When you pack your bags for a trip, you're bringing along something you don't need (something you probably don't even realize is in there!): air. It's in between your clothes, and inside the fibers of the cotton and the weave of the wool. Air might not weigh much, but it takes up valuable room that could be filled with necessities.
We've learned to live with it, but for those times when you need to get more stuff into your luggage, there's an appliance we can borrow from the kitchen.
The kitchen appliance you should be using to pack your suitcase is a vacuum sealer.
The inexpensive FoodSaver vacuum sealer that comes in handy for storing frozen food in airtight packages can do the same thing for your sweaters that it does for your lamb chops. Its vacuum pump will pull all that cumbersome air right out, flattening your clothing into neat, amazingly compact plastic-wrapped parcels that slip into luggage with room to spare.
Buy It: FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Set, $59
It also keeps them waterproof, dust-proof, and stain-proof (a virtue if you've ever had a bottle of shampoo explode in your luggage en route to a wedding and coat your nice outfit in blue goo), and neatly organized — the socks with the socks, the neckties, cufflinks, and pocket square all bundled together — and pressed to resist rumples.
Of course, there are a couple of downsides to any clever trick. Although the bags are reusable, they get a little smaller each time you use them (because you have to snip off and discard the seam) so it does have a cost in consumables.
And, unless you're visiting relatives who also own a vacuu sealer, this trick is really only handy for the outbound leg of the trip, since one by one you'll snip open the packets of clothing and they'll never compress down the same way without a vacuum sealer.
It's great if you're bringing a lot of gifts for the kids in your luggage, and know you'll be returning with a lightened load. Or you could use some of the space you save with this technique to bring along a compact FoodSaver for the return trip! It just might be worth it.