How to Travel Wrinkle-Free

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Tuesday 12th October 2010
In this article
  • How to pack wrinkle-free.
  • How to stay wrinkle-free.
  • How to get wrinkle-free in a bind.

You’re in your hotel room with 20 minutes to get ready for a meeting. Of course, the one clean shirt you’ve been saving has been knocked to the floor by the housekeeping staff — "wrinkled" is too subtle to describe it. What ya gonna do? Check out these SharpTravel tips for wrinkle-free traveling:

Start By Packing Right

First things first: You’ve got to get your clothes to their destination as wrinkle-free as possible. Most wrinkle-free packing is all about folding things properly, and the rest requires gathering up old dry-cleaning bags. Try these tips for packing with garment bags or conventional-looking suitcases, called "Pullmans."

Garment bags. Garment bags or "hanging bags" are many business travelers’ best friends. Depending on what you pack in them they can be light and easy to maneuver. The problem is that they’re not exactly built to go under your seat or in the overhead compartment. On crowded or commuter flights where hanging space is limited or nonexistent, these bags can lose some of their charm. However, if you pack them right, even a garment bag stuffed into the overhead compartment can deliver your clothing as wrinkle-free as possible.

Most guys have suits and shirts dry cleaned and laundered before trips. When you bring the clothing home, keep it in the plastic and paper that the dry cleaner packed it in (but see Dry Cleaning 101 — air out the garment between the time you bring it home and pack it away by lifting the plastic up over the garment). The plastic around the outside will keep each garment clean and prevent wrinkling by keeping various articles of clothing from rubbing together. The paper stuffed into the sleeves will help sustain the shape of a garment while it travels. For this reason, dry clean and pack everything on a hanger. The added benefit of packing with wrapping is that it fills your bag up with lightweight materials, and the more full your bag is, the less likely your clothes are to move around and wrinkle.

Pullmans. More recently many SharpMen have discovered small flight attendant-style suitcases that roll on board. Very handy, but tricky to pack. To travel wrinkle-free with these bags, unlike with garment bag packing, take your dry cleaned clothing out of the plastic and get rid of the paper, but don’t throw any of this wrapping away.

Blazers. To fold your blazers and suit jackets, hold the garment by the shoulders and fold it in half (vertically). Both lapels should lie flat against one another. Place the jacket on a flat surface, reach in and pull the bottom sleeve inside out, so that it rests flat in the "sandwich" you’ve made. Then fold the top sleeve flat over the sandwich. If you have the room, lay the jacket in your bag just like this. If the bag is too short, fold the top half of the jacket sandwich over to make a square.

Pants. Take slacks off the hangers and lay them flat, folded over as they were on the hanger, right in your bag. If you lack space, you can fold them over again. Make sure the crisp creases aren’t messed up.

Shirts. Have your shirts laundered and boxed. Take them out of the box and pack them with the cardboard and pins intact. Stuff your socks and underwear in the collar area so that the newly-starched collar doesn’t buckle in your suitcase.

For the truly fastidious, use the paper from the dry cleaner to line in between each garment, and wrap shoes in the paper so that the heals don’t scuff up the clothing they’re packed next to. Stuff more socks and underwear inside each shoe to keep the leather from buckling out of shape. Ties can lie flat in between flat garments or other pieces if the dry cleaner paper. Don’t stuff ties into front pockets as they’re likely to slip down and spend your entire flight developing a nice, thick crease down the center. Use other paper and plastic to fill up the bag to prevent the garments from moving around and wrinkling.

Other Things To Pack

Steamers. Some SharpMen claim they can’t pack anything wrinkle-free. For these guys, a hand-held travel steamer works out really well — plus they’re inexpensive and lightweight. To use the steamer, hang the garment you want to steam, fill the steamer with water, plug it in and pass the steamer near (but not touching) the wrinkles. The Sharper Image makes a well-traveled steamer ($34.95) that’ll keep you looking good no matter how quickly or badly you pack.

Sprays. For those guys who’d rather skip the steamer, look into small aerosol sprays designed to loosen slight wrinkles and neutralize static c. While the wrinkle sprays can’t help slept-on garments, they can help to make your shirt look more "crisp" in a pinch. The static sprays can also be lifesavers on those mornings when hotel rugs leave your trousers glued to your socks — not a great "powerbroker" look.

SharpMan Tip: If you’re stuck with static and no static spray in sight, find some hair spray. Most hair sprays work similarly to static spray.

Help From Hotel Services

If you know you’ll need to re-press garments upon arrival, look into whether your hotel offers a pressing service. Note that most hotels require at least a one-day turnaround, while the better hotels may offer overnight service.

If you don’t have all the time in the world, or you’re just not that organized, use an iron. Most business and higher-end hotels stock guest rooms with an iron and ironing board. If yours does not, call housekeeping and request one. If they claim the one extra they have is on loan to the Smithsonian, be assertive and an iron will appear in your room within 15 minutes. Try it.

What To Do in An Emergency

We all have those crazy trips that leave little time for lounging in the hotel room, raiding the mini-bar and planning your wardrobe. For those moments, guerrilla action is required: take your wrinkled garment and hang it in the bathroom as high as possible and away from the shower. Then turn the hot water on in the shower, close the shower door and exit the bathroom. After about ten minutes of exposure to the steam your garment — particularly natural fabrics (wool, cotton) — will be wrinkle-free. Remove the garment from the bathroom and let it cool and dry. Be sure to wait until the garment dries to put it on; otherwise you’ll create new wrinkles.

This article last updated on Tuesday 12th October 2010
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