Business meetings, weddings, funerals—there are many reasons to travel with a suit. No matter the cause of your trip, you want to arrive looking your best. So how do you accomplish this when your suitcase seems determined to wrinkle all of your clothes? Here’s how to pack a suit when traveling to minimize wrinkles and arrive looking effortless.
Choose the Right Suitcase
The two biggest variables that cause wrinkles are the type of suitcase you have and the way that you pack your clothing. In the old days, my Dad used to travel with a garment bag. Unless you’re flying Business or First Class, today’s planes do not have vertical storage to protect your clothing.
When checking a bag, suitcases can just as easily end up on top of the pile as on the bottom. Soft-sided suitcases tend to get smushed under the weight of your fellow passengers’ luggage. All that weight on a soft suitcase then leads to wrinkles. For this reason, it’s better to travel with a hard-sided suitcase that will protect your belongings.
I’ve also discovered a relatively new breed of suitcases called “suiters.” These specialized hybrid suitcases have a section that folds out and are designed to protect your suits and dress shirts from wrinkles.
There are plenty of opinions on the best way to pack your suit when traveling. No matter which option you decide works best for you, just remember that the fewer folds your suit jacket has to endure, the better.
The Inside-Out Method
With the inside-out method of packing a suit, turn your suit pants and jackets inside out, then fold as needed. This way, the most wrinkles will be on the lining. Additionally, the exterior is protected from stains and transfer of odors from the other clothing in your suitcase.
The Mix and Match Method
The fewer clothes you try to stuff in your suitcase, the better. By selecting multiple-use pieces, you won’t need to pack as much. Extra room in your suitcase gives your clothing room to breathe and resist wrinkles that may form.
For instance, choose a jacket or sports coat that goes well with two or more pairs of pants. Similarly, pack more shirts and ties than suits. With the right shirt and tie combo, nobody will know that you wore that suit two days ago.
The Packing Cubes Method
Packing cubes are amazing at organizing a suitcase. They keep your belongings from shifting as your suitcase gets rolled, tossed, and tumbled along the way. Packing cubes keep your belongings tightly contained, which minimizes wrinkles.
The Rolling Method
I’m ok with rolling jeans and t-shirts, but I can’t imagine rolling a suit. Rolling can harm the shoulders of a coat, so I wouldn’t recommend rolling anything but the trousers.
If you must roll your jacket, stuff the shoulders with socks and underwear. This will help keep the garment wrinkle-free and protect the form of your coat. For pants, fold them in half to preserve the crease with legs aligned. Then roll tightly, starting at the bottom rolling up towards the waist.
The Overlapping Method
Here, the goal is to minimize hard folds to prevent wrinkles. With the overlapping method, you place the bottom half of the garment in the suitcase and cover it with less-important clothing to form a cushion. Fold the top half of the garment so that it is bending around the cushion.
You can use this technique with multiple garments. Think of north, west, south, and east on a compass. Go around the circle with each layer. Insert the other clothing, then fold the top halves over the “cushion.”
The Paper and Plastic Method
This one may seem a bit odd but totally makes sense. One of the major causes of wrinkles is the movement of clothing and friction. By keeping pants, dress shirts, and suit jackets inside the plastic lining from the dry cleaner, you allow the clothing to float which eliminates the friction. When you eliminate friction, you eliminate wrinkles.
If you don’t have any dry cleaning bags, trash bags can work in a pinch. Just make sure they aren’t scented. For best results, insert a sheet of tissue paper before placing it in the bag. This keeps it from flattening during travel to further prevent wrinkles.
How to Get Rid of Wrinkles
As you place clothes into your suitcase, start with shoes, undergarments, workout clothes, and toiletries first. Essentially, clothing that you aren’t concerned about wrinkling should go at the bottom. Clothing that is most wrinkle-prone should be closest to the top of the bag. Packing this way also helps you stay organized and find what you need quickly.
Even with all of this preparation, wrinkles do happen. It’s not the end of the world though. If there are wrinkles in your pants, dress shirt, or tie, use a product like Downy Wrinkle Releaser. It comes in a travel size, so you won’t lose it going through airport security.
For regular travelers, it’s worth investing in a small, portable steamer. They are fairly compact and work wonders on wrinkles. Be careful with your jackets though. Use the steamer only for spot treatment. Steaming near the shoulders can blow out seams and affect a suit’s shape and the way it hangs.
In the worst case scenario, the old-school method of hanging wrinkled garments in the shower can also work. Keep the exhaust fan off for the best results. Ten to fifteen minutes later, your clothes should have fewer small wrinkles.
Arrive Looking Sharp and Wrinkle-Free
While traveling, remember that bags get lost and flights get delayed. To reduce the disruption that these problems can cause, wear one of your suits on the flight to your destination. You can wear the same outfit again or grab a fresh shirt and tie from a local department store should the worst happen.
I incorporate several of these packing methods to minimize wrinkles when I travel. I use packing cubes for socks and undergarments, then add plastic bags from the dry cleaners before overlapping shirts and pants. This approach gives me the best chance of arriving wrinkle free.
When I arrive at the hotel, I immediately unpack and hang my suits and shirts. If something is wrinkled, I hit it with the Downy Wrinkle Releaser giving it time to relax before it is called into duty. In the event that my clothes are just too far gone, I use my favorite travel credit card to pay for laundry services. This way, I still earn travel points for my purchase, as frustrating as it may be.
For the past 20 years, Johnny Jet averaged 150,000 miles and 20 countries a year. He has been featured in many major publications and appeared on ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC and PBS.