There are two sides of living out of a suitcase: one is traveling as we know it (usually for a job or to visit relatives) and the other is backpacking and living like the earth is your home. We’ve done a bit of both — except usually traveling for our job is heading across the street for an egg salad sandwich and some brew. Living out of a suitcase will usually suck to a certain degree, but if you plan ahead it can suck a little less than the normal suckiness. We’re not going to talk about all the vacuum-packed bags and soap powders people like so much. We’re going to talk some practical stuff that will turn your suitcase into a mini home away from home.

Pack the Essentials

Of course, we’re talking booze and Victoria’s Secret mags. Clothes and toiletries are secondary. Okay, the essentials can mean many things, but you have to load up on plenty of socks, underwear, and things to wash yourself with — because some of the soaps and shampoos in hotels are gross. A good rule to packing the essentials is to lay out your week (or weeks). For instance, if you are going to be away for five days, pack five outfits, and toss in six to seven pairs of socks and underthingies — and whatever it is you sleep in. Always have more socks and underwear in case you decide to work out while you are away or accidentally step into a puddle of sewage. Or have an accident after too many drinks. If you are going to be away for a few weeks, keep reading. Laundry will be in your future.

Another mistake people make when packing the essentials is only packing one pair of shoes and wearing what they have on. Unfortunately, shoes tend to take up a lot of space, so try and avoid packing your big boy shoes inside the suitcase. Wear the bigger shoes first — just so you have them — even though they might be a bit uncomfortable on the plane or in the car. It’ll save you some room and you’ll have them when you’re ready to make some serious mistakes at the local dance club.

Keep it Organized

Organization isn’t always easy, but to live out of a suitcase, you need to get a grip on the order of things. Trust us, it works. Pants on one side, shirts on another. Bathroom items in one place, socks in another. Everything you take with you should have a specific place. We know that for many dudes, being not so messy is a challenge, but we’re talking about a space approximately the size of your ass. And if you can’t organize your ass, you might be beyond hope. And you should also see a doctor immediately.

We don’t subscribe to the theory of alphabetizing or color coding suitcases, but at least separating the items in their specific category is something we can get behind. Those of you who pack your things into a heavy duty garbage bag might have a problem with organizing, but in a square or rectangle shaped suitcase, all you need to do is eyeball it and section things off. Organize side-to-side and not bottom to top. Toiletries should be in the net flap storage area in the lid of your suitcase. There is probably a name for that area, but you know what we’re talking about anyway.

Technology

Again, we’re not talking about roughing it, we’re talking about skipping around the world’s hotels and enjoying a few Starbucks along the way. And while doing this, a major mistake many manly travelers make is forgetting their cell phone charger. Or their lap top cord. Or their GPS. Let’s face it, technology pretty much runs our lives these days, so make sure you pack the necessities from the robot world that you might need. Some helpful hints we’ve picked up in our travels are the not so obvious things. Like a little light. It can help you find what you’re looking for in your suitcase when you are too lazy to turn on the overhead light in the room — or because you don’t want to wake the other person up who is sleeping one off in your room.

Electric razors are another bonus if you can cram it in the suitcase, otherwise, the regular razors are the true space savers. If you bring the electric razor — or electric  tooth brush — don’t forget those chargers. Hand-held organizers and things like the iPad are things we all rely on these days. Make a list of the things you will need to fuel your gadgets. Otherwise, you may be forced to sit on your hotel bed and watch old episodes of “The Waltons.”

Something Fun

Relaxing, fun times are different for everyone. It could be a graphic novel, a crocheting kit, or a book full of crossword puzzles. The point we are making here is to remember to pack something to do during your down time. The book full of fun is a good way to go because it takes up less space and gives the housekeeper the impression that you are more intelligent than you really are, but there are also other things you can pack to help entertain you when the TV isn’t working in your room. Hand-held video games can be picked up these days for under $20 — don’t forget the batteries — and portable DVD players are also available for pretty cheap.

For those of you overachievers who believe exercising is fun, you should pack something exercise related. Body weight workouts are the best way to go so you won’t be lugging around 50 pound dumbbells along with your shirts and pants. An exercise bungee cord works well in adding some tension to your workout and takes up almost no space in the suitcase. While packing a set of golf clubs may be out of the question, a tennis racket can lay easily on top of your clothes in your suitcase. But if exercise is not your thing, forget what we just said.

Laundry Time

If you are away for more than a few days, you will need to do some laundry so you don’t smell like garbage. Many hotels have laundry services, but if you have opted to downgrade to a super classy motel, there will likely be a laundromat nearby or at least a washer and dryer from the 1940’s on the premises. You can pack the travel size laundry detergent packets, but you can also buy them from the laundromat for a couple of bucks and save yourself some space.

The main thing is to not wait until you are wearing your last outfit before you do laundry. That could just get ugly and kinda’ stinky. If you are going to be on the road for a few weeks at a time, try to do the laundry at least every four days. It will keep you ahead of the game and you won’t run out of outfits. Another thing to remember is to keep sorted piles of laundry next to your suitcase. Don’t put the dirty laundry back in the suitcase unless you just want to be disgusting. Sort like you normally would — whites together, etc., etc. After the wash, make sure to repack your suitcase. you are living out of the thing after all.

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