least 40% off. I was in Vegas once, needed some clothes for a nice dinner, and walked out with a complete outfit for under $100, excluding shoes. But their quality is dropping and I’ve realized I can probably do almost as well in the long run shopping at Nordstrom/Nordstrom Rack. Another vote for Lucky moving to Seattle!

  19. I tend to use a space bag when I travel. Dirty clothes get put into the bag once I’m at my destination. This definitely helps keep the funky stuff (workout clothes, etc.) totally segregated from the clean stuff. Dump space bag contents into the hamper when I get home.

  20. For packing, get 2 or 2 1/2 gallon Ziploc bags and place your clothes inside as this will reduce the space taken in your luggage.

    With regards to laundry, what causes most clothes to shrink is the DRYER. Read the washing instructions on the tags of your clothes.

    When washing items, use a delicate cycle for dress shirts and other type items, then place these items in the dryer on low heat in the dryer. Let your items go through one third to half of the dryer’s cycle and see how they dry. I prefer to take items(polo shirts, tshirts) out of the dryer while they are a bit wet and then let them air dry. For items like sheets, underwear, and socks, I wash them on hot and place them on regular drying cycle until fully dry. For dress shirts, wash them on delicate, do NOT place in dryer, and let them air dry. Then take the dress shirts to the dry cleaner for ironing.

  21. Now we just need him to start a new post.
    He can title it “Am I not dressing accordingly to my status?”

    It can go something like this:

    “As I mentioned in my laundry debacle, I shrunk my only two nice polos which together probably cost more than all other Old Navy ones I have….

    The Points guys uses sports jackets all the time, Gary is Mr. Fancy Pants…do I need to step up my wardrobe game as I try (but don’t really admit) to take my blog up to the NEXT level…and beyond.

    I’m committed to start dressing better when I move to [Insert city Lucky’s moving to] (Editors’ note: hopefully SF, LA, MIA, CHI, NYC, LON, HKG or other similar legitimate metropolis)”

    We’re ready to start the comments on that one!

    I’ll start! (of course):, the Youtube channel alone is absolutely priceless.

  22. They make giant Zip Lock bags about the same size as hotel laundry bags that would really keep the smell in. Or even the space bags (although without a vacuum cleaner on the road you would have to inhale yourself and the fumes from workout clothes may be overwhelming).

    And I thought you went to UF. No alligator logo should ever be considered stupid.

  23. Wow, Lucky discovers plastic bags!

    I always pack a few empty plastic grocery bags, and only use the hotel laundry bag if I have to. I figure it’s less wasteful to re-use an old bag – and for dirty laundry, an old grocery bag is perfect.

  24. I do not buy clothes that cannot be washed in hot water and dried on high heat… if it says to dry on low heat I buy a size up. Life is too busy to have to separate clothes by wash type…

  25. A couple of things:

    1. The polos from target (merona) are, to me, almost as comfortable as lacoste, and significantly cheaper.

    2. use cold water, for everything you wear–regardless of what the tag says. Save hot water for towels, etc. (but even then it’s not strictly necessary). You’ll not only save money on electricity, but your clothes will last much, much longer.

    Invest in a decent deterget. Tide cold-water is great. Woolite is even better. Add a cap of white vinegar every now and again, and you’re good to go.

    If you buy properly fitting clothes, and you take reasonably good care of them (don’t obsess over them), they’ll last for a long, long time.

  26. Congrats, Ben! Putting dirty clothes in a laundry bag is what I do every trip.

    I was a little skeptical at first, but I started using e-Bags to separate shirts, boxers, socks etc. in my suitcase. I swear by them now, since it means that when I–or the TSA rummages through my bag, they can see the contents without strewing the contents everywhere.

  27. another silly (easy) trick is …. inside out == dirty. When you take it off, leave it inside out. socks, underwear, shirts, pants, all of it. Makes it easy to see what needs laundered. AND … leave it inside out for the laundry. Works great for keeping the color in jeans.


  28. I use dry cleaning plastic bags to line my suitcase in layers and then can use them to wrap and separate clothes or other needs (ie -ice pack in hotel/cruise ship). I also pack a reusable bag from Lululemon/Trader Joes/etc for cities/countries that charge for plastic takeaway bags and if I need to shift items from carryon bag at security. For recent trip in duffel bag I packed all in dry cleaning bag, knotted it shut and put in duffel -it helped keep things dry when checking bag.
    for dirty clothes I just got a small REI nylon bag to upgrade from my target bags

  29. This post makes me worry on so many levels about taking your advice. But I’ve learned so much from your blog, here’s my chance to give back:
    1. Stick with your new “discovery” on the plastic bags. They’re easy and thin. I’ve tried the e-bags and cubes and other such devices. They only make their OCD users think they’re more organized and take up more space. Waste of time, money, and space.
    2. That CROCODILE is a waste of money. Well, unless you want to get laid – or marry one of the AmericanAir Twitter team members. Fashion matters if you don’t want to sleep with ugly people (I’ve been to the Chicago Seminar so I know what your audience looks like). Just buy the shirts in the right size (aka BIGGER) so you can fry it in the dryer and it still fits.. Problem solved.

  30. “Last year my mom also pointed out to me that apparently there are clothing stores other than Old Navy. Who knew? ” Thats cute and funny.

    Here what I do when I pack, I always put a dryer sheet or two in my luggage to keep my clothes smelling fresh

  31. You are unbelievable sometimes. I can’t tell if you are being serious here or not. Old Navy hasn’t been the spot since I was in 5th grade 10 years ago…

  32. From the sounds of it Ben, you definitely could use a mate to teach you the ropes on dressing properly, clubbing, picking up girls, all while still traveling. Also, we need to get you in the gym and some hair cream…!

  33. I’ve always used plastic bags for dirty clothes on trips. Packing bags are really nice. I also put my shoes in a plastic bag so it’s not touching my clean clothes.

  34. 1. Investigate space-bags – not the big ones you attach a vacuum cleaner to, the small ones where you push the air out before sealing them.
    2. If you get shirts laundered, pack them in your case without taking the plastic wrap off (but remove the coat hanger, unless you have a suit carrier). Plastic between fabric has some magic properties when it comes to reducing wrinkles.

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