This afternoon I received a request for packing advice from a friend who sought my advice on the recommendation of another one of my friends. You see, I am famous for traveling with only a single backback that I carry-on. It doesn't matter if I'm going to Portland for a weekend, to MT for one week, or to some exotic foreign locale for nearly a month; I always fit everything I need into the same red Lands End backback that my husband bought on clearance right before we left for Belize.
Okay! Here's what I do:
First I decide which shoes I am going to wear the whole time. Shoes are bulky!
When I've settled on shoes I can wear for the whole trip, I pick pants, clothes etc to match.
If I'm going a place where people don't care what you wear (like a developing country) I ALWAYS pack my oldest pants, shirts & underwear and throw it away there when I'm done with it so I free up space to bring back souvenirs.
My guess is that where you're going you won't do the ditch the clothes as you go thing...
So, out of the clothes I want to bring, I choose the bulkiest stuff to wear on the plane (or alternately, anything I don't want to get severely wrinkled... sitting leaves fewer wrinkles than rolling & wadding).
I roll my bulkiest pants first then around that I roll the next bulkiest followed by shirts that I don't want to have wrinkled. I may end up rolling a 7-9 inch diameter cylinder of clothes, layer upon layer. I put that into the very bottom of my main backpack compartment. When rolling sleeved shirts, I wrap the sleeves around the roll as I roll it.
If I bring a camera, iPod, battery charger, etc I put that on top of the big roll and wrap individually rolled clothes around it. These would be T-shirts or pjs that I don't mind getting wrinkled. Socks and underwear could go here too but I always put them in my backpack's side compartments wadded up individually into tight balls. If I have a padded underwire bra or two that I don't want to be permanently warped I put the little balls inside the cups and then put that into the side compartment, but it could be put into the main body too. Thongs are sensible underwear to bring because they take up very little space. I also usually only bring 1-2 additional bras besides the one I wear on the plane. Tank tops with built-in bras are also excellent items to pack in lieu of bras especially if you want to layer one under a shirt.
Aside from packing technique, my advice is to bring the minimum number of garments you really need. Even though I have done the backpack carry-on thing for every trip I have ever been on for the last ten years including jungle and desert travel, industrialized and developing countries, I still overpack shirts so watch out for that.
I have an outer zippered area that I save for toiletries and the stuff I will sleep in the night I arrive. I never bring full bottles of anything (such as shampoo & conditioner). You can buy sample sizes or pour your own shampoo into 1-2 oz travel bottles. I re-use the freebies I get when I've stayed at nicer hotels. When the complimentary shampoo is gone, I refill it with my own. Sometimes I don't bring a brush. Instead I use the toothed clips I put my hair in. And, I never blow dry or curl my hair with a curling iron. That eliminates a ton of bulk and hassle and leaves hair in much better condition.
Believe it or not, I can often squeeze a laptop and digital camera plus iPod and all of the battery chargers into my bag too!
They key is to roll tightly and put the big roll as far down into the bottom of your bag as it will go. And shoes! Never pack a pair of shoes. If you have to... stuff socks into the shoes and put the soles back to back, wrap tightly in plastic, and put that on top of your rolled cylinder of clothes.
I hope this helps!
I can't ever find a decent well-paying job ever again perhaps I can make instructional packing videos and mass market them... coming soon to an outlet near near you:
The Video Packing Professor