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How to Pack Your Clothing Like a World-Travelling Fashion Editor

From packing hacks to cleaning tips, this is how to keep clothes fresh during your travels

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By Condé Nast Traveller Middle East | October 20, 2023 | Travel Leisure

A few years ago (just a heartbeat before the world went into lockdown), I travelled to Cape Town for my best friend’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid and thus so nervous that the airline would lose my luggage and the all-important bridesmaid dress that I packed it in my carry-on suitcase. Despite my careful planning, it was the rookie dry cleaning run I did a couple of days before the wedding that would be my downfall, in which the dry cleaner accidentally damaged the delicate silk slip dress – cue a frantic and last-minute dash to a local department store to find something (anything!), that could fit within the rest of the bridal party.

Since that fateful dry cleaning day, I’ve vowed to take caring for my clothes when travelling into my own capable hands. I’ve invested in my own travel steamer, and I won’t go anywhere without packing cubes. For extra expert advice, I asked our global fashion and lifestyle editor, Charlotte Davey – who is constantly travelling with cases and racks full of fashion to far-flung spots for our magazine’s photoshoots – for her top tips.

Protect clothes with packing cubes

Not only are packing cubes the ultimate space-saving hack when travelling hand luggage only, they’re also a necessity when it comes to protecting your clothes when travelling. Keep any items made from delicate fabrics like silk or lace, or anything that’s heavily embellished and could become tangled, in their packing cube, or at the very least, wrap them with tissue paper or a silk scarf.

Antler and Aways' compression packing cubes are ideal for storing and protecting delicate knitwear. Horizn Studios' set of four packing cubes includes a specialised cube for storing wet clothing, so you can enjoy that last-day swim without getting the rest of your luggage wet. Thule has packing cubes for business trips designed to store folded shirts flat neatly.

Keep shoes in separate bags

Avoid scuffing trainers or damaging heels in your suitcase by packing them in shoe bags. Plenty of travel shoe bags are available on Amazon, or for even more protection, a few of the best suitcase brands offer dedicated shoe cubes with collapsible dividers. Our fashion editor Charlotte also recommends storing socks in your shoes to save room packing room and help preserve the shape of your shoes.

Store jewellery in a case

I'm guilty of spending half my holiday trying to untangle a fine chain I'd naively stored in my wash bag. To avoid this, Charlotte recommends the genius hack of wrapping delicate chains around a pen to keep them from tangling. If you're packing more than just the odd necklace, Charlotte also recommends travelling with a suede-lined jewellery case – these have dedicated spaces designed to keep earrings, rings and chains safely stored and secure.

Keep precious items in garment bags

For those special items that can't be stored in your carry-on suitcase – a wedding dress being the notable item – a garment bag is your best option. Most airlines allow you to fly with a garment bag if it fits within the size and weight of their hand luggage allowance. Depending on the airline, long-haul flights often have a space for store-hanging garment bags. On short-haul flights you'll need to store the bag in the overhead lockers.

Skip the hotel iron

Between the unknown power and limited space in a hotel room, hotel irons tend to be more trouble than they're worth. According to Charlotte, the easiest option for ridding items of wrinkles is with good old-fashioned bathroom steam – essentially hanging said items in the bathroom while having a hot shower. For items that are prone to creasing, consider packing a travel steamer. These steamers are lightweight, take up very little room in your suitcase, and can also iron business shirts while being gentle enough on delicate fabrics like silk.

Clean clothes as you travel

A holiday is, of course, not the time to deal with washing machines, but there are simple tricks that can help keep your clothes fresh and clean while abroad. Firstly, applying hot steam to clothes helps to kill bacteria and keep fabric fresh, so a shower steam or travel steamer can help in this respect. If you're travelling to a humid climate or planning any sweat-inducing activities, pack a fabric freshener that will rid your clothes of any odour and essentially wash them without using water. For delicates, pack a gentle laundry detergent that you can soak items in using your hotel sink. Stain removal pens are also an easy item to keep with you at all times.

This story originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveller.