Lonely Planet Writer

Fold or roll: the definitive answer for packing your suitcase

It’s even more controversial than the two-wheel vs four-wheel suitcase debate: should you fold your clothes or roll them when you pack? There’s a lot of talk out there, and a lot of advice, but lots of it is really for business travellers, and I know I don’t usually pack too many suit, ties or dress shoes on vacation.

Seize the art of the Standing Roll to get items neatly into a suitcase.  Image by Getty

When you’re on holiday, you really want to answer two questions: what saves the most space, and what gives you the most wrinkle-free garments? After all, nobody wants to spend time ironing on vacation! My personal bottom line: rolling, for most items, most of the time, is the way to go. Rolling is great for shirts and other light fabrics like shorts, skirts and dresses. (Pack versions that don’t crease, or that you know you can steam the creases out of easily by hanging them in the bathroom while you shower.) The trick is to fold the arms in, then start at the bottom and roll upwards.

Going on vacation you need to save as much space as you can packing. Image by Getty

You can start off doing this on a bed or other flat surface, but once you have the knack you can try the Standing Roll: seize a shirt by its shoulders, flip the arms inwards, catch the top of the shirt between your chin and your chest, then start rolling upwards from the bottom. I’ll usually try to pack the rolled clothes vertically into my case, as if you were looking end-on at a Swiss Roll of clothes. That makes it easiest to pull out one item at a time when you’re ready.

But while I’m firmly on Team Rolling for almost everything, there’s an exception: I’ll fold trousers, because otherwise they wrinkle, but the trick is to fold them around something, like a roll of clothes (or, ahem, that bottle of wine you picked up on holiday that you need to cushion anyway) so that you don’t have a hard horizontal crease at the knee. Here’s an advanced level tip if you know you’re going to need just one outfit at a time: bundling.

Packing on a flat surface is essential. Image: Getty

Bundling is a smart, easy way to take the thinking and guesswork out of what to wear: just grab one outfit a day, or one daytime outfit and one evening outfit if you need to. It also means you avoid that old problem of realising that you’ve packed six tops per pair of bottoms after spilling your sangria on your trousers, or that you didn’t pack enough socks for your size 14 feet on walking trip around rural Japan.

Here’s how to bundle. First, lay out the outfits you’ll be wearing on your trip. (Extra tip: make sure the outfits are interchangeable.) If you’re wearing socks, start with those, and then move on to roll your underwear around them. Then go from top to bottom of what you’ll be wearing, rolling each item around the existing bundle to make a larger bundle of clothes. Tuck each rolled bundle into your case, then pull out each one as necessary.

What’s your favourite packing tip? I’d love to hear it: I’m @thatjohn on Twitter.