Considering every great trip starts with a successful packing job, it’s surprising how little attention is paid to the art of stuffing suitcases. We turned to the experts — our Tastemakers, correspondents and inspectors — for their best packing strategies. Read on for our road warriors’ hard-won tips about what to bring (pack those wraps), what to leave behind (see you later, neck pillows) and how to make it all work.
Ivanka Trump, Executive vice president of development and acquisitions of The Trump Organization
Favorite travel footwear: I keep it simple with a pair of nude patent leather pumps, like the pinkish heels from my collection and a pair of Annulio flats. Comfort and versatility are key.
Favorite piece of travel clothing: I take a pashmina scarf no matter where I’m headed. It can dress up even the most casual attire and offer some warmth on a colder evening and on planes. Plus, it’s easy to pack, won’t wrinkle and I make sure to pick a neutral color for versatility.
Tips for packing light for a long trip: I stick to clothes that are transitional. It’s easy to save space by choosing a top that goes great with jeans but can also be dressed up with the right shoes and accessories for an evening out, instead of packing two separate outfits.
Packing strategy: I focus on the activities I know I’ll do on my trip and less on those that I’m not as certain about. This helps me devote space to items I’ll actually need and avoid packing ones I never end up using. Also, instead of packing things as they come to mind, I pack for each day. That way I can take a more mindful approach to organizing my bag and crossing off things I don’t need. Another great trick I’ve picked up is to pack things I’ll need early on in my trip last, for easy access [to them in my suitcase].
Go-to bag: T. Anthony International Wheeled Carry On in blue/burgundy. It’s stylish and sturdy, fits everything and I love the color.
Marcus Samuelsson, Chef and owner of Red Rooster Harlem in New York
Favorite piece of travel clothing: A great pair of jeans. I also love to take a lot of different scarves to change up my outfits.
Favorite travel footwear: For someone who has a lot of shoes, I actually don’t pack that many when I travel for exactly that reason. I wear my heaviest pair on the plane and then make sure to always pack running shoes.
Favorite travel gadget: iPhone. I take pictures everywhere I go.
Something you used to pack that you don’t anymore: Outfits for single occasions. If I don’t have what I need, I just pick up a cool shirt from the city I’m visiting. Plus, it makes a great souvenir.
Go-to bag: An old Louis Vuitton duffle.
Melanie Nayer, Forbes Travel Guide correspondent based in Boston
Most versatile piece of travel clothing: A pashmina wrap. It’s not just about the temperature—it’s nice to have a little piece of home with you when you’re on the road. Also, a little black dress. You can dress it up or make it casual—it’s perfect for all occasions. I never leave home without my Calvin Klein silk wrap dress.
Something you used to pack that you don’t anymore: A flat iron. If you really need your hair looking good, go get a blowout or visit a local salon. Things that fit in the flat iron’s space: iPad, extra pair of flats, another pashmina, etc.
Favorite packing items: Wrinkle-resistant clothes—Calvin Klein wrinkle-free silk wrap dress and White House|Black Market wrinkle-free ponte black pants. I also never leave the house without L’Occitane’s lavender hand sanitizer. It’s antibacterial gel for your hands; but rub a little underneath your nose and you’ll smell lavender, instead of whatever your seatmate is having for dinner.
Packing strategies: I learned this trick from a flight attendant friend, and it’s made all the difference. Bulkier items (sweaters, jackets, etc.) should be folded flat at the bottom of your luggage, then roll everything else. I also pack based on items of clothing. So, for example, all my tank tops are together, my pants are together so I know where everything is in my luggage if I’m not in a hotel long enough to unpack. For rain, I have a travel-sized umbrella and a few one-gallon Ziploc bags in every piece of luggage I own. The Ziploc bags come in handy if you need to “waterproof” anything.
Go-to bag: The Victorinox Mobilizer 22-inch carry-on. It’s more wide than deep, and has enough pockets to put everything in its place.
Joseph Reaney, Forbes Travel Guide correspondent based in London
Packing essentials: The first thing on my packing list is antibacterial hand gel.
Most versatile piece of travel clothing: A lightweight fleece is essential—keeps you warm and saves you space.
Favorite travel gadget: The humble plug adapter. It may not be sleek or sexy, but without it, you won’t be able to use any of your other cool gadgets.
Something you used to pack that you don’t anymore: Traveler’s checks. During my travels around the world in the last five years, I’ve found it more difficult to find places that will change them for free, including luxury hotels. In the modern world, an international credit card is more than sufficient, as you can either pay directly or withdraw currency.
Go-to bag: A black Samsonite Bright Lite. It’s the toughest travel bag on the market, but is also surprisingly lightweight. And it happens to look rather stylish, too.
Forbes Travel Guide Inspectors
Packing essential: A swimsuit. You never know when you’re going to stumble on a great pool or spa with steam bath, sauna or whirlpool.
Most versatile piece of travel clothing for women: I pack only dresses since they take up less space in my suitcase. J.Crew has some great patterned long-sleeve silk dresses that go really well from day to night.
Most versatile piece of travel clothing for men: I like the sports jacket. I can dress up jeans by throwing one on when going to the hotel bar or hitting the town with friends. Nowadays, dress codes are far less strict, but with a basic jacket, I feel more appropriately dressed for an upscale dinner, but not too done up for a bar or club.
Favorite travel gadget: I don’t know what I did before the Uber app, which lets you request a private car at any time from your iPhone. It lets a driver know where to pick you up, tells you the wait time and the fare is charged to your credit card on file. It’s easy to use and especially convenient in a place like L.A., where cabs are hard to get.
Something you used to pack that you don’t anymore: Neck pillows. Personally, I despise them. They make me really hot and aren’t even comfortable.
Favorite travel product: Crease Release from The Laundress New York. I love how it smells and it makes clothes feel fresh.
Best piece of packing advice: Start by laying out all of the clothes, shoes and jackets that you think you’ll need. Then put about half of that back in your closet. Most people pack too much.
Photos Courtesy of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., Ivanka Trump, Kwaku Alston, Melanie Nayer, Joseph Reaney