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Time it takes to pack & unpack, and any strategy for not having to repeat each time?

Time it takes to pack & unpack, and any strategy for not having to repeat each time?

Old Nov 26, 17, 7:10 am
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Time it takes to pack & unpack, and any strategy for not having to repeat each time?

I'd be curious to get some general ideas about how long it takes folks to pack and unpack for, say, a week-long trip. For those of you who are efficient and have some strategies to keep packing short and simple, I'd like to know.
Obviously there's a lot of variables involved such as are you just packing for yourself or for your kids as well, business or leisure, etc. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to get some ideas.

For my recent week-long leisure trip from US to Asia, it took me over 3 hours to pack, 1.5 hours to unpack. Packing time doesn't even include all the time spent on trip preparations (mail holds, trip alerts to banks, reconfirming all my bookings, etc). I mostly only pack my own stuff. For family vacations, wife packs hers and most of our kids' stuff, so obviously it takes her even longer and this is the part of vacation she dreads. I have a feeling most of you are going to reply back with signiificantly shorter times. I think I'm either inefficient or ocd or both. I'm not a frequent flyer, but I do fly enough (average 3-4 trips to Asia & 4-6 domestic US, occasionally elsewhere) that I'd like to try to figure out a way to not have to go through this packing/unpacking ordeal each time. I just got back, put away everything, but I've gotta do this again for another trip back to Asia in a few weeks. I love traveling, but the packing/unpacking thing is becoming a real drain. There're many folks on here who probably goes on trips 30-40x a year. I'd like to know how you do it.

I've made a standard list of stuff to pack, which I use for every trip. That helps. But then I still waste too much trying to figure out which suitcases to take, how to pack, etc. Sometimes I wish we had all the same travel essentials packed away in the suitcases at all times so that we don't have to pack/unpack each time. Does any of you do it that way? I only have 1 electric toothbrush, 1 shaver, 1 pair of glasses, etc, etc... kids outgrow their clothes fast, Epipen expires... it seems infeasible for me to keep a set of stuff stored away that are only meant to be used for travel.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 7:22 am
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Packing cubes help me a lot. Esp. when I travel "back to back", e.g. I come home one day and 1..2..3 days later next trip ahead. So I pack both trips at one - in cubes. And than just one set of cubes out, new ones back into luggage.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 7:27 am
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I really don't understand how it can take 1.5 hours to unpack. That to me is 15 minutes, max.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 9:39 am
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Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
For my recent week-long leisure trip from US to Asia, it took me over 3 hours to pack, 1.5 hours to unpack. Packing time doesn't even include all the time spent on trip preparations (mail holds, trip alerts to banks, reconfirming all my bookings, etc). I mostly only pack my own stuff. For family vacations, wife packs hers and most of our kids' stuff, so obviously it takes her even longer and this is the part of vacation she dreads.
An hour for me to pack my personal stuff + kid's medications + special diet items, 30 minutes to pack the kid's personal stuff, and that's for a 14 day trip. If it takes you 3 hours to pack for a week long trip, you're way overthinking the process. Presumably you've researched the destination, have some idea of what you'll be doing and know what clothing would be appropriate. Somebody on FT once wrote "It doesn't matter what you wear when you're traveling because you'll never see most of those people again" and while I'm not that extreme in perspective, for leisure travel I focus on packing what's comfortable and practical rather than the most stylish things I own.

Also, how on earth does it take 90 minutes to unpack? Unzip suitcase, lift everything out. Dirty stuff gets dumped in the hamper, clean stuff gets put away. 15 minutes max.

Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
I've made a standard list of stuff to pack, which I use for every trip. That helps. But then I still waste too much trying to figure out which suitcases to take, how to pack, etc. Sometimes I wish we had all the same travel essentials packed away in the suitcases at all times so that we don't have to pack/unpack each time. Does any of you do it that way? I only have 1 electric toothbrush, 1 shaver, 1 pair of glasses, etc, etc... kids outgrow their clothes fast, Epipen expires... it seems infeasible for me to keep a set of stuff stored away that are only meant to be used for travel.
We each have a basic toiletries bag of travel sized items and when we get home we top it up ready for the next trip. Add the unique items, like the electric toothbrush or medications, at the last minute. Keeping more than that packed in advance is overkill.

