Packing and Unpacking

I've seen numerous threads where Helpline folks mentioned time lost packing and unpacking as a negative factor in transitioning from one destination to another when trying to carry out an itinerary that includes several locations. Do people actually do that? I take out only my toiletries bag and pretty much leave mostly everything else neatly folded and arranged in my suitcase, which I place on a luggage rack or whatever flat spot is available so I can take things out as I need them and put them back neatly. I might spend about 5 minutes neatening things, but I don't consider it a big impact in moving in/out of a hotel, and not a huge time loss. If I stay 4 nights (sometimes 3) or longer in one place I do tend to hang up a few things, but it still takes only about 10 minutes to pack up and be ready to go quickly I've also rarely had to spend more than 5 minutes checking out of any place, unless I engage in a conversation about my stay or whatever with the staff. What do other people do, and why is this considered such a negative?

Posted by Mary
Gulfport, FL
179 posts

If we are in a place for more than one night, my husband is the unpacker and I'm not as I prefer to live out of my suitcase (unless we will be there for several nights). I don't see his preference as a negative, merely a preference. As we each do our own packing, it doesn't really matter to me.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3082 posts

Rose, those folks probably have a lot more things in their bag than you do. I find that the biggest problem in Europe is that there is often not a dedicated luggage rack, so it is difficult to keep everything handy. I like to have a wardrobe where I can hang a couple of things and lay out my toiletries on a shelf. If I have a luggage rack I keep my bag there and usually all my things stay in it. I travel with very little, so keeping it organized isn't difficult. Usually, I neaten up and put things away every morning before I go out. That way, when I return to my room I know where everything is. The maid has an easier time of it, and there is less concern on my part that something might disappear from my room during the day. When I am ready to leave it takes me about 15 minutes to pack up and get out the door.

Posted by Rose
922 posts

You're correct, Swan, I am a very light packer. I also try to be very disciplined about not spreading things out all over the room - only because I've learned the hard way that things go missing (i.e. I forget them, not theft) when I'm less careful.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12672 posts

Changing locations involves a whole series of events or activities. Packing/unpacking is just one of many events that may not take a lot of time but it all adds up to losing a lot of time. My day bag has different items in it when sightseeing than when I travel. That requires only a few minutes to rearrange but it is still a few minutes. You have to look at the whole picture.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8720 posts

Like you Rose I don't usually do a lot of "unpacking". Toiletries bag comes out, and I do hang some items up if staying more then 2-3 days. I never put my clothes in drawers,, they are not clean to me.. some smelly guy probably had his dirty socks in same drawer last week,, so no thanks..

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
853 posts

..."some smelly guy probably had his dirty socks in same drawer last week"...
Men sweat, women glow?

Posted by Leigh
417 posts

I never unpack. I prefer to just work out of the suitcase. I have a toiletries bag and an electronics bag that come out, but that is easy to put back in when changing locations. I usually need to spend just a few minutes reorganizing when changing locations, but that is so minor that it never factors in to my decision of how long to stay in one place.

Posted by Beth
Boulder, Colorado, USA
153 posts

I was pondering this same question. I do not unpack and even put dirty clothes into the suitcase. Unless something is wet from rain or washing I do not hang things either. Toiletres can get spread out but I oganize them and repack any cables or electronics every morning. So the "packing" part of relocating is mostly double checking for dropped and mis-placed items. The checking out part is about 10 minutes or less, a bit longer if I have to wait while others check out or near zero if I can do it by phone from my room. So 30 minutes to clear the room and load the car. I think many people say half a day because train travel is considered lost time. Since I drive I consider traveling time part of site seeing. Checking in takes time too but only 30 minutes or so, more if the new place is hard to find or if I get lost. So changing locations does cost some time but not half a day.
Very long distance moves can use a full day :-) of seeing new terrain with fun stop overs along the way!

Posted by Rose
922 posts

These responses are making me feel good. I just don't get that it's such a dreaded thing. I mean it's my schedule; I created it; I own it, or if part of a tour, I bought into it and knew in advance what to expect. I've been where I've been. I've presumably seen and done all (or most) of the things I planned to do and see based on the available time. Now I'm ready to move on to the next part of the adventure because I want to. The journey is part of that adventure, and I'm certain I'll meet interesting people to chat to along the way. Nothing's boring - a word that's not even in my dictionary. So, to say it's a 'loss' - a loss of what? I've lost nothing unless I choose to let it be a loss or a missed opportunity to see and experience something I haven't seen or experienced before. And even if I have seen it before (like the interior of an airport or a train station), it's never exactly the same both times.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8332 posts

I don't usually unpack unless I have things that need to be hung up. I do spend a fair amount of time, as a previous poster said, checking and rechecking that I have all of my electronics - chargers, etc. I think a lot of times people mention packing and unpacking because some people seem to be operating on the principle that they will be magically transported from one place to another with none of the little time expenditures that happen when you are traveling. I once had a conversation with someone who was planning to land in Shannon and rent a car, and wanted to get some incredible distance in a very short span of time. When I mentioned that it would take a bit to get her bag, maybe go to the restroom, visit the ATM or get a drink, do the rental counter paperwork, wait for the shuttle to the lot, check over the car and get on the road, most of the morning would be shot, she thanked me for telling her. She said, "In my head, I was just getting off the plane and jumping into a car!"

