There is an old adage that advises would-be travelers to lay out all the clothes and money they think they will need for their upcoming journey, and then leave out half the clothes, and take twice the money. While that is sage advice indeed, it still leaves the traveler to face the chore of packing the remaining clothes into what can sometimes seem to be a fast-shrinking amount of available luggage space.
There are plenty of articles in the blogosphere with packing tips, from flight attendants, pilots, and other professional travelers, but after a recent visit to the St. Regis Princeville resulted in a beautifully packed suitcase that saved the last two hours of a short stay into more sightseeing time rather than time spent packing, it only made sense to ask the famed St. Regis Butlers, who pack suitcases for guests every day, what their tips might be for more efficient packing.
Packing tips came from three very different St. Regis properties – some from the very same St. Regis Princeville, where many guests are traveling long—but not marathon—distances, the iconic St. Regis New York, where the brand was born, and the St. Regis Bali, where many guests have overflown one or more oceans or entire continents to arrive on site.
While the needs of guests in each of these very different hotels varies greatly, there were a few items on which the three hospitality practitioners agreed: that folding clothing flat is preferred to rolling (for suitcases, one pointed out, while backpackers might get more mileage out of rolling), that socks and belts are great fillers or impromptu shoe trees, and that heavy items are best packed on the bottom of the suitcase.
At the St. Regis New York, where many guests are traveling on business, Butler Melanie Rehbein finds that “most commonly guests mis-pack their ties. The key is to fold the tie only once, at the same length of the suitcase”, which is a good, thoughtful tip that explains why rolled ties never seem to look quite right once unpacked.
Butler Steven Marsh, at the St. Regis Princeville advises that the best way so save space is to begin by “folding all clothing items neatly and to lay them out before beginning to pack to place each item in the most efficient manner.” Consistent with the recent experience at that resort was the mention of tissue paper used to separate layers throughout, particularly while packing jackets and blazers, where tissue paper can be stuffed inside the sleeves to keep their shape and avoid wrinkles. Folded items were also stacked and placed inside a plastic laundry bag where they could be air-compressed to fit inside a case.
By far the most thorough and charming responses came from Chief Butler Carlos Constanzo at the St. Regis Bali, whose almost lyrical advice is shared unabridged:
What are the best ways to save space while packing?
Packing very flat is more often than not the ultimate way to travel wrinkle free and perfect for saving space. There are myths out there that rolling your items will do the trick, but I would totally leave that method for backpackers experiencing this amazing world of ours for the very first time. Socks and belts can be sometimes placed inside foot wear and can also act as an improvised shoe tree before placing them into their shoe bag. A St. Regis Butler will always send you off with your shoes safely packed inside one of our exclusive shoe bags to avoid unnecessary scratching to fine leather. It also assists from cross contamination that could have gathered on the soles of the shoe to the rest of your exposed delicate couture sharing the suit case.
How do you pack delicate items like hats, blazers, and items prone to wrinkle?
During the spring racing calendar, many hats from various milliners around the world tend to go on show, and these precious items will come with their own bespoke boxes and hat carriers. There are occasions when several hats are placed in the one carrying case but have to be protected by tissue paper that is hand-gathered around the rim and on the inside of these fine pieces. Placing a hat inside a suit case is asking for trouble as it will not end well for the hat. Blazers travel best inside out, but without turning the sleeves; they are kept firmly inside as this helps to add extra protection. Placing a suit or jacket inside a suit bag protector also assists towards a wrinkle free destination.
What about loose odds and ends? What’s the best way to pack those?
For loose ends, it’s best to judge according to their weight. Always keep gravity in mind when placing loose ends in your luggage. There will always be corners in your bag, but unfortunately, bags go through a tough process through the luggage carousel and handlers at the airport, and anything of a delicate nature will not survive a corner spot of the suitcase. These items will be bubble-wrapped by the St. Regis Butler in order to guarantee safe passage. Closed shoes also make an impressive protective barrier when objects are placed within them.
What are the most unusual or exotic items you might have packed for a guest?
In our field, this is endless but I would have to say a diamond encrusted necklace and Krug Vintage 1907, which can never be forgotten.
What do you do when you run out of room?
When you run out of room, you have to keep in mind the destination of the guest and the cabin category they will be travelling in. If the guest is flying Business or First, to purchase extra luggage is an option (Ed. due to the higher free baggage allowances). Fed Ex or DHL is always another option if the guest has had an incredible time shopping. You need to be aware if air passage allows for 20 or 30 kilos per bag depending on the continent (Ed. Journeys beginning in the United States typically apply the “piece” concept – check with your airline for details) To consider adding a little extra carry-on bag is most often the solution.
Are there any additional packing considerations when traveling abroad/overseas?
Customs should always to be considered when packing for a guest travelling to Australia, New Zealand or The United Kingdom. There are many beautiful treasures and delights to be found on this beautiful island, and many items are not able to be transported such as shells, Luwak Coffee, feathers, flora or fauna and certain leathers and skins. On a lighter note, keep in mind that heavier items will always gravitate to the bottom of the suit case.
To avoid limitations and weight restrictions, I strongly recommend a private jet; you will see your beautiful luggage delicately placed at the lower haul of the craft and arrive alongside with no waiting involved.
There is truly an art to packing, and the secret to an excellent job is to first lay out all that you will be travelling with on your bed and begin the reconstruction. This will also allow you the opportunity to cut down on over packing, and always leave room in your suitcase for presents and collectables – there will always be something that you just need to have along the way to remind you of your spectacular vacation.
St. Regis Butler Service is available at all 37 of the brand’s hotels and resorts worldwide and is standard in suite and higher accommodations, although some properties may extend the service to other room categories. Packing and unpacking is one of five key signature services, including daily coffee or tea service, pressing of two garments per person per day, a Butler Service Desk, eButler requests via e-mail.