Suitcases: make a rule in advance, stick to it. For me, 5 days or less, rollaboard, 6+ it's 1 26 inch spinner. Don't own too many suitcases so you don't have to stress about choosing which to take.
​​​​​
p.s. once kids reach 12 or so, they can be taught to pack for themselves
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Last edited by CDTraveler; Nov 26, 17 at 9:47 am
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Old Nov 26, 17, 11:03 am
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[redacted]
I can pack for any trip in under half an hour. My wife reminds me regularly that if I wish to surprise her with trip to somewhere nice for a few days, that she can go from sleep to sitting in the car ready to head for the airport in under an hour. That includes, shower, make-up, dressed and packed. And she's serious.
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Last edited by StartinSanDiego; Nov 26, 17 at 12:43 pm Reason: Redacted personal comment
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Old Nov 26, 17, 11:54 am
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I have a cardboard file box full of stuff that I only use while traveling. It has things like power adapters, travel-size shaving cream, leftover euros or other money, etc. So when I pack this stuff is readily available.

I like to use packing cubes. When I get to a hotel room I will completely unpack my bag (about two minutes) and put the cubes in drawers. When it is time to go I pack my bag, which I can do in about three minutes, just by putting the cubes back in the bag. Having the cubes keeps my from having to search through my suitcase or bag for stuff.

Some thought does need to go into packing. If you are going to be moving around a lot, then pack as light as possible. If you are going to be staying in just one or two places, you can bring more clothes. Obviously, if you are going to be dressing up you will need at least a sports coat, which means you probably need a full suitcase rather than a carry-on. Since the OP says he already has a basic travel list, I think his only choice for each trip is between a carry-on and a full suitcase. Make the choice and pack accordingly.

Since the OP sounds like a man, I would suggest a couple of pairs of khaki pants, a pair of blue jeans, two to four button-downs, two to four knit "polo" style shirts, a few nice colored t-shirts that can be worn as clothing, a crew-neck sweater, socks, underwear, two pairs of shoes. Add sports coat, winter coat, suit, neckties, if needed. I would also say if packing is taking a lot of time, just go ahead and pack these things early, using packing cubes and so forth. If you want to add a few items later, go right ahead. But don't just dither around over the suitcase worrying about whether you have everything you could possibly need.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 11:57 am
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I travel ~20-30 weeks per year so my habits are different than the 1-5 time traveler. I keep a dedicated set of toiletries in my suitcase, for example, so that's not something I can easily forget. Other useful travel things like power adapters and spare cables stay in the bag, too.

Beyond that, my packing process is simple. A stack of clean underwear/socks, a couple pairs of pants and shirts (t-shirt or dress shirt, depending on the trip purpose) all go in the bag. Add on a bathing suit (always!) and I'm done. My load is nearly identical for a 3 day trip or a 12 day trip. So is the suitcase I use. That makes it very, very easy to do it quickly.

I'm curious what really takes 3 hours to do during the packing process. I legitimately cannot think of what I'd do to spend that long staring at my closet, dresser and suitcase without completing the task. Even if I individually tried on every item I packed to make sure it still fit then refolded it I'm not sure I could get to an hour, let alone three.
Originally Posted by Rebelyell View Post
If you are going to be moving around a lot, then pack as light as possible. If you are going to be staying in just one or two places, you can bring more clothes.
Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Originally Posted by Rebelyell View Post
Obviously, if you are going to be dressing up you will need at least a sports coat, which means you probably need a full suitcase rather than a carry-on.
I routinely fit a sports coat in my 20" Tumi bag, including all the other stuff I need.

Originally Posted by Rebelyell View Post
I would suggest a couple of pairs of khaki pants, a pair of blue jeans, two to four button-downs, two to four knit "polo" style shirts, a few nice colored t-shirts that can be worn as clothing, a crew-neck sweater, socks, underwear, two pairs of shoes. Add sports coat, winter coat, suit, neckties, if needed.
Cut 3 shirts from the list and the sweater IMO. Also cut at least one pair of pants.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 12:07 pm
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Originally Posted by dulciusexasperis View Post
LOL, I gave my helpful comment of a half hour for me and under an hour for my wife, bed to car.
"Just go faster" doesn't really give much in the way of actionable information, though.

The OP didn't ask if anyone packs faster than they do; they acknowledge many accomplish it. The question was how.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 12:19 pm
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Rebelyell and sbm12, I use the 'Rule of 3s' for packing. It refers to items where you pack multiples like shirts, pants, socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc. The Rule is, 'one to wear, one to wash, one to spare.' It makes no difference how long you plan to be gone for, 3 days or 3 months, you pack the same amount.

The traveller's number one enemy is weight. So reducing what you take is always a good idea. That does not mean you must do without anything you consider necessary. It means you should find the lowest weight example of each item you need to take. For example, a rain jacket can weigh 3 lbs. or 7 ozs.! Similar weight reduction can be achieved by not taking more multiple items than you need to. Hence the Rule of 3s. You can take 14 pair of underwear (why do we call them pairs?) for 2 weeks but it quickly becomes obvious beyond that time period that you are going to have to do some washing at some point. No one takes 90 pair of underwear on a 3 month trip.