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8720 posts

Well Bruce, I have just read one too many posts by men bragging they only take 3 pairs of socks and don't like to sink wash.... lol.. I imagine they get around to it eventually though... And its: Men Sweat Women Perspire
Ladies Glow...

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

My inclination is not to unpack unless I am staying put in one place, like when we visit family for a week or more. Otherwise, I just organize things by packing cubes. Then I can have one for laundry, one for shirts, etc.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3248 posts

Karen... that's hysterical. I think you should email Rick... maybe he will buy the idea from you and he can sell them here! (only the RS group and those 'in the know' will be traveling with them)

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10493 posts

Frank and Nancy hit it... the comments about "lost time packing" are part of the larger picture of considering all the accumulation of small steps that you have to take every time you change location. It's cited to counter the thinking that a quoted two hour train ride means you'll magically jump from one location to the next in only two hours, without considering all the intermediate steps.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3036 posts

Rose, I think that many here use the phrase about lost time with those who schedule things too tightly or forget that transition takes time. Some who post here, especially 'newbies' seem to forget all about the realities of time. It takes time to get from one place to another- usually more than many realize. It takes time to pack, check the room, check out, walk to the station, etc. We've seen people who plan schedules like this 800- breakfast 815 Tower of London 900 Tower Bridge 1000 Buckingham Palace changing of the guard Totally unrealistic. And itineraries like this Monday- arrive London, sightsee Tuesday- train to Paris, sightsee
Wednesday- train to Moscow- sightsee No real concept of the size of Europe! Also, some of us like to have 'cushions' in our 'time'. I'd rather plan on a half to a full day to change locations and wind up having more time in then new place than I had planned, than the other way around.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1730 posts

The idea of sweaty socks in a drawer makes me think that there's a marketing opportunity for disposable hotel drawer liners. I can see the tv ad now. "Afraid of what's been in that hotel dresser before you checked in? Dirty undies! Bedbugs! Sex toys! Sweaty socks! Get Ronco's Disposable Travel Drawer Liners and travel worry free! Get 100 liners for $19.95! Order now and receive 200 liners for the same price! Wait, there's more!"

Posted by Rose
922 posts

Hilarious, Karen. Thanks! 'More after the news at 11...' LOL!

Posted by Kim
983 posts

Frank really hit part of it on the head for me. I too use my bags differently depending on whether I'm sightseeing or traveling another segment. I agree too that the warnings here are for those who think breakfast 8:00, Tower of London 8:15. I'll confess -- I'm an inveterate UNpacker. I love love love unpacking and organizing my things in the hotel room. Maybe it's that I hope that in that small space, with my reduced load, I can attain the optimal organizational nirvana that I so lack in my daily life.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Funny you should post this - I always think the same thing when I read those comments - Really? It takes you how long to be ready to leave, check out and get thyself to the train station? I am pretty organized and things go right back in the bag after being used - I put away ones days clothes and layout the next days before going to bed. Our suit cases have snap in/out vinyl bags with hangers for the toiletries - snap those in the morning, load up the computers & pack the PJ's - we're ready to roll in the am. We tend to stay very near the train station so getting there is usually a 10 minute walk or less. I need to be somewhere at least 5 nights before I'll hang anything up! We use the cubes so it keeps the suitcase neat. We too consider the train travel part of the journey. We have met many lovely folks on trains - still keep in touch with some.

Posted by Nancy
Costa Mesa, CA, USA
159 posts

Regardless of how quickly you can pack, check out, find the train station, etc. etc. it still takes time - time which is then not available to spend doing something else - like sightseeing, shopping, sleeping, etc. etc. That is neither good nor bad, it just is. All too often, people overestimate what they can really do/see within a stated time frame and don't factor in the actual time required for those "mechanics" - which obviously will take longer for some than for others! Invariably, trip planning requires trade offs and the more information you have, the better you are able to evaluate the trade offs. By providing some feedback on the time required to accomplish changes of location the hope is that people can then make a more informed choice and ultimately come up with a plan that provides the best set of trade offs based upon their priorities.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1072 posts

I do not unpack; leave everything neatly folded in the suitcase. Like Rose, I find a luggage stand or dresser top on which I can set my suitcase, and have it open, so I can find what I need and take it out. Dirty clothes get put into a small clean trash bag in the suitcase. That way, the top can be drawn shut. When it is full, that means it's time to head to the laundromat. I stopped unpacking and putting things in drawers and closets several years ago. It just took too much time to check every nook and cranny on the day of departure to make sure we had gotten all our belongings. My husband left several shirts one time in a closet. You may think "Oh, I'd never leave anything." It's easier than you think. You wake up in the morning, you're sleepy, you need to get to the airport to make a flight, you forget to look in one drawer, and there you go...lost stuff. I just like to make the day of departure from the hotel as easy as possible.

Posted by Marty
Rockville, MD, USA
70 posts

I like to unpack if I'm spending at least three nights. Then we only have to fall over my husband's suitcase in a tiny room. Also if you are traveling with children even if they pack themselves you will want to scan the room for left items. I traveled with my two adult sons this spring. One left a phone charger in our London hotel (despite my scan), another lost a paperback in a taxi or a train station or on the Eurostar...

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5654 posts

I only unpack clothing if I'm staying four nights or more. Open suitcase goes on a luggage stand or desk/dresser top. I use packing cubes and ziplock bags for everything. I pack the suitcase the night before I leave; in the morning, nightclothes and toiletries go into the outside compartments (it's an RS 21" rolling bag). If I try to pack in the morning, I'm more likely to leave something behind.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5380 posts

I don't unpack much of anything, and the night before I leave, I pack my bags except for whatever I might have needed in the morning, like toothbrush, brush, etc. Leaving takes about 5 min. I have usually paid my bill when I checked in, so all I have to do is give the front desk my key or key card. I also like to stay in hotels near train stations. Makes it so easy coming and going. Yesterday, had left my suitcase at the hotel in the morning after breakfast, went into Berlin to go on a 5 hour tour, came back to the Hbf. by train, and was able to walk to the hotel, get my bag and be back at the train station all in less than 30 min. from getting off the earlier train. This included a bathroom stop at the hotel too. It is about being organized.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4006 posts

I don't take much of anything that I'm not going to use, so I unpack most everything I bring. I will probably have 2-3 shirts &/or pants that have finished drying, my toiletries in the shower, I'll have used my hair dryer that morning, etc. Gathering up shower things, drying them off, putting them where they belong and getting them packed always takes longer than I think. Then I fold my clean clothing and put it in its folder/bag ( perhaps the night before), etc. I've probably had something charging overnight, so that has to be put away. Death by a thousand cuts - these piddly things take time, not a gross amount of time, but some time. Hotel breakfasts can bog down the process - you may need to wait for a place to sit, wait for more _______ to be put out on the buffet, wait for coffee...and you may need to return to the room for your luggage because there's no room for it in the breakfast room. This takes time. (cont.)

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4006 posts

(cont.) As for checking out, often I'm not the only one leaving (check out the night before, if allowed). If there's a problem with the bill for the lodger in line ahead of me, or the staff is giving directions to the airport, etc. - that takes time. Sometimes, the staff is.just.slow. I've never noticed anyone say it takes a lot of time to pack; I HAVE seen posts that warn that it can take more time than you might think for the whole check-out-and-get-to-your-next-destination process - checking out, figuring out transportation to the train/bus/airport (by walking, taxi, bus, shuttle), buying tickets, finding your train/bus/gate, validating tickets, traveling to your next destination, and reversing the entire process to actually enter your next hotel room in your new town. Newbies, in particular, are notoriously bad at underestimating the time involved - much like Nancy's car rental example. Nor have I noticed anyone "dreading" the process, just simply pointing out the logistics to new travelers with over-ambitious plans!

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

I only unpack if we are going to stay a week or more in one place, like the beach. For Europe, I use 1 or 2 Eagle Creek packing cubes to corral slippery and small things like underwear and socks. I have a small case for toiletries. I usually put my shirts in an EC packing envelope. Pants are folded in the bottom of the suitcase. I don't like to use more than 3 of the packing devices because they add some weight, but they really help keep a suitcase organized. My suitcase can look a wreck, and I can have it ready to go in 30 seconds.

Posted by terry
44 posts

I do the same thing as you do. Leave my clothes in my suitcase, and have my toiletries on the night stand or in the bathroom. Hey at least my clothes will stay neat in suitcase, and feel saves me time.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7870 posts

I do normally live out of my suitcase, rather than unpack. I still allow time for "packing and unpacking" because when I arrive at a new stop I need to do my laundry (so it can dry overnight) and I'll typically change out of my travel clothes. That normally requires a little reorganizing in my bag which I'd put under the heading "unpacking". When I'm leaving, I always reorganize my bag, fold/roll any newly dried laundry, put my dirty clothes in an airtight bag and "repack". Maybe packing and unpacking is only ten minutes at each end. I find it's better to keep it, at least mentally, in your "budgeted" time so you don't overload/stress yourself out on travel days.