Learning to wash socks and underwear in a hotel sink in 5 minutes is a necessary life skill for a frequent traveller who travels for more than a few days at a time. It's just like getting into the habit of brushing your teeth before going to bed. Once it's a habit, you don't even notice it.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 12:25 pm
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Packing: Maybe 20 minutes. A bit longer if i need to bring nice clothes (washing, ironing, etc). I have a Ziploc bag under the sink that I keep travel toiletries in so I can just grab it.

Unpacking: 15 seconds. Just hold the suitcase upside down over the hamper and let er rip.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 12:40 pm
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Packing-have a dedicated toiletry bag (or 2) and leave them in the empty suitcase. That way you don't have to look for and pack common things that you travel with.
Buy some items solely for travel. EG--manual toothbrushes like the dentist gives out. Small toothpaste tube. Consider disposable razors for travel instead of bringing a shaver.

Makes life so much easier.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 1:26 pm
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Originally Posted by dulciusexasperis View Post
Rebelyell and sbm12, I use the 'Rule of 3s' for packing. It refers to items where you pack multiples like shirts, pants, socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc. The Rule is, 'one to wear, one to wash, one to spare.' It makes no difference how long you plan to be gone for, 3 days or 3 months, you pack the same amount.
ICK.

3 shirts for 3 months?
Originally Posted by dulciusexasperis View Post
Learning to wash socks and underwear in a hotel sink in 5 minutes is a necessary life skill for a frequent traveller who travels for more than a few days at a time. It's just like getting into the habit of brushing your teeth before going to bed. Once it's a habit, you don't even notice it.
Trying to wash cotton or wool socks in a sink, expecting them to get actually clean that way and dry by morning is not realistic. Maybe if all you wear is synthetic fabrics they might dry, but nobody here wears those. My kid prefers socks with a thick, cushioning sole, they take as long as a towel in the dryer, and buying different, quick drying socks for travel that he'd never wear at home makes no sense.

For short trips, less than a week, I pack 1 item/day (socks, shirt, underwear) for the kid, pants can be worn multiple days. For trips longer than a week, I build in a chance to hit a laundromat or find a hotel with washers available. If you're traveling solo, laundry is less of an issue, but for a leisure trip with the family, it's usually a necessity.

And sometimes when laundry facilities aren't available - like our summer trip this year - the simplest thing is to find a discount store & buy the kid a packet of underwear and a couple cheap t-shirts. His suitcase was well under the weight limit outbound, so bringing them home wasn't a problem. If weight had been an issue, we might have done what some FT'ers suggest and discard older or frayed underwear, socks or t-shirts rather than bringing them home.

The OP mentions kids outgrowing clothes - packing the older, almost outgrown ones and then discarding/donating them at the destination might reduce the complexity of packing for kids.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 2:09 pm
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Packing. I take about a week. Bag/suitcase put on spare bed then things dropped in as they come out of laundry or when I'm in a wardrobe or drawer that I'll need something from. Toiletries generally last as they go from being in use to packed. Always take more polo or T shirts and underwear than I need, and would no more wash anything in a sink on holiday than I would at home.

Unpacking takes a similar time. Clothes needing laundered go straight there, but everything else just when it's needed or I'm passing by.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 2:33 pm
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Originally Posted by CDTraveler View Post
ICK.

3 shirts for 3 months?
I've not packed for a 3 month trip recently, but I've had more than a few 3-4 week sojourns. Didn't pack more than 6 or 7 shirts for any of them. Laundry options exist everywhere in the world. Some cost more, either in time or money, but they always exist.

And I've yet to do it in a hotel sink, even with a few million flown miles under my belt.
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Old Nov 26, 17, 2:41 pm
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Packing takes maybe 30 minutes. Except on very rare occasions, I only take carry-on, so no time is wasted deciding what bag to take. One phone/iPad charger always stays in my briefcase, along with headphones, a couple of pens and a few extra ziplock bags so that I never forget them.

I have a bathroom drawer where I keep toiletry bags for my husband and I. Some things stay in the bag and I put them on the counter the night before a trip to so that I don't forget to put in last minute things like toothbrushes. I keep small liquid containers in ziplock bags in the same drawer, so that it's all in one place and I don't have go looking for things.

Clothing is simple, one set of shirts, socks and underwear per day plus 1 or two extras (depending on trip length) for unexpected circumstances. Just a couple of pairs of pants or shorts since they can be worn more than once without washing. I usually try to get by with just the shoes and jacket that I'm wearing on the plane, so that I don't have to pack extras. I keep a cloth shopping bag in the suitcase for dirty cloths or to double as a beach/pool bag.

Unpacking takes about 15-20 minutes since clothing gets dumped in the laundry, toiletries get refilled for the next trip and any receipts or paperwork gets filed or shredded.